About 250 miles south of Salt Lake City, Cedar City, Utah, is home to fewer than 30,000 people, but it has more than its share of attractions, adventures, and activities.
It’s just 58 miles north of Zion National Park and 75 miles west of Bryce Canyon National Park, making it the perfect base for anyone exploring the natural beauty of the American Southwest. But Cedar City is much more than a base for road-trippers. It’s a lively university town, and there’s always something happening there, from festivals and artistic events to great food experiences.
What To Do In Cedar City
Cedar City is sometimes nicknamed the Festival City, owing to its year-round list of fun events. As you’ll see, there’s one festival in particular that’s a must for anyone coming to the area -- and there’s plenty to keep you busy in between the official schedule of events!
Enjoy The Utah Shakespeare Festival
One of the finest Shakespeare festivals in the world, the Utah Shakespeare Festival at Southern Utah University is a Tony Award-winning production running through the summer and into early fall. Three Shakespeare productions are staged each season, as well as modern plays.
Taking in a show is much more than a simple night at the theater. Set in a playhouse modeled on Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre in London, the preshow activities are half the fun. The Green Show features puppet shows, strolling minstrels, vendors selling various treats, and more. Visitors can also enjoy backstage tours, special literary lectures, and seminars on props and costumes. The adjacent Shakespeare Character Garden is filled with sculptures of Shakespearean characters.
Utah isn’t the first place people think of when they think of Shakespearean destinations -- and that is exactly what first attracted me to the area. It’s unexpected and unique and provides a welcome dose of art and culture in a region most famous for its natural attractions and adventures.
Visit The Southern Utah Museum Of Art
Completed in 2016, the Southern Utah Museum of Art has won rave reviews for its amazing architecture -- the building resembles a slot canyon! The museum features the work of regional artists known for their landscapes, the work of student and faculty artists, and the work of emerging artists from across the United States.
Admission is free, and there are frequent exhibitions.
Explore The Frontier Homestead State Park Museum
Step back in time to discover the early history of Cedar City and the surrounding area at the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum. An extensive horse-drawn wagon collection tells the story of the hardships the settlers endured as they crossed the country in pursuit of a better life. A sawmill and replica blast furnace pay tribute to the industries that further developed the area.
Hands-on activities like Christmas at the Homestead, Sheep-to-Shawl, and Archaeology Days offer fun and interactive learning for every member of the family.
Stop By The IG Winery
Sourcing grapes from Utah, California, Oregon, and Washington, the IG Winery brings a note of sophistication to Cedar City and has some great options for wine lovers who are looking for something just a little bit different. The Tempest red blend is named for the city’s Shakespeare Festival.
Marvel At Cedar Breaks National Monument
About 25 miles away from Cedar City is Cedar Breaks National Monument. National monuments are often overshadowed by national parks, but Cedar Breaks is stunning and holds its own against Zion and Bryce Canyon.
Cedar Breaks sits at 10,000 feet and overlooks a geologic amphitheater half a mile deep filled with hoodoo rock formations, bristlecone pine trees (the oldest is an estimated 1,600 years old!), and some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the state.
Visitors can enjoy “star parties” (telescopes are provided), hikes, guided ranger talks and tours, and the services of the Zion Natural History Association’s bookstore. A four-season destination, Cedar Breaks offers a wildflower festival in July, incredible views of the fall colors in autumn (Cedar Breaks is considered one of the top leaf-peeping spots in the U.S.), and snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling in winter.
Participate In The Southwest Astronomy Festival
This annual festival, which takes place in late September, occurs at multiple locations between Cedar Breaks National Monument and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. The Southwest Astronomy Festival events include star parties, sun parties, night hikes, and much more.
Where To Eat In Cedar City
Cedar City might just be the next hot foodie town, since the food is an attraction in and of itself. In Cedar City, you’ll find students from across the country, literary lovers from around the world, plus adventurous locals. As such, the food scene is diverse, affordable, and constantly evolving.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat in the area.
Centro Woodfired Pizzeria
There are plenty of chain pizzerias in Cedar City, but for something unique (and incredibly tasty), give Centro Woodfired Pizzeria a try. Some of their quirky varieties include fennel and sausage, pancetta and grape, and prosciutto and apricot. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too, plus salads and sandwiches.
Rusty’s Ranch House
Rusty’s Ranch House is a ranch-themed restaurant surrounded by great mountain views and a touch of ’80s-esque decor (but not in a bad way!). This is the place to go for laid-back steak, seafood, barbecue, burgers, and pasta.
All American Diner
Inexpensive, down to earth, and offering quick service, the All American Diner is where you go when you want breakfast, lunch, or dinner for under $10. For breakfast, try the French toast with a choice of breakfast meat and two eggs. The patty melt lunch platter is both tasting and filling, and the pepper steak sirloin with mushrooms, onions, and brown gravy makes a great dinner.
Perks will satisfy even the most discerning of coffee lovers. They have a great selection of classic coffee-shop drinks, a long list of specialty syrups (including year-round pumpkin spice!), and a nice mix of smoothies, wraps, and sandwiches. There are lots of good coffee houses in town, but this is my personal favorite.
The Soda Nerd
The Soda Nerd offers specialty sodas, shaved ice, smoothies, cookies, and cotton candy. It’s the perfect place for a treat after a long day of hiking -- or a long evening of Shakespeare!
The French Spot
The last thing you’d expect to find in a small city in the American Southwest is a French chef with a Michelin star. But The French Spot’s chef is still cooking like he’s in Lyon, turning out light French bistro fare. If you want to buy a small gift for a Cedar City local, pop in for a package of their elegant macarons or bring them breakfast in the form of airy croissants and takeout cafe au laits.
Where To Shop In Cedar City
Cedar City’s celebrated downtown is famous for its small, independent shops, tempting coffee houses, and historic public buildings.
Special spots to look out for include The Candy Factory (just as tempting as the name suggests), which shares a spot with the Boomer’s Bloomers flower shop. At the Artisans Gallery, you can buy fine art by local artists (or just happily browse if the prices are out of range). At Main Street Books, Cedar City’s only independent bookstore, you can pick up new, used, and collectible reading material. And if you’re planning for mega adventures, Outdoor Vitals is one of the best stores in the state for ultralight camping gear.
Where To Stay In Cedar City
Cedar City has a strong selection of hotel and motel accommodations, ranging from inexpensive chains like Knights Inn, Super 8, and Motel 6 to business properties like Marriott, Best Western, and La Quinta Inn & Suites. There are also several independent bed and breakfasts that are perfect for Shakespeare fans.
Big Yellow Inn Bed And Breakfast
My favorite place to stay in Cedar City, the Big Yellow Inn is a Georgian Revival bed and breakfast with 12 beautifully decorated rooms, many with access to a balcony (the English Room is my favorite). There are also eight fireplaces, three sitting rooms, a great room, a library, and a full breakfast served in an elegant breakfast room. Prices start at just over $100, and it’s a short walk to the Shakespeare Festival.
Bard’s Inn Bed And Breakfast
A sister property to the Big Yellow Inn, the Bard’s Inn dates to 1912 and has rooms named after Shakespearean characters. Some of the rooms feature balconies with private entrances, while others have small kitchens.