CEDAR CITY — Cedar City is known for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, but there's plenty to do in the offseason — the smaller city benefits from a college-town-vibe and beautiful scenery.
As a disclaimer, I graduated from Southern Utah University, so I am partial, but returning to the town was nostalgic and eye-opening. Here's a look at college favorites and new additions.
8 a.m. — Breakfast on Main Street (or thereabouts)
Pick up a light meal at The Grind, a local coffee shop and homework hangout, although you may spot more professors than students.
If you're looking for something a little more substantial, go around the corner to Cedar City standard The Pastry Pub. My favorite is the California bagel — a soft, holeless bagel with an egg patty, Muenster cheese, cream cheese, feta, tomato, cilantro and avocado. We opted for a brunch of sorts, so I also got a pub salad, which is your garden variety salad with the addition of the house carrot "pub relish." That relish, the herbal sauce that comes on most of the sandwiches and the nostalgic decor that harkens back to the Utah Shakespeare Festival's earlier days are what elevates Pastry Pub from a run-of-the-mill sandwich shop to a Cedar City gem.
When: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday
Where: 86 W. Center St., Cedar City
9:30 a.m. — Wander the shops
Cedar City is full of stores to occupy your morning. Most of them are along Main Street, and a few others are within walking distance or a short drive.
Next door to The Grind is Main Street Books (formerly Braun Books), a bookstore with an eclectic array, including a robust local section. An interior door connecting the coffee shop and the bookstore amplifies the cozy atmosphere.
Groovacious has moved locations in the last couple of years, but it is still the intimate record shop that is among the best in the state. Groovacious sells vinyl, tapes and CDs and hosts artists for in-store performances. There is a wide selection of music. You can find nearly every genre and not feel self-conscious regardless of what you pick. Colorful posters, cardboard cutouts and an extensive medley of incense (I came pretty close to buying the root beer-scented sticks) contribute to the bohemian air.
When: 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday
Where: 195 W 650 S #2, Cedar City
Bulloch Drug is an adorable establishment that has kept its charm of the 1950s. You can get an ice cream soda at the soda fountain (it has old-fashioned flavors like Ironport) or browse the knickknacks in the adjacent boutiques.
When: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday
Where: 91 N. Main St., Cedar City
While you're meandering, keep your eye out for the bronze statues that dot the city. One pioneer man looks like he's about to step out into traffic, while the Shakespeare complex boasts a whole garden of favorite characters from the Bard's classics, and the Southern Utah University campus is practically littered with them.
Noon: Pizza time
Cedar City surprisingly has a couple of hip, wood-fired pizza joints.
The Pizza Cart started in the Ace Hardware parking lot, but has come a long way, even if many of the pizzas are the same. Now in a more permanent location, it's added gelato and sorbets. The margheroni, "a pizza of sacrilege to any Naples local," is a standout with all the things you love about margherita pizza, plus pepperoni.
When: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday
Where: 1190 Sage Dr., Cedar City
Patrons will find that pizza options are more quirky at Centro Woodfired Pizzeria, where the pies may be topped with arugula, red grapes or pistachios in addition to more traditional toppings like the house-made fennel sausage. The bruschetta, fresh tomato and basil topped with a delicious balsamic reduction, is a nice starter.
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday
Where: 50 W. Center St., Cedar City
1 p.m.: Pick your hiking adventure
Gorgeous hikes and drives with breathtaking views are only minutes away from downtown. Cedar Breaks National Monument, Bryce Canyon National Park or the Parowan Gap are popular favorites, but we spent the afternoon looking for cave paintings at Red Cliffs National Conservation Area.
Different trails have various difficulty levels. We picked one that was moderate and dog-friendly and offered access to caves and faint drawings on the lovely red rocks. The only wildlife we encountered were small lizards, but keep your eye out for Gila monsters, snakes and several species of bats, among other creatures.
Where: Coordinates: 37.156, -113.554
4:30 p.m.: Views of a painted kind
The Southern Utah Museum of Art houses four galleries in a mammoth building that is a part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The galleries are in a vast open space with short walls that move to fit the exhibition. Most interesting were the eight selected works of Jimmie F. Jones from the museum's permanent collection, which celebrate southern Utah.
The three other galleries included works by Sally Strand, "Native American Art from the Permanent Collection" and "Winter Wonderland: Staff Picks from the Permanent Collection," which will all be on display until Jan. 6.
Because of the size of the building, the galleries themselves seem a little sparse, but it will be interesting to see how the museum grows into the space.
When: Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday
Where: 13 S. 300 West, Cedar City
6:30 p.m. Life's short — time for dessert
As the evening became chilly, we opted to grab dessert first at The French Spot, an adorable outdoor café run by Frenchman Michel Attali, a chef who earned a Michelin star in New York City.
We took cover in Boomers Main Street Plaza where we sipped our Belgium hot chocolate and ate chocolate mousse topped with strawberries. The frothy hot chocolate was the perfect thing to counteract the cold.
When: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday through Saturday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday
Where: 5 N. Main St., Cedar City
7:30 p.m. Dinner at Sweet Basil
Panang curry, which curiously — but deliciously — has peanut butter in it, is the standout dish at Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine, a low-key Thai restaurant.
In college, this was one of the cooler places to eat and will always have a special place in my heart because it's the first place I had mango sticky rice. That being said, sometimes the ingredients aren't always the freshest, but when the food is good, it's really good.
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
Where: 1322 S. Providence Center Dr., Cedar City
8:30 p.m. Stargazing
Take a look up at the dark skies and see how many constellations Cedar City's sky shows off. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better spot for a meteor shower.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Cedar Breaks National Monument rangers host free star parties on Saturday evenings. During the fall, winter and spring months you can bundle up and still enjoy the stars.
Cedar City proudly claims to be "Festival City USA." Here's a sampling of events around the year.
Utah Summer Games: One of Cedar City's largest endeavors. According to their website, "The Utah Summer Games is a festival for athletes of all ages and abilities" since 1986.
Utah Shakespeare Festival: Started in 1961, the Utah Shakespeare Festival is a state staple. Six plays (mostly the bard's, but usually there's a musical and a more modern comedy) play in repertory during the summer and three plays are performed in the fall. The Greenshow, a free show geared toward families, plays throughout the summer as well.
Neil Simon Festival: Throughout the year, Neil Simon's works and those of his contemporaries are showcased along with new plays.
Utah Midsummer Renaissance Faire: One of the few Renaissance festivals in Utah.
Storybook Cavalcade Children's Parade: "The largest parade of its kind in the Intermountain region," states its website, complete with costumed people, marching bands and giant balloons.
Cedar Livestock and Heritage Festival: Sheep have paraded from Cedar City to Cedar Mountain since 1870, an occurance that has inspired other livestock-inspired events. Watch the sheep go down Main Street in one of my favorite Cedar traditions.