Every parent strives to give something to their child that will improve their life. Every parent also strives for simplicity. We always run the chance, throughout everything we do, that it may somehow explode into a swirling vortex of hectic chaos. There's one thing I know about chaos: it’s…uh, chaotic. So where does that leave us as far as unique and fun experiences for our children?
Chelsea and I have discovered – after years of trial and error – that the great outdoors offer the greatest possibilities for our family. Chelsea loves to relax and then explore from time to time, I love science and wide open places without people, and the boys love a place to run around. Despite popular opinion, there are plenty of places both grand and accessible right here in United States. One of our favorite destinations is Utah. This family-friendly state is practically begging kids to come explore its riches. From canyons to mountains, forests to deserts, all things new and sites 65 million years old. Utah has it all. But where's the best place to start?
Kanab recently reached out with an invitation for us. The exchange, I believe, went something like this.
Kanab: “Hey, Day Family. You sort of skipped over us.”
Us: “Wait. What?”
Kanab: “Yeah, totally! You missed out on a bunch of cool stuff.”
Us: “Oh, man. We were rushing from Arizona to Colorado and passed right on through. Can we come back?”
Kanab: “Only if you say sorry, and mean it!”
We had driven through some years back on our way to other adventures, but didn't get to stop and take stock of what was available. This time around, we took the chance to focus of all that Kanab has to offer. Slot canyons, sand dunes, trendy restaurants and cool historic stuff! So, next time you're looking for an adventure, here's what you should do with kids in Kanab.
Chic coffee shops and diners
Early on in our travels, I learned that many towns can be made or broken based on their eateries. I can sleep in my truck as long as there is a good place to get food. And let's not forget coffee! Fortunately, Kanab has both. We started our days off at the Kanab Creek Bakery. Grab a croissant, a cappuccino, and a macaron. They also have take-out salads and sandwiches, so you're good to go for a full day of exploring.
The boys also enjoyed heading off to the Kanab United Drug store for their soda fountain-style ice cream bar. Finally, an easy end to the night was the fine dining at the Rocking V Cafe. Of course, all of this was within easy walking distance from our motel.
Updated 60’s Style Motel
Kanab was nice enough handle our room and board. The two options we had were the Quail Park Lodge or the Canyons Boutique Hotel. We later learned that both were under the same ownership and somehow – though just a block apart – they manage to capture two completely different atmospheres within their walls.
Canyons Boutique Hotel is quaint, yet eloquent. It also housed and provided the breakfast dining spot for both establishments at Sego, which also becomes an upscale evening eatery with an eclectic menu made for sharing. Quail Park Lodge is a trendy, retro update of a 60s-style motel. You won't find any door cards here, so I hope you remember how to use the old school brass key! They also have beach cruiser-style bicycles available to guests to make their trip around town even more enjoyable. Not a single one will be locked up, because that's the type of town this is.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes
When it’s time to stretch your legs and start to see some sights, look no further than Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. A short drive just out of town, this location is sure to kick off some great family exploration. The entire feature is accessible directly from the parking lot, with bathrooms available for those who just can't seem to hold it or who want a fresh start. The best time of day to visit is about an hour or two before sunset when the lighting conditions turn the sand dunes into their namesake. Of course, the kids can run around and dig as much as they want which is great for burning up energy! Just be sure to shake off the sand before getting back into the car.
Have you ever experienced the magic of a slot canyon? Now is your chance! Peek-a-Boo Canyon, also known as Red Canyon, is even closer and way less crowded than the infamous Antelope Canyon. There's another canyon referred to as Peek-a-Boo Canyon in nearby Escalante, so you should route yourself directly to the trailhead or GPS coordinates when you visit. If you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle like we do, you can attempt to navigate the deep-sand trail to the Peek-A-Boo slot canyon. If not, you can always book a friendly tour guide from Forever Adventure Tours. These guys are fantastic and help provide a scenic journey which you will never forget. Unless you somehow get hit in the head really, really hard.
SERIOUS WARNING: Never, ever travel into a slot canyon or cave when it is raining anywhere nearby. Water travels for miles and can suddenly surge 20 to 30 feet high in a three-foot wide canyon. This would be the Ragnarok of all your travels. Game over. Yet another reason why it’s better to book a tour guide as they are always up to date on current weather conditions and also bring along a lot of great knowledge. They were even able to show us prehistoric fossils just laying around on the ground!
A Cave of Wonder
The Belly of the Dragon is located 16 miles north of Kanab, about 1/2 mile before you reach Mt. Carmel junction. Traveling north from Kanab, you'll see a well-maintained dirt road on the left known as Barracks road. Go 1/4 mile up that road and the entrance is on the left (you'll need to park and scramble up a hill and over a narrow passageway to get there, but it is generally kid-friendly once you get past that initial hump). The cave faces west, so lighting is best in the early afternoon.
Toadstool Hoodoos Trail
When I think of classic Utah, this is it. These land features – millions of years in the making – are everything you dreamed about. Giant rocks stacked on skinny little pedestals carefully whittled away by nature. The hike is a relatively easy three-quarters of a mile from the road and takes a little over 20 minutes. Any visit here puts you in line with classic road trips of the old American road. It's definitely not to be missed.
No matter what, always remember the rules of adventure: stay on the path, don't touch or damage scenery, and take out what you pack in.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary
With a commitment to doing away with ALL shelter killings nationwide by 2025, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has spent the last 30 years running programs to reduce the number of animals entering shelters. Here you'll find cats, dogs, bunnies, horses, pigs parrots and even some exotic and wild animals. Check out their tours or seasonal opportunities. Depending on your timing, you might be able to participate in bunny yoga, pet portraits or kitten coffee hour!
Have you ever visited Kanab? What was your favorite sight?