By Salwa Jabado, Fodor's
UTAH: OUR TOP PICK
Fodor's #1 destination for 2016 promises exceptional scenery, unforgettable adventures, and something for everyone—hikers, skiers, solo travelers, and families.
Utah defies expectations: Salt Lake City, best known as the capital of the conservative LDS Church, recently elected the first openly gay mayor in the state’s history, and despite what you may have heard, alcohol is legal and easy to find—there’s even a ski-in whiskey distillery. Home to both desert and mountains, Utah is also the place to get outdoors in 2016. With the historic creation of Park City, the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the country (there’s more than 7,300 skiable acres and 300 trails to choose from), there’s no better time to experience Utah’s legendary powder. Not a skier? No problem. Hiking the red-rock canyons of southern Utah’s “Mighty Five” national parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef, and Canyonlands—may change your life, and there are special celebrations planned throughout 2016 for the National Park Service’s centennial. Of course, Utah’s adventures don’t end at the national park borders: Scenic drives, dinosaur fossils, mountain biking on slickrock trails, and white-water rafting are all part of the fun. Best of all, Utah comes with an affordable price tag, with average daily room rates of $96 and average airfares into Salt Lake City of $361.
Where to Stay: Staying in Park City can be pricey; if you want a mid-range hotel, opt for Salt Lake City’s Hilton—Salt Lake City Center or Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City and ski at the seven resorts within a 30–40 minute drive from downtown. The affordable Bryce Canyon Lodge is a memorable place to stay in one of America’s best-loved national parks. Numerous reviewers have extolled the virtues of the Amangiri, which has received our own Fodor's 100 Hotels Award, and with good reason. If you can afford the hefty price tag, this desert resort offers unparalleled luxury and privacy in Canyon Point, Utah, and includes adventure experiences to the national parks and beyond.
Insider Tip: For the truly unique experience of red rock canyon views while skiing, head to Brian Head resort in southern Utah.
When to Go: Utah ski season can start as early as November and last as late as July 4, and Utah’s resorts often see warm, sunny days. The best time to visit the national parks is in spring and fall to avoid high summer temperatures and peak tourist season.