Travel with Christina Valhouli: Utah

Known for its spectacular natural beauty, Utah is recognized as one of the best skiing spots in the U.S. Packing ski boots then is a no brainer. However, visitors may not know that they should also pack a few chic outfits, as Utah is an unexpected hot bed of midcentury modern design. I recently road tripped around Utah to experience its otherworldly red rock landscapes and to check out some of its most stylish hotels, restaurants and shops. Here’s a look at my favorite finds.


Salt Lake City


When visiting Salt Lake City, stay at Hotel Monaco – a unique hotel housed in a former bank. Inside, guests will find that the lobby level retains some of the bank’s original teller windows and vault doors. Start the day with a coffee and French toast stuffed with lemon cream cheese from Eva’s Bakery, whose marble countertops and chalkboard menu make it seem as though it were transplanted from Paris. Next, explore the University of Utah’s Natural History Museum of Utah, located at the Rio Tinto Center. The building, designed by Ennead Architects, is clad in 42,000 square feet of standing seam copper that was mined locally. The museum’s interior is designed as if it were a canyon, with various “trails” spreading out from its axis, and its horizontal bands mimic Utah’s layered rock formations. Although the draw is the museum’s unparalleled collection of dinosaur bones, architecture tours of this LEED-certified building are also available. Finally, shop for midcentury furniture collections at Tomorrow’s House, which is a quick stroll from The Copper Onion, an ideal spot for braised pork belly or Wagyu beef stroganoff. With its pressed tin ceiling and subway tiles, the restaurant’s design is industrial-modern.


Canyon


Aman resorts are often referred to as the best in the world, thanks to their combination of Asian-inspired design and flawless service. The challenge is that these resorts have limited accessibility, with only two U.S. locations. The Amangiri, which opened in 2009, is surrounded by desert landscape and Lake Powell, and its streamlined design makes the most of this otherworldly landscape. In addition to its beautiful surroundings and design, the Amangiri spa offers Navajo-inspired treatments.


Park City


This ski resort is arguably the most stylish destination in Utah. Ski bunnies have even more of a reason to rejoice: Park City Mountain Resort is now connected with Canyons Resort to create the largest ski area in the U.S. Hole up at the luxurious St. Regis Deer Valley, which offers a modern take on alpine decor via its use of stone and glass. The recently relocated Kimball Art Center acts as the hub of Park City’s art scene. The Riverhorse on Main serves up Utah trout and oxtail raviolis in a sleek black and white setting. New restaurants in town include Handle and Fletcher’s. For a dose of cowboy cool, head to High West, a saloon-style restaurant and whiskey distillery. Last stop is Utah Olympic Park, where visitors can ride the winter Comet bobsled or watch future Olympians train.


Vernal


Drive east to reach the small town of Vernal, the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. While the park is famous for its wall of dinosaur bones, design buffs will love its Quarry Exhibit Hall, which was originally built in 1958 in classic modernist style. The building houses a preserved slice of quarry wall that encompasses more than 1,000 embedded dinosaur fossils. Also, don’t miss out on the park’s numerous petroglyphs and the remains of the Josie Morris Cabin, a female cattle rancher’s homestead. Back in town, unwind with a craft beer, such as the Allosaurus Amber, at the glass-enclosed Vernal Brewing Company.


Bluff


This tiny town in southeastern Utah is rich with history and architecture. In 650 A.D., Puebloans resided here, and in 1880, Bluff was settled by Mormons. Highlights include petroglyphs, the remains of Puebloan homes, and Bluff Fort, which features replicas of log cabins dating back to the 19th century. Bluff is also the base for DesignBuildBLUFF, a graduate architecture program at the University of Utah in which students work closely with the local Navajo community to design and build projects ranging from private homes to rental cabins. The residences are modern and streamlined while still respecting local traditions. Though stylish in their simplicity, the projects are also sustainable, green and usually made with reclaimed materials. Students from the University of Colorado helped to design and build the Mexican Water Cabins, a pair of cube-like cabins that will be available to rent in the future (for more information, contact mexicanwater@navajochapters.org).

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