Salt Lake City remains the largest metropolitan area in Utah. While it’s best known as the religious center for the Mormon Church, there’s much more to discover about the city!
For instance—and contrary to what pop culture would have us believe—you’ll actually find a non-Mormon majority living in this pocket of the Beehive State. Fun fact: Did you know the state got its nickname from the amount of honey produced each year? As it turns out, Utah is one of the nation’s leading honey manufacturers, with thousands of pounds packaged each year.
Salt Lake City locals can typically be spotted enjoying the nearby ski areas, taking in some live music, or relaxing at one of the city’s local pubs. Yup, you read that correctly. Even though Mormons don’t drink alcohol, Salt Lake has a total of 118 bars, including 12 local distilleries. These establishments sell everything from top-shelf liquors to local brews, so don’t worry about being limited to those 3.2 beers folks often associate with the city!
Apart from its nightlife, SLC offers amazing architecture, parks, museums, and gardens. Be sure to check out our list of the best things to do in Salt Lake City for more information on the local attractions.
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Best Things to do in Salt Lake City
From national monuments to kid-friendly museums, Salt Lake City is full of things to see and explore. Keep reading to learn more about what the Salt Lake Valley has to offer.
Visit the National History Museum
Utah’s National History Museum is conveniently located in the foothills above Salt Lake City. There, you’ll find over 500 historical objects distributed across three stories.
The museum is also home to an advanced research and collection facility that houses an additional 1.5 million items. This area provides training opportunities for scientists overseeing the care and curation of the full collection.
And parents, you’re in luck. The Natural History Museum also offers birthday party packages, summer camps, nature walks, and workshops for kids. You can even download a few ready-to-go science activities to do at home.
Address: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
Go to the Great Salt Lake
Did you know that the Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere? The attraction comes complete with turquoise waters, white-sand beaches, and a wide range of recreational opportunities.
Some of the most popular things to do include fishing, sailing, kayaking, and swimming. The salinity of the water averages about 12 percent, making it especially buoyant so people can easily float.
Today, the lake touches 10,000 miles of shoreline, but that’s just a fraction of what it covered in the past. The Great Salt Lake is actually a remnant of the prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which spanned over 20,000 square miles of land anywhere from 10,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Guided tours offer interesting insights into legends surrounding the area, from early explorers who thought the area was an extension of the Pacific Ocean to indigenous settlers who believed the lake was inhabited by a terrible monster!
Address: 13312 West 1075 South Magna, UT 84044
Explore Antelope Island
If you’re already in the area, then it’s worth making the trip to Antelope Island State Park. The area offers even more beautiful beaches and boating opportunities. Plus, there is tons of wildlife to enjoy.
The 28,000-acre island is home to upwards of 700 bison. The herd originated from just 12 animals that were brought there in 1893. The island also contains pronghorn antelope, bobcats, badgers, and birds of prey like owls, hawks, and falcons.
Apart from the wildlife, the area contains an impressive geological history, with canyons full of metamorphic rocks dating back to 1.7 billion years old. Tintic Quartzite can also be found on the northern part of Antelope Island.
Address: 4528 West 1700 South Syracuse, UT
See the Bonneville Salt Flats
A trip to Great Salt Lake Park also calls for a stop-in at one of Utah’s most popular tourist attractions, the Bonneville Salt Flats. The flats, formed at the end of the last Ice Age, stretch over 30,000 acres. Excavations prove that humans began inhabiting the area some 10,300 years ago.
Today, the flats are considered an area of critical environmental concern so all visitors must do their part to preserve them. Stay within the designated areas and off the salt crust to prevent breakage.
Be warned—temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, so plan your visit accordingly.
Address: I-80 W, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
Explore Temple Square
Temple Square not only serves as a center of worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it also provides a significant contribution to Salt Lake City’s downtown.
The square encompasses five city blocks, full of historic sites and exhibitions. Built back in 1893, the Temple Block remains the primary reference point for the city. Brigham Young even labeled the streets according to their distance and direction from the structure.
This is also where the world-famous tabernacle choir performs. Visitors can enjoy listening to the 360 members throughout the year—choir rehearsals are also open to the public. Audiences are invited to listen to the choir for free every Thursday starting at 7:30 p.m.
