Looking for a great family-friendly vacation destination to spend a long weekend or spring break? Check out St. George, Utah! Here are some can’t-miss fun, free, and memorable activities to do when traveling with kids in St. George!
I have lived in Utah for almost 20 years now, but until this week I had never planned a trip to St. George. Boy have I been missing out!
I have traveled through St. George plenty of times on my way to California (where I grew up), and I’ve even stayed there over night on my way to Zion National Park (a great idea because it’s only an hour away). I’ve always viewed it as a stop on the way to somewhere else rather than a destination in and of itself. But after this week, I understand why it’s a popular spring break destination for Utah families. It’s such a great family-friendly place!
So if you’re in Utah and you’re itching to get away for a quick trip, or if you’re coming to Utah to for the National Parks (which you totally should–they’re amazing!), check out St. George.
Where is St. George, Utah
St. George is in the very southern part of Utah, just a few miles from the Arizona border. If you’re driving, it’s about four hours south of Salt Lake City and two hours north of Las Vegas, so it’s a perfect long weekend or spring break trip for Utah folks. And if you’re coming to Utah for the iconic National Parks (millions of people visit Utah’s “Mighty 5” each year…and for good reason!), St. George is a great gateway to visiting Zion. Plus, it has some amazing hiking of its own…without the entrance fees and crazy crowds.
What to do in St. George
FUN ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES
This dinosaur-themed park is one of the biggest playgrounds I’ve ever been to. It is massive, and it’s super wheelchair friendly (which was so exciting to my brother-in-law who lives with us). It has all the playground equipment you could hope for (slides, swings, teeter-totter, etc.), plus a splash pad, an erupting volcano, and a train. On top of all that, there is a train you can ride around the park. It was a great little ride, and it only costs $1 per person (thank you St. George for keeping it reasonable). Plan to spend at least an hour or two here.
Also nearby is the Tonaquint Nature Center, which looked really fun to explore. Unfortunately, we spent so long at the playground that the kids were hungry by then, so we opted to save the nature center for next time (nobody wants to cross into “hangry” zone on vacation).
Five minutes south of Tonaquint Park you can find a huge slab of stone covered in ancient petroglyphs. It’s tucked away in the middle of a neighborhood (kinda random), but it was easy to find using Google Maps. I didn’t know what to expect before going, but we decided it was so close that we may as well swing by and check it out. I’m glad we did! No hike is required to get to the petroglyphs; it’s literally right by the road. I wouldn’t go WAY out of the way to see it, but if you’re at Thunder Junction anyway, it’s a quick detour that was worth spending 10-15 minutes to see.
This fabulous park is right in the heart of downtown St. George, adjacent to the library and the children’s museum. We visited in the late afternoon, and it was a perfect time to rock hop through the river-style splash pad and cool our feet in the water.
Bonus tip: Ride the carousel. Just west of the splash pad is an old fashioned carousel. It only costs $1 per adult, and up to 2 kids ride free with each paying adult. Then, walk across the street to Judd’s store for some old-fashioned ice cream, specialty sodas, or unique candy. My kids loved the gummy pizzas and root beer barrels we found!
We stopped by this botanical garden mostly because it looked really wheelchair accessible (and it was), and I was glad to find that everyone really enjoyed it! I loved looking at all the gorgeous desert plants and learning their names. The kids loved spotting all the wildlife: fish, hummingbirds, and lizards. We all had fun winding through the man-made “slot canyon” and hunting for the real dinosaur footprint fossils that are on display in the park. It’s free, and fun for all ages.
Pioneer Park is right next to the Red Hills Desert Garden, so they are a perfect pairing for a morning adventure. We didn’t plan to stop here, but as we drove past it, I couldn’t resist stopping for at least a few minutes at the Pioneer Park Little Narrows. It’s a easy slot canyon that kids will love climbing around in and exploring. Next time we’re in St. George, I plan to explore a lot more of this park. If you want more ideas, check out this post.
This park has a really unique concept. It’s basically a ninja-warrior-style obstacle course, complete with a giant stopwatch so you can time yourself going through the course. It’s just north of St. George, so we stopped there on our way home. It was the perfect final adventure of our trip, and a great way to let the kids tire themselves out before we asked them to sit in a car for four hours. It worked beautifully!
Now, technically Zion isn’t in St. George, but it’s an easy day trip (it’s just an hour away)…and certainly worth doing. Did you know Zion is the 3rd busiest National Park? It’s popular for good reason, and it’s certainly worth visiting, but the crowds are no joke. A couple of tips for visiting Zion:
- Get there early. The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of getting a parking spot.
- Plan in advance. The only way to get around most of Zion National Park, including getting to all the popular trail heads, is by shuttle. Private vehicles are not allowed in the main canyon. Make sure you book your shuttle pass ahead of time, or you may end up with a very limited itinerary.
- Become a Junior Ranger. My kids earning junior ranger badges whenever we visit national parks. Just ask a ranger for a junior ranger booklet, complete the activities inside (simple and fun educational pages to help kids learn about the park), and you earn a park-specific badge! It’s a great way to get kids engaged in the experience.
- Pack lots of water. Depending on the time of year, Zion can get really hot. We had beautiful weather the day we went (70 degrees on a mid-April afternoon), but if you go in summer, be prepared for the heat.
Easy Zion National Park hikes for kids: Riverside Walk, Lower Emerald Pools, Grotto Trail
That’s all we had time for on this trip, but our kids made us PROMISE to plan another family trip to St. George soon. I happily agreed. As I researched what to do in St. George, I found so many more fun ideas! Here are a few things we already know we want to do next time…
OUR “NEXT TIME” LIST FOR WHAT TO DO IN ST. GEORGE:
Have you ever vacationed in St. George with kids? What were your favorite things to do? Let me know in the comments below!