Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City: Top 12 Attractions to Visit

by Saad Backup
Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City
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Are you thinking about visiting Salt Lake City soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Salt Lake City. These historic sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable vacation experience.

Salt Lake City – a mesmerizing blend of urban sophistication and breathtaking natural beauty. It’s not just the gateway to some of the best ski resorts in the world, but also a haven for history buffs and nature lovers. With many things to do in Salt Lake City, from exploring its fascinating history to enjoying outdoor adventures, this city is a testament to the pioneering spirit of the American West. Its roots are deeply embedded in the tales of early settlers and the influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Imagine a place where you can start your day with a serene sunrise over the vast Great Salt Lake, spend the afternoon exploring the intricate architecture of Temple Square, and then catch a world-class ballet performance by night. That’s the magic of Salt Lake City. Its streets echo with stories, from the harmonious notes of the Tabernacle Choir to the whispers of old miners in its historic districts.

For the adventurous souls, the nearby Wasatch Mountains beckon with promises of hiking, skiing, and more. And for those who seek the unique, the city’s burgeoning arts scene, eclectic dining experiences, and vibrant nightlife won’t disappoint. Dive in, and let Salt Lake City unveil its treasures, one by one. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Salt Lake City.

The best things to do in Salt Lake right now
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Best Places to Visit in Salt Lake City

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Salt Lake City? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this diverse vacation spot. So keep reading to discover all these unique Salt Lake City places to visit.

Are you looking to hit the slopes in world-class ski resorts to delve into rich historical sites and cultural museums? Or would you prefer exploring the city’s vibrant arts scene? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Salt Lake City can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Salt Lake City that you should know about.

1. Temple Square

Right in the heart of the city, Temple Square stands as a testament to the faith and dedication of the early settlers of Salt Lake City. This 10-acre area is the most visited site in Utah, and it’s easy to see why. The moment you step in, you’re greeted by the majestic Salt Lake Temple, an iconic symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its Gothic spires reach towards the heavens, while intricate carvings tell tales of the past. Among the cool destinations in Salt Lake City, Temple Square is a definite highlight, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Salt Lake City things to do wouldn’t be complete without a visit here. The square is not just about the temple; it’s a complex of historical buildings, museums, and gardens. The Assembly Hall, with its stunning stained-glass windows, hosts free concerts, making it a treat for music lovers. Meanwhile, the Tabernacle, home to the world-famous Tabernacle Choir, boasts an organ with 11,623 pipes, offering an auditory experience like no other.

Take a free guided tour, and you’ll uncover the rich history and significance of each corner. As the sun sets, the square lights up, offering a serene ambiance perfect for evening strolls. It’s a blend of spiritual solace and architectural wonder, making it a must-see in Salt Lake City.

Embrace the elegance of Temple Square and experience the best things to do in Salt Lake City
Embrace the elegance of Temple Square and experience the best things to do in Salt Lake City

2. Antelope Island State Park

Visualize a place where the horizon stretches endlessly, where bison roam freely, and where the sun paints the sky in hues of gold and crimson.. Embrace the Antelope Island State Park experience! A haven for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a break from city life. Situated in the vast Great Salt Lake, this island offers a unique ecosystem, teeming with diverse wildlife and breathtaking landscapes.

Coolest activities in Salt Lake City? Look no further. From hiking and mountain biking to horseback riding, there’s no shortage of adventures waiting for you. The park’s trails lead you through rugged terrains, past serene beaches, and atop hills that offer panoramic views of the surrounding area. And if you’re a birdwatcher, you’re in for a treat! The island is home to over 250 bird species, making it a birding paradise.

For those wondering where to visit in Salt Lake City that offers a blend of adventure and relaxation, Antelope Island is the answer. After a day of exploration, settle down by the beach, watch the sunset, and let the gentle waves lull you into tranquility. It’s not just a park; it’s an experience that stays with you.

Experience encounters with majestic wildlife in their natural habitat at Antelope Island State Park
Experience encounters with majestic wildlife in their natural habitat at Antelope Island State Park

3. The Natural History Museum of Utah

Ever wondered about the mysteries of our planet, the evolution of life, or the ancient cultures that once thrived in Utah? The Natural History Museum of Utah, among the intriguing Salt Lake City places to visit, is your gateway to all these wonders and more. Located at the Rio Tinto Center, this museum is a testament to the rich tapestry of life and history that has shaped the region.

One of the best places in Salt Lake City for both adults and kids, the museum boasts ten galleries filled with fascinating exhibits. From dinosaur fossils to Native American artifacts, there’s a story waiting to be discovered around every corner. The Sky Gallery, showcasing the diverse environments of Utah, is a particular highlight.

