Ogden is fun, funky, and has a wild past. A short, 35-minute drive from Salt Lake City International Airport and you’re standing on 25th Street in Ogden’s bustling downtown dotted with eclectic restaurants, public art, craft breweries, boutiques, and historic Union Station.
The “Golden Spike” connecting the Union Pacific to the Central Pacific Railroad signaled the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, and all trains heading west stopped in Ogden, Utah. The commemorative spike marked the connection 50 miles northwest of the city in Promontory Summit on March 8, 1869. People said, “You couldn’t go anywhere without stopping in Ogden.” The Spanish Colonial Revival building (the third on the same plot) became a stop for many heroes before shipping off to fight in World War II. Today, Union Station houses incredible art galleries and several museums.
Notorious Two-Bit Street or Electric Alley were two nicknames for 25th Street when the trains ran. It was a place where a man could get a shave, haircut, illegal booze, and spend time with a lady of the evening or in an opium den. Rival gangs made the streets so rough and tumble that there were tunnels under the road to transport goods safely. Al Capone visited and decided it was too dangerous to conduct business there.
When the trains stopped running, the street was abandoned and boarded up for years after the advent of air travel and highway expansion. Later, when Ogden emerged as a winter playground, the architecture was still in place and was given a new life. These days, besides learning more about the fascinating history in Ogden, there is so much to do you will have trouble deciding what to try first. Here are some ideas about how to spend a perfect weekend in Ogden.
Note: I was hosted by Visit Ogden, but all opinions are my own.
Things To Do In Ogden
1. Visit Two-Bit Street
If you want to get a historical overview of the past, go to the Visit Ogden website and arrange a private tour. Guide Richard Koski (retiree and resident) offers walking tours on the first Friday of every month during the Art Walk. He will provide a customized time for a small group on your schedule. Rich explains all the juicy details of what went down from Mormon history to the famous bordello above London Ice Cream Parlor. The ice cream business was legitimate though, and often referred to as serving, “sweets downstairs and tarts upstairs.” Patrons could discreetly enter and leave the premises through Electric Alley behind the building.
You’ll learn about early Ogden, the architecture, the honest and illegitimate businesses, and you may stop at a local business such as Great Harvest Bread Company for a giant cookie. You’ll also visit Union Station and see its gorgeous murals by Edward Lanning, recognized as America’s foremost muralist. President Roosevelt commissioned Lanning in 1935 to create the “Wedding of the Rails” for the Immigration Building on Ellis Island. In 1975, Lanning painted two murals for Union Station based on his original work in New York. He painted the murals on 50-foot by 12-foot canvases and shipped them to Ogden, supervising their installation in 1980. Inside Union Station are two art galleries. There’s also a cowboy and Western heritage museum, a railroad history museum, and The John M. Browning Firearms Museum. The Eccles Rail Center is outside. There you’ll see two of the largest locomotives ever manufactured.
2. Ski To Your Heart’s Content
There are three incredible ski resorts within a 30- to 40-minute drive of downtown Ogden: Snowbasin Resort, Powder Mountain, and Nordic Valley. The Wasatch Mountains are home to “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” It’s up to you to decide what mountain to visit based on your ability and preferences. Still, you will experience World-Class skiing no matter which resort you choose. Snowbasin has opulent lodges and Olympic history (the 2002 Winter Games for downhill, combined, and Super-G held there). Powder Mountain is the largest ski resort in the United States and is sustainable. The facilities are on nature’s timeline as the resort never blows snow. They also cap daily and yearly passes for zero lift lines – averaging 3 acres per skier. Nordic Valley is considered the best learning hill in the West. It offers varied terrain, night skiing (80 percent of the trails have lights), and a home-town resort feeling. You won’t have enough time to ski all these beauties, so you will have to plan a return trip.
