Things To Do In Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and full of attractions. A vibrant and dynamic city, it’s an outdoor lovers playground, with the Wasatch Mountains and numerous canyons nearby.
Besides the natural beauty of the outdoors, there’s also a rich history and plenty of culture, shopping and dining options.
Here are our recommendations for the 15 best things to do in Salt Lake City.
1. Temple Square
The iconic Temple Square is one of the top landmarks in Salt Lake City. It’s the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a holy location for Mormons.
Spread out over 35 acres, the square is home to four key Mormon buildings: the Mormon Temple (closed to visitors until 2024, due to renovations), the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple Annex and the Assembly Hall. There are also several monuments and memorials around the square.
In addition, there are two information centers where you can learn more about Mormonism and even get guided tours. But you can also easily walk around the square on your own and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
You can also combine Temple Square with a guided tour of other top highlights of Salt Lake City.
2. Natural History Museum of Utah
Learn about the history and development of Utah’s land, people, animals and plants at the Natural History Museum of Utah. Located in the Foothill Cultural District, the museum is housed in a stunning building wrapped in bands of copper.
It has a huge collection that includes more than 1.6 million objects, although only around 5,000 objects are displayed at any given time. Explore 10 permanent exhibits and a series of rotating exhibits.
Highlights include a 3-story indoor canyon, dinosaur fossils, the Past Worlds of Utah exhibit, and the First Peoples Exhibit. Don’t miss the observation deck, which offers stunning views over the city and valley. Book a skip-the-line ticket to save time.
3. Ski Resorts
Visiting a ski resort is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City. There are 10 ski resorts within a one hour drive of the city. They include world-class options like Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Park City.
There’s a reason the 2002 Winter Olympics were held here. Besides the accessibility, the snow here is some of the best in the world, a light and dry champagne powder. The terrain is also diverse, offering something for everyone.
Not only that, the ski resorts are actually year-round destinations. During the summer, many resorts offer activities such as mountain biking, hiking, ziplining, concerts and more. Ski packages make it easy to rent the gear you need.
4. Salt Lake Trolley Tours
Enjoy an entertaining show and a unique sightseeing tour of some of Salt Lake City’s top sites on the Salt Lake Trolley Tour. Ride a bright red replica vintage trolley as it travels around the historic district. Pass by or stop for photos at landmarks such as Temple Square, the State Capitol, the Union Pacific Depot, and several historic mansions, including Brigham Young’s.
Be entertained by three costumed and professional actors, who bring history to life in their theatrical retelling. Trolley tours last for 90 minutes and are a great, family-friendly introduction to the city and some of its top attractions.
5. Liberty Park
The largest public park in the city. It’s also the city’s oldest park and listed on the National Register of Historic Places In addition to a lovely green space, with plenty of shady trees and a large pond with two islands, the park offers many opportunities for recreation.
There are many athletic courts, including tennis, bocce ball and basketball, a swimming pool, several jogging tracks and children’s playgrounds.
The park is also home to the Isaac Chase Mill, the oldest commercial building in Utah, and Tracy Aviary, which features hundreds of birds from many species, including many that are endangered or rare.
6. Hogle Zoo
The Hogle Zoo is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City for families with kids and animal lovers. Spanning 42 acres, the zoo is home to more than 800 animals from around the world.
Easily accessible, the zoo is arranged into seven major exhibits with different and unique ecosystems: African Savanna, Asian Highlands, Elephant Encounter, Great Apes, Primate Forest, Rocky Shores, Small Animals Building and World of Flight.
Additional activities are available, and include giraffe feeding, a historic carousel, a miniature train ride that goes past several animal enclosures and a splash zone for kids in the summer.
7. City Creek Center
Located across from Temple Square, City Creek Center is the premier shopping and dining destination in Salt Lake City. The impressive center offers more than 100 retail shops and dining options. Options include big names such as Macy’s and Nordstroms, luxury brands such as Michael Kors and Tiffany & Co., and unique local offerings.
For the best value, visitors can get a Passport to Savings and receive special offers and gifts. In addition, the center features a retractable glass roof and a pedestrian sky bridge over Main Street that connects the center over two blocks.
There’s also an actual creek that runs through the center, a pond stocked with trout, and several waterfalls. Three fountains also provide daily live shows.
8. Red Butte Garden
Located at the base of the Wasatch mountains, Red Butte Garden is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City for nature lovers. At more than 100 acres, it’s the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West.
