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Stephanie Vermillion

A Ghost Town Side Trip in Southwest Utah

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Stephanie Vermillion

Smack dab between Zion National Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area lies a small, abandoned town that was the place to be, be seen, and get rich in the late 1800s. Silver Reef, Utah, one of the Southwest’s most popular ghost towns, was a flourishing mining spot back in the day, filled with western saloons, old prospectors, and plenty of shoot-outs.

While Silver Reef is all ruins, no riches today, its crumbling rock walls hold an interesting history for visitors who take the time to stop by.

Silver Reef’s story starts in 1866, when the prospector John Kemple uncovered a vein of silver in the town’s sandstone—a first-of-its-kind discovery. Geologists spent years refuting his claims, until a group of bankers from Salt Lake City caught wind of the breakthrough and staked their mining claims in the Silver Reef region.

Silver Reef quickly evolved into a flourishing mining town, with 33 mines that produced more than 7 million ounces of silver. During 1879, its peak year, the town boasted a hotel, boarding houses, stores, saloons, restaurants, banks, a newspaper—the Silver Reef Miner—and a population of more than 1000 people.

And, like all good ghost (town) stories, Silver Reef was full of seedy characters who brought gambling, prostitution, shoot-outs, violence and all those The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly-isms to town. After a major fire and many miner strikes, Silver Reef went on the decline in the 1890s before turning into the abandoned roadside ghost town that it is today.

While it’s not a destination where you’d want to spend more than a couple hours, Silver Reef is an interesting stop-off for Southwest road trippers. Four key sights to add to your itinerary include:

1. The Silver Reef Museum is housed in the oldest Wells Fargo Express Station still in existence. Built in 1878, silver was guarded at and exported from the old station, which made it an integral part of Silver Reef’s prosperity. Today, the museum houses old bottles, guns, carpentry tools, and other historical items that help illustrate the mining life of yesteryear.

2. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant was owned by a Bavarian woman who is said to have made some of the best hash in the west. The original building was dismantled in 1895, at the tail-end of when locals were in a mass exodus from the imploding Silver Reef, but a replica of the Cosmopolitan still stands today.

Stephanie Vermillion

3. Silver Reef’s Main Street was filled with flourishing, bustling businesses, such as the Louder General Store, which was run by the town newspaper's editor. Today, it’s everything you’d expect from an abandoned old ghost town—tumbleweed, cactuses, crippled buildings, and an eerie desert silence.

4. The Elk Horn Saloon was once easily recognizable because of the giant elk horns mounted to its front sign (which are now on display at the town museum; the saloon is no longer standing, and is now marked by a large sign). For about 15 years, the bar was run by a successful German owner who gave out free food to get people drinking. According to Silver Reef historians, the saloon owner’s business luck nearly wore out when he ousted a man for eating—but not drinking—at his bar. The angry patron came back with a vengeance and a gun, and in typical old west fashion, initiated a shoot-out. Fortunately for the community, the man missed five times, so the staff kept working and the drinks kept a-comin’.

Stephanie Vermillion

Silver Reef is located in Leeds, Utah, right off I-15. It’s 40 minutes west of Zion, 30 minutes northeast of Red Cliffs, and—ironically for a ghost town—is adjacent to an upscale neighborhood with satellite dishes and swimming pools. Someone’s gotta keep the tumbleweed in line, right?

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Pol Viladoms
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architecture
One of Gaudí's Most Famous Homes Opens to the Public for the First Time
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Pol Viladoms

Visiting buildings designed by iconic Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is on the to-do list of nearly every tourist passing through Barcelona, Spain, but there's always been one important design that visitors could only view from the outside. Constructed between 1883 and 1885, Casa Vicens was the first major work in Gaudí's influential career, but it has been under private ownership for its entire existence. Now, for the first time, visitors have the chance to see inside the colorful building. The house opened as a museum on November 16, as The Art Newspaper reports.

Gaudí helped spark the Catalan modernism movement with his opulent spaces and structures like Park Güell, Casa Batlló, and La Sagrada Familia. You can see plenty of his architecture around Barcelona, but the eccentric Casa Vicens is regarded as his first masterpiece, famous for its white-and-green tiles and cast-iron gate. Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Casa Vicens is a treasured part of the city's landscape, yet it has never been open to the public.

Then, in 2014 the private Spanish bank MoraBanc bought the property with the intention of opening it up to visitors. The public is finally welcome to take a look inside following a $5.3 million renovation. To restore the 15 rooms to their 19th-century glory, designers referred to historical archives and testimonies from the descendants of former residents, making sure the house looked as much like Gaudí's original work as possible. As you can see in the photos below, the restored interiors are just as vibrant as the walls outside, with geometric designs and nature motifs incorporated throughout.

In addition to the stunning architecture, museum guests will find furniture designed by Gaudí, audio-visual materials tracing the history of the house and its architect, oil paintings by the 19th-century Catalan artist Francesc Torrescassana i Sallarés, and a rotating exhibition. Casa Vicens is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. General admission costs about $19 (€16).

An empty room in the interior of Casa Vicens

Interior of house with a fountain and arched ceilings

One of the house's blue-and-white tiled bathrooms

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

All images courtesy of Pol Viladoms.

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iStock
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Live Smarter
Hate Waiting at Baggage Claim? Here's How to Make Sure Your Suitcase Arrives First
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iStock

Air travel involves plenty of waiting, from standing in long security lines to preparing for takeoff. And even after you land, your trip is stalled until you locate your luggage on the carousel. Luckily for impatient fliers, there are several ways to game the system and ensure a speedy suitcase delivery once you step off the plane, according to Travel + Leisure.

To score true VIP luggage treatment, ask the representative behind the check-in counter if they can attach a “fragile” sticker to your bag. Suitcases with these kinds of labels are often loaded last and unloaded first. (Plus, they receive the type of kid-glove treatment that ultimately helps them last longer.)

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need a new tag each time you fly. If it looks old, or was issued by a different airline, the crew might not pay attention to it, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Also, consider upping your suitcase game, as quality, hard-shell bags look like they contain delicate or important items. Their appearance—along with the fragile sticker—will inspire baggage handlers to give them special treatment.

Another trick that can shave a few minutes off your wait time is making sure you're the last person to check in, instead of rushing to be first. If you can't resist getting to the airport early, try asking if you can check it at the gate. This could make your bag one of the last on the plane, and thus one of the first taken out. This method isn't surefire, however, as loading and unloading systems vary among flights.

And if all else fails, Thrillist advises that you try upgrading your flight. Some airlines give priority to bags that belong to elite travelers and business class, meaning they’ll be stored separately from other luggage and come out first. Good luck! No matter what happens, at least you can't have it worse than the lady who had to wait 20 years for her bag to show up.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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