Interactive displays make learning fun and engaging. So, if you’re curious about the best things to do in Salt Lake City on a family day out, this museum should top your list. And don’t forget to step out onto the observation deck. The view of the Salt Lake Valley is nothing short of spectacular.

Wrap up your visit at the museum store, where you can pick up unique souvenirs that capture the essence of Utah’s rich heritage. It’s not just a museum; it’s a journey through time.

Discover ancient wonders and unravel the story of life at The Natural History Museum of Utah
Discover ancient wonders and unravel the story of life at The Natural History Museum of Utah

4. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum

A place where nature’s colors burst forth in a dazzling display, where every turn reveals a new floral wonder – that’s Red Butte Garden and Arboretum, one of the cool destinations in Salt Lake City. Situated on the eastern edge of the University of Utah, it’s a haven for plant lovers and those seeking a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle..

Salt Lake City attractions are diverse, but Red Butte stands out with its vast collection of regional plants, themed gardens, and panoramic views of the valley. Spring is especially enchanting as the garden comes alive with tulips, daffodils, and cherry blossoms. However, every season offers a unique charm, from summer concerts under the stars to the fiery hues of fall.

Things to do in Salt Lake City when you want to learn? A visit to the Red Butte should be on your list. It isn’t just about beauty; it’s educational too. With workshops, classes, and guided tours, you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation for the world of botany.

The garden’s winding trails invite you to explore, each path leading to a new discovery. And if you’re looking for a memorable spot to relax, the fragrance garden is a sensory delight. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is truly a blooming paradise in the heart of the city.

A tranquil escape to Red Butte Garden and Arboretum
A tranquil escape to Red Butte Garden and Arboretum

5. Snowbird

High up in the Wasatch Mountains, just a short drive from Salt Lake City, lies Snowbird, a premier mountain resort known for its breathtaking beauty and thrilling activities. It’s not just a winter wonderland; Snowbird, among the unique places in Salt Lake City, offers year-round adventures that cater to both adrenaline junkies and those seeking a serene mountain escape.

In the winter, Snowbird becomes a snowy paradise, attracting skiers and snowboarders from all over the world. The powdery slopes are a dream come true for winter sports enthusiasts. And if skiing isn’t your thing, there’s snowshoeing, snowmobile tours, and even a scenic aerial tram to take in the majestic mountain views.

When the snow melts, the mountain transforms into a lush green landscape, perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and alpine sliding. Where to go in Salt Lake City for panoramic views? The summit of Hidden Peak, accessible by the aerial tram, offers unparalleled vistas of the surrounding valleys and peaks.

Things to do in Salt Lake City that combine relaxation and thrill? Try the mountain spa after a day of activities or enjoy gourmet dining with a view at one of Snowbird’s top-notch restaurants. Snowbird is truly a destination that offers mountain magic every day of the year.

Discover the allure of Snowbird, Salt Lake City's ultimate winter getaway
Discover the allure of Snowbird, Salt Lake City’s ultimate winter getaway

6. Great Salt Lake

Welcome to the Great Salt Lake, a must-see in Salt Lake City, where a vast expanse of shimmering water is set against a backdrop of majestic mountains and desert terrain. It’s not just the size of this lake that’s impressive; it’s the salinity. With salt levels sometimes rivaling that of the Dead Sea, it’s a unique place where you can effortlessly float.

Coolest activities in Salt Lake City? Try kayaking or paddleboarding on the lake’s serene waters. The feeling of floating without effort is surreal and a bucket-list experience for many. Birdwatchers, this is your paradise! The lake’s various islands and surrounding wetlands are home to countless bird species, making it one of the top bird-watching destinations in the West.

Unique things to do in Salt Lake City often have a touch of the unexpected, and the nearby Spiral Jetty, an earthwork sculpture, is no exception. This man-made coil jutting out into the lake is best viewed from above and is especially striking when the water turns a pinkish hue due to certain algae and bacteria.

For those seeking a tranquil escape, a sunset at the Great Salt Lake, with its ever-changing colors and vast horizons, is pure magic. It’s a reminder of nature’s grandeur and the many wonders waiting to be explored in Salt Lake City.

A Glimpse into the Vastness of the Great Salt Lake
A Glimpse into the Vastness of the Great Salt Lake

7. Hogle Zoo

Have you ever wanted to embark on a global wildlife adventure without leaving the U.S.? Hogle Zoo offers just that! Situated at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, this 42-acre space is home to over 800 animals from diverse ecosystems around the world. From the majestic African elephants to the playful seals, there’s a world of wonder waiting for every visitor.

