20 Things To Do at Balloon Fiesta (That Aren't Hot Air Balloons)

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a 9-day hot air balloon festival that takes places every October in the state of New Mexico, has become our family's permanent annual vacation. After attending 7 of the past 8 years we've learned some tips and tricks and also figured out how to make the most of the multi-day event.


The obvious #1 activity at Balloon Fiesta is watching hot air balloons day and night. But there is so much more! Let's focus here on all the many other ways to keep the family entertained on and around the Balloon Fiesta Park...

Utah Summer Bucket Lists

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Temperatures are rising and the kids will soon be out of school. Summer has arrived-now what are you going to do? After recently being asked to share my favorite Utah bucketlist ideas, I've put together my best tips and created 14 lists to give you PLENTY of ways to keep busy in Salt Lake & Utah Counties.


Why Not Walk to Arizona?

There is a place called "The Wave" just over the Utah border into Arizona that I read about in Reader's Digest a long time ago. Only 20 people are admitted into the entirety of the parks listed above per day with only two options for getting permits: Gamble on a 4-month advanced purchase lottery OR drive all the way down to Kanab to camp out at the BLM office and elbow your way past two smelly hikers to get the last available day-of, walk-up slots.  The first time I went there the lottery system was just a dream.  Instead the option was to glue yourself to the park website three months in advance and not blink at midnight when the open slots were posted. After three months of lost sleep and clicking "refresh" on the millisecond, an available slot appeared and I grabbed up the five remaining permits for the far-off month of February.

Coyote Butte

100 Favorite Things To Do In Utah (Summer Edition)


I have asked several groups of people recently about their favorite things to do in Utah. The answers were beautifully varied. In my family the answers included riding bikes on the cobblestone sidewalk outside the Lehi Legacy Center, paragliding at the Point of the Mountain, and swimming at Sand Hollow State Park. Followers on the A Local Wander Facebook page were reflective in their answers, sharing how getting up into the mountains or out to wander in the desert brings peace and reminds them that they are home.

As for me, I could not possible narrow my favorite activity in Utah down to just one thing. I am a transplant here and from Day 1 have been running from one unbelievable activity to the next with wild abandon and complete awe. Those of us lucky enough to call Utah home are beyond fortunate to have hundreds of bucket list worthy adventures right outside our front door. (Indeed, the inspiration behind "A Local Wander")

To help plan your next weekend excursion, fill the summer calendar, or give you ideas for an epic western vacation, here is a beginning list of 100 favorite things to do in Utah...

Staycation in Salt Lake City

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It is that time of year when all us northern Utah types jump ship and head for the promise of warmer weather south of I-70. For anyone brave enough to stick it out here at home, I want to help you to have a blast and create memories as equally brag worthy to tell when your friends get back all sun-burned and tired.

Salt Lake Connect Pass

Salt Lake City (and the surrounding area) is home to some of the best family fun venues in the western United States. Important for me, too, is how many of them have an educational element to them. The kids don't know it or care, but Mom appreciates that even on a break from books and worksheets, they're are still immersed in learning. 

Ready to start planning your Salt Lake staycation or mini-vacation? Can I recommend looking at the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass? I recently contacted them to ask about how it works. Along with some great information, they sent me 2 passes to try out and then pass what I've learned on to you. Here are the details:
  • Available in 1-, 2-, or 3-day increments, as well as a 365-day locals pass. I calculated the price for just the 5 downtown area attractions and the pass price easily beat paying full admissions individually. 
  • Includes discounts on admission and other perks at 13 Salt Lake & Utah County venues.
  • Must buy a pass for each person you plan to have visit the attraction with you.
  • Passes can be activated up to 90-days after purchase. Using your print-out or mobile confirmation, the pass activates at the first place you use it, at which point the purchased-time frame begins.
Take a moment now to check out the Visit Salt Lake website
 and compare prices for varying available time frames.

If you're staying in town, and looking for something to do, how fun would any one of these activities be?

Discovery Gateway
Salt Lake City's Children's Museum filled with 2 levels of imagination-centered exhibits. My favorite is the mid-century house and reading area. The kids love to play in the water. It impresses me that local businesses are prominently featured with Young Living in the farming and grocery area, and Intermountain Healthcare with their medical exhibit taking kids from a 911-dispatch call all the way through X-rays and operation. Read more about our visits to Discovery Gateway. Connect Pass admission included.


Clark Planetarium
The science and space exhibits at Clark Planetarium are free and a fun way to spend an afternoon. The gift shop is worthy of a visit all its own with cool toys I've watched adults fighting over. Both times we've been to the planetarium the boys have wanted to watch the original movie, "Perfect Little Planet" about a family of vacationing space inhabitants, but there are several other options available. The Connect Pass includes one movie in the Hansen Dome AND one documentary on the IMAX screen.

The Leonardo
This is the place to take your imaginative little ones. Our only visit there was for an educator's conference, so I honestly don't know all the exhibits the kids got to go around and see, but they are still talking about it almost one year later. Admission included with Connect Pass.

