Once overlooked as both a place to live or vacation, Utah’s Salt Lake City has become one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. From incredible outdoor adventures to urban activities, Salt Lake City is a great place to spend a weekend or longer on your next vacation.
There’s a lot to see in SLC, so to help you narrow down your activity list, here are the best things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This article contains separate lists for both adults and kids. If you don’t have time to read it all, then skip to the section that you want to read:
- Fun Things To Do In Salt Lake City For Adults And Teenagers
- Fun Things To Do In Salt Lake City For Families With Younger Kids
PART 1: Fun Things To Do In Salt Lake City For Adults And Teenagers
If hiking and live music are some of your favorite activities, then you’ll probably find some fun things to do on this section of the list. More family-friendly activities like the zoo and aviary are listed in the kids section below.
The Great Salt Lake & Antelope State Park
Map: 4528 W 1700 S, Syracuse, UT 84075
At 2,117 square miles, the Great Salt Lake is the 6th largest lake in the United States. Only the Great Lakes are larger. The Great Salt Lake is also the largest lake west of the Mississippi River.
There are several things to do in and around the lake. In the center of the lake is a state park called Antelope Island. The park has several points of interest worth exploring including the historic Fielding Garr Ranch, Beach At Bridger Bay, and the Island Buffalo Grill restaurant. Also keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including a herd of 800+ wild bison that live on the island.
There are great hiking trails all around Salt Lake City, but Antelope Island has 14 hiking trails alone to choose from, including the Buffalo Point and Frary Peek trails.
If you’d rather explore the Great Salt Lake via boat, there are two marinas to choose from. The Great Salt Lake Marina is located just off Interstate 80 and the Antelope Island Maria is inside the state park.
Swimming is another fun activity at the Great Salt Lake. Because of the high salt content, you’ll float to the point where you’ll feel like you are being pushed out of the water.
Although, you might want to avoid camping, hiking and swimming near the Great Salt Lake in early spring and late fall. The lake is home to hordes of annoying gnats and large black flies that bite during those times of the year.
Map: Ensign Peak Trail, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
If you’re looking for easy hiking options close to downtown Salt Lake City, then I highly recommend Ensign Peak. The Ensign Peak trail head is located just North of the Utah State Capital and is only a one-mile round trip hike.
It’s a popular trail and for good reason. The hike takes you to the top of Ensign Peak, which has an incredible view of downtown Salt Lake City. The best time to go is around sunset. This will give you a spectacular view of the Great Salt Lake bathed in the sun’s glow. However, this is also the most popular time to hike the trail, so expect crowds at the top, especially if the weather is nice.
Utah State Capital
Map: 350 N State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103
If you’re a politics fan, then no visit to Salt Lake City will be complete without a peek inside the Utah State Capitol building. Built between 1912 and 1916, the Capital is a 300-foot tall dome-topped building located just north of downtown Salt Lake City.
The Utah Capital building is open to the public and lavishly decorated with art detailing Utah’s history. Some signature pieces include statues of Brigham Young, Utah’s first territorial governor, and Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the television, and a large seagull ceiling mural by artist William Slater. The seagull is Utah’s state bird.
Grab A Beer At A Local Brewery
Utah was once infamous for its ridiculous alcohol restrictions. For decades, buying and drinking alcohol often included complicated memberships, separate sections in restaurants, and having your beverages prepared behind a “Zion curtain.” But the conservative religious government started to relax the state’s alcohol restrictions leading up to the 2002 Winter Olympics. With an influx of tourists from around the world, Utah had to remove a lot of its complicated alcohol-related laws.
In the years since, an active brewery scene has emerged throughout Utah, especially in the Salt Lake City area. If you’re looking to grab a pint (or two), here are some of the best breweries in the downtown Salt Lake City metro area.
- Fisher Brewing Company: Established by a German immigrant named Albert Fisher in 1884, the Fisher Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in Utah. Today the brewery is run by his great-great-grandson, Tony Fisher. You won’t find Fisher’s beverages in stores. Their products are sold exclusively at their location, so grabbing a pint from this historic brewery is a uniquely Salt Lake City experience. Good news for dog owners: they allow dogs if you sit outside on their patio. You can also fill a beer growler or buy crowler cans to go.
- Epic Brewing Company: Epic focuses on brewing string beers. The brewery was founded in the late 2000s when there weren’t a lot of high-point beer options in Utah.
