last month's vacation didn't only take us to las vegas. we rented a car and headed straight for utah, stopping first at valley of fire state park to check out the red rocks before continuing onto springdale and zion national park.
each year from about the age of twelve to eighteen my mom, dad, sister and i took a trip out west. (sorry dad, i can't remember the exact years and places we went each year with even half of the accuracy that you have. many of the trips blend together for me. which really isn't so bad, i just remember it all started with yellowstone and ended with the raft down the colorado, with mesa verde, taos, arches, canyon de chelly, and others thrown in.) every year around christmas the four of us would talk about where we'd go the next summer, what did we want to see, what did we want to do. and once decided, dad spent months pouring over books, calling far off places to make reservations because of course, the only internet we got at our house was through a phone cord strung across the kitchen floor, into the laundry room where the computer was kept. and we'd spend our time riding horses, hiking to arches, floating down rivers, looking at old churches, eating navajo tacos and watching the mittens through the rental car window in monument valley. i wouldn't trade it for the world. it's hard to believe it's been ten years since i've been out there.
it's not all that surprising that i took jason to the desert on what was initially billed as his surprise birthday trip and which turned out to also be our anniversary trip. i was nervous about getting on a plane, renting a car, driving, and not telling him where we were going until we got there. but he loved it. and is asking when we can go back again.
so if you've never made it out to the desert i have only one thing to say: go now. i guarantee it's not what you think it is and that red dirt will get under your skin, and you'll find yourself a year later finding a reason to go back. and when you do, here are some great spots to eat in springdale, near zion national park.
mean bean coffeehouse, 932 zion park boulevard (next door to oscar's cafe)
we stopped here for breakfast every morning before heading into the park. their mocha is one of the best i've ever had - not overly sweet & not overly chocolatey. and the muffins are super. while the peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake muffins were good, the blackberry lemon was amazing. jason had a breakfast sandwich one morning that was also really good. and you can't beat the view off the second story patio.
whiptail grill, 445 zion park boulevard
i read the reviews on tripadvisor before we headed out to dinner and since we wanted something a bit casual (since we went straight from our day at the park to dinner), we headed for the whiptail grill, an old gas station that's been converted to a restaurant. there's a few seats inside, but most of the seating is outside, where the pumps used to be.
the food is definitely the star at this place, but there's one major factor - the wait. we got to the restaurant a bit late, around 8:00 and waited about fifteen minutes to be seated. no big deal. we spent the next hour waiting for our food to come out. and we weren't the only ones. there were about six or eight tables total, each with one couple seated at the table. orders came out one at a time, with a good fifteen minutes between orders. we tried to order chips and salsa, but they were out of chips. on a weekday. when we finally got our food - a burrito for jason and carne asada tacos for me - it was good. definitely homemade, definitely made fresh, but was it worth the wait? i don't know.
oscar's cafe, 948 zion park boulevard (next door to mean bean)
after the previous night's wait at the whiptail, we opted for oscar's cafe, which we had checked out that morning when we got our muffins and coffee from mean bean. the breakfast at oscar's smelled amazing, so we tried it for dinner. we sat outside on the patio and the smell of barbecue sauce hung thick in the air. jason went for the ribs. the service was prompt, my enchiladas were a bit spicy, covered in cheese and sauce and jason's ribs weren't very exciting as the only flavor was from the sauce they were bathed in. all in all, i give whiptail's food the edge, but oscar's definitely had better service.