Cedar City is a surprising cool mountain town that just happens to have world class cultural attractions in astonishing proximity to the southwest Utah’s famous Mighty Five© National Parks. At the end of the day, Cedar City is also known as “Festival City, USA” with a plethora of events taking place year-round from free music festivals, downtown parades to touring bike races.
Though free from crushing traffic and frantic city pacing, Cedar City doesn’t skip on amenities. Historic Downtown is quaint with local shops and an impressive menu of “urban-esque” cuisine and southern Utah’s only winery. Southern Utah University keeps things interesting with Division I athletics, guest lectures and concerts AND they just happen to be the “Most Outdoorsy University” in the nation. Paved trails weave the perimeter of town connecting you to the great outdoors and miles of recreational paths for mountain biking, hiking and OHV riding.
Cedar City History
When iron deposits were found in southern Utah, Mormon leader, Brigham Young called for volunteers to colonize the Iron Mission Area. A site near Coal Creek was selected in November 1851 for the Iron Works. Originally called Little Muddy, then Coal Creek, Cedar City was named for the “cedar” trees in the area, though these trees are actually juniper trees. Ten months after site selection, the new colony completed a small blast furnace and began to operate the iron foundry. It was the first iron to be manufactured west of Missouri. Because of problems with the furnace, flood and hostility between settlers and Native Americans, the foundry closed in 1858. Unlike many small mining towns of that era, Cedar City continued to grow and prosper. Residents turned to farming and agriculture for economic well being. Mining efforts began again to help provide much needed ore during WWII and continued until the 1980’s.
Determination for Education
In 1897, the people of Cedar City learned that the Utah Legislature had authorized a school for higher learning in southern Utah. The community labored to construct the Ward Hall; however, after being in session only two months, the attorney general stated that the school had to have its own building on land deeded to the state. He said if the building was not erected by the following September, the school would be lost. At that point winter had set in and building materials were nonexistent. The residents of Cedar City were unencumbered as they planned to make the trek up the mountain to secure the necessary logs for the building.
For days the team of wagons waded through one of the worst mountain snowstorms ever to hit southern Utah. The snow was often shoulder-deep as the men pushed their way up the mountain toward the lumber mills. They slept in holes scraped out of the snow. After reaching the sawmill and gathering the necessary lumber, the men were discouraged with the realization that they now had to turn back. The wagons that could not make it were abandoned. Tired and frozen, the party felt they could go no further. It was then that an old sorrel horse proved invaluable. Placed out at the front of the party, the horse would walk steadily into the drifts, pushing against the snow, throwing him self into the drifts again and again until they gave way. When he paused to rest, he sat on his haunches the way a dog would. Then onward he would push. “Old Sorrel” was credited with being the savior of the expedition. In the fall of 1898 the building was complete. The people of Cedar City had persevered and finished the building known today as Old Main. A statue of “Old Sorrel” also stands as a monument to the dedication of a people and their commitment to education.
In 1913, the college became a branch of Utah State Agricultural College of Logan. In 1968, the legislature transformed it into a 4-year college of liberal arts and science with elementary and secondary teacher education programs. On January 1, 1991, it attained university status. In addition to being an educational haven, Southern Utah University is also the home of the world renowned Utah Shakespearean Festival and The Utah Summer Games. Both of these events bring increasing numbers of tourists to this thriving community every year.
The Railroad is Here!
The Union Pacific Railroad Company reached Cedar City in 1923. This contributed greatly to Cedar City’s growth in mining and agriculture, providing an outlet for the products of the iron mines as well as produce. The railroad exposed Utah’s National Parks to the world of tourism and Cedar City was dubbed “the gateway to the parks.” Though the Depot was closed in 1959, the railroad still comes through Cedar City and transports products in and out of the community.
Must See & Do
Utah Shakespeare Festival
Enjoy Tony award winning theater in three stunning theaters: the outdoor Engelstad Theatre, which is a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the indoor Randall L. Jones Theatre, a stunning modern facility featuring contemporary works, and indoor Anes Studio Theater, an intimate 200 seat performance space. Matinee and evening performances, backstage tours and a free Greenshow during the Summer season. Summer run late June thru Labor Day and Fall Season mid September thru mid October. Located at 351 W University Blvd. Box Office is 1(800) PLAYTIX www.bard.org.
Southern Utah Museum of Art (SUMA)
As part of the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts this state-of-the-art museum is home to 5,300 square feet of exhibition space composed of several individual galleries. SUMA host’s FREE exhibitions from around the world, as well as a special collection work by Utah artist, Jim Jones, and feature rotating exhibits from the permanent collections. SUMA also regularly exhibits works of Southern Utah University’s Art and Design students and faculty, and provides a venue for displaying regional artists and juried shows. Located at 300 W University Blvd./Center St. (435)586-5432 www.suu.edu/suma.
Frontier Homestead State Park
Experience time travel through the Park’s massive collection of horse drawn vehicles. You can imagine yourself as a stage coach driver or a pioneer crossing the plains in a covered wagon. Experience life on the frontier with interactive displays and exhibits dedicated to pioneer life. Cost is $4 per person. Open all year, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon–Sat extended hours in the summer. Located at 635 N. Main, Cedar City. (435)586-9290 www.frontierhomestead.org.
Cedar City Historic Downtown Shopping District
The historic downtown has quaint shops, local restaurants, coffee houses, an old time soda fountain, antique stores, and regional arts & crafts shops. Historical buildings in the district include the Old Post Office, the Rock Church and the Union Pacific Railroad Depot. Open all year with most shops open Mon-Sat. The shopping district includes the area of Main Street from 200 North to University Blvd.
Veteran’s Memorial Park
Features stunning large scale memorials, statues, monuments and walking trails built in honor of veterans of Afghanistan, Iraqi Freedom, Korean, Vietnam and World Wars I and II. The park is open all year, daylight hours only, weather permitting. Located next to the Coal Creek 200 N. (Freedom Blvd) and 200 East.
Park Discovery, a fun, educational place where kids of all ages can learn and play. Concepts from over 4,000 local kids where integrated into the design concept of the park. Along with educational play elements, there’s an outdoor classroom, stage area, a separate play area for toddlers, handicap accessible ramps and swings and a ¾ paved walking trail that surrounds the park. Directions: head west on Cross Hollow Road (I-15 Exit #57) to Royal Hunte Dr., turn right and go all the way to the top of the hill to the Parking area next to the Iron County School District building. Open daily , year round, weather permitting from sun up to sun down. (435) 865-9223.
Three year round Farmer’s Markets feature tasty locally grown produce, baked goods, cheeses and crafts every Saturday. The Downtown Farmer’s market is every Wednesday in the summer.