This post was most recently updated on July 9th, 2019
We have just returned from taking our youngest child to BYU (Brigham Young University). There weren’t any children left at home to share in the experience, but true to our nature, we turned the trip into a shared family experience mixed with a little vacationing, too.
Taking one of your children to college can be a bittersweet experience — bitter because you will be separated, and sweet because your child is making good decisions, and you are oh, so proud of him or her! When we’ve taken each of our children to college, we’ve chosen to make it a family bonding experience — a time when the family can be together, enjoy some quality time, and share in the “sending off”.
Our “back to school” adventure included a road trip from San Diego to Provo, Utah (BYU), great dining, visits with lots of family members, playing lots of card games, sharing college stories (my husband and I met at BYU), helping my son set up his new apartment, and even exploring some new attractions along the way. All in five days.
Was it worthy of a blog post? I think so. I have a lot to share that might help you. Especially if you’ll be taking students to college at BYU or travelling through Utah.
How to say good-bye
Almost everyone has to say good-bye to a loved one for a while…whether it be taking children to college, a deployment, sending someone off on a mission, extended travel, or a myriad of other reasons. Turn a potentially sad moment into a great family adventure, and the good memories will outlast the sad ones. Plan special meals, share stories and special memories, reminisce about your similar experiences, and introduce your loved one to others who will be there for them. I’m fortunate to know that although my son will be 700 miles away, he has a sister and other extended family members close enough to give him a hand whenever he needs it.
Some great restaurants to try
Kneaders Bakery & Cafe, 295 West 1230 North, Provo, UT
This bakery is just one of many in a popular chain that sells the most delectable all-you-can-eat French toast with homemade caramel syrup, whipped cream and strawberry slices for only $5.59. The line is always out the door, and it is totally worth it to wait for this scrumptious breakfast. It’s almost always our first stop for breakfast or brunch upon arriving in Utah. There’s a Kneaders just blocks from the entrance of BYU! We went here just before my youngest son left for two years on his mission, again when we brought him to school this time, and once to celebrate my husband finishing a 17-mile run! They sell lots of muffins and breads to go, as well as fun crafts and home décor. I’ve never eaten there for a meal other than breakfast, but I’ve heard they have sandwiches and other delicious fare for lunch and dinner.
Café Rio – This restaurant is on the “Diagonal” in Provo (University Parkway), about a mile from BYU with many other locations as well. I love their “meal in a foil pan” – taco salad with tortilla, beans, cheese, cilantro rice, choice of meat, and everything else nummy and Mexican! Very reasonable in price. My favorite is the sweet pork salad for $8.49!
Cafe Zupas – found all over Utah. The one we visit most is in Provo as well, along the “Diagonal” at 408 West 2230 North. Zupas specializes in salads, soups, and sandwiches…all served with a huge strawberry dipped in chocolate! The line is often long here too. That’s because they have the most amazing soups with unique flavors and ingredients. My favorite is a Try-Two Combo of Kale/Quinoa Salad and Wild Mushroom Bisque for $8.79. This is another restaurant with very reasonable prices and great food!
Pizza Pie Café, Provo, Utah – I have to admit I don’t usually recommend pizza. In America, it’s just too cliché. And not always very good. Pizza Pie Café has made eating American pizza fun again…by turning everything into a pizza! You pay one price ($7.25 lunch, $8.25 dinner) and have unlimited access to salad and every kind of pizza they make: pepperoni pizza, potato pizza, savory pizza, cinnamon roll pizza, apple strudel pizza, and so on. Everything I tried I liked – which was a problem, because I shouldn’t have eaten that much! Don’t go if you’re on a diet.
Archibalds of Gardner Village, West Jordan, Utah – classic American fare inside a historic flour mill from the late 1800’s, with a twist. It’s comfort food, but even better. I really enjoyed the Chicken Florentine with Mushroom soup, along with an amazing side salad. My husband’s chicken pot pie had a great flaky crust, and my son’s chicken-fried steak was as good as any he’s had. They have some good children’s menu options as well (we had our 2-yr old granddaughter with us, and she loved having her own cup of applesauce). She actually preferred peeling the paper off the color crayons, though. 🙂
Sweet Tomatoes on 106th South in Salt Lake City (If you’re familiar with Souplantation in California, this is part of the same restaurant family). Pay one price and have access to the freshest and most varied ingredient salad bar I have ever seen. There are some specialty salads you can enjoy –chicken won ton, Joan’s Broccoli Madness, and tuna tarragon, to name a few. You will also enjoy several flavors of soup, two or three pasta dishes, a baked potato bar, freshly baked breads and muffins, fruit, and an ice cream sundae bar. Kids love this restaurant because they can help themselves to more any time they want! Adults: $9.49 lunch, $10.99 dinner, Children 3-6 $3.49, 7-12 $5.99. Drinks are extra, and the strawberry lemonade is my favorite!
Update: Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in Utah are now closed permanently, as of Jul 2019. However, Souplantation restaurants in California are still thriving.
