Spend some time exploring Temple Square, the official headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The walled neighborhood is home to many religious buildings – including the Salt Lake Temple – and lush gardens and soaring sculptures. You can also hike and picnic at the Great Salt Lake and explore the nearby Wasatch National Forest, crisscrossed with scenic trails. If you’re seeking an adrenaline-fueled day trip, head to the slopes in Park City or Snowbird Ski Resort.
What to do in Salt Lake City, Utah
#1 Temple Square Salt Lake City Utah
Nearly 20 attractions are located on Temple Square’s three-block, 35-acre plaza. It’s anchored by the towering Salt Lake Temple – where, among other things, the church’s governing bodies meet – as well as other fascinating buildings like the Tabernacle and the Gothic-style Assembly Hall, which offer insight into the church’s historical development. The Family History Library, the most extensive genealogy library globally, is also worth visiting. After touring the sites, stroll through the gardens and past the gurgling fountains of the square.
You don’t have to be particularly religious to enjoy the square. Recent travelers recommend taking a free, guided tour of the square. There are no scheduled tours, but knowledgeable docents are available every day between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 7 to 8 p.m., depending on the month. The tours begin on the hour and meet at the flagpole west of the temple. Visitors can also attend the Sunday morning concerts in the Tabernacle and the Thursday evening choir rehearsals (7:30 p.m.), which are both presented by the famed Tabernacle Choir.
Temple Square is located in the heart of Salt Lake City. It is open daily from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31), and admission is free. Visit the Temple Square website for more information.
#2 Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake covers approximately 1,700 square miles, making it the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. The lake’s name comes from the nature of its water: Evaporation (the only way for the water to leave the lake) leaves behind salty deposits. Salt Lake City’s visitors and residents enjoy hiking trails, picnic spots, and boating and fishing opportunities.
Recent visitors have also indicated that the Great Salt Lake is an excellent place to swim and spot wildlife – including bison – on the way to the park. Many travelers recommend stopping by the visitor center because of its informative staff and friendly atmosphere. Antelope Island, a state park located about 60 miles northwest of Salt Lake City, is one of the most popular access points. Take Interstate 15 to exit 332 to get to the island.
The lake area is open from sunrise to sunset every day. Vehicles must pay $3 for admission. If you choose Antelope Island as your jumping-off point, you will have to pay $10 per vehicle. The island is open daily from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. However, there are many free access points closer to town as well. Visit the Utah tourism board’s website to learn more about the Great Salt Lake.
#3 Liberty Park Salt Lake City Utah
Suppose you’re looking to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the city limits, head over to Liberty Park’s 80 acres for any number of outdoor activities. The park includes a pond, bike paths, concession stands, rides, picnic areas, playgrounds, and tennis and volleyball courts. Liberty Park is also home to an aviary and a greenhouse, both of which recent visitors recommend exploring, just simply enjoying the peace and tranquility. Families are also advised to visit this park since there are a lot of kid-friendly activities.
This park is located in the heart of Salt Lake City. The park is open from dawn until dusk every day, and admission is free (although some sporting facilities require a small fee). The park also hosts several annual events. On the Salt Lake City website, you can find more information about the park.
#4 Park City Salt Lake City Utah
Powderhounds were made for Park City. About 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Park City boasts two of the world’s largest alpine ski areas spread across acres of mountain terrain. A variety of groomed trails, powder-filled bowls, and terrain parks await skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels at Park City Mountain Resort. Deer Valley Resort caters exclusively to skiers (snowboarding is prohibited here), with groomed runs and glades steeps, along with several restaurants on-site. For beginners, all resorts provide expert instructors to help you learn the slopes – whether it’s through kids’ ski school, group instruction, or private lessons.
You can still find things to do if you aren’t an avid skier. Park City is home to several art galleries and museums. During the spring and summer, the ski resorts transform their runs into hiking and biking trails, and tourists can hit the links at Park City Golf Course or visit one of the area’s farmers’ markets.
