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Heading south? Here’s 12 hours of culture, food and fun in St. George

SHARE Heading south? Here’s 12 hours of culture, food and fun in St. George

For 2017, we're profiling Utah's best food, outdoor and cultural experiences. Follow us to find out what to do for a full day in different Utah cities.

Scenic St. George may be a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City, but its natural outdoor terrain and extensive arts scene make it ideal for a weekend trip. Whether you’re interested in hiking, history or theater, St. George has something to offer for everyone.

8 a.m. Get outdoors

St. George's stunning red rock mesas and year-round sunny weather make it an excellent place for hiking, biking and walking. The city offers trails for outdoor enthusiasts of every skill level. For a family trip, you’ll probably do best on the Virgin River Trail, a seven-mile long paved trail open to both bikers and walkers. If you want a little more variety, visit Pioneer Park, where you can browse the Red Hills Desert Garden, check out the Red Crack, or climb to the famous Dixie rock (also called the Sugarloaf). You’ll want to get an early start if you’re outdoors during the summer — temperatures can get up to the high 90s or low 100s during midday.

Noon: Lunch at Painted Pony

Located in the middle of St. George’s historic downtown area, Painted Pony serves classic American fare with a unique Southwestern twist. The restaurant sits on the second floor of Ancestor Square’s Tower Building, providing wonderful views of the surrounding area.

The lunch menu offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, soups and entrees. The beef brisket panini ($9) is a standout, and the oven roasted meatloaf ($12) is nothing to sneer at. Soup offerings change daily, but a cup of hearty split pea or zesty carrot jalapeno ($4) is a wonderful complement to a sandwich or salad.

1 p.m. Explore St. George

After lunch, you may want to see more of the historic downtown area. A walking tour will take you from the winter home of Brigham Young, who was the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Utah's first territorial governor, to the St. George Tabernacle, giving you a chance to visit the nearby shops and art galleries along the way. Also in the downtown area are several entertainment options for families — younger children might enjoy the St. George Children’s Museum, and older kids can work with parents to find clues at the Mystery Escape Room.

Once you’ve seen the historic downtown area, you may want to visit some of the other surrounding areas. Just five miles up the road in Santa Clara, you can tour the Jacob Hamblin home to learn about pioneer life before stopping at Frei’s Fruit Market for fresh vegetables, homemade jams and local salsas (the tomatillo guacamole is delicious).

4 p.m. Dinner at Xetava Gardens Cafe

All of the day's walking calls for an early dinner, and Xetava, located up against St. George's dramatic red rock, is an excellent option. Like Painted Pony, Xetava serves classic American food with a Southwestern twist. The cafe uses organic, locally sourced ingredients when possible, giving its entrées a rich, fresh taste.

You can’t really go wrong with any of Xetava’s food. The steak gyro ($15.95) is topped with a lightly spicy dill crema and paired with a side of grapes, and the grilled caesar salad ($11.95) comes with homemade croutons and a similarly spicy Caesar dressing. Even the desserts are unique — the bread pudding ($8.25) is made with croissants and topped with warm caramel and homemade whipped cream.

After finishing your meal, take a walk around the area. Xetava is located in the Coyote Gulch Art Village, and there’s plenty of fine art to appreciate.

6 p.m. Take a backstage tour at Tuacahn

The Tuacahn Center for the Arts is one of the St. George area’s major attractions, and for good reason. The amphitheater seats about 2,000 people and stages yearly concerts and musicals against the canyon’s backdrop. Tuacahn’s stage is one-of-a-kind, enabling it to create effects and sets that wouldn’t be feasible anywhere else.

You’ll have to call ahead to book a backstage tour (435-652-3300), but the extra time is worth the effort if you’re a musical theater fan. The walking tour takes about 30 minutes and costs $5 for adults and $3 for visitors under 12 years old. A Tuacahn employee will show you the stage, the green room, the costume shop and several other behind-the-scenes areas.

8 p.m. Attend a play at Tuacahn

Since you've seen the world behind the stage, enjoy a production from the audience's view. Tuacahn’s 2017 season includes “Newsies”, “Shrek the Musical” and “Mamma Mia.” The outdoor theater won’t protect you from the elements, though, so you may want to bring a portable fan or mister to cool you off from the heat of the sun.

Are you heading north for the weekend? Check out our earlier post on what to do for 12 hours in Logan!