Imagine a vacation area where you can snow ski in the winter and water ski in the summer, where you can visit archaeological digs, museums and art festivals, explore caves and go fishing.
Utah County residents might be surprised to learn that they need look no farther than Utah Valley."What do we have to offer in Utah County?" asked James T. Young, Utah County Travel Council director. "We have a lot to offer.
"Tell me where in a 10-mile area can you find all of what you can find in Provo Canyon, for instance. Just look at its potential."
Within that 10-mile area is the Sundance Ski Resort, which not only provides winter skiing but summer outdoor theater, fine dining and other recreational activities. In addition, there are the Timpanogos Cave, golfing, water skiing, fishing, camping facilities, hiking trails, the Heber Creeper train ride, the tram ride at Bridal Veil Falls and the falls themselves.
Provo Canyon is just one small area of the county. About 20 miles west of Lehi on U-73, in Cedar Valley, is the historic Stage Coach Inn and Camp Floyd State Park. During the late 1850s, Camp Floyd housed 3,500 men, the largest concentration of military personnel in the United States at the time. The Stage Coach Inn was also a relay station for the Pony Express in the early 1860s.
"Utah County is not Park City or the Disneyland of Utah," Young said. "But we do have a large market for tourism in this area."
One of the biggest problems Utah County has, said Young, is a conceptual one.
"People's attitudes need to change," he said. "We need to campaign to our own residents about how great our area is. We need to have Utah County and Utahns in general see what this county has to offer."
Because of numerous family reunions in the area, the valley's varied recreational areas and interest in Brigham Young University, Young believes great potential for increased tourism exists in the county.
"People in this area don't see Utah County as a major travel center," Young said. "Last year we had 93 percent occupancy in our hotel and motel rooms. That equals $10 million in room nights, which does not include meals and other expenditures. That makes tourism Utah County's second major industry."
So, what do all these tourists have to see if they decide to stay awhile? According to Mima Daniels, supervisor for the county visitors' center, "a whole bunch."
Daniels intends to give tourists so much information and options that they will want to stay in Utah County. If they can't stay, she gives them options in other parts of the state.
"I try to keep them (tourists) in the state as long as possible. There is so much to see in our state," she said. "Over 22,000 people pass through Utah County on a daily basis. We want them to stop and look around for a while."
As a way of encouraging tourists to stop, the travel council plans to develop a large tourist information center at the Lindon rest stop off I-15. It will include restrooms, a national chain restaurant, playground and naturally, Daniels said, tourist information.
For many people, the problem is trying to find time for vacations. Families living in Utah County and surrounding areas can enjoy many afternoon and one-day activities.
For instance, families can take a museum tour of Utah County. Start in Lehi with the John Hutchings Museum of Natural History, then go to BYU to the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, the Museum of Peoples and Culture, the Museum of Fine Arts, Harris Fine Arts Museum and the Earth Science Museum, which features information on dinosaurs and many of the archeological digs in the area.
Then head on to downtown Provo to the Pioneer Memorial buildings and the McCurdy Doll Museum. Travel south to the Springville Art Museum and on into Spanish Fork to the old Thurber School, which houses a museum for the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
"We have so much here," Daniels said. "We (residents) need to look at it with the right attitude."
If you are on a tight schedule and have just a few hours a month to spend with the family, Daniels suggests participating in the numerous city and town festivals and summer celebrations beginning in June with Springville's Art City Days and Pleasant Grove's Strawberry Days.
The only night parade in Utah is held in Orem on June 21, featuring contestants vying for the title of Miss Utah. At the end of the month is the Lehi Round Up and rodeo.
During July, visit American Fork for the Pageant of the Arts, where famous artwork and sculpture are depicted by residents in live art reproduction. Only one other city in the United States offers this type of art and entertainment.
America's Freedom Festival at Provo during July Fourth offers more than 25 events, including a parade, fireworks, carnival, the Balloonfest, Picnic in the Park and Alan Osmond's Stadium of Fire Panorama.
Orem's Family City USA exhibits and art shows continue throughout July, featuring displays of regional artists' works every Saturday. In the middle of the month, you can spend some time at Steel Days in American Fork or at the Fiesta Days Rodeo in Spanish Fork.
In August take the kids to the Salmon Supper in Payson, or the Utah County Fair in Spanish Fork. At the end of the month is the Payson Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Then finish off the summer by returning to Payson Sept. 2-5 for Golden Onion Days.
For tourists who have trouble walking or standing, several mountain roads offer a spectacular scenic view from late spring through fall. The most popular is the Alpine Loop/Mount Timpanogos drive. Many tourists also enjoy the Mount Nebo Scenic Loop east of Payson or the Hobble Creek
Canyon/Diamond Fork Canyon
drive east of Springville.
Specialty tours like the Provo City Shade Tree tour or the Historic Homes tour are provided by contacting the visitors' center.
The travel council offers tour packages for skiers, summer trips for senior citizens and this year, for the first time, a fall colors tour.
Young and Daniels said some of the biggest groups of tourists come from senior citizen homes in southern California. Daniels is working with 42 groups preparing for a summer tour and fall colors tour. Plus, through special arrangements, senior citizens are flown in during the BYU football season on a game-by-game basis.
On an educational level, a special genealogy tour has been arranged with a junior college in California so senior citizens can get class credit attending lectures at BYU while they tour.
"Many people have asked me if BYU has a draw," Young said. "I answer them by saying I would want to see the Notre Dame of Utah if I were in the area."
For more information on Utah County and tourism in the area and throughout Utah, contact Daniels at the visitors' center or write Box 921, Provo, UT 84603.