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Desert Companion


The Beehive State has been busy reinventing itself. Stuffy and staid? Not so much anymore

What a difference a few focus groups — and a major boost in tourism funding and some relaxing of liquor laws — can make. Utah used to be stereotyped as that picturesque but party-allergic state next door. However, it’s become much more aware of its image — and its assets — in recent years. The result: A marketing makeover, new attractions and new travel opportunities for you. Here’s what’s brewing next door.

Awesomesaurus rex

Created in 1915 after a paleontologist’s discovery of a trove of plant and animal fossils, the Dinosaur National Monument stretches for 200,000 acres between Utah and Colorado. The jumping-off point on the Utah side is Vernal. Nearby is the centerpiece of the monument, the Quarry Exhibit Hall, a visitors center that holds some 1,500 dinosaur bones. Due to seismic activity in the area, the center has been closed for years; but the building is being refurbished and is due to reopen in October. (But plan accordingly: You can’t see the bones until the building reopens then.)

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Music in the Park

Music in the Park (City)

Skip Sundance and get to Park City this summer for the Deer Valley Music Festival. The scenic summer home of both the Utah Symphony and the Utah Opera, the July-to-August festival is filled with the usual crowd-pleasers such as the “1812 Overture,” “The Planets” and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It also features eclectic performances by artists such as the Trio Voronezh, which plays Russian string instruments, and the Muir String Quartet, the festival’s resident chamber ensemble. (

Natural History Museum

History in the making

Salt Lake City has seen massive investment downtown in the decade following the 2002 Winter Olympics. This fall, in the foothills overlooking downtown, the Utah Museum of Natural History opens a new museum. The museum houses a huge collection of 1.2 million objects, ranging from animal specimens, cast skeletons of dinosaurs unearthed in the state and 750,000 archaeological objects from native cultures. Its new building, a striking collection of angular, copper-sheathed forms, is expected to energize the cultural life of the city. (


The Utah Shakespeare Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The troupe has several things in store for 2011, including a June through August exhibit of festival costumes spanning 50 years, a garden tour of Cedar City bed and breakfasts, and the display of a first folio edition of the Bard’s work, on loan from Washington’s Folger Library. (Oh, right, there’ll be some plays, too: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Richard III,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” in addition to “The Music Man,” “The Glass Menagerie,” “Dial M for Murder” and others.) (

This is really swell

If you’re looking for some off-the-beaten-path adventure, head toward the San Rafael Swell. Bisected by Interstate 70, where the arid flatlands of eastern Utah meet the more rugged mountain scenery of the state’s southwest, the swell is one of the most spectacular and unsung regions in the Southwest. It’s a complex of colorful cliffs and canyons, narrow gorges, domes, arches and spires. Two options: Highway 10, which connects with I-70 between Salina and Green River, will take you north into the heart of the region to explore the swell’s many canyons. (They flash-food in the summer, so exercise caution.) Or, about 25 miles south of I-70 off Highway 24 (to the southeast of Highway 10) lies the Mars-like hoodoos of Goblin Valley State Park. (

Gateway of Sound

Everybody knows Zion. But next time you’re in the mood for a hike to the august national park, take some time to explore Springdale, the park’s gateway community — with your eyes and ears. The third annual Zion Canyon Music Festival takes place on two stages in Springdale Sept. 23-24. The free festival continues its tradition of diverse offerings, with everything from rock to blues to global sounds. (

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KNPR's State of Nevada
KNPR's State of Nevada