Escape to the Border Utah's neighboring states let you shake off the traces.
Utah's neighboring states let you shake off the traces.
Salt Lake City is surrounded by amazing destinations offering outdoor recreation and entertainment, and serves as a great base for getting away to areas in bordering states that aren't too far over the state line. Here are four of our neighbors that are less than a day's drive away.
Toast the Town in Colorado's Wine Country
Grand Junction/Palisade, Colorado
Five hours by car, or 6 1/2 hours via Amtrak
Don't want to drive or fly to a quick getaway? Hop on Amtrak (1-800-872-7245, Amtrak.com) in Salt Lake City late at night and wake up in the morning in the Grand Valley, also known as Colorado's Wine Country, since it is home to more than 20 wineries within easy reach.
The area was long known for its peaches and other stone fruits, and that tradition continues as many of the wineries offer fruit wines. The cherry wine from Carlson Vineyards (888-464-5554, CarlsonVineyards.com) tastes like a bite of cherry pie and can be combined with a wine glass dipped in melted chocolate from Colorado's own Enstrom candy company. St. Kathryn Cellars (970-464-9288, St-Kathryn-Cellars.com) makes a variety of wines, including Cranberry Kiss, Golden Pear and Lavender. Part of the fun of the area is that some of the wineries are small, local operations where you can interact with the owners. At Whitewater Hill (970-434-6868, WhitewaterHill.com), they're more than happy to let you taste some of the grapes they just clipped off the vine, or you can try a more hands-on approach at the picking and stomping parties held by Maison le Belle Vie (970-464-4959, MaisonLeBelleVie.com).
While there are many fruit-based wines, traditionalists need not worry. Colorado's wine country is also a great place for growing grapes to produce all of the classic Cabernets, Rieslings and Chardonnays one could ever want. For a list of wineries in the area, go to PalisadeTourism.com or ColoradoWineFest.com. Palisade is also home to Meadery of the Rockies (877-858-6330, MeaderyOfTheRockies.com), while Peach Street Distillers (970-464-1128, PeachStreetDistillers.com) often uses local produce for its vodkas, brandies, bourbons and gins.
At night, great food is available to pair with local wines. Inari's Bistro (970-464-9411, InarisBistro.com) in Palisade combines the flavors of locally sourced foods into interesting creations such as apple & blue cheese soup or butternut risotto on a menu that changes seasonally. Of course, nothing pairs better with wine than French food, and Grand Junction's Le Rouge (970-257-1777, LeRougePianoBar.com) is the place to find seared fresh foie gras, grilled filet au poivre and even escargot.
The wine theme continues as you relax for the evening at the Wine Country Inn (888-855-8330, ColoradoWineCountryInn.com) an 80-room hotel sitting amid 21 acres of vineyards that are used to create the hotel's own brand of wines. Those preferring a classic Victorian mansion bed & breakfast experience can find it at A Divine Thyme Bed & Breakfast (970-464-9144, ADivineThymeBAndB.com).
Don't worry about drinking and driving since there are companies that offer winery tours. A Touch With Class Limousine (970-245-5466, Colorado-Limo.com) has knowledgeable guides and offers dinner packages, while Absolute Prestige Limousine Service (970-858-8500, APLimo.com) has an extensive fleet, including Hummer, Ford Truck and Lincoln Navigator limos.
While there are plenty of wines to sample, there are also plenty of family-friendly and recreational opportunities. Palisade peaches are still famous. The Obama family has picked peaches at High Country Orchards (970-464-1150, HighCountryOrchards.com) and then enjoyed them on Air Force One. Alida's Fruits (877-434-8769, AlidasFruits.com) is the place to visit with "Farmer Bob" to try his homemade recipes for jams, syrups and salsas. The Grand Valley is surrounded by Colorado National Monument, the Book Cliffs mountains, and the more than 200 lakes that sit on the Grand Mesa, a 500-square-mile mesa that sits at 11,000 feet.
Lions and Bison and Bears! Oh my!
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Five hours by car, or just over one hour on direct flights on Delta
The actual size of the town of Jackson is small compared to the huge reputation of the place. The epicenter of the action in Jackson is the famous Town Square, but what is so unique is that you can drive just a few minutes to see large animals in their natural ecosystem.
Right on the edge of town, you'll run into the National Elk Refuge (307-733-9212, NationalElkRefuge.fws.gov), and a little farther on you're in Grand Teton National Park (307-739-3399, NPS gov/grte/). One distinctively Jackson activity during the winter is sleigh rides through herds of hundreds of elk found in the refuge. The Teton Science Schools (307-733-1313, TetonScience.org) is a nonprofit program offering expeditions throughout the park where a biologist, a park expert, will help you find moose, bison and bears while explaining a number of interesting things about them.