3. Experience Other Nordic Pursuits
The Ogden Nordic Center at North Fork Park is a 13-mile drive from downtown. At the center, you’ll enjoy 10 kilometers of groomed trails for snowshoeing and 25 kilometers for cross-country skiing and fat-tire cycling. Through their outdoor program, rentals and guides are available (for hire) at Weber State University. Check the Ogden Nordic Center website for passes, the ski school, and trail conditions before you go.
4. Throw An Axe For Fun
At Social Axe, you will channel your inner lumberjack and learn how to throw small hatchets properly, and graduate up to a big one (if you want to). This activity is serious fun, and if you bring a crowd, you will compete to win during a set of hilarious games. I was surprised by how fun the experience was and how competitive my group got to beat the other team. If you’re a couple, it’s a great date night out — what a blast.
5. Admire The Murals And Art Along The Ogden Outdoor Trail
The Ogden Outdoor Art Trail is a series of murals and sculptures that decorate downtown. I downloaded the free pass on my phone and previewed the work by following the map. The mural walk is a fabulous way to orient yourself and admire the art and the talented artists who expressed themselves by beautifying the city. If you like public art, you will love this. It becomes like a scavenger hunt that enriches your soul. With around 30 murals and six sculptures, you could find a few or hit them all. It’s on your own time, and you can stop to grab a coffee, a beer, or lunch along the way.
6. Visit A Craft Distillery Or Brewery
With all the fantastic skiing nearby, you might want to find a great spot to après ski or purchase some award-winning spirits produced in the Ogden Valley. New World Distillery in Eden, just a few minutes down the road from Powder Mountain, sustainably produces small-batch, premium spirits. They source local ingredients where possible. At New World, you can taste and buy bourbon, award-winning gin, agave spirits (Blanco and Reposado), vodka, and Utah Tart Cherry Liqueur. Call ahead to set up a tasting or stop by to get your hands on these local gems. For breweries in Ogden, stop in some of the finest beer brewed locally; UTOG Brewing, Ogden River Brewing, and Roosters Brewing Company are all top choices in Ogden. If you prefer a hand-crafted cocktail, visit Ogden’s Own Distillery for Five-Wives Vodka or their famous Madame Pattirini Gin and then settle in at Side Bar to sip incredible drinks in a speakeasy setting.
Restaurants In Ogden
The restaurant scene is booming in Ogden. Here you’ll find some innovative chefs bringing the world to your table.
- Slackwater Pizza has artisan pies and a variety of local brews with a casual vibe.
- Hearth On 25 offers a five-course chef’s tasting menu of innovative flavors and plates in a romantic setting.
- Table 25 is a family-owned restaurant serving modern American dishes using locally sourced ingredients.
- Pig & A Jelly Jar is your go-to breakfast spot. This restaurant serves a fresh, made from scratch list of waffles, house-made sausage, and jams.
- Kaffe Mercantile pours organic coffees and serves breakfast and pastries all day. Baked goods are made from scratch daily, and there are vegan and gluten-free options. You can pick up breakfast sandwiches on the go to your activities or hang out and enjoy some interesting conversation. See all the delicious dining options in Ogden here.
- Don’t miss The Shooting Star Saloon. The Saloon has been the oldest operating bar west of the Mississippi since 1879. It survived prohibition by closing when word circulated that the Feds were on their way. The menu is simple: beer, burgers, dogs, and chips. And while the food is low-key, the burgers are so good they’ve won a fan following. This saloon is a must-stop for hungry history lovers and is within easy reach of all three ski resorts. The kitschy décor of taxidermy and dollar bills tacked to the ceiling is a true delight.
Hotels In Ogden
There are plenty of options for staying in town. The Hilton Garden Inn Ogden, in my opinion, is where you want to be. The hotel is steps away from historic 25th Street. You are a short walk to UTOG Brewing and The Salomon Center, offering indoor adventure thrills like the Flowrider Utah, Fat Cats Bowling Alley, IROCK Utah, and IFLY Utah across the street.
See all the fantastic lodging options in and around Ogden here.