Rich iron-ore deposits here grabbed Mormon leader Brigham Young's attention, and he ordered a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) mission established. The first ironworks and foundry opened in 1851 and operated for only eight years; problems with the furnace, flooding, and hostility between settlers and Native Americans eventually put out the flame. Residents then turned to ranching and agriculture for their livelihood, and Cedar City thrived thereafter.
The Southern Utah University campus hosts the city's major event, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, with a season that gets longer as its reputation grows. Though better known for festivals than recreation, the city is well placed for exploring the Brian Head area.