One of the best places to go in Salt Lake City for families, Hogle Zoo offers interactive exhibits like the Savanna Adventure, where you can get up close and personal with giraffes. The Asian Highlands section is a testament to the beauty and diversity of Asian wildlife, featuring snow leopards, Amur tigers, and red pandas.

Things to do in Salt Lake City often combine education with entertainment, and the zoo’s conservation programs and educational workshops are no exception. Kids can learn about wildlife conservation, the importance of biodiversity, and what they can do to help.

For those looking to make their visit extra special, the zoo offers behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters. Envision the experience of feeding a rhino or observing a training session with a sea lion! It’s these exceptional encounters that underline Hogle Zoo’s status as a must-visit while you’re in town.

Hogle Zoo's elephant wowing spectators with a remarkable stunt
Hogle Zoo’s elephant wowing spectators with a remarkable stunt

8. Bonneville Salt Flats

Can you imagine a place where the ground mirrors the sky, creating an endless horizon that’s hard to distinguish between earth and heaven? Step into the Bonneville Salt Flats, among the best places to go in Salt Lake City! This mesmerizing expanse of hard, white salt crust is one of the most unique natural features you’ll ever see. Spanning over 30,000 acres, it’s a dreamy landscape that looks like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie.

What to do in Salt Lake City? Try land-speed racing! The salt flats are world-renowned for hosting land-speed events where daredevils and speed enthusiasts come to set world records. The vast, flat surface provides the perfect backdrop for these adrenaline-pumping events.

For photographers and nature lovers, the salt flats offer a canvas of unparalleled beauty, especially during sunrise and sunset. The way the light plays on the salt, creating myriad reflections, is truly a sight to behold. It’s no wonder this place is often touted as one of the must-see in Salt Lake City.

If you’re looking for a place that’s both serene and exhilarating, the Bonneville Salt Flats should be on your list. It’s not just a destination; it’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve left.

Vast expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats under a clear blue sky
The vast expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats under a clear blue sky

9. Big Cottonwood Canyon

Salt Lake City attractions are aplenty, but few can rival the sheer beauty and adventure potential of Big Cottonwood Canyon. This glacially carved canyon, just a short drive from the city, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With its towering peaks, pristine lakes, and dense forests, it’s a landscape that beckons to be explored.

In the winter, the canyon transforms into a snowy paradise, making it a hotspot for skiing and snowboarding. Resorts like Brighton and Solitude offer world-class slopes for both beginners and seasoned pros. As the snow melts, the canyon reveals its summer charm. Hikers and climbers will find a plethora of trails and rock faces to conquer. From serene lakeside strolls to challenging mountain ascents, there’s a trail for every level of adventurer.

Things to do in Salt Lake City? Don’t miss out on a scenic drive through the canyon. The views are nothing short of breathtaking, with every turn revealing a new picturesque scene. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the local wildlife, including moose, deer, and various bird species.

For those seeking a mix of relaxation and adventure, Big Cottonwood Canyon is the perfect destination. It’s nature’s playground, waiting for you to dive in.

Lose yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon
Lose yourself in the breathtaking beauty of Big Cottonwood Canyon

10. Liberty Park

If you’re pondering about the coolest things to do in Salt Lake City that combine both relaxation and recreation, look no further than Liberty Park. Spanning over 80 acres, this urban park is a breath of fresh air amidst the bustling city vibes. It’s a place where locals and tourists alike come to unwind, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors.

The park boasts a variety of amenities that cater to all ages. Families will love the Seven Canyons Fountain, a water play area designed to represent the seven major canyons in Utah. There’s also the Tracy Aviary, one of the oldest and most esteemed bird parks in the U.S., where you can marvel at vibrant and exotic bird species.

For those who prefer a more active visit, the park offers tennis courts, basketball courts, and a swimming pool. And if you’re just in the mood for a leisurely stroll, the park’s serene pathways, dotted with ponds and large shady trees, are perfect.

Where to go in Salt Lake City often highlights its natural beauty and outdoor activities, and Liberty Park is no exception. It’s a testament to the city’s commitment to providing green spaces for relaxation and recreation.

A picturesque view of Liberty Park, showcasing lush greenery
A picturesque view of Liberty Park, showcasing lush greenery

11. Trolley Square

Visualize entering a space where the past and the present come together, crafting a distinctive atmosphere that blends nostalgia and modernity. Enter the realm of Trolley Square, one of the coolest things to do in Salt Lake City. This historic shopping center, once a trolley car barn in the early 1900s, has been transformed into a bustling hub of shops, eateries, and entertainment venues.

