July 2, 2012

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Article

More than Meets the Eye

Off the Slopes, Utah Proffers Tremendous Cultural Opportunities

John Blodgett

July 2, 2012

Musical Interlude
To paraphrase Julie Andrews in her signature role, Utah is alive with the sound of music. Throughout the year and throughout the state, vocalists and musicians take to the stage, often in the great outdoors, to entertain visitors and locals.

In Salt Lake City, the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series is a hit with performers as well as music fans, who can roll out blankets on the grass and have a picnic (with wine and beer if they choose). Downtown venues such as the Gallivan Center, Brigham Young Historic Park and Liberty Park offer lunchtime and evening outdoor concert series, often free of charge. Abravanel Hall is home to the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera. In the nearby mountains, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort hosts a Cool Air Concert Series and a Mountain Music Festival.

The Park City area is rife with music in the summertime: The Deer Valley Music Festival (featuring the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera), the Park City Performing Arts Foundation Summer Series, the Park City Chamber Music Festival and the Park City Jazz Festival are included in the lineup, as are free concerts at The Canyons and other locations.

The Moab Music Festival brings chamber, jazz and traditional music performances to perhaps the most unique venues in the State: a selection of locations amidst red rock and sandstone, including a Colorado River site accessible by jet boat. The Moab Folk Festival is a treat for folkies, attracting performers from Utah and surrounding states.   

Not-so-musty Museums
Two new museums in Salt Lake City have solidified the capital’s status as a cultural attraction and offer multi-generational appeal for families traveling together. 

Utah, long known for its landscapes and its natural history, now will be known for the museum that celebrates both. When it moved from one part of the University of Utah campus to another, the Natural History Museum of Utah underwent a stunning transformation.

“We really want people to know this is not your grandmother’s natural history museum,” jokes Executive Director Sarah George. Housed in a copper-clad building with a commanding panoramic view of the Salt Lake Valley, the museum is quite literally the “Trailhead to Utah.” An innovative web-based system, accessible via smartphone, leads visitors on four different “trails” through the museum. Plans are in the works to connect visitors’ experiences inside the museum with other areas of the State, including state and national parks and other museums. 

“There’s a whole sense that the museum is your partner in exploration,” says George.

Downtown’s The Leonardo is a showcase for Utah innovation, says spokesperson Lisa Davis, and that’s immediately apparent in the lobby where visitors can interact with a data visualization sculpture via its very own Twitter feed. It’s a place where disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, biology and computer science “come together into something else” to give visitors an experience that is multi-dimensional and, in many instances, hands-on.

“Getting your hands dirty” is important, says Davis, because “doing something changes you.” Among other things, visitors can participate in a gene study run in conjunction with Mario Capecchi, the University of Utah’s Nobel Prize-winning geneticist.

Convention Goers Fuse Work and Play
Utah’s booming convention business is great tourism, says Scott Beck, President and CEO of Visit Salt Lake, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “It exposes people to someplace they might otherwise not have visited,” he explains. Take the Outdoor Retailer shows: Beck says 28 percent of attendees return to Utah, bringing 2.4 people apiece, primarily to hike, ski and camp. And the nearly 21,000 attendees of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 contributed an estimated $20 million to the local economy.

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