Photo: Heber Valley Tourism & Economic Development
8. Heber, UT
Officials in Heber City, Utah, attribute their town's fast growth rate to the area's clean air and fantastic views. But we found another reason why people want to stay in this small town – the ice cream and shakes at Dairy Keen. (More on that below.)
The Heber Valley area has long been held as one of the top vacation destinations in the West. Heber City ranked highly in natural amenities, and residents routinely partake in recreational activities like boating, golf, horseback riding, snow skiing, hiking and biking. Tourism anchors the economy in Heber City, where employment is higher than in much of the nation thanks to a broad range of businesses supported by locals. Low crime, good schools and an excellent health-care system help make Heber City even more appealing to families. Heber City had the highest growth forecast on our list of the best small towns.
A seemingly endless network of backcountry roads leads drivers to forested canyons, mountain tops and lakes that surround the city. While rugged mountain peaks and spring-fed streams dominate the landscape in Heber Valley, the area's cultural scene is just as pleasing to the eye. Festivals and special events are held nearly every week, including theatrical performances, art shows and Native American celebrations. Heber City hosts the annual Wasatch County Fair, an eight-day event that includes a parade, carnival rides, demolition derby, rodeo and beauty pageant. Bands take the stage during a farmers market every Thursday in the summer months at Heber Main Street Park, while many restaurants feature live music. Shops occupy buildings on Main Street that date back to the early 1900s.
Located in the center of town is Dairy Keen, one of the most beloved restaurants in the valley. Open since 1946, Dairy Keen has consistently received “best of state” awards for its burgers, shakes and frozen deserts. Children love coming to the restaurant to watch the model trains that wind their way across the dining area. Train fans will be delighted to know that the Heber Valley Railroad offers a variety of experiences from sunset train rides and barbecue dinners to moonlight rides with oldies music and general sight seeing excursions.
Southfield Park is the largest of eight parks in Heber City. It contains a skate area, tennis courts, walking paths, playground equipment and athletic fields. Residents have access to a community garden to grow a variety of vegetables during the summer.