Restaurants and bars abound in Park City, and the city’s culinary scene is diverse. You’ll find everything from Japanese dishes at Flying Sumo Sushi to classic Italian dishes at Ghidotti’s. Besides hosting many notorious festivals, the sporty town is also home to the Sundance Film Festival, the Park City Food and Wine Classic, and Spring Gruev, featuring free concerts.
#5 Red Butte Garden Salt Lake City
Red Butte Garden is filled with meticulously landscaped plots, gurgling fountains, and peaceful paths, making it the perfect place for budding botanists and visitors seeking a quiet respite. This garden on the University of Utah campus in northeast Salt Lake City is divided into sections, each devoted to a specific type of plant or ecosystem.
It would help if you were prepared to spend most of the day here, as there is much to see. Additionally, many recommended coming here during the warmer months for a concert – remember to bring a picnic blanket. The Red Butte Garden also offers a variety of educational lectures and kid-friendly activities.
Open year-round, Red Butte Garden is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (except on several holidays), with extended hours from April to September. On days when the garden is hosting a concert, it closes early. Admission is $14 for adults and $7 for children ages 3-17. You can enjoy half-price admission during December, January, and February. Access to the garden is best by car. For more information, please visit the official website.
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
Utah’s historical and cultural attractions are interesting, but skiing is one of the main reasons people visit. Salt Lake City is also close to some of the best slopes in the state, including those at the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. Spanning 2,500 acres and boasting a vertical drop of 3,240 feet, this ski resort has 169 runs suitable for beginners and experts alike. Visitors have compared the slopes here to those in Colorado.
Snowbird isn’t just for winter. Additionally, the resort offers a variety of warm-weather activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and even zip-lining. Another highlight is an aerial tram that takes travelers up 2,900 feet to Hidden Peak. Visitors rave about the views.
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort is located about 28 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in Alta, Utah. Lifts open at 9 a.m., although the hours of operation vary depending on the lift. Daily ski lift ticket prices vary by season, age, and peak or off-peak hours. An all-day summer activities pass costs about $40. In the summer, most activities are available from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, visit the website. Tickets can be purchased online in advance at a discounted rate. You can also upgrade to a lift ticket to access the nearby Alta Ski Area. Visit the resort’s website for more information on Snowbird activities and prices.
#7 Salt Lake Temple
It is important to note that the temple began an extensive renovation on Dec. 29, 2019, which includes structural changes, improving accessibility, and adding visitor facilities. It is currently closed. It is expected to reopen in 2024.
Standing 210 feet over the square, this six-spire structure is the universal symbol of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although you are not allowed to enter the church itself, recent visitors said the grounds are worth exploring.
Temple Square should be your first stop when touring Temple Square, and the staff at the visitor centers and museum are friendly and knowledgeable, according to recent visitors.
The temple is open daily from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m., and there is no charge for viewing its stunning architecture and grounds. In the temple, religious events – such as baptisms and marriages – are still held regularly. To learn more, please visit the Temple Square website.
#8 Salt Lake City Public Library
Whether you like to read or admire beautiful architecture, the stunning and contemporary Salt Lake City Public Library is worth visiting. Located downtown and opened in 2003, the library has more than 500,000 books and lots of cozy corners perfect for hunkering down with a good book.
Visitors said the architecture alone is worth visiting while others enjoyed the friendly staff and on-site cafe. There are also a variety of shops and restaurants around Library Square (just outside the library), in addition to a rooftop garden that overlooks the surrounding Wasatch Mountains for those who prefer to read outdoors.
You can visit the library Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.; Friday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The library is free to use. Visit the Salt Lake City Public Library website for more information.
#9 Family History Library
In Temple Square, the Family History Library has millions of genealogical records profiling more than three billion deceased people, making it the most extensive library of its kind in the world. In the late 19th century, the library was established to help members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints piece together their family histories. Today, visitors are welcome to peruse the records – all carefully preserved – and perhaps discover a few relatives of their own. This is a must-visit place for everyone, but especially for genealogy buffs. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the resources are incredible.