As you wander through its brick-lined corridors, you’ll be transported back in time. The original trolley tracks and antique wooden beams serve as a reminder of the square’s storied past. Yet, the trendy boutiques and gourmet restaurants show that Trolley Square is very much in tune with today’s world.

For those who love to shop, this is one of the best places in Salt Lake City to find unique gifts, fashionable clothing, and artisanal goods. And if shopping isn’t your thing, the square’s vibrant atmosphere, punctuated by live music and events, ensures there’s something for everyone.

Trolley Square is more than a shopping destination; it’s a place where memories are made, stories are shared, and the past meets the present in the most delightful way.

Discover the Charm of Trolley Square: A Historic Gem in the Heart of the City
Discover the Charm of Trolley Square: A Historic Gem in the Heart of the City

12. The Leonardo Museum

In the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, there’s a place where creativity and innovation come alive. The Leonardo Museum is not your typical museum; it’s a vibrant space where art, science, and technology intersect. For those looking for unique places in Salt Lake City, this is a must-visit.

The museum’s interactive exhibits challenge visitors to think outside the box. From exploring the wonders of flight to diving deep into the human body’s intricacies, every corner of The Leonardo sparks curiosity. It’s a playground for the mind, making it one of the coolest activities in Salt Lake City for both kids and adults.

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the museum’s rotating art exhibits, showcasing both local and international talents. Meanwhile, tech lovers can get hands-on with the latest gadgets and innovations in the museum’s lab spaces.

But what truly sets The Leonardo apart is its commitment to fostering creativity and critical thinking. Workshops, lectures, and special events are regularly held, ensuring there’s always something new to learn and discover.

In a city filled with history and natural beauty, The Leonardo Museum stands out as a testament to human ingenuity and the endless possibilities of the imagination.

Exterior of The Leonardo Museum building
Exterior of The Leonardo Museum building

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Salt Lake City? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Salt Lake City:

Is Salt Lake City worth visiting?

Absolutely! From its rich history and architectural marvels to its stunning natural landscapes and vibrant arts scene, Salt Lake City offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all types of travelers.

What’s the best time to visit Salt Lake City?

While Salt Lake City is a year-round destination, many prefer the spring and fall months for milder weather. Winter is perfect for snow sports enthusiasts heading to the nearby ski resorts.

How long should you spend in Salt Lake City?

A 3 to 4-day trip is ideal to cover the main Salt Lake City attractions. However, if you have more time, there’s always more to explore in and around the city. Here’s a suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Downtown and Historical Sights

  1. Temple Square: Explore the heart of the city and the worldwide headquarters of the LDS Church. You can take a guided tour of the impressive Salt Lake Temple (note: non-LDS members can’t enter the temple, but the grounds are open to all), the Tabernacle, and various historical buildings.
  2. State Capitol Building: Offers free tours and a chance to see Utah’s government in action.
  3. City and County Building: Another historical site with beautiful architecture.
  4. Dine in Downtown: The city has a burgeoning food scene with a mix of traditional and international cuisines.

Museums and Cultural Sights (Day 2)

  1. Natural History Museum of Utah: A state-of-the-art facility showcasing Utah’s unique geology, paleontology, and indigenous cultures.
  2. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum: Enjoy the outdoors and beautiful plants native to the region.
  3. Trolley Square: A historic trolley barn turned shopping center.
  4. Attend a Performance: Consider catching a show at the Eccles Theater or a concert by the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They practice on Thursday evenings and it’s open to the public.

Day 3: Outdoor Activities

  1. Big Cottonwood Canyon: Just a short drive from the city, it’s a fantastic place for hiking, picnicking, or just enjoying mountain views.
  2. Great Salt Lake: Visit Antelope Island State Park or take in the views from the Saltair.
  3. Biking and Parks: Salt Lake City offers several parks and biking trails for those wanting to remain closer to the city.

If you’re interested in skiing, you might consider extending your trip to visit the nearby ski resorts during the winter. Additionally, if you’re a fan of craft beer, Salt Lake City has an emerging craft brewery scene worth exploring. Adjust your itinerary based on personal interests, but 2-3 days should give you a good feel for Salt Lake City.

Unveil the rich history and experience the best things to do in Salt Lake City
Unveil the rich history and experience the best things to do in Salt Lake City

Is downtown Salt Lake City worth visiting?

