Ogden, Utah has two vital assets — warmer winter temperatures than much of Rockies and low-altitude mountain resorts — that make it a special destination for active families.
Snowsports fans come for winter days that rarely drop below 10°F, an extraordinary amount of fresh, fluffy powder that falls continuously, and bargain prices. The clear mountain skies, pristine environment, fishing streams, city-sponsored bike and hike trails, and mellow ambiance contribute to the region's summer tourism. Friendly locals and skilled guides guarantee success in introducing kids to the wilderness all year round.
Winter or summer, Ogden's modest elevation of 5,000 feet makes it an easy-to-acclimate-to mountain destination for flatland visitors who may suffer from alititude sickness. Just 45 minutes from the Salt Lake City Airport, the nearby Snowbasin and Powder Mountain have excellent facilites, snowsports schools, and summer programs geared to all ages.
But natural assets are only part of the reason why Ogden is one of the fastest growing destinations in the state, and a new mecca for outdoors enthusiasts.
Ogden Thinks Big About City Priorities
Ogden is surrounded by some of the West's most appealing terrain, but it wasn't always a quiet ski town on the verge of becoming the next Truckee or Bend. Back in the day when the railroads ruled the economy, Ogden was a R'n'R depot where traders and pioneers stopped for prostitutes, gambling and drinking. According to urban legend, Al Capone passed through on his way back to Chicago and described Ogden as "too rough" for his tastes.
In the last decade, the mayor John Doe Godfrey has spearheaded efforts to turn the city (once a prosperous railroad hub) into a center of outdoor sports and recreation. Under his regime, several large outdoors companies have been lured to town, bringing a workforce that appreciates the beautiful scenery, bike and hike trails, nearby ski resorts, varied summer recreation and good real estate values.
Plans for a Field House with an indoor velodrome and synthetic surface football fields are among Mayor Godfrey's dreams, as is a tram from downtown to the campus of Weber State University, with a gondola from there to the summit of Snowbasin. There's no reason to wait on Godfrey's vision of high-speed development, however; there's a lot happening for visitors to Ogden right now.
Exploring Downtown Ogden, Utah
Ogden has the broad boulevards and four-story, red brick buildings of many 19th-century Western towns which prospered long ago. Once the hub of the Transcontinental Railroad, its Union Station has been repurposed as an entertainment and shopping area, with a wonderful train museum inside.
The town's newfound prosperity has brought several restaurants to 25th Street (once the Red Light District of town). We liked the fun Rooster's Brewpub, popular for its microbrews and good cooking. Beers vary with the season (my pale DewBrew was pouring during the MountainDew Challenge Cup – coming back to Snowbasin in February 2012!) and favorites like Polygamy Ale are always on hand. Entrees range from steak to fresh baked pizzas, seafood and salads.
A lot of the town's current growth is attributed to the fine skiing and mountain recreation at Snow Basin, Powder Mountain and Wolf Mountain — striking snow-capped peaks within view of the main street . One nearby mountain that doesn't accommodate skiers is pretty Ben Lomond, named by the Scottish who admired its perfectly triangular peak. You'll recognize it immediately, because a young artist passing through around the turn of the 20th century captured it in his sketchbook, then later used it as inspiration for the Paramount Pictures logo. All that's missing are the rotating stars but on a clear summer night, you may see them too.
Salomon Center Attracts Families to Downtown
Despite its history and the nearby colleges, Ogden is a pretty quiet town, part of its appeal for the family seeking an outdors vacation with big city comforts.
The center of downtown buzz is the Salomon High Adventure Center, an entertainment, recreation and sports center built on the site of a failed shopping mall. There's a very large, award-winning Golds Gym open to ages 16 plus. The ground floor has a large video arcade, snack stands, and an indoor go kart track.
The indoor climbing wall is set up to train and outfit visitors of all skill levels and sizes.
On the upper levels is a bobsled ride and a Flowrider simulated surfing pool similar to what you may have seen advertised on cruise ships. It's very fun and a great way to beat the sometimes unexpected mountain heat.
Our favorite acitivity is the iFly Parachute Simulator that has such huge air pumps that customers can enter a wind chamber with a guide and "freefall" for several minutes while trying aerial stunts. It's pricey but probably a once in a lifetime experience. When everyone gets hungry, there's a Mexican grill called Costa Vida downstairs.
Ogden's Great Outdoors in Summer
When you come, you'll want to spend your days outdoors instead of at the Salomon High Adventure Center. In summer, there's no place for families to swim unless they hike out into the hills to one of many natural swimming holes. But there's great hiking and a new bike trail that rims the town. Most of the hotels can help you with bike rentals and hiking suggestions.
For the hardy, Snowbasin runs its lifts up the mountain for mountain bikers and hikers who want to come down on their own. Of course, for no fee, you walk up the steeps yourself and descend at your own pace. Families that want to kayak can connect with local outfitters for a day on the the Weber River.
Trip Planning Details for Ogden, Utah
The Salomon High Adventure Center has brought life to "downtown" Ogden, the commercial buildings surrounding the small Eccles Convention Center. Since they're both within a 5 minute's walk of 25th Street where most of the restaurants are, downtown makes the most convenient base for visitors with children.
The classic brick Ben Lomond Suites Hotel (877/627-1900) stands tall at 2510 Washington Blvd, Ogden, Utah 84401-3137, and some believe the historic hotel is still haunted. Today, it's a slightly worn version of its former grand self with large family suites. Try to stop by and admire the unusual architecture and large interior courtyard garden.
The 124-room Hampton Inn & Suites Ogden (801/394-9400 ) is a good value for families. Well priced and attractive, with free breakfast and WiFi, the Hampton Inn also has a coin-operated laundromat where you can dry out those mittens or bathing suits. For apres-ski afternoons, we liked their small pool and hot tub in the basement, and were able to take advantage of the free bikes the hotel offers to explore the nearby streets and foothills. Within the hotel, the beverage setup in the lobby and the small, 24/7 snack shop come in handy when you're traveling with family members who are always starving. The Hampton Inn & Suites is conveniently located at 2401 Washington Boulevard, Ogden, Utah 84401.
The Marriott Ogden (801/627-1190) at 247 24th Street, Ogden, Utah 84401 is around the corner and adjacent to the Convention Center. With a newly renovated lobby for hanging out and comfortable guest rooms, it is another good choice for families who will use Ogden as a base for northern Utah adventures.
In the Ogden Valley, within a 40-minute drive of the city, super luxurious Snowbasin and snow-packed Powder Mountain are so good at what they do that they are as much destination resorts as Utah's better known gems: Snowbird, Alta, Deer Valley, Canyons and Park City. SkiUtah, their communcal marketing group, calls them the "Hidden Gems."
All the more reason to make the value-priced city of Ogden your next base for a vacation, winter or summer.
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