Road trip to explore best of Utah


Only six hours from Los Angeles by car and two hours by plane, southern Utah is the perfect escape.

With Los Angeles-like weather, happy residents and so much to do, St. George is considered one of the hottest new vacation destinations, and Eye on L.A. couldn't agree more. The charming town and its surrounding areas are filled with art galleries, shops, restaurants, spas and top-notch outdoor activities.

Eye on L.A. stopped into the Painted Pony restaurant in St. George to check out what makes it so popular. Painted Pony features a contemporary American menu with locally grown produce straight out of its own garden in Darmin Valley. Considered a special occasion restaurant as well as a local favorite, the restaurant also offers 120 different varieties of wine, including their own label, the Painted Pony Pinot Noir [Watch video].

The St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm displays some of the oldest and best-preserved tracks in the world. Dinosaur tracks were discovered on the farm in February 2000, and it has become quite an attraction. The site is still in the early stages of scientific study - so far more than 3,500 tracks have been found within a 10-acre area. One of only five sitting dinosaur impressions in the world is located on the main track site within this museum.

Designated in 1919, Zion National Park is Utah's oldest national park. The park is known for its incredible canyons and spectacular views. Famous hikes including The Narrows, Subway and Angels Landing attract adventure enthusiasts from around the world. Hiking possibilities here are endless. With nearly three million visitors per year, Zion is Utah's most heavily used park.

Eye on L.A. hooked up with Bill Westerhoff from Zion Adventure Company to load up on all the gear we needed for an exciting day of exploring and canyoneering through Zion. Tina Malave even mustered up all of her courage to rappel down the side of a cliff! Zion Adventure Company offers equipment rentals, maps, courses and guided rock climbing and canyoneering in southern Utah [Watch video].

In looking for a great vacation spot, Eye on L.A. wanted to find someplace that not only had thrills but a little pampering as well, and that brought us straight to the incredible Red Mountain Resort. Blended naturally into a landscape of vivid red rock cliffs and canyons of southern Utah, Red Mountain Resort is all about relaxing and rediscovering a passion for adventure. Complete with beautifully designed rooms and villa suites carefully situated on 55 acres of black lava gardens and fragrant mesquite, the stunning vistas of the surrounding red mountains will leave you breathless. Their award-winning Sagestone Spa & Salon has also been voted one of the best affordable spas, and we have to agree! The Diva for a Day package, which includes a massage, facial, pedicure, lunch and use of all the amenities, will only run you about $199!

Eye on L.A. discovered a hidden little artist community nestled in the red rocks of Kayenta known as the Coyote Gulch Art Village. Local artist Aimee Bonham showed Tina around the many galleries and working studios as well as the popular Xitava Café. Tina was pleasantly surprised to meet renowned artist Ed Hlavka, whose work is shown in the Smithsonian and whose iconic sculptures of wild mustangs grace the base of Snow Canyon State Park. You can find Ed in his Kayenta studio teaching classes in sculpting to locals and tourists.

We shouldn't be surprised that the state famous for hosting the Sundance Film Festival would be so into the arts, but what's in that Utah water that creates such incredible dancers? Just watch "Dancing With The Stars!" They've got Utahns everywhere - from brother and sister dancing sensations Julianne and Derek Hough to the mind blowing Mark Ballas and the amazing Chelsie Hightower! Hightower explained to Eye on L.A. why Utah is the place to be [Watch video].

Amid towering red sandstone cliffs is an unbelievable, natural amphitheater. The site was first founded by a local who only dreamt of sharing the unspoiled beauty of the place. Decades later, a 1,920-seat amphitheater was built to bring high-caliber live entertainment to Southern Utah. They call it "Story Telling in the Canyon." What makes the Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts extra special is that it also houses a performing arts charter high school where the goal is for students to succeed artistically and academically, performing in the classroom and on stage.

Did you know southern Utah has some of the best spring and summer sporting activities year round? They have annual Ironman competitions, top biking events, world class softball tournaments and some of the most stunning and challenging golf courses that rival the very best - including the gorgeous greens at the Sand Hollow Resort, where greens fees are a fraction of the cost of many top rated courses in L.A.

Though Snow Canyon rarely gets any snow and is only about 4 miles wide and 7 miles long, its colorful and grand mix of red rock, white rock, lava flow, green sage brush and beautiful desert flowers make it a truly spectacular sight. Eye on L.A. discovered the best way to see Snow Canyon is with a leisurely stroll on horseback.

Out of all the fun experiences Eye on L.A. had in Utah, it's safe to say that Tina's favorite was definitely ATV-ing through the red velvety sand dunes at Sand Hollow! After hooking up with ATV and Jeep Adventure Tours, Eye on L.A. engaged in what owner Laurie Clay refers to as "sand ballet" in the soft, red, powdery dunes. The all female-owned company offers 2-6 hour excursions, and we can tell you that after about three hours, we still wanted more, more, more! It's truly a memory-making experience [Watch video]!

See the complete list of all of the places featured on this week's episode.

To plan your own Utah adventure, visit and Tell them Eye on L.A. sent you!

[Original air date: April 14, 2012]

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