Outdoor Adventures and Staycations—An Experiential Gift Guide

We have all been there. Standing at a picked-over rack of neckties in a crowded mall department store, debating over navy with a red pattern or red with a navy pattern, we start to wonder, “Wait. Did I get Dad a tie for Christmas last year? Or was it socks?” Regardless, he has more socks and ties than anyone who works from home could ever need. In fact, maybe we all have too much stuff. But what do you give for the holidays without adding to the clutter? Something that shows you actually love—and maybe even like—these people? 

As kids, whenever we asked our moms what they wanted for Christmas she would always say, “Time together with my beautiful children.” We would always roll our eyes. How do you gift-wrap “time together” and put it under a Christmas tree, anyhow? Nowadays, we’re starting to think she was on to something. You might have to get creative with how you wrap up these presents to open up on Christmas morning, but they give the opportunity for something truly priceless: quality time together and memories to last a lifetime.

Into the Woods: Outdoor Adventures from Mild to Wild

Whether your people are backpack-in-the-mountains-for-a-week kind of people or just enjoy-the-scenery kind of people, there’s an outdoor adventure (and a gift) that is just right for them.

A License to Give 

For the intrepid outdoorsman, this is a simple but thoughtful gift. Did you know that Utah State hunting and fishing licenses and permits can be purchased as gifts? Now you do. And it’s not just for the warmer seasons. There are several hunts in Utah during the winter, and don’t forget about ice fishing! wildlife.utah.gov

A Zippy Tour 

What better way to see Utah than while strapped in a harness, suspended from cable dozens of feet from the ground? We all have a thrill seeker in our lives. This is for them. Sundance Resort’s ZipTour offers stunning views of Mount Timpanogos and includes the biggest vertical drop of any zipline in the country. In Heber, Zipline Utah’s “Screaming Falcon Full Tour” is apparently the longest course in the world. Bridgerland Adventure Park near Bear Lake has zip lines and ropes tours and something called a “Zorb Ball” (a floating hamster ball for people) on Bear Lake. And for tours soaring over Moab’s red-rock scenery, there’s Ravens Rim or Moab Adventure Center.
sundanceresort.com, ziplineutah.com, blap.rocks, ravensrim.com, moabadventurecenter.com

Zion Narrows (in Winter) 

Exploring the famed Narrows of Zion National Park in winter is a truly unique experience. The park, woefully crowded in the summer, is practically empty in winter and crawling upriver below the towering cliff walls, coated in ice is pure splendor. Book a guided or self-guided tour at Zion Outfitter or Zion Adventures in Springdale. Tours come with dry suit rentals that will keep you warm and toasty. 
zionoutfitter.com, zionadventures.com

Every Park, One Pass 

This is for the person who packs up their 10-year-old Subaru to go hiking or camping every other weekend. Utah is home to five national parks, seven national monuments and even more national recreation areas, and you can give your friend free, unfettered access to all of them for an entire year with the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (as well as access to every NPS area in the U.S.). The pass pays for itself after visiting just three parks. If you really like this person, you can also throw in a Utah State Parks Annual Pass, which provides access to Utah’s 44 state parks.
usparkpass.com, parkspass.utah.gov

Backcountry Ski Tour 

This is for the expert skier (sorry snowboarders, it’s a ski-only thing). The Ski Utah Interconnect Adventure Tour connects up to six Utah ski resorts through backcountry terrain. This adventure includes walking, hiking, traversing, and, yes, skiing. The tour guides are experts, trained in snow safety and backcountry etiquette. Your gift recipient will be in good hands. Open and private tours are available as well as preset and custom routes.

Experience Gifts Utah
CRATE Grand Canyon River Tour. Photo courtesy of CRATE Grand Canyon River Tours.

The Trip of a Lifetime 

A rafting trip down the Grand Canyon is truly one of the world’s most incredible outdoor adventures. People wait for years to get a permit and only a few guide companies are allowed to run the river. One of the oldest and best outfits, Colorado River & Trail Expeditions (CRATE), offers 8- and 14-day trips (motorized and non-motorized) down the Colorado River through one of the wonders of the natural world. CRATE offers customized gift certificates. If your loved one likes white water thrills, the ideal time to go May through June. You’ll want to put this in a big box. Call 800-253-7328 or visit crateinc.com

Staycations in Utah: Explore Your Own Backyard

While gifting an international getaway might not be feasible, staycations tend to be more friendly both in planning and affordability. In our own backyard, we have chic mountain suites and modern hotels that cater to adventurers both urban and rural, for potential surprise weekend trips. 

Climbing to great heights in the Granary 

This is for your friend or partner who, let’s face it, hasn’t seemed to realize they’re a little too cool for you. The Granary District is swiftly joining Central 9th as one of Salt Lake City’s trendiest up-and-coming neighborhoods. The outdoor music venue Granary Live just opened this summer and, while two tickets to a live concert at the cool new venue make for a great gift on their own, why not include a place to crash after? EVO Hotel has an on-site coffee shop serving local coffee, a rooftop bar, an art campus—oh, and an on-site skate park and climbing gym. Your cool friend about town can cool down with a public art stroll through the Granary, where 12 new murals are on display.
granarylive.com, evohotel.com, thegranarydistrict.com

Experience Gifts Utah
Evo Hotel has become a magnet for all ages of skateboarding enthusiasts who are drawn to a first in Utah, a skatepark within a boutique hotel. Photo courtesy of Evo Hotel

Adventure to Park City 

A staycation at Canyons Village in Park City serves as a great base for the gift of family adventure in any season—with access to hiking, biking, lifts, skiing and snowboarding. You also don’t have to go far (just outside your hotel room door) for shops, restaurants and entertainment (like year-round fireworks shows and the perfect venue for kids’ pizza parties), not to mention a mountainside golf course. If you’re looking to gift a close-to-home ski trip for a busy family, the Epic Day Pass’s flexibility makes for the complete gift package. And we haven’t forgotten about the kiddos! The Epic SchoolKids Utah Pack is a program for local kids in Kindergarten through 5th Grade that includes five days of free skiing and riding at Park City.
parkcitymountain.com, epicpass.com

Thanksgiving Weekend in Utah
Ice Skating at Gallivan Center. Photo by Austen Diamond, Visit Salt Lake

A Weekend on Broadway (in Salt Lake) 

The plays: MJ or Pretty Woman at the Eccles on night one, and Plan B’s Balthazar on night two. Stay at the newly renovated Hotel Monaco. Make dinner reservations at the Monaco’s Bambara, led by new chef Patrick LeBeau or head over to the funky, speakeasy-esque The Rest. Spend the day in-between shows soaking up downtown’s magical wintertime vibe by ice skating on Gallivan Center Ice Rink, going to the top of the Hyatt Regency for Cocktails & Curling, sipping an expertly made cappuccino at Three Pines Coffee or having afternoon tea at The Rose Establishment. For a post-show aperitif, we recommend a craft cocktail at Post Office Place or a round of Space Invaders and a draft beer at Quarters Arcade. —Melissa Fields

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