Natural History Museum of Utah
If your kids are interested in Utah history, or geology, or archaeology, this is the place to take them. It is also a great activity for your outdoor lovers on those days that are too hot, too cold, too rainy, or the like. Admission included with Connect Pass.


Red Butte Garden
Next door to the Natural History Museum, Red Butte is a great outdoor facility showcasing the best in gardening design. It is beautiful to walk around and the kids can get be outside using up all their energy. Admission included with Connect Pass.

Lion House Pantry
Families on staycation still need to eat, right? Make a meal special by sitting down to eat at the Lion House Pantry. The food is home cooked and baked daily-you can get your rolls straight from the source! One entree included with Connect Pass.

This Is the Place Heritage Park
It is no secret we LOVE this place! Pioneer building to walk through, volunteers in period clothing, baby animals in the barn, a candy counter, and hot sugary donuts ready to eat. Each admission includes 3 take-home crafts or activities. Admission included with Connect Pass.


Hogle Zoo
When I'm being totally honest, I have no problem admitting that zoos really really bore me. However, I have little boys who pretty much think the zoo is akin to heaven, so I go. Visiting in spring when it's warm enough for the animals to be outside, but not too hot for the kinds to whine it absolutely perfect. Admission included with Connect Pass.

Snowbird Resort
While spring break is still prime skiing in Utah's mountains, even the less downhill-prone can find a reason to head up to the resort and have a look around. Grab a bite to eat, try some snowshoeing, or just people watch from the lodge. Connect Pass includes 1 foot passenger ride on the tram.

Tracy Aviary
Technically also a zoo, but for birds, it might surprise you to know I enjoy walking around Tracy Aviary. Maybe because it is not as big as a regular zoo, but especially because watching birds can be really peaceful. Combine a visit here with time on the playground at Liberty Park and you've made a wonderful afternoon. Admission included with Connect Pass.


 Utah Museum of Fine Arts
This would be a nice addition to your outings, adding a cultural element to the playing. Admission included with Connect Pass.

Utah Olympic Park
We visited here once during an aerial ski jumping competition and my kids were hooked, convinced they would soon be flying through the air upside down on their skis. Your Connect Pass includes (1) Adventure Course or Guided Tour

Thanksgiving Point Museum of Ancient Life & Garden
It is sad to admit we have not been to Thanksgiving Point since moving back to Utah. We literally live 5 minutes away. Visiting there could be a staycation in itself with all the different venues. Admission to the two venues titled here are included with the Connect Pass.

So what do you think? Ready to plan your spring break at home? Or plan a vacation to Utah's capital city? Take another good look at the Visit Salt Lake website for details on the Connect Pass and to compare prices for different amount of days. And, please, let me know where you decide to go!

Want to save even more money on the Salt Lake Connect Pass?
Purchase this deal on Groupon while supplies last!

Want to make it real getaway?

What Kids Learn From a Mom Who Camps

Four years ago my husband found himself in a changing job and needing to spend 4 months in Alaska. Faced with the pressures of daily family life alone, I could have felt overwhelmed. Instead, without hesitation, I determined that I and my 4 boys were going to make the most of it. I packed them all (B was 5, P was 3, and the babies were 9-months) into our van and struck out on a spontaneous 4-month cross-country camping adventure. In that 4 months we stayed in a few hotels, we crashed on some family couches, and we spent 56 days camping. It was the best decision I’ve ever made!


Family Camping

Utah's Battle Creek Falls

Utah waterfalls

I discovered the Battle Creek Trail on an excursion with my family to hike to the "G" high up on the Pleasant Grove mountainside.  With no indication which of 3 or 4 trails went where, we chose the path most traveled and headed up, not to the "G", but instead to an impressive 50' waterfall.  It ended up being a rewarding decision!

A Local Wander

The hike itself is only about a mile up into the mountains.  On the way it follows a little stream with a reservoir for rocking throwing, a bridge for swinging your feet, and a cave for curious toddlers.  A short, steep side trail takes you down to the waterfall and I'm certain it's 10-degrees cooler once you've settled in, making it a refreshing destination in the heat of summer. (At this point you can also choose to continue on the original trail to get views of the waterfall from above or connect up with a bigger system of trails.) 

It would be easy to spend half a day at the Battlecreek waterfall!  Pack a picnic lunch and book.  Let the kids get wet.  The times I've been there the water hasn't been pooled too deeply at the base and the stream quietly gurgles away.  There is plenty of space to spread out and find a quiet place of your own, and plenty of fallen or bending trees naturally arranged for comfy seating.

A Local Wander waterfalls

The Battlecreek Trail and waterfall are a perfect example of the beautiful Utah resources we have available close to home.  Have you been there, or do you have another favorite Utah waterfall?

Directions and Information:
The Battle Creek Trailhead is located appropriately 
at the top of Battle Creek Drive, or E 200 S, in Pleasant Grove.  
The road ends in a parking lot for Kiwanis Park.  
A small bridge crosses a creek on the north end of the parking lot,
 and the Battlecreek Trailhead branches off to the right before you cross that bridge.