From Monday through Saturday, the Family History Library is open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free. Prepare ahead by organizing family information you already have and deciding what you want to find. This will make it easier for the reference consultant to assist you in your search. For more information, please visit the Family History Library website.
#10 Big Cottonwood Canyon
In the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Big Cottonwood Canyon is about 30 minutes southeast of Salt Lake City. The area features two ski resorts and popular hiking, rock climbing, and mountain biking destinations. If you don’t want to get out of your car, you can take in the views from a scenic 15-mile byway through the canyon, which takes about an hour.
It is a beautiful drive, according to recent visitors. There are remnants of old mines in the canyon from the mid-1800s when miners sought gold and silver. Moreover, both Solitude and Brighton ski resorts offer full-service facilities all year round. Brighton also offers several hiking trails leading to Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake Martha, and Dog Lake.
Take Interstate 215 to the 6200 South “Canyons” exit and continue east on Utah State Route 152, following signs to the ski resorts, to reach Big Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City.
#11 Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
There are 2.1 million acres of Mother Nature in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Its seven wilderness districts offer a diverse range of landscapes, from verdant fields to rocky mountainsides, as well as plenty of hiking, biking, and camping opportunities.
Visitors rave about the beauty of the area and highly recommend bringing a camera and wearing sturdy walking shoes since there are plenty of trails you’ll want to explore (many differ in length and skill level, so check the website before you go). Consider a scenic drive if you don’t have time for a hike. The 37-mile Mount Nebo Scenic Byway offers stunning views of Utah and Nephi valleys, especially in the fall when the leaves change.
The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is located about 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. Access to the park is available every day of the year, and there is no entry fee, except for American Fork Canyon ($6), Mirror Lake Highway ($6), and Millcreek Canyon ($3 per car). Visit the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest website for more information.
#12 Hogle Zoo
Featuring more than 800 animals, the Hogle Zoo allows visitors to get up close and personal with its residents. Guests can feed the zoo’s giraffes, rhinos, and gorillas (for an additional fee), an activity that recent guests enjoyed. Don’t forget to stop by Zuri. In 2009, the zoo welcomed this African elephant. In 2014, the zoo added the African Savanna exhibit, home to giraffes, zebras, ostriches, and African lions. You can easily see the exhibit by taking the Safari Express Train at the zoo. A carousel and splash pad are also available on-site.
Despite not being the best zoo in the country, a visit here is worth the price of admission. Visitors have been incredibly pleased with the size of the animal enclosures, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
The Hogle Zoo is located just east of the University of Utah campus and is open daily starting at 9 or 10 a.m., although closing times vary according to season. It costs between $16.95 and $18.95 for adults and $12.95 and $14.95 for children, depending on the season. Outside food and nonalcoholic beverages are permitted. The easiest way to get to the zoo is by car. For more information, visit the zoo’s website.
More Things to Consider in Salt Lake City
#13 Clark Planetarium
The Clark Planetarium has exhibits on Earth, near-Earth, and beyond. You can be inside a giant tornado, make a volcano, see a 6-foot Rand McNally Earth Globe, see one of the massive real moon rocks on display, and see the Lunar Lander exhibit to learn more about gravity acceleration and inertia.
#14 Natural History Museum of Utah
Discover the formation of the region’s parks, mountain ranges, lakes, and basins at the Natural History Museum, as well as exhibits on anthropology, entomology, zoology, mineralogy, botany, and more. The Great Salt Lake exhibit is a must-see, featuring interactive exhibits on one of the region’s most unique features. Children will especially enjoy the Our Backyard exhibit, with plenty of hands-on activities to stimulate their curiosity. Still, recent visitors say that the entire museum is family-friendly, with plenty to see and do.
#15 Utah Museum of Fine Arts
#16 Utah State Capitol
Plan Your Salt Lake City, Utah Visit