Absolutely! Downtown Salt Lake City offers a unique blend of historical, cultural, and recreational attractions. Here are some reasons why it’s worth visiting:

  1. Temple Square: This 10-acre area is the heart of Salt Lake City and the worldwide headquarters of the LDS Church. Even if you’re not a member of the faith, the architecture and gardens are stunning. The Salt Lake Temple, Assembly Hall, and Tabernacle are prominent features here.
  2. Historical Architecture: In addition to religious buildings, the city boasts other architectural gems like the State Capitol Building, City and County Building, and the Kearns Mansion.
  3. Cultural Experiences: The city offers numerous cultural events. This includes performances by the Utah Symphony, Ballet West, and the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The Eccles Theater hosts a variety of performances throughout the year.
  4. Galleries and Museums: The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and the Leonardo Museum (focusing on the intersection of science, technology, and art) are both located downtown.
  5. Shopping and Dining: The City Creek Center is a premier shopping destination. It has a retractable roof, creek running through the property, and a mix of local and international brands. The dining scene in Salt Lake City is evolving rapidly, with a mix of traditional eateries and modern, innovative restaurants.
  6. Outdoor Spaces: The downtown area has several parks, including Pioneer Park, which hosts a farmer’s market during the summer months.
  7. Events and Festivals: Depending on when you visit, you might catch a festival or special event. The Utah Arts Festival, Pride Festival, and the Downtown Dine O’ Round are some annual events that locals and tourists look forward to.

Is Salt Lake City family-friendly?

Yes! With numerous parks, museums, and activities tailored for kids, it’s a fantastic destination for families.

What is Salt Lake City best known for?

Salt Lake City is best known as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Additionally, its proximity to world-class ski resorts and its role as the host city for the 2002 Winter Olympics have cemented its reputation as a major destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Here are some other key attributes of SLC:

  1. The Great Salt Lake: The city gets its name from this vast, saline lake. This is one of the largest saltwater lakes in the Western Hemisphere. It offers recreational opportunities and picturesque sunsets.
  2. Outdoor Recreation: Surrounded by mountains and close to various ski resorts, Salt Lake City is a hub for outdoor activities. They range from skiing and snowboarding in the winter to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing during the warmer months.
  3. Cultural Institutions: The city boasts a variety of cultural institutions including theaters, art galleries, and music venues. The Utah Symphony, Ballet West, and the annual Sundance Film Festival in nearby Park City are notable examples.
  4. Proximity to National Parks: Salt Lake City serves as a convenient gateway to some of the USA’s most stunning national parks. This includes Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park.
  5. Diverse Dining and Breweries: Over the years, Salt Lake City has seen a surge in its culinary scene. It features a mix of traditional and innovative cuisines. The city also has a growing number of breweries, despite its historic liquor laws.
  6. Historical Significance: Beyond its LDS roots, Salt Lake City has a rich history in the settlement of the Western U.S. This can be explored in various museums and historical sites around the city.

Does it snow in Salt Lake City?

Yes, Salt Lake City experiences snowy winters, with the city often blanketed in a picturesque layer of snow from late November to early March. The nearby mountains receive even more snowfall, making the region a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts.

Is the Salt Lake in Utah worth visiting?

Absolutely! The Great Salt Lake in Utah offers a unique and worthwhile experience for visitors. Here are several reasons why the lake is worth a visit:

  1. Unparalleled Natural Beauty: The sunsets over the Great Salt Lake can be breathtaking. The reflections of the surrounding mountains on the water and the play of colors at sunset make it a photographer’s dream.
  2. Antelope Island State Park: This largest island in the Great Salt Lake is home to free-roaming bison, antelope, and various bird species. It also offers hiking, biking trails, and sandy beaches. The views of the lake from the island are particularly spectacular.
  3. Floating Experience: Due to its high salinity, it’s easy to float in the Great Salt Lake, similar to the Dead Sea in Jordan/Israel. This unique buoyancy is something many visitors enjoy experiencing.
  4. Bird Watching: The Great Salt Lake is a critical stop for millions of migratory birds, making it a bird-watching hotspot. The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a fantastic place to observe and learn about these avian travelers.
  5. Unique Ecosystem: The lake’s high salinity creates a unique ecosystem. Brine shrimp thrive in these waters, and their eggs are harvested and sold globally as feed for prawns.
  6. Sailing and Kayaking: Despite its saltiness, the lake offers opportunities for non-motorized water sports. The experience of sailing or kayaking on the vast salty expanse is unlike most other aquatic adventures.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City, with its harmonious blend of urban sophistication and raw natural beauty, is a destination that beckons travelers from all walks of life.

Whether you’re an art aficionado, an outdoor enthusiast, or someone simply looking for unique things to do in Salt Lake City, this place promises memories that will last a lifetime.

So pack your bags, book your ticket to SLC, and come discover the magic that Salt Lake City holds. Trust us; it’s a journey you won’t regret. These things to do in SLC will truly be the getaway of your dreams!

The best things to do in Salt Lake City for all types of travelers
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