A lot of Salt Lakers have the nasty habit of turning up their noses at our neighbors to the north. It’s an undeserved snub—O-Town has oodles to do, see and savor, and its beautiful, craggy mountains—and the outdoor activities they offer—are just a stone’s throw away from a thriving downtown and all its quirky local shops and restaurants.
The summer months kick off with the annual Ogden Arts Festival (OgdenArtsFestival.com) on Historic 25th Street, held this year June 10-11. More than 5,000 visitors come to the festival, with the crowd growing each year. June 10’s “Taste of Downtown” features food and beverages from some of Ogden’s best-loved restaurants. On June 11, festival-goers can browse arts and crafts from more than 80 local artists, as well as enjoy a beer garden, live music, free films and kids activities.
Another reason to spend summer in this city is Ogden Pioneer Days (OgdenPioneerDays.com). Each year, during the week of July 24, the city hosts one of the biggest celebrations in the state. Between seven days of rodeos, fireworks, parades, pageants, crafts, family activities and music, the event has something for the young, old and everyone in between. Festivals later in the summer include the 40-plus-year Greek Food Festival, in September.
If you’re more likely to strap on a helmet of some sort and lather on the sunscreen rather than hit art galleries or early-morning parades, don’t worry: Ogden absolutely rocks the outdoors.
In recent years, several publications, including The New York Times, have named Ogden as one of the best outdoor-adventure scenes in the entire country. Just 13 miles up Ogden Canyon, Pineview Reservoir is home to this year’s Skyline Mountain Marathon (SkylineMarathon.com) on Aug. 20, with trails twisting and turning up Ben Lomond Trail to the highpoint of 8,743 feet and down through the Eden Valley. Die-hard runners can expect 26.2 miles of pure bliss—snakes, a moose or two and brutal terrain.
If your idea of enjoying the great outdoors doesn’t involve running shoes, Pineview Reservoir also has a 3,000-acre surface area and 28 miles of shoreline, making it a perfect—and very popular—spot for boating, water-skiing, fishing and lounging in the sand (and hiking, if you just can’t sit still). Folks who want to spend a few days enjoying this year’s record water levels can pitch a tent or park an RV at Anderson Cove Campground. Huntsville’s Shooting Star Saloon (7350 E. 200 South, Huntsville, 801-745-2002), the oldest bar in the state, is just a short walk or drive from the reservoir. The famous Star Burger—two patties, cheese, the usual burger fixings and a grilled knackwurst to top it off—provides enough cholesterol to last all summer long.
Nothing says “summer” like strapping on shorts and a CamelBak and heading to Ogden’s array of hiking trails, offering dizzying heights, cool evergreen shade, expansive vistas, challenging rock scrambles and leisurely scenic jaunts. Indian Trail (22nd Street, Ogden) is an 8 1/2-mile round-trip moderate day hike that climbs 1,200 feet to the beautiful Nevada Viewpoint.
Ogden Canyon offers both scenic views and dining, activities and shopping for the whole family. Eccles Dinosaur Park (1544 E. Park Blvd., Ogden, 801-393-3466, DinosaurPark.org) features more than 100 full-size dinosaur sculptures, educational activities and Dino Day Camp for the kids. Just across the way is Rainbow Gardens (1851 Valley Drive, Ogden, 801-621-1606, RainbowGardens.com), a huge gift-shop emporium. Farther up the canyon, the vast menu at The Oaks (750 Ogden Canyon) is complemented by the views of the rushing Weber River from the restaurant’s large deck.
A day in Ogden proper could be spent browsing local shops and eateries on Historic 25th Street and along Washington Boulevard. For a quirkier retail experience, head a few miles up the freeway to Smith & Edwards Co. (3936 N. Highway 126, Ogden, 801-731-1120, SmithAndEdwards.com), Utah’s “unique retail destination” since 1947. The 171,000-square-foot store and 60-acre yard sells everything from military surplus, Dutch ovens, camping gear and Western wear to toys, candy, housewares and jewelry.
Finish off a long day with a low-key night at downtown's Lindquist Field (2330 Lincoln Ave., Ogden, 801-393-2400), home of the Ogden Raptors, a farm team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whether you're a baseball die-hard or someone who simply enjoys the prospect of peanuts, Cracker Jack, beer and mountain views under the summer sky, this is the place to spend a summer night.
Or, if you've had enough of the great outdoors, catch a musical or comedy show at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse (99 E. 4700 South, Ogden, 801-393-0070, TerracePlayhouse.com). The beautiful, historic Peery’s Egyptian Theater (2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden, 801-534-6306, OECenter.com) also hosts community-theater performances, as well as $5 screenings of classic movies such as Jaws and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and sing-alongs to favorite summer-themed movie musicals like Grease. For live jazz, check out the Wine Cellar (2550 Washington Blvd., 801-399-3600, WineCellarOgden.com), or if head-banging rock is more your thing, The Basement (329 E. 24th St., 801-540-0334, TheBasementMusic.com) is an all-ages music venue with ridiculously cheap cover charges.
Bottom line: It may be time to adjust your attitude about Ogden. It “O”verflows with things to do, day or night. And FrontRunner will take you there and back for about $10.