Things to Do in Salt Lake City
Utah’s Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere and the largest natural lake in North America west of the Mississippi, is the setting for some of the state’s best outdoor recreational opportunities; sailors and kayakers ply the waters, while sunbathers bask on sandy beaches and swimmers float in the high-saline waters.
When Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, Brigham Young, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), proclaimed, “Here we will build a temple to our God.” That place eventually became known as Temple Square, the centerpiece of which is the Salt Lake Temple—the largest Mormon temple in the world.
Built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Utah Olympic Park was the site of the bobsled, skeleton, luge, ski jumping, and Nordic combined events. The park, located just outside downtown Park City, now serves as a training center for Olympic hopefuls and is a top tourist attraction for visitors and locals interested in Olympic history.
Utah’s This is the Place Heritage Park commemorates the arrival of Mormon pioneers who settled in the Salt Lake City valley in 1847. Experience activities such as train and pony rides, blacksmithing, and gold panning at the 450-acre (182-hectare) park’s Heritage Village, which also displays restored structures and hosts events.
The neoclassical Utah State Capitol Building opened in 1916 and is home to the offices and chambers of the state Legislature, governor, and other government officials. The building is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and features artwork, historical items, and monuments both inside and around the grounds.
Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is a university-owned botanical garden in Salt Lake City covering more than 150 acres. The garden was founded by Dr. Walter P. Cottam in 1930. Cottam was not only the chair of the University of Utah's botany department; he was also a co-founder of The Nature Conservancy. By 1961, the collection of plants had grown so significantly that the state recognized it as the State Arboretum. In 1985, the garden was relocated to a new – and larger – site in Red Butte Canyon, and given a new name – the Red Butte Garden and Arboretum.
Today, Red Butte Garden features several different garden spaces, hiking trails, paved walking paths, and an amphitheater which hosts concerts on a regular basis. During the summer, films are also often shown in the garden. Visitors are treated to an ever-changing display of plants as different things bloom year-round, but the garden is particularly well-known for its spring bloom made up of some 400,000 bulbs.
Liberty Park is Salt Lake City’s oldest and liveliest city park. Located just southeast of the city center, the park features numerous playgrounds, seasonal amusement rides, a swimming pool, basketball courts, concession stands, and a popular running path. The park is also home to the Tracy Aviary, a sanctuary for rare and endangered birds from around the world.
The second-largest copper producer in the United States, the century-old Kennecott Copper Mine (aka the Bingham Canyon Mine) provides about a quarter of America’s copper needs, as well as gold, silver, and molybdenum. The impressive open pit, which is is still growing, is said to be visible from space.
With an average annual snowfall of 365 inches spread out over 3,300 total skiable acres, you should be ready to cover lots of ground at Park City Mountain Resort. The 114 trails and 16 lifts guarantee there’s a stretch of snow for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. The resort classifies 17 percent of its trails as easy, 52 percent as more difficult and 31 percent are described as most difficult.
Along with skiing and snowboarding, the list of winter activities is long and includes tubing, ice skating, sleigh rides and snowmobile rides.
With summer comes a slew of possibilities to get and stay outside. The resort is home to 70 miles of hiking and biking trails. Fly through the air on zip lines, reach new heights on the climbing wall or race down the Alpine Slide, one of the longest slides in the world.
Families with young children have numerous spaces to call their own at Park City Mountain Resort. Along with miniature golf, there’s the Adventure Zone playground and Little Miners Park. The amusement park entertains its’ tiniest guests with a merry-go-round, airplane ride and mini train.
Located inside Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City, Tracy Aviary is essentially a bird zoo housing hundreds of birds.
Founded in 1938 when a local man donated his collection of birds to the city, Tracy Aviary eventually became not only a place where people could come see more than 135 bird species but also an organization dedicated to conservation work. It's the oldest bird park in the United States, today housing 400 birds.
In addition to all of the birds visitors can see, there are also several different bird shows and demonstrations that happen daily, including feeding a flock of Sun Conures or Pelicans, and listening to keepers talking about various birds. A mill built in 1852 is in one part of Tracy Aviary, and it's the oldest commercial building in Utah.
More Things to Do in Salt Lake City
Solitude Mountain Resort lives up to its name, set far from most of the other ski resorts in the Salt Lake City area. Opened in 1957, Solitude occupies part of the Big Cottonwood Canyon and has a reputation for being family-friendly, much like the other resort in the same canyon, Brighton. In fact, there's a partnership between the two resorts that includes a combined day pass and a chairlift that offers access to both.
Solitude has 65 runs, more than half of which are in the “intermediate” level, and the ski season lasts from roughly mid-November through mid-April. There's a Nordic Center that sits between Solitude and Brighton, where you can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and skate-skiing. In addition to skiing, visitors to Solitude can go ice skating on an outdoor rink.
Opened in 2011 on Salt Lake City’s Library Square, this museum of science, art, and technology is named after Leonardo da Vinci, Italy's famous painter, mathematician, and inventor. Its mission is to inspire visitors to explore the creative side of science and technology through interactive exhibits.
The Discovery Gateway Children's Museum is an interactive, hands-on museum in Salt Lake City’s Gateway District. Programs and exhibits encourage the whole family to learn about science, engineering, art, animals, music, and more. There are temporary exhibits too, and a daily offering of workshops and special activities for kids.
With a dinosaur museum, themed garden, farm park, and more, Utah’s Thanksgiving Point brings together multiple experiences on one family-friendly campus. Part museum and part theme park, it’s located 20 minutes south of Salt Lake City and also features a golf course, spa, shopping, restaurants, and 3-D movie theater.
Located in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Snowbird is a winter and summer mountain resort known for its long ski season and steep terrain. Locals and visitors alike appreciate the laid-back atmosphere, variety of runs, and abundance of high-quality snow.
With one of the largest annual snowfalls in Utah, Brighton Resort is a favorite with skiers and snowboarders who appreciate the affordability, high-quality snow, and unflashy atmosphere. Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, the resort offers free skiing for children under 10, making it particularly popular with families.
Established in 1862 as a military outpost to protect the overland mail route and telegraph lines along the Central Overland Trail, Fort Douglas is now a military museum. Featuring war memorabilia, historic photos, and maps, the museum tells the stories of Utah veterans and the history of military presence in the Utah territory.
Formerly the lavish Hotel Utah, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is now a social center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Named after the church’s founder, the Salt Lake City building acts as the welcome center for Temple Square and features the Legacy Theater, which regularly shows church-produced films.
Completed in 1867, the Salt Lake Tabernacle is an architectural marvel famous for its remarkable acoustics: A pin dropped at the pulpit can be heard clearly at the back of the hall 170 feet (52 meters) away. Home of the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the church hosts concerts and tours that attract visitors from all over the world.
Through various exhibits and educational programs, the Church History Museum tells the story of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from its humble beginnings to the present day. Located in downtown Salt Lake City opposite the west gates of the Temple Square, the museum contains an impressive collection of art, artifacts, documents, photographs, tools, clothing and furniture related to LDS Church history from around the world. It maintains a permanent gallery as well as temporary exhibits on various themes. Many of the works currently on display can be viewed on the museum’s website.
Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium promotes greater public awareness of the sciences by creating educational experiences that inspire wonder and curiosity. Tons of free interactive exhibits, curated IMAX screening, laser light shows, and intergalactic adventures in the Dome make the natural world, space, and beyond accessible to all.
Located on the University of Utah campus, the Utah Museums of Fine Arts (UMFA) houses more than 20,000 original works of art from across the globe. Find everything from ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts to the latest contemporary works. It also has an impressive Native American and Western American art section.
Salt Lake City’s Latter-Day Saints Family History Library is the largest genealogical library in the world. Founded primarily to assist members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fulfill one of their fundamental tenets—to baptize and otherwise save deceased ancestors—today many individuals use the library to simply research their ancestry.
At the base of Emigration Canyon, Utah's Hogle Zoo is one of Salt Lake City's most popular family-friendly attractions. Its 42 acres (17 hectares) are home to more than 800 species of animal. Exhibit highlights include the Elephant Encounter, with African elephants and white rhinos, and the Asian Highlands, featuring five endangered species of Asian cat.