Many hotels and restaurants are located within a couple of blocks of Town Square. The Lexington (888-771-2648, LexingtonHotelJacksonHole.com) features suites with a separate living-room area and kitchenette. Complimentary breakfast includes granola and pastries from the Bunnery (307-733-5474, Bunnery.com), the hottest bakery in town. Just off of Town Square is the Silver Dollar Grill, housed in the historic Wort Hotel (800-322-2727, WortHotel.com), where you can dine on dishes as varied as buffalo filet, elk chops and pheasant soup. Save room for the signature dessert of s'mores, complete with your own tiny pot of burning coals. Another option near Teton Village is Q Roadhouse (307-739-0700, QJacksonHole.com), which has barbecue and other Southern favorites, but also specializes in taking genres and blending them together in tasty ways, such as pork street tacos topped with pineapple chutney, or posole with wild boar. Anyone wishing to grab a quick bite to eat, or a picnic to take out into the wilderness, will enjoy stopping by Back Country Provisions (307-734-9420, BackCountryProvisions.com) to try the Pilgrim sandwich, which is like having Thanksgiving dinner—including stuffing and cranberry sauce—all between two pieces of bread.
Anyone who knows you are going to Jackson will tell you about the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar (307-733-2207, MillionDollarCowboyBar.com), famous among tourists for its saddle seats, but if you want to hang out with the locals, head back to the Wort Hotel and have a drink and enjoy the music at the Silver Dollar Bar, which gets its name from having over 2,000 silver dollars inlaid on the top of the serpentine bar.
Las Vegas, Nevada
6 1/2 hours by car or 1 1/2 hours on direct flights on Delta and Southwest
Thanks to those "What Happens in Vegas" ads, everybody knows Sin City is a place where you can place bets, get lap dances and drink wherever and whenever you want. That reputation often overshadows the fact that Las Vegas can also be a place to find a wide variety of top-notch entertainment options and is a prime base for some outdoor adventures.
When driving up and down the Strip, it's hard to go a block without seeing a sign for Cirque du Soleil (CirqueDuSoleil.com), which has eight shows playing in Vegas, including The Beatles Love at The Mirage, KA at MGM Grand and Mystere at Treasure Island. JabbaWockeeZ (877-386-8224, MonteCarlo.com/entertainment) at the Monte Carlo features the group that won the first season of America's Best Dance Crew. The performers, in expressionless, white masks fill a full-length show that combines comedy, music and dance. Vegas has also tried to raise the entertainment bar by making long-term homes for various Broadway hits—shows such as Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Lion King and Avenue Q have all enjoyed runs in the desert.
As for where to stay, in Las Vegas there's always a competitive rate to be found if you're not there during a heavy convention week or holiday weekend—so shop around. Check out the Palms (866-942-7770, Palms.com), MGM Grand (877-880-0880, MGMGrand.com) and New York-New York (866-815-4365, NewYorkNewYork.com) as three good places that regularly offer Internet deals. The dining scene is hard to beat; there are so many high-caliber choices available, like N9NE Steak House (866-942-7770, N9NEGroup.com) at Palms, as well as Il Fornaio (702-650-6500, IlFornaio.com) at New York-New York. Of course, the best thing about driving to Vegas food-wise is you can load your trunk with staples to take home from one of the two Trader Joe's in town (TraderJoes.com).
After enjoying the neon lights by night, use the daytime to see some of nature's beauty not far from Vegas. Let Pink Jeep Tours (888-900-4480, PinkJeep.com) handle the driving by picking you up at your hotel in a customized, 10-passenger vehicle. There are 14 different tours to outdoor landmarks, including the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and Hoover Dam.
Old Hollywood Charm
Sun Valley, Idaho
Five hours by car or 1.25 hours by air on direct flights on Delta
The prominent, peaked mountain ranges that converge in Sun Valley have always been a draw for Hollywood stars. From Clark Gable showing up for the opening of Sun Valley Resort (800-786-8259, SunValley.com) in 1936 to Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper going hunting together to Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis buying local properties in more recent times, Sun Valley has always had a certain Hollywood connection, as well as a certain Old World charm. That feel continues in the 21st century, as classic celebrity photos can be seen in the Sun Valley Lodge & Inn, the classic 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade runs on a continuous loop on the hotel's TV channel and star sightings are still regularly reported. The charm can still be found in the village of eateries, shops and a movie theater surrounding the lodge
One unique feature of the resort is an outdoor ice rink that is open year-round. There are snowshoe and cross-county ski areas located on the 58,000-square-foot "backyard" of the resort. One of the most popular winter activities is to take a horse-drawn sleigh ride up to Trail Creek Cabin to have dinner. When it comes to skiing, Bald Mountain rises to over 9,000 feet, while Dollar Mountain, home of the world's first chairlift, offers treeless skiing for novices and a new tubing hill.
For dining, it's hard to beat lunch at the Sun Valley Club with its wrap-around terraces. It's also the perfect place for snowshoers and cross-country skiers to check in for a hot drink or bite to eat since the Nordic and Snowshoe Center is also located in the same building. The highlight of the week is the Sunday brunch, where omelets, seafood and crepes are served in the famous Lodge Dining Room.