Address: 50 N. West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah
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The Salt Lake Trolley Tours
The Salt Lake Trolley Tours remain one of the most popular ways to explore the city. The 90-minute excursions are actually framed as “show tours,” led by theatrical performers. The entertainers will walk you through Salt Lake City history and introduce you to some iconic mountain views.
Address: Pick up at Radisson Downtown Salt Lake City Hotel
Visit the Wasatch Mountain Range
The Wasatch Mountain Range was formed between 12 and 17 million years ago. Today, the destination stretches 160 miles from the northern border with Idaho to Central Utah. In total, the range is made up of seven canyons that feed into the Salt Lake Valley.
This includes Big Cottonwood Canyon, a 15-mile stretch that contains some of the most famous ski resorts in the area. It’s also a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, camping, and climbing.
Address: 6572 S Big Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, Utah
See Liberty Park
If you’re looking to spend some time outside during your trip to Salt Lake City, be sure to hit up Liberty Park. Hailed as the oldest and second-largest city park, the area originally served as a grist mill and farm. The 110-acre stretch was acquired by Brigham Young in 1860 and later left to the city to be enjoyed publicly.
Today, the park contains shade trees, gardens, lakes, playgrounds, and tennis courts. Concessions and other amenities are also available to visitors.
Address: 600 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Visit the Utah State Capitol Building
The Utah State Capitol Building is located right in the heart of Salt Lake City. The building has served as one of Utah’s most iconic landmarks for over a century. Each year, thousands of tourists flock to Capitol Hill to explore the grounds, which include 433 Yoshino Cherry trees, which were a gift from Japan as a symbol of friendship after WWII.
Back in 2004, it underwent one of the largest historical preservation projects in the United States. Today, the building contains an expansive gallery featuring rotating exhibits on Utah’s history and heritage.
Address: 350 North State Street, 120 State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114
Enjoy the Red Butte Garden
Welcome to one of the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West! The Red Butte Garden also serves as the State Arboretum of Utah. Spanning over 100 acres, the grounds contain over 524,000 springtime blooming bulbs and five miles of hiking trails.
The organization also offers an event space, a world-class outdoor concert series, and award-winning horticulture-based educational programs.
Address: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT
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Spend Some Time in Memory Grove Park
Memory Grove Park is a great place to honor our nation’s veterans. The park contains several memorials and monuments to honor fallen American soldiers. These structures include the Pagoda, made of marble and consisting of eight columns to support the circular entablature, a footbridge, a granite bench, and a meditation chapel.
The area also provides picnic tables, places to walk and run, as well as a designed off-leash dog area.
Address: 300 North Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, UT
Explore the Pioneer Memorial Museum
The Pioneer Memorial Museum is maintained by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers Society. Here, you’ll find the largest collection of artifacts from the time the earliest settlers entered the Salt Lake Valley. We’re talking crystal salters, sewing machines, paintings, guns, quilts, and furniture.
Perhaps more notable, the museum also includes an exhibit dedicated to Victorian hair art (yes, it’s a thing), in the form of wreaths and jewelry. Surprisingly, the practice was pretty commonplace during the late 1800s. These pieces were made using hair from individuals both living and deceased and were commonly featured in stores and women’s magazines.
Address: 300 N. Main St. Salt Lake City, UT
Soak Up The the International Peace Gardens
The International Peace Gardens were first conceived back in 1939 to celebrate cultural diversity among different nations. Today, the project remains under the direction of the Salt Lake Council of Women and represents 26 countries around the world.
Each garden is populated with plants native to the country it represents. For instance, the Swiss garden houses a field of Alpine Edelweiss, while the Chinese garden contains the country’s signature magnolia trees. Visitors will also encounter Swedish lilacs, unique English varieties, thousands of colors of Dutch tulips, and famous Cedars from Lebanon.
Address: Jordan Park, 1000 South 900 West, Salt Lake City, Utah
See Sugar House Park
Sugar House Park covers over 110 acres of lush, green space in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City. Today, the park is celebrated as a crown jewel among regional parks in the greater Valley, providing tons of attractions for public use. That list includes soccer and baseball fields, a basketball court, two playgrounds, and a small amphitheater. There are also plenty of designated areas for walkers, runners, and bicyclists.
In the past, however, the area was home to a slightly less welcoming structure. For nearly a century, the lands were occupied by the Utah State Prison. It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that state officials made plans to move the facility to a new site.
Address: 1330 E 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT
Have a Drink at the Fisher Brewing Company
We told you there were some great places to drink in Salt Lake City, and the Fisher Brewing Company is definitely one of them. It also accounts for one of the oldest and largest breweries in Utah.
Originally founded in 1884 by a German immigrant named Albert Fisher, the brewery managed to survive prohibition, only to close down in 1967. But 50 years later, Fisher’s great-great-grandson decided to resurrect his family’s legacy. After almost five years of planning, he reopened the historic brand alongside three new partners at a new location.
Today, Fisher Brewing produces more than 100 unique beers per year. Though the brewery serves a range of experimental ales and lagers, it is best known for its American-style Fisher lager, also known as Fisher beer. The drink is always available in the tap room, so don’t forget to request a tasting!
Address: 320 W 800 S, Salt Lake City, UT
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Go to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building
The Joseph Smith Memorial Building primarily serves as a meeting space and event center for members of the Mormon Church. However, the ten-story structure was originally constructed with a different purpose in mind.
The building was built back in 1911 to create a world-class hotel for Salt Lake City. The Beaux-Arts Hotel operated for more than 75 years and received a number of notable guests, from presidents and scholars to leaders in arts, sports, and entertainment.
In 1993, the Church of Latter-day Saints reopened the building for different purposes, though the organization maintained most of the original architecture. Today, the building’s original open staircases, stained glass windows, and artistic columns remain standing.
Address: 15 E South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah
LGBTQ Salt Lake City
We know—this one might come as a surprise. But despite the city’s strong connection to the Mormon Church, Salt Lake is home to a growing community of individuals who celebrate more liberal traditions.
Back in 2012, Advocate Magazine actually ranked the metropolis as the gayest city in America. The title was determined based on multiple factors, including the number of LGBT bookstores and nude yoga classes the city has to offer.
The city offers a range of nightclubs and bars that cater to the LGBTQ community as well. Salt Lake is also a popular destination for speakers and performers looking to expand the dialogue surrounding minority populations.
Visit Utah Olympic Park
The decision to build the Utah Olympic Park was made after the city was selected to host the 2002 XIX Olympic Winter Games along with the VIII Paralympic Winter Games. They city hosted 2,500 Olympians representing 77 nations in Salt Lake for the event.
After the athletes left the city, a decision was made to open the venue to the greater community. Today, the 400-acre park houses one of only four sliding tracks in North America, a 2022 Winter Games Museum, and tons of other adventure activities. Locals can also visit the park to watch ski performances, bike races, biathlons, and more.
Address: 3419 Olympic Parkway, PO Box 980337, Park City, Utah
Do Some Shopping at City Creek Center
No vacation would be complete without the opportunity to bring home a few good souvenirs. City Creek Center offers some of the best shopping in Salt Lake, from luxury brands to more local merchandise.
The center also contains over 25 places to eat, drink, and kick back. The list includes family restaurants along with more high-scale dining facilities. Parents will also be relieved to hear that the center hosts tons of events for kids throughout the year. Think weekly fish feeding activities at the trout pond to choreographed fountain shows in Richards Court.
Address: 50 South Main Street, Salt Lake City UT
Explore Emigration Canyon
Not only does Emigration Canyon boast some of the most impressive landscapes within the Salt Lake Valley, but it also contains a lot of history—and some strange stories. Canyon residents Jeffrey Carlstrom and Cynthia Furse even wrote a book detailing the most interesting tales to come out of Emigration Canyon, like how it almost became home to a “Summer Whitehouse” Presidential retreat and contributed to the demise of the Donner-Reed Party.
Additionally, the canyon contains some of the city’s most popular attractions and hiking trails.
Address: 4263 E Emigration Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT
See Some Animals at Utah’s Hogle Zoo
Of course, we can’t talk about Emigration Canyon without introducing Utah’s Hogle Zoo. The attraction contains over 800 animals from around the world. It also participates in global conservation to protect endangered wildlife.
Kids can enjoy daily educational programs, animal encounters, a carousel, and a splash zone to cool off in. Once you’re done, you can head over to any one of the on-site dining facilities to recharge.
Address: 2600 Sunnyside Avenue (840 South), Salt Lake City, UT
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Go to This Is the Place Heritage Park
Also located in Emigration Canyon is This Is the Place Heritage Park. The area is home to more than 50 historic homes and buildings, each brought to life with help of historic interpreters. While there, you should also visit the This is the Place Monument, which marks the end of the 1,300-mile Mormon Trail. The area also contains a petting farm, a Native American village, and other hands-on experiences.
Address: 2601 East Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City, UT
Visit the Gilgal Sculpture Garden
If you’re into visionary art, then you should definitely plan a visit to the Gilgal Sculpture Garden in Salt Lake City. Construction on the garden first began back in 1957 by a man named Thomas Child. By trade, he was a masonry contractor, though he also served as a community leader and bishop of the LDS Tenth Ward. Child traveled around the state collecting materials for the garden—some of which weighed upwards of 62 tons!
Though Child passed away in 1963, his legacy remained protected by private owners. Eventually, the Friends of Gilgal Garden (FOGG) was organized to prevent development on the site and ensure its preservation for public enjoyment.
Today, the garden contains 12 original sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and literary texts. The attraction is considered the only one of its kind in greater Utah and is open to the public seven days a week, free of charge.
Address: 749 East 500 South in Salt Lake City, UT
Walk Around Marmalade Hill Historic District
The Marmalade Hill Historic District was named for the number of fruit-bearing plants and trees imported and planted there by its early residents. The neighborhood stands out from other areas in the city thanks to its steep, narrow, and angular streets, which contain names like Apricot, Almond, and Quince. Earlier this year, it was also named one of Salt Lake City’s “coolest gayborhoods.“
It also boasts some of the best examples of Utah’s early architecture, including the John Platts House, the Thomas Quayle House, and the Reverend John D. Nutting House. These buildings range from Carpenter-Gothic to Italianate-style, marking a significant departure from the more uniform LDS meetinghouse architecture.
Address: Between Quince Street W and Columbus Street E
Spend Some Time at the Family History Library
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City is dedicated to helping visitors discover their family’s history through its world-renowned collection of books, films, images, and documents.
Today, the organization is managed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mission was originally crafted by the Genealogical Society of Utah back in 1894. Fast forward to 2013, and the library has collected over 1 billion records. It also maintains a database of users from over 230 countries.
Visit the official site for in-home and online activities to learn more about your heritage and your connection to those around you.
Address: 35 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, Utah
The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art contains a number of rotating exhibits featuring modern artists. The institution is a six-time recipient of funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and a two-time recipient of the Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The UMOCA also offers tours of the museum and hands-on art-making activities for students K-12. Other community projects include Family Art Saturday and its week-long Artist-in-Training programs. Stroller tours are also available to families traveling with young kids.
Address: 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT
Visit Wheeler Historic Farm
The Wheeler Historic Farm offers locals and tourists alike over 75 acres of natural landscapes, trails, and wooded areas to explore. The farm has been lived on and harvested since the mid-1800s.
Visitors are welcome to walk, run, or bike around, visit the animals, or simply lounge around the grounds. Other popular attractions include a pavilion and playground fort. The farm also hosts a weekly market every Sunday, where local venues can sell handmade foods, goods, and art.
Address: 6351 South 900 East, Murray, UT
Hike Ensign Peak
Ensign Peak offers one of the best hiking trails in Salt Lake City. Just over a mile-long round trip, the trail provides a great way for families to explore the area together. You can find the trailhead at the top of a residential area above the Utah capitol building.
Many hikers head up the trail during sunset with a few picnic items in hand. During the warmer months, it’s better to get started later in the day. Temperatures often exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Salt Lake City during peak hours.
Address: Ensign Peak Trail, Salt Lake City, UT
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That about sums up our list of Salt Lake City attractions! Whether you’re traveling in spring, summer, fall, or winter, you’re sure to enjoy a full itinerary when exploring the city.
A recent boom in diversity also makes it a great spot for different types of tourists. Salt Lake City has tons of attractions to appeal to singles, couples, and families traveling around.
If you’re looking for more travel recommendations, be sure to check back with us soon. Travelicious, supported by Best Life, is committed