Visiting Utah

Parent Q&A

  • We are contemplating going to Bryce Canyon over spring break. We thought we'd drive there through Reno and Ely, spend a couple days and then head to Las Vegas for a few more days before driving home.  Wondering if anyone has recommendations on interesting places to stop in Nevada (on highway 50), what to do in Bryce canyon with two kids who don't love to hike (but will go on 3-4 mile hikes) and what to do/where to stay in Las Vegas.  Thanks!!

    In Las Vegas one awesome thing to do is check out the Neon Museum. They have acquired many of the old neon signs and have been trying to restore many of them to their old glory. The day tour would be perfect for kids. Definitely get tickets ahead of time though, they tend to sell out.

    Not on Hwy 50, but Red Rock Canyon park just outside Las Vegas is a wonderful place to visit for day hikes. 

    We did a similar road trip to Bryce through Vegas a few years back.  Utah has some gorgeous country and I loved Bryce.  

    For trip planning, I would strongly consider taking 395 over 50 if you have the time.  The scenery of the Eastern Sierras is gorgeous and there are lots of great little towns to stop at along the way.  You also get to pass Mono Lake, can take a detour to Bodie which is good for a few hours, and cut through Death Valley.  I would also consider Carson City in lieu of (or as a supplement to) Reno - great train history/museum which is fun for kids of any age.  Google highway 395; you'll find lots of blogs discussing places to stop and things to do along the way.

    From what I recall (and its probably been about 7-8 years) there is nothing much to Ely and even less to the towns in between.  Of course, if you are visiting someone there or you just love the simplicity of desert scenery then go for it, but kids are generally less impressed by endless views of sagebrush.  

    The drive from Vegas to Bryce out 15 is long and tedious; a true Nevada road trip experience.  Basically Mesquite is the only substantial town after Vegas so don't plan on stopping after Vegas until you're there.  They do have a Starbucks in one of the casinos in Mesquite which was very welcome after a long drive.  Hotels in Mesquite over Spring Break will book early since many people from Utah come down for the casinos - suggest booking in advance or planning to power through (for our trip we needed to stay the night there and had a really hard time finding a room).  St. George is a good place to stock up on essentials (it is the largest town you will see, by far, after Vegas) but it doesn't have much character (basically big box stores).  

    My other advice is don't spread yourselves too thin - this is a lot to pack into a week and you will feel fatigued if you do all this driving for only 1-2 nights in Bryce.  Some people just do Bryce as a day-trip but I think that is a disservice.  2 nights is perfect there.  There is really only hiking in Bryce and Zion but the scenery is different so if you think the kids will need a change, definitely plan for a a few nights in Zion.  It will be good for them.  ;)  

    As for Vegas, personally I would minimize or skip Vegas with kids.  Take them to Circus Circus in Reno and they will be happy.  If you do need to stop in Vegas, perhaps try Red Rock Resort or something outside of the Strip.    If you want to stay on the Strip, consider Vdara which is somewhat upscale but doesn't have a casino in the lobby making it a welcome retreat after a day of complete over-stimulation.  Also, I would consider staying in Vegas before the camping/National Parks tour, rather than on the way home.  Stopping in Vegas after coming out of Bryce or Zion will be a complete culture shock and make for a difficult transition on the way home.  

    Enjoy your trip!  Will be a blast!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Canyonlands National Park

Andrei 7/99
I am going to Canyonlands National Park (Utah), and seek advice tours offered in the park by private companies. It seems that most of the roads in the park are suitable only for 4-wheel drives, and one cannot see much from the paved road. However, there is an option to buy a jeep or a boat tour. Does anyone has any experience with half-day jeep tours, jet boat trips, and combo packages in the park?

David 7/99
I've been to Canyonlands many times, and it is simply not true that you can't see much from the road. Almost all of the Island in the Sky section (1/3 of the park) is accessible on paved roads or easy (for passenger cars with 2WD) dirt roads. You can drive to Mineral Bottom north of the park on a scary but passable dirt road - I've taken a Honda Civic down there. You can drive to the Needles Cpgd on a paved road and have days of dayhikes from there (I've done that too). You can drive downriver from Moab on either side of the river for miles before the road turns to dirt. In addition, you can go to Arches National Park a few miles away and see dozens of arches without even getting out of your car and without your car leaving pavement. I strongly urge you to go, go for walks, and have a good time.

If you're going with kids, Fiery Furnace in Arches is a tremendous place to go. The rangers lead tours. It's dramatic, safe with little ones (you're in the bottom of narrow canyons, not on cliff rims, so there's little to fall of of) yet a very short walk from the road (perhaps under 1 mile round-trip, certainly under 2).

If you're camping, the Green River Overlook in the Island in the Sky section is a great place and accessible for any car. The official campground in Arches is great too, but fills up early in the day.