To Plan A Trip

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For information about golden Spike, visit the official Web site of the National Park Service ( www.nps.gov/gosp ), or call 435-471-2209. To learn more about Union Station, visit www.theunionstation.org , or call 801-393-9886. The railroad museum shares the station with other attractions, including the Browning Firearms Museum, dedicated to the work of Ogden’s own John M. Browning (1855–1926), inventor of a number of famous guns. The collection features original weapons and several prototypes he created for other manufacturers, including Winchester, Remington, and Colt. The station also holds an exhibition of 10 beautifully restored early-twentieth-century cars; the oldest is a 1901 Oldsmobile Run-a-bout.

Ogden is only a 30-minute drive on I-15 from Salt Lake City International Airport. The Wasatch mountains are mythically beautiful, and Weber County and the surrounding area is a hugely popular vacation spot for almost every conceivable outdoor sport: mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, horseback riding, and especially skiing. The two major ski resorts in the Ogden Valley, Snowbasin, which is open during the summer for hiking, biking, etc., and Powder Mountain, attract skiers from all over the world ( www.snowbasin.com ; www.powdermountain.com ). My sport of choice was mountain biking, although I don’t remember ever having felt quite so physically vulnerable. I’d never done it before, and at Snowbasin mountain biking doesn’t mean riding along a dirt path, as I had naively imagined, but hurtling down the side of a 2,959-foot slope. Still, I can honestly say it was the most (sober) fun I’ve had in years, frequent spills and gripping death anxiety notwithstanding. Visit www.ogdencvb.org or call 866-867-8824 for informa-tion on lodging and events in the Weber County vicinity.

When you tire of endangering your life, you should eat at both the following places:

The Prairie Schooner Restaurant in Ogden has great steak—and really great deep-fried mushrooms—but that’s entirely beside the point. It is by far the most thoroughly, spectacularly, and unabashedly kitschy establishment I have ever patronized in my life. You partake of your heavily meat-based repast under a starry ceiling (imagine a small planetarium without constellations) in covered wagons surrounding plots of dry prairie terrain. The reconstructed prairie is home to a timber wolf, a mountain lion fighting a badger, and a wolverine, among other creatures, as well as the requisite vegetation (cactus, sagebrush, joshua tree). This is all real—even the plants—but long dead. There’s also a campfire and skulls of various sorts (none human). A “wanted” poster hangs on the wall of each wagon. Mine read as follows: “$6,000 reward will be paid for the capture of clay robert allison, considered very mean and bad-tempered at all times due to his club foot.” If what I’ve described doesn’t seem sufficiently ridiculous/enticing to warrant a visit, that’s only because I can’t begin to do it justice. (445 Park Boulevard, Ogden; 801-392-2712; www.prairieschoonerrestaurant.com )

The Shooting Star Saloon, just a 10-minute drive from the Snow-basin ski resort, opened in 1879 (as Hoken’s Hole) and is the oldest continuously operating saloon in Utah. You’ll forget every mind-blowing hamburger you’ve ever eaten when you taste their famous Star Burger. It was rated one of the top in the country by USA Today , and that’s far from the only “best” list it’s landed on. Topped with knackwurst, it may or may not cut several years off your life, but thanks to this freakishly good sandwich, yours will have been a life well lived. The Shooting Star serves only beer—no liquor, and evidently no “yogurt, fries, salsa, salads or any other such exotic foods” either, according to a sign on the wall. When I asked the owner, John Posnien, if his beer was 3.2 percent, as it should be according to Utah state law, he smiled almost imperceptibly. “We don’t answer that.” (7350 East 200 South, Huntsville; 801-745-2002)