Reunion: re•union \rē-´yün-yən\ the act of uniting again
I recently enjoyed the most amazing family reunion ever!
Not the kind where you awkwardly mingle over dangerously sun-baked potato salad with distant cousins and forgetful great aunts and uncles who can’t seem to comprehend that you’re not still the six-year-old they last laid eyes on.
I’m talking about a real reuniting of family...my family.
What brought a 14-year-old, sports-obsessed boy, a moody, pre-teen girl, an imaginative 7-year-old boy and two weary parents together? Ogden, Utah.
We had traveled to Utah to help my sister make preparations for the return of her Air Force husband who was returning to nearby Hill Air Force Base following his most recent deployment. She was grateful for the help, but she didn’t want us to burn a week of vacation doing nothing but landscaping, yard work, home improvements and repairs.
Being the logistician she is, she had prepared an itinerary that spread the work over the week, but also included plenty of down time with activities that ultimately turned into one of the best vacations we have ever taken as a family, and I’m passing along our family’s top five favorite things we experienced in Ogden.
Trails. Trails.Ogden, Utah sits in a spaghetti bowl of over 250 miles of trails of all levels of difficulty. And although hiking was a part of the schedule every day, we didn’t even scratch the surface. The various spurs that connect to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail lead to unimpeded views of the city below and provide the best view of the stunning sunsets over the Great Salt Lake just beyond.
A five-minute drive up scenic Ogden Canyon dropped us at the Wheeler Creek Trailhead which accessed a hidden gem known as “The Ice Box.” This narrow canyon is the place for mid-day hiking to escape the heat of the summer. It is cooled by steep walls, lush forest and a cold, mountain stream that invites you to dip your feet.
For those looking for a less strenuous hike, the Ogden River Parkway is a paved path that meanders right through the city along the Ogden River. Once on it, there are few clues that you are actually on an urban trail and you feel completely removed from the hustle and bustle just a stone’s throw away. One of the clues that does exist is Slackwater Pub and Pizzeria. Situated right where the river intersects with the city’s main drag, Washington Boulevard, this gourmet pizza place also offers the largest selection of bottled beers in town, along with several great wines and featured live music in their beautiful sun room the night we were there.
I won’t lie. When we saw “museums” on my sister’s itinerary, my husband and I both cringed. We envisioned abstract art or collections of obscure antiquities and, knowing our kids, we figured our two oldest would be “too cool” for museums and our youngest would either be bored out of his mind or inappropriately bouncing off the walls and climbing on displays as we pulled our hair out trying to control him.
However, the Ogden museums we visited were definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Historic Union Station alone houses at least four museums and each one held something that captivated various family members. Our oldest son spent most of his time at the Browning Firearms museum looking at prototypes and early production models of the dozens of guns designed by Ogden native, John M. Browning. My daughter lingered over the incredible vintage automobiles in the Kimball Car Museum. Our youngest watched model trains running through various dioramas of western landscapes and crawled all over steam engines and other locomotives from the past at the Railroad History Museum. My husband and I took in a temporary art exhibit at the Myra Powell Gallery.
We also visited the Hill Aerospace Museum and wandered through what felt like hundreds of aircraft, big and small and the kids gained a huge appreciation for the world of their Air Force uncle.
3. High Adventure
While the trails, mountains, lakes and rivers around Ogden offer legitimate high adventure for the hardcore outdoor set, the Salomon Center, in the heart of the city, provided plenty of adrenaline for our kids in a way that left mom feeling a lot less anxious.
The only way we were able to pry our kids off the massive indoor iRock climbing wall was to promise them an indoor surfing session next door at the Flowrider. There is even indoor sky diving at the iFly tower in the Salomon Center. We wrapped up our Salomon Center visit with some bowling and let the kids play video games in the massive arcade before wandering across the street to a megaplex theater and taking in a movie. Still not sure how the kids were able to stay awake through the whole movie after all of the activities that day.
4. Street Life
Admittedly, this was the most surprising part of our whole Ogden vacation. As parents, we had fallen into the trap of believing that for a street to be engaging to young kids, it had to be something like Main Street in Disneyland. We were dead wrong.
Ogden’s Historic 25th Street seemed to become our “base of operations” during our stay. We dined in restaurants along the eclectic street more than once. One night was a proper “sit-down” meal at Roosters Brewing Company, a funky brewpub and restaurant that is a local favorite. One evening, we grabbed pizza slices just down the street at Lucky Slice as we wandered through various shops and art galleries, around dozens of beautifully painted, life-size horses that pay homage to the city’s pioneer heritage, and past street pianos where passers-by would sit and play a tune or two. We ended up at the city’s amphitheater, spreading blankets on the grass and watching a family friendly movie outdoors with dozens of local residents.
One of our favorite days was a Wednesday when we grabbed a lunch of street-vendor tacos and sat in the shade of Ogden’s Municipal Building and listened to live music from one of Ogden’s local musicians along with at least 100 other people in the Municipal Gardens. It’s clearly a bit of a Wednesday lunch ritual for Ogdenites who work downtown. Later that evening, we returned to the amphitheater for yet another concert. I was surprised at how much artistic and musical talent resided in Ogden and how readily accessible it all is! In most cities, live music is a late-night thing in establishments where kids aren’t allowed. Art is often housed in stuffy galleries where sticky fingers are discouraged. However, in Ogden, it seemed that music and art were everywhere.
Another highlight of our “street life” experience was Ogden’s Saturday Farmer’s Market. The entirety of Historic 25th Street is blocked to vehicles and the street is lined with every kind of vendor imaginable. And, of course, more music and art.
Just as every mom has a couple of secret recipes she uses to sneak undesirable vegetables into her kids, Ogden provided me with a few fun ways to sneak learning into a Summer vacation.
In addition to the museum adventures previously mentioned, Ogden’s Treehouse Museum is a massive, interactive experience that covers science, history, technology, and more. I think my 7-year-old would have been happy spending every day at the Treehouse...and I think even with a full week, he wouldn’t have been able to take it all in.
The Ogden Nature Center gave the kids an up-close-and-personal experience with various birds, mammals and plants with some expert instruction and the Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park allowed us to wander through several acres of life-size re-creations of dinosaurs in an outdoor environment as well as one of the best dinosaur museums I’ve ever visited.
On the final night of our stay, we took in an Ogden Raptors baseball game at Lindquist Field, a ballpark recently named “the most scenic view in baseball.” As the setting sun lit up the Wasatch Mountains just beyond the outfield wall, all three kids asked if we could come back to Ogden next year.
For the first time in several years, our family was truly united, and we won’t hesitate to return and reunite next year. Finally, a family reunion I’m looking forward to!