- Templin Brewing: Located in the Granary District near downtown Salt Lake City, Templin specializes in traditional lagers with a deeply rooted reverence for the German way of brewing beer.
- Proper Brewing Company: Proper started small and has continued to expand locations and beer selections over the years. It’s hard to beat their delicious food, quick service, fair prices and awesome beers.
- Kiitos: If you like unique beers, then head over to Kiitos’ tap room. In addition to standard IPAs and pilsners, they have some wild brews including a Salt-N-Pickle, Berry Milkshake, Big Gay Ale (contains edible glitter), and Cucumber Tart.
- Desert Edge Brewery: Located in Salt Lake City’s historic Trolley Square, the Desert Edge Brewery was the first Utah brewery ever to win a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF).
- Red Rock Brewery: Founded in 1994, Red Rock is one of the more established breweries in Utah. Red Rock features over 30 core brews, multiple locations, and great restaurants. Rock
- Squatter’s: When Squatter’s brewery opened in 1989, it was the only brewery in Salt Lake City at the time. If you only have time to try one of their beers, then consider their Hop Rising Double IPA. It’s so popular that it generated $1.78 million in sales at Utah’s state-run liquor stores, in 2018 alone.
- Wasatch: Wasatch was the very first brewery in Utah. But before they could open shop, owner Greg Schirf had to propose a bill to the Utah Legislature that would make brewpubs legal in Utah. After three years of brewing and legislating, Wasatch finally opened their historic brewpub on Main Street in the ski resort town of Park City.
Map: 50 N West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square is the religious headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 10-acre complex and surrounding buildings include several notable points of interest, including the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, Temple Square Gardens, Family History Museum, and the Seagull Monument. There’s a lot to see in the Temple Square area, but here are a few highlights:
- Mormon Tabernacle Choir: Founded in 1847, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the most famous choirs in the world. The choir consists of 360 members and frequently performs at landmark events including inaugurations of U.S. Presidents. Every Sunday morning, the choir’s weekly performance, called Music & the Spoken Word, is broadcast live. The program is one of the longest-running radio programs in the world, and has aired every week since July 15, 1929. The choir has a full schedule of performances, but the easiest (and cheapest) way to see them perform live, is to attend one of their many rehearsals. The Tabernacle Choir offers multiple opportunities for the public to attend their rehearsals for free.
- Family History Library: Documenting your family tree is a lot of work and can take endless hours of research. But lucky for you, the volunteers at the Family History Library have probably done most of the hard work for you. The staff speak 30+ languages and can help you browse the library’s free databases and interactive software. There’s even a free Family Tree app for your smartphone. It’s definitely worth the visit.
Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Map: 749 E 500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
If you think creepy and weird sculptures are interesting, then definitely add visiting the Gilgal Sculpture Garden to your to-do list.
Created in the 1950s by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., the Gilgal Sculpture Garden contains 12 sculptures, and over 70 engraved stones with Mormon literature.
The property was originally Child’s backyard, and he began working on the sculptures when he was 57 years old. It became somewhat of a fascination for Child. He devoted much of his energy to the project until his death in 1963, at the age of 75.
One of his more interesting sculptures is an Egyptian sphinx with the head of Joseph Smith, the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the year 2000, Salt Lake City took over maintenance of this Utah landmark, and it’s now a hidden public park just a half block away from Trolley Square.
Normally, you’d think that a sculpture garden would be a fun thing to do in Salt Lake City for families, but I’m not recommending Gilgal for younger kids. The garden is small, the sculptures aren’t climbable, and they all have a very religious focus.
Map: 707 Genesee Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84104
Temple Square isn’t the only religious headquarters in Salt Lake City. In 1975, Salt Lake City resident Claude “Corky” Nowell had an encounter with an alien race called the “Summa individuals” who revealed to him the secret of the universe. Soon after the encounter, Nowell founded the Summum religion, so he could share those secrets with others. He also changed his name to Summum Bonum Amon Ra.
Between 1977 and 1979, a pyramid was constructed to serve as the Summum church’s main headquarters and location of their modern mummification practice. That’s right, members of the Summum religion actually practice mummification. In fact, as part of their fundraising efforts, you can hire their mummification services for $67,000 per person, or only $15,000 for a small pet under 15 pounds (6.8 kg). By the way, they also make wine in the pyramid. Let’s hope they don’t reuse equipment between the two practices.