Two Hotel Reviews
When we go to Utah, we often spend the night in the homes of family members. It allows us to optimize time together, and also save money. This time we decided to combine a home stay with two different hotel stays to accommodate our rather crazy schedule.
We chose the Courtyard Marriott at Thanksgiving Point (Lehi, Utah) because that’s where we would be at the end of a long day of driving. It was nice to find a Marriott since my husband has gold status from work travel, and that usually earns him a few perks. This time it covered the high speed internet. The Courtyard was a very comfortable hotel, with modern decor and amenities. I really enjoyed using the well-equipped fitness center, and there was a beautiful seating area on the outside patio with a firepit for evening gatherings.
The price for a room with two queen beds (3 adults) was reasonable at $129, but not what I would call inexpensive. It would have been nice if it had included a free breakfast, but they did have a bistro where you could order from a variety of foods. We only stayed one night. The Courtyard is a nice newer hotel — clean, efficient, and appears to cater well to business travelers. Check-in and check-out were fast and efficient; staff was very pleasant.
(Click on any photo to enlarge)
BAYMONT INN AND SUITES
We also stayed two nights in Provo, close to Brigham Young University, at the Baymont Inn and Suites (part of the Wyndham hotel group). I specifically chose a hotel that I thought would offer something unique for families visiting students (or in our case, dropping them off) at college. Baymont Inn and Suites is only about 1.5 miles from the center of campus. It is located just off University Parkway, leading from the freeway to BYU; however it is tucked into Cottontree Square, a beautiful cluster of businesses with ivy-covered buildings and landscaped flower beds. The hotel is right next to the Provo River, and a river path that parallels the river can be strolled for miles in both directions.
Baymont offers free wifi, breakfast, and a shuttle van that covers a five-mile radius (reservations required). The location is attractive and close to some of my favorite restaurants (see above). Baymont has a center courtyard with seating and a barbecue grill, indoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, basic fitness center, and laundry facilities. There is no elevator, so don’t choose a room on the 2nd floor if that is an issue.
Baymont Inn felt more like a home than a hotel to me — not too fancy, but very comfortable. They were offering a special through August 2015: a two-queen bedroom for only $73 per night. The normal rate is $99. Our only problem during the stay was a vanity light that burned out, but it was replaced immediately upon reporting it. The staff was friendly and accommodating (they let me pop my microwave popcorn in their breakfast area for my evening snack). We really enjoyed our stay!
(Disclosure: I did receive a media discount on my hotel stay at Baymont Inn & Suites; however, my opinions and review reflect my own experience.)
We explored a few new attractions
As I said, this was primarily a family trip, with most of our time spent visiting and re-connecting. But if you know me, I can’t resist exploring something new. One afternoon, we were babysitting grandchildren. We decided to take them to Gardner Village in West Jordan, Utah — a “village” of pioneer homes turned into shops scattered around a historic flour mill-turned-into-a-restaurant. Besides the beautiful setting, we enjoyed feeding the ducks, checking out a few stores (quilt shop, toys, and chocolates!), taking some photos, and eating out at Archibalds (see above).
I had to get creative to fit in another brief visit to somewhere new, on the drive back to San Diego. I’ve noticed the signs to “Silver Reef Historic Site” many times as we drove through the area north of St. George, Utah. This time, I decided to stop and see if it was close to the freeway. It was! Only 1.5 miles from I-15, you will find the abandoned ghost town of Silver Reef. A few of the buildings are still intact, but most are just ruins. This was a booming silver mining town in its day. The Wells Fargo bank building has been converted to a museum. Unfortunately it wasn’t open the day we arrived (Tuesday), but I enjoyed poking around a little bit and checking out the view of the valley. I think this is a place that kids would really love exploring!
A few more helpful tips about BYU
- There are a few days before BYU starts where it gets tricky to move your student into off-campus housing. Everyone who lived there for summer must move out for nearly a week while apartment management inspects, cleans, paints, and makes repairs to be ready for fall semester. If you arrive earlier than normal check-in dates, you may need to crash on a friend’s couch, use a hotel, or request an exception. Exceptions are only made for students taking early review courses or participating in Freshman Academy.
- Temperatures in Provo, Utah are either HOT or COLD. Haha! But really, there’s not much spring or fall. It’s also very dry. So bring chapstick, an umbrella for random thunder showers, and pack light clothing to use until about the first of November through April.
- If you visit BYU campus, you will find many fun things to do and see, even if you’re not a student. There are wonderful art galleries, sculptures, theatres, museums, a bowling alley, lots of cafes and dining options, BYU Creamery (delicious ice cream & groceries), The Wall (a non-alcoholic night club), a sports goods rental shop, hair salon, flower & crafts shop, post office, amazing bookstore, and so much more. You could easily spend an entire day exploring and enjoying the campus of Brigham Young University, and you should. Especially if you have a student attending school there. Come back and enjoy a football game or Homecoming activities in the fall–there’s nothing better!
I’d love to hear what you and your family do to make going back to college more special…