Lily gets covered in mud hiking in American Fork Canyon.
There’s nothing as wonderful as summer in Utah County, but when you have young children, individual days may seem to drag on forever. Here are five quick ways to keep little ones occupied. (They are specific to the area where I live, but the ideas could be adapted for any location.) These are things I can easily manage with a 7-, 4- and 1-year-old:
Discover a new park: We love playing at parks because they are free, but as temperatures climb going to the park is miserable unless you find one with water or shade. I love Cedar Hills’s Heritage Park, 4450 W. Cedar Hills Dr., because it has both. Huge, leafy trees shade the banks of a small riverbed, and there is just enough water in the river for children to wade. If Cedar Hills is too far away, resolve to discover a new, shady park in your area of the county.
Make a splash: There are several great splash parks in Utah Valley. I don’t feel safe taking three little kids to a public swimming pool by myself. But at a splash pad we can all get wet — for free — without me constantly worrying that someone is going to drown. In Provo, I like the small splash pad at the Shops at the Riverwoods, 4801 N. University Ave. My favorite Utah County splash pad is in Highland, located in the park north of City Hall at 5400 W. Civic Center Dr. (about 10800 North).
Take a hike: Another way to escape the valley heat is to head up to cooler mountain air. There are a number of kid-friendly hikes in Utah Valley, most of them in either American Fork Canyon or Provo Canyon. We recently hiked the first mile of the wooded Timpooneke Trail in American Fork Canyon. (There is a minimum $6 fee to access the canyon.) Although it’s not a true hike, we also like to walk the paved trail in Provo Canyon from Vivian Park to the Bridal Veil Falls waterfall. The path is shaded most of the way, and the base of the waterfall is a nice place to cool off on a hot day.
Engage the mind: In between the park and the pool, I try and do a couple of things each week that focus on education. We visit the library every Tuesday, and part of our summer-morning chores involve reading and writing. I also love museums for the air-conditioned comfort they offer. You can excite your little scientist with the impressive collection of dinosaur fossils and artifacts at Thanksgiving Point’s Museum of Ancient Life, 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way in Lehi ($10 adults, $8 children). Or, at the opposite end of the valley, the Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 South in Springville, is a free way to inspire your child’s inner artist. Even something as simple as a lemonade stand can teach children about math and economics.
Crash a party: Whether your own city celebration is upcoming or long over, there is no rule saying an Orem resident can’t attend Steel Days, or a Lehi resident can’t enjoy Onion Days. One of the best parts of summer in Utah Valley is the round-the-clock partying that takes place — there are always fireworks and a carnival somewhere in the valley. For a complete list of city celebrations and dates, visit http://www.heraldextra.com/lifestyles/leisure/summer-smorgasbord-take-a-stroll-into-the-city-to-enjoy/article_f3e39c56-622c-56f5-966d-e0eb5cceefc9.html.