In addition to beautiful display gardens, an arboretum and an amphitheater, the garden also offers miles of walking and hiking trails, as well as art installations and sculptures. Numerous classes and special events are also offered throughout the year.
Enjoy gardening and horticulture classes, bird watching programs, summer camps, live music and dance performances and more. Guided tours are also available.
9. Ensign Peak
Enjoy sweeping views of Salt Lake City and the surrounding area from the top of Ensign Peak. You will also see the view that Brigham Young had when he plotted out the city. You can see all the way across the Salt Lake Valley and to the Great Salt Lake as well.
An interpretive set of signs at the top point out prominent features and mountain tops across the valley. The trail is only around 1 mile round trip and is fairly easy, with a few moderately steep portions, so it’s suitable for just about anyone.
Sunset is a great time to visit. Stay to see the city lights turn on at night.
10. Great Salt Lake
Visit the lake for which Salt Lake City is named. It’s the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. A remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville, there’s lots to do at the Great Salt Lake. Walk or bike around the lake.
To enjoy the lake itself, head to the Great Salt Lake Marina, where you can launch a kayak, canoe or boat. Sunset cruises are a popular activity and a great way to enjoy the spectacular sunsets on the lake.
Alternatively, head to Antelope Island, within the Great Salt Lake. There’s an extensive network of hiking and biking trails and lots of wildlife, including antelope, bison, sheep, deer and plenty of birds. Guided tours to the Great Salt Lake from Salt Lake City are available and make for a hassle-free experience.
11. Explore the Canyons
Salt Lake City is surrounded by a number of beautiful canyons that are only a short drive away. Two of the most popular are Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are four ski resorts within these two canyons. During the summer, you can enjoy great hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, bouldering and more.
Several alpine lakes, including Lake Blanche and Lake Mary, are ideal for fishing and water sports. Both canyons are also scenic byways, so you can enjoy some spectacular views just by driving around.
Other nearby canyon options include City Creek Canyon, Emigration Canyon, Red Butte Canyon and Mill Creek Canyon. Some guided bike tours will include a stop at one of the canyons.
12. Utah Olympic Park
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like an Olympic athlete, then a visit to the Utah Olympic Park is a must. Built in 2002 for the Winter Olympic Games, the park hosted the bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, Nordic ski jumping and Nordic combined events.
Today, visitors can try all those activities, including zooming 80mph down an Olympic track on the Comet Bobsled with a pilot. The park is open year-round and offers activities such as ziplining, rock climbing and a ropes course during the summer.
Daredevils can try freestyle sky jumping into the splash pool in the summer. Guided tours are available. The Alf Engen Ski Museum and the George Eccles 2002 Winter Olympics Museum are free to visit.
13. State Capitol
Utah’s State Capitol is widely considered the second most beautiful in the United States. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the neoclassical domed building is home to the offices of the Governor, Senate, House of Representatives and Supreme Court of Utah.
You can explore the impressive building on your own 7 days a week or join a free guided tour during the week. Don’t miss the Golden Room, where the Governor holds receptions. A series of galleries showcase rotating exhibits about the state.
There are also numerous monuments, artwork and historical items inside the building and on the grounds. Bring a picnic and you can enjoy it on the grounds of the capitol building.
14. This is the Place Heritage Park
Located near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, This is the Place Heritage Park celebrates the location where Brigham Young saw the valley from his visions, and proclaimed, “This is the place!” Learn about the history of the early settlers in Utah.
In addition to the This Is The Place Monument, the park also includes the Old Deseret Village, which resembles a mid-19th century pioneer village. A living history museum, there are more than 40 restored homes and other buildings, a petting corral, historic train and a Native American village.
You can ride a pony, run through a splash pad, visit a mill and even pan for real gold in a small creek.
15. Clark Planetarium
Enjoy an out-of-this-world experience at the Clark Planetarium. Located at the Gateway, the planetarium offers a fun and educational experience for all ages.
Featuring 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, there is also a full-dome theater and an IMAX theater. All the regular exhibits are free. Only the feature films require a fee.
Explore a range of exhibits covering the planet and outer space. Learn about the forces of gravity. Then step inside a giant tornado. Create a volcano. Then see one of the largest moon rocks on display. There’s an excellent science store. In addition to educational films, the planetarium also offers light shows synced to music.
Once you’ve explored the many attractions that Salt Lake City has to offer, check out our guide to the best day trips from Salt Lake City.