If you want to visit the Summum Pyramid, it’s only a few blocks south from the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. However, the pyramid isn’t located in the best of neighborhoods. That last time I drove by there was a homeless camp down the street. The Summum church also offers a live stream of their religious readings Wednesdays at 7 pm if you’d rather visit this one virtually. But if you’re in town, it’s worth a quick drive-by… during the day.
Utah Museum Of Fine Arts
Map: 410 Campus Center Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84112
Located just a few buildings away from Jon M Huntsman Center, home of the Utah Utes basketball team, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best art museums in Utah. The museum is located on University of Utah property, but is open for the public to visit.
The museum first opened its doors in the 1950s and features 20+ galleries with both permanent and rotating exhibits. Over 17,000 pieces of art from around the world are on display at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
Because of its location, Salt Lake City is a natural via point for entertainment acts touring the United States. Without much else around, Salt Lake City is the central point in between Los Angles, Las Vegas, Boise, Phoenix, and Denver. As a result, it’s not unusual for big name acts to add Salt Lake City to their schedule as part of their tours. Here are some of the best music venues in the Salt Lake City metro area.
- Eccles Theatre: The Eccles Theatre is a large and modern theater that rivals most Broadway venues. Comedians, traveling Broadway musicals, kids acts, and music acts all perform at the Eccles on a regular basis. A massive parking garage, nearby restaurants and comfortable seats make the Eccels an excellent choice for an evening date. The Eccles also books plenty of children’s acts like Paw Patrol Live, Wild Kratts Live, etc. They even have hundreds of seat boosters at the lower level for smaller guests. Personally, I’ve seen everyone from Cake and Glen Hansard to Peppa Pig perform at the Eccles Theatre.
- The Depot: Great venue in an old train depot building. Everyone from Alice In Chains and Lita Ford, to Andrew Bird have preformed at The Depot. The venue is mostly standing room only, but they do have some limited premium seating available at each show.
- The State Room: Known for its incredible sound, The State Room is a small venue with a maximum capacity for 300 people. The venue has attracted performers ranging from David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) to Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes, Chris Robinson Brotherhood).
- The Complex: With multiple rooms connecting off the main lobby, it’s not unusual for a metal band, country act and a DJ, to be all performing at The Complex on the same night at the same time. It makes for an electric blend of patrons in the lobby. When I saw Sturgill Simpson perform at The Complex in November 2015, the next room over had a hip hop show.
- Red Butte Garden Amphitheater: Owned and operated by the University Of Utah, Red Butte Garden is a large open garden space on the edge of campus featuring an amphitheater. They are famous for attracting A+ quality acts during their summer tours.
- The Saltair: Originally envisioned as the Coney Island of the West, The Saltair is an entertainment resort first built in 1893 along the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake. Over the years, The Saltair has hosted a variety of attractions, including amusement park rides, live entertainment, and at one point, the world’s largest dance floor. The Saltair has burned down several times, but each time has been rebuilt and given a new focus. Today, the Saltair is primarily a concert venue known for attracting rock, DJs, and hip-hop artists like Green Day, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Evanescence, Panic! at the Disco, and Deadmau5.
PART 2: Fun Things To Do In Salt Lake City For Families With Younger Kids
One of my favorite things about Salt Lake City is the amount of fun things to do with kids. Compared to the rest of the United States, Salt Lake City has one of the highest percentages of young families. As a result, there is no shortage of kids’ activities in the area.
Utah’s Hogle Zoo
Map: 2600 Sunnyside Ave S, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
The Hogle Zoo is the biggest zoo in Utah. Located on the East side of the city, the zoo is 42-acres and hosts a wide variety of animals, including zebras, lions, polar bears, giraffes, and a red panda habitat.
Other attractions at the zoo include a Merry-Go-Round, train tour, Elephant Encounter, reptile house, Rocky Shores area, playground, and a fantastic bird show.
Plan on arriving early. The zoo fills up fast, especially on weekends and during the summer. They also offer themed experiences around Halloween (Boo Lights) and Christmas (Zoo Lights) making the zoo a fun experience all year round.
If you’re traveling with young kids, then definitely make the Hogle Zoo one of your tent pole activities while in town.
This Is The Place Monument And Park
Map: 2601 Sunnyside Ave S, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Just down the street from the Hogle Zoo, This Is The Place Park overlooks the Salt Lake City valley and celebrates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the region.
