We almost never go on non-Grandma's-house vacations, for outdated reasons: once there was a diaper of legendary proportions in a restaurant, once we got yelled at by the management for being too loud in a hotel...stuff that made a big impression, but isn't currently applicable.
So, we took the family for an overnighter to Zion National Park and the St. George LDS temple. It takes a lot to make my kids stop and say, "Whoa!" But the park and the temple both did it. Here's our top ten (in no particular order):
1. Little kid in a video at the temple visitors' center: "Jesus helped sick people, and he made the leopards feel better."
2. Giant mule deer head in a Subway restaurant somewhere between Nephi and Fillmore, UT. The kids took pictures.
3. JC Mikkelson's. We hadn't been to this Nephi restaurant in ages. When we went this evening, they'd just finished remodeling and putting in a huge G-SCALE TRAIN! It goes all over the ceiling on tracks, and there are two big central things made of trees, with no less than 6 different trains running.
4. JC Mikkelson's. The food is good, too. I like my BBQ sandwich, but my husband's Italian chicken on foccacia with a huge dollop of pesto was to die for. Please go eat there, so they'll stay open for another 100 years.
5. Zion Park tour guide: Most of them were content to run the pre-recorded tour tape, but this one guy was an original: "That tall mountain with the red splotch on it is called the 'Sacrificial Altar.' If you bring food on this tour bus, the ranger will give you a guided trip up to the Sacrificial Altar. One-way."
6. Cloud pictures in the sky. Buffy saw about 47 different staple removers. Hammer saw a rabbit dressed like Ironman flying and carrying a chainsaw. Best I saw was a flying ostrich, but I'm way out of practice.
7. Zion park: Different people named different landmarks. The "Three Patriarchs"--Abraham, Issac, and Jacob were named by a Protestant minister. They stand peacefully together with a mountain named Moroni. There's also the Temple of Sinawava. Tour guide: "That was named by the Union Pacific, trying to get people to come and visit. There ain't no temple there. Never has been."
8. Zion park: You have to love a park with a landmark named "Menu Falls," so named because the waterfall's picture was on the menu at the restaurant.
9. Weather: It was snowing, lightly and a little weirdly, at the park. On the way home, we were heading north as a huge storm front was heading south. We could see squall after squall coming as we drove into it (see cloud shapes, above).
10. National Parks Service: Usually it costs $25 to get in for a week at Zion. But my mom was with us. For $10 they sold her a lifetime national parks senior pass. Good business. The kids are already plotting how to haul Grandma out to more national parks.