Most visitors to Cedar City are not originally from Utah. The vast majority had lived somewhere else, heard of Festival City USA, moved to Utah, and then came to visit. The city’s largest attraction, the Utah Shakespearean Festival, has won a Tony and claims to be internationally famous, yet many Utah County residents don’t even consider it to be a possible vacation destination. Some even skip over it to see the shows at the Tuacahn in St. George.
Cedar City’s location in relation to Utah County is unfortunate. It’s far enough away to be a legitimate vacation, but for most who are willing to drive the four-plus hours, committing an extra two hours makes Las Vegas a much more attractive destination. The city has consistently struggled to become a destination instead of just another stop along the way.
Partly due to a lack of advertising, their struggle has been a long and hard one without much headway. Despite the dozen or so festivals put on every summer and the quality theater, hiking, and other activities you can find there, people still are not attracted.
However, this summer, gas conservation is a hot issue, so spending two hours fewer on the road makes Cedar City a much more attractive destination. The weather is a bit cooler than that of Utah County, and the city is within fifty miles of three national parks and monuments.
In addition, the town itself is well laid out for pedestrian tourism. It has a distinct downtown area, filled with little shops and restaurants. Also, most of the main festivals are within walking distance of downtown.
Utah is home to an abundance of summer festivals and fairs. However, Cedar City has attained a delicate balance that cannot be found in many other places. The town is still small enough to feel homey, rural, and comfortable, but large enough to draw in the money necessary for spectacular summer festivities. The safe, small-town atmosphere is extremely conducive to the American festival spirit.
There are a great deal of festivals held in Utah County, but very few of them are as specialized as those in Cedar City. Utah County festivals tend to celebrate grand topics like community and heritage, whereas those merely a few hours south seem more dedicated to specialized topics like hot air balloons and Neil Simon.
If you are looking for a relatively close summer vacation, Cedar City is particularly nice, since it doesn’t require driving through a hellish landscape to get there — unlike most other popular destinations for Utah County residents. To get to Wendover, you have to make it through the salt flats. To get to Las Vegas or St. George, you have to make it through a tumbleweed-infested wasteland. The entire trip to Cedar City, on the other hand, is extremely aesthetically pleasing.
This city is lamb dressed as mutton. They haven’t yet grown into their britches. There still aren’t enough hotels to really accommodate all of the needs of the festivalgoers, and there are only sparse restaurants.
Southern Utah University also adds a fair bit of flavor to the town. If you choose to visit during the school year, there are college parties aplenty to entertain yourself with. However, in the summer, there are very few college students there (because many of them come home to Utah county), and it can be a nice escape from students if that’s what you’re looking for.