The park’s main monument, This Is The Place Monument, is named after the words that Mormon leader Brigham Young exclaimed when he emerged from the mountains. After leading the Mormon pioneers hundreds of miles across the country, when Young first saw the Salt Lake Valley, he said “This is the right place; drive on.”
Even if you aren’t interested in Mormon history, This Is The Place has a fun Pioneer Village that kids will enjoy. There’s even a train ride. But check their schedule before you go, most areas of the park are only open during the warmer months.
Utah Natural History Museum
Map: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
If it’s raining, snowing or too hot or cold during your visit to Salt Lake City, then the Natural History Museum of Utah is a great indoor experience for families with younger kids.
In addition to their ten permanent exhibits, including dozens of giant dinosaur fossils, the museum also features a variety of interactive experiences for kids. The museum is also a functional workspace for people studying dinosaur bones. Glass windows let museum visitors peek into a laboratory where teams of experts help remove fossilized dinosaur bones from rock.
Map: 110 400 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Another fun thing to do in Salt Lake City with families is visit the Clark Planetarium. The 10,000 square foot kid-friendly facility is part of The Gateway Mall which has plenty of underground parking, restaurants, shopping and an IMAX movie theater.
If you’re struggling to find an all-day activity for your family during a heatwave or rainy day, then this might be what you are looking for.
Big Cottonwood Canyon
Map: Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84121
Located at the bottom of the Wasatch Mountain Range, Big Cottonwood Canyon is a 15-mile long canyon that hosts incredible hikes to canyon lakes including Silver Lake, Lake Blanche, and Lake Mary, bike trails, fishing, camping and more. Oh yeah, it’s also home to two of the most famous ski resorts in the world, Alta and Solitude.
Utah Olympic Park
Map: 3419 Olympic Pkwy, Park City, UT 84098
Originally built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the Utah Olympic Park is now a prominent landmark venue visible from the highway as you make the drive in between Park City and Salt Lake City.
When it’s not hosting Olympians and various ski teams, the Utah Olympic Park is open to the public for tours and other seasonal activities including a ropes course, zip line, choreographed freestyle ski jump show, and more. Be sure to check their schedule when you are in town.
Map: 589 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Ka-kaw! Can you hear that?! Maybe if you were near the Tracy Aviary right now.
Located inside Liberty Park on 8-acres of land, the Tracy Aviary features over 400 birds from 100+ bird species and is a fun experience for young families looking for an outdoor educational experience.
The aviary first opened in 1938 and has a mix of both indoor and outdoor habitats as well as a bird show and guided activities.
Red Butte Garden
Map: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Primarily known outside of Utah for their amphitheater concerts, the Red Butte Garden is a giant 100-acre outdoor botanical garden located on the campus of the University Of Utah.
Map: 600 East 900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
For younger kids, sometimes activities like visiting museums can be an act of patience. Younger kids are essentially human time bombs that are always on the edge of an eruption. If they have been patient enough to visit a museum, then rewarding them with an opportunity to explode their energy on a playground is probably a good idea.
Liberty Park is 80-acres and centrally located in Salt Lake City. It’s also home to the Tracy Aviary, and just down the street from the Hogle Zoo, Red Butte Gardens, and This Is The Place Park.
Utah’s Wonderstone Quarry
Map: 40.10310° N, 112.35812° W
If you are up for a ride out of town (about 70 miles), there’s a unique rock quarry southwest of Salt Lake City with Wonderstones. Located about 1.5 hours away from downtown Salt Lake, the Vernon Hills Wonderstone quarry is guaranteed to fascinate curious kids with its beautiful and unique rocks.
In case you’ve never heard of them before, Wonderstones are beautiful red-marbled rocks that are only common in this one particular spot in Utah. Most areas of the Wonderstone quarry are free and open to the public. But if you’re serious about collecting Wonderstones, then please read these rockhounding tips first before you go.
The first time that I went to the Wonderstone Quarry, I got horribly lost. The directions posted online suck. Not joking, they say things like, cross the railroad tracks and count to 20, then turn near the sign… what?! But the good news is I saved the GPS coordinates the last time I was there. Just navigate to 40.10310° N, 112.35812° W and you should get to the quarry without any problems.
And i you really love rockhounding, there are plenty of other quarries to explore in Utah. The State of Utah published this list of rockhounding locations that are accessible and great for families to explore.
Are You Ready To Visit Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City has the perfect mix of entertainment and outdoor experiences. With so much to see and do, it’s a great place for visitors of all ages.
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