Utah is home to beautiful desert landscapes, famous ski and snowboard resorts and sunny days throughout the year, making outdoor activities a popular choice for international visitors and residents alike. As part of the Western region of the U.S., Utah’s culture and history draws on the many distinct communities that have traveled to the state and made it their home. Native American tribes, pioneers and miners, and Mormon settlers have had their own influence on Utah and its culture, art, cuisine and way of life. As Utah continues to develop and evolve, international visitors will have many opportunities to learn, explore and experience the culture of the Beehive State.
During their programs, international participants will have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, whether they’re in the northern or southern parts of the state. The south is known for national monuments and state parks such as Arches National Park, Dinosaur National Monument and Zion National Park. Other popular outdoor activities include whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, water skiing, skiing and snowboarding, especially in northern areas near Salt Lake and Park City. Snow can be found in most areas of the state during the winter, while summers are usually hot with very low humidity. Whether it’s summer or winter, in the mountains of Park City, a museum in Salt Lake City or the sandstone arches at Arches National Park, there are cultural learning opportunities for everyone. To find out more, browse the pages below or visit www.utah.com.
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Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Photo by Leon7.
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The Golden Spike National Historic Site marks an important part of Utah’s history in the American frontier: the completion of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, also known as the Transcontinental Railroad, which connected the west and east coasts of the United States. The site is to the northeast of Salt Lake City and allows visitors to see replica locomotives in the Engine House during winter, or in a live demonstration on the tracks during summer. Visit www.nps.gov/gosp for details on the history behind the site and planning your visit.
Parowan Gap in the Cedar City area displays both man-made and natural treasures. The Parowan Gap is a canyon and passage formed over millions of years and now a site for Native American rock art, known as petroglyphs. The petroglyphs, which include geometric designs and depictions of animals and human figures, were carved into the rock face of the Parowan Gap and are an important part of cultural history to local Native Americans. Visit the Cedar City Tourism Bureau website for more on this historical site.
Temple Square is the site of the most popular tourist attractions in Utah, including the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the iconic Salt Lake Temple and other sites connected to Utah’s strong Mormon heritage. For more information on Temple Square, go to www.visittemplesquare.com.
Park City Museum aims to preserve the history and heritage of Park City. Visitors can enjoy historic walking tours of the area, home tours and exhibits. Visit www.parkcityhistory.org for more information.
The Commemorative Air Force Utah Wing Museum houses a collection of historic aircraft at the Heber Valley Air Museum: www.cafutahwing.org
Zion Country Action Tours are located in the St. George and Zion National Park area – Jeep tours, horseback riding, zipline, ATVs, climbing, mountain biking and more. Find more information at www.zioncountryactiontours.com.
Blue Sky Adventures is located 10 minutes to the east of Park City and has tours for both summer and winter seasons. In summer, you can go hiking, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking or be a cowboy for a day. Winter tours include horseback riding, sleigh rides, ski tours, snowshoeing, yurt excursions and dog sledding. Visit www.bluesky-adventures.com or call 435.336.2646 for more information.
Destination Sports offers one-day and multi-day guided tours and equipment rental in the Park City/Salt Lake area, including ski and snowboard rentals, snowshoe rentals, and hiking, kayaking, rafting, BBQ dinners and ATV tours, to name only a few. For a full list of tours and equipment, visit www.destinationsports.com or call 800.247.6197.
Try Off-road Outfitters in southern Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park for ATV tours. Visit www.utahatvtour.com or call 855.627.0868.
For a full list of Utah tour operators visit the Utah.com website.
Utah Tourism Websites
- Utah Office of Tourism www.visitutah.com
- Park City Chamber/Bureau www.visitparkcity.com
- Cedar City-Brian Head Tourism & Convention Bureau www.scenicsouthernutah.com
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
Cedar City Arts Council promotes local artists in the Cedar City area in southern Utah. Visit www.cedarcityartscouncil.org for events and information on the local art scene in Cedar City.
Gallery strolls are a fun and free activity that can be found throughout Utah. On the last Friday of each month, a free community event known as the Last Friday Gallery Stroll allows locals and visitors to experience exhibits and art events in Park City, along with some light refreshments. Visit www.parkcitygalleryassociation.com for the upcoming schedule.
Park City Summit County Arts Council has information about all types of art and cultural events in Park City, including local artists, literature, public art, art galleries and culinary art. Visit www.pscarts.org for a calendar of events and updates on the arts and cultural scene in Park City.
Utah Museum of Contemporary Artin Salt Lake City hosts exhibitions from local and international artists along with cultural events, including films, talks, workshops and social events like First Fridays and Family Art Saturdays. Admission is free. Visit www.utahmoca.org or call 801.328.4201 for more information.
Utah Museum of Fine Arts at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City holds a collection of over 19,000 objects dating back to the 41st century BCE including paintings, photography, sculpture and mixed media from international and American artists, along with changing exhibitions and events. For hours and admissions, upcoming exhibitions or to explore the collection, visit umfa.utah.edu.
The world-famous Sundance Film Festival brings films, music, panels and related activities to over 50,000 people. Each January, 200 films are selected for screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, which are separated by a short drive (30-80 minutes). Buy tickets and arrange accommodation as early as possible for this popular event by visiting www.sundance.org/festival for lodging, a program guide and other helpful information to plan your visit.
Ballet West is based in Salt Lake City but performs in other areas of Utah throughout the year. Read more about this ballet company, find performance schedules and touring information, and purchase tickets at www.balletwest.org.
Park City Chamber Music Society hosts several music festivals throughout the year, including classical music, chamber music, film music and a Beethoven festival. Go to www.pcmusicfestival.com for upcoming dates, performers and more.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir welcomes the public to a weekly Sunday television and radio broadcast in the Tabernacle at 9:30 a.m. and the choir’s rehearsal on Thursday evenings. The choir also tours the U.S. and holds special concerts and events. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.mormontabernaclechoir.org.
Utah Symphony and Opera is based in Salt Lake City but performs throughout the state. Performance schedules, tickets and touring details can be found at www.usuo.org.
Other Utah performing arts venues include:
- Repertory Dance Theater, Salt Lake City www.rdtutah.org
- Salt Lake County Center for the Arts, Salt Lake City www.slccfa.org
- Pioneer Theater Company, Salt Lake City www.pioneertheatre.org
- The Off Broadway Theatre, Salt Lake City www.theobt.org
- The Eccles Center, Park City www.ecclescenter.org
- Hale Center Theatre, West Valley City www.halecentretheatre.org
- Bumbleberry Theatre, Springdale www.bumbleberry.com/theater/
For a full list of performing arts locations in Utah, visit www.utah.com/arts
Utah Olympic Park ski jumps. Photo by Michael Jiroch.
Many Americans are passionate about sports – and not just baseball and football! Get a glimpse into this part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
Utah Olympic Park, the site of several events in the 2002 Winter Olympics, offers tours, ski and sports museums, sports camps and the chance to ride in a bobsled in both winter and summer, or to try the alpine slide or skeleton sled on the Olympic track. Visit www.utaholympiclegacy.com for more information on this venue and about the Olympic history of Utah.
Utah claims to have “the Greatest Snow on Earth”, and skiers and snowboarders seem to agree. There are 14 downhill ski resorts in Utah, most located in the northern part of the state. 12 of these resorts also offer snowboarding. Visit www.utah.com/ski/resorts for a map of the resorts and more information on the winter sports available throughout Utah.
The Utah Jazz is a professional basketball team that plays at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City. Tickets and schedules can be found at www.utahjazz.com.
Soccer fans may enjoy watching the Real Salt Lake Major League soccer team at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City. College sports are also popular, especially the rivalry between Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. Visit Utah.com for an overview of all the professional and college sports teams in Utah.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
With five national parks and 43 state parks, there are plenty of outdoor activities in Utah. Visitors can try summer activities like hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, kayaking and other adventure sports, while popular winter activities include snowmobiling, horseback riding, tubing, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and winter adventure sports. Information on skiing and snowboarding can be found in the Sports & Recreation section of the Utah cultural guide.
Antelope Island State Park is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. Hiking and biking trails, boating, horseback riding, and views of the lake are popular attractions at the island. Over 500 free-roaming bison live on Antelope Island, and visitors can help round up the herd each October. Visit the Utah State Parks website for more information on Antelope Island.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources hosts Bald Eagle Day in multiple locations around the state in February. Check the UDWR website at wildlife.utah.gov for the latest updates about this event, or call 801.209.5326.
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its unique geology, particularly the red rock formations and tall spires called “hoodoos”. The park offers guided tours for visitors including full moon hikes, snowshoe hikes, horseback rides and muleback rides. See the schedule, photos and other important information at www.nps.gov/brca.
Cedar Breaks National Monument in the Dixie National Forest is located near Cedar City and has outdoor activities for all seasons. Hiking, camping, skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing are popular was to explore Cedar Breaks. Check out the National Park website at www.nps.gov/cebr for more information, including important safety information.
Hardware Ranch is a working ranch about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City and a popular winter spot thanks to their elk-viewing sleigh rides. Camping, hunting and fishing are also available at the ranch. For pricing and schedules, visit wildlife.utah.gov/hardwareranch or call the visitors center at 435.753.6206.
If you have time to travel, consider visiting Moab in eastern Utah, a popular tourist destination for active types looking to try hiking, rafting, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, ATV rides, and to explore the nearby Arches National Park. Go to www.discovermoab.com for information on the area and its many outdoor activities.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States.
Utah scones are special treats in the state that look nothing like the scones you are probably imagining. Made of deep-fried dough, Utah scones are the size of small dinner plates and are often served with whipped honey butter or powdered sugar. One place to try this state specialty is Sconecutters, which has 5 locations in Salt Lake City.
Another more unusual state specialty, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, is fry sauce, a mix of mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish and spices, which is usually eaten with French fries. And while it’s certainly not only found in Utah, Jell-O is the official state snack!
For a healthier option, try Green River melons from, you guessed it, Green River, UT, where the desert climate makes for perfect melon weather. The melons are usually found between April and August.
Bear Lake raspberries are another regional treat from Bear Lake valley in northern Utah, and they’re so good that they even have their own festival. The berries are a popular addition to ice cream shakes in the summer.
For a unique and local perspective on American cultural, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The United States is known for its patriotism, and the America’s Freedom Festival puts that on full display every July 4th in Provo, UT. Events run throughout the year but the main celebrations occur around Independence Day, including a grand parade, the Stadium of Fire event at Brigham Young University, a Colonial Fest and other patriotic activities. Find out more at www.freedomfestival.org
Kimball Arts Festival brings artists to Park City’s historic Main Street each August for music, visual arts, food and kids’ activities. Go to www.parkcitykimballartsfestival.org for schedules, pricing and festival information or call the Kimball Art Center at 435.649.8882. And if you’re interested in volunteering at the event, see the Help Your Community section of the Utah cultural guide.
Sundance Film Festival in January screens 200 independent films in multiple locations around Park City. Visit our Arts and Culture section for more on this famous film festival.
The Utah Shakespearean Festival in Cedar City hosts multiple performances of William Shakespeare plays along with seminars, concerts, backstage tours and other events. Visit the appropriately named website at www.bard.org for tickets, performances and other festival information.
The Utah State Fair takes place in Salt Lake City at the Utah State Fairpark. Events include a rodeo, livestock shows and competitions, art competitions, barrel racing, performances and live music. Deep-fried foods (including deep-fried Jell-O), cooking and baking competitions, and even some gourmet food can also be found at the Fair – leave plenty of room for dessert! The State Fair is in early September. Look for schedules, directions and information at www.utahstatefair.com
During the winter, the Utah State Fairpark hosts the Dicken’s Christmas Festival and Feast in Salt Lake City. The festival is also held in St. George in the southwest corner of Utah. Activities at the festival include caroling, street entertainment and musical performances throughout the day. Find out more at www.dickenschristmasfestival.com.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It's also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants www.interexchange.org/work-travel-usa/j-1-exchange-jobs/housing-information-participants
Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees www.interexchange.org/career-training-usa/internship-co-op-trainee-job/housing-information-interns-and-trainees
Utah Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Utah participants include:
- Craigslist - Utah
- American Homestay Agency www.homestayagency.us
- Hostelling International www.hiusa.org/j1
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options. Visit the American Public Transportation Association website for a complete list of public transportation options in your local community.
FrontRunner trains run from Salt Lake City to Ogden, with stops at Woods Cross, Farmington, Layton, Clearfield and Roy. See the Ride UTA website for schedules and fares.
Amtrak trains run through stations as far north as Salt Lake City to as far east as Green River. Services extend to Ogden and St. George with additional Greyhound bus services. Use the Route Atlas service on www.amtrak.com to plan your trip.
A light rail service known as “Trax” is available in northern Utah near Salt Lake City area. Details can be found on the Ride UTA website, listed below.
Other Transportation Options
Ride UTA is the Utah Transit Authority website. Commuter rail, light rail and buses are available in northern Utah, including Salt Lake City, Weber County, Davis County and Utah County. During the winter, UTA buses make special trips to ski resorts near Salt Lake City, including Brighton, Alta, Snowbird and Solitude. Visit www.rideuta.com or call 888.743.3882 for more information, including routes and schedules.
Greyhound bus service travels to select cities in Utah via the Greyhound Connect service. Find maps, schedules and tickets at http://www.greyhound.com/.
Shuttles are available between Salt Lake City and Park City via www.parkcityshuttle.com.
Participants in Utah can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
Emergency Management Agencies
Utah Office of Emergency Management: emergencymanagement.utah.gov
Twitter updates: @UtahEmergency
Be Ready Utah: An official emergency preparedness website: beready.utah.gov
Twitter updates: @BeReadyUtah
Utah FEMA updates on Twitter: @femaregion8
National Weather Service: www.weather.gov
Weather – Salt Lake City: www.wrh.noaa.gov/slc
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Volunteer Opportunities in Utah
Get outdoors and help out in a national park for a few hours or a few months by visiting www.stateparks.utah.gov/volunteer.
The Utah Commission on Volunteers lists various short and long-term volunteer opportunities on their website at www.volunteers.utah.gov.
Volunteers of America is a religious organization in the Salt Lake City area offering one-time and group volunteer assignments along with long-term volunteer placements at www.voaut.org.
Volunteers for art-related events in Park City at the www.pcscarts.org website.
Volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival and you can receive access to some film screenings. Volunteers are asked to donate either 24+ or 80+ hours of their time, plus a training. Visit the Sundance Film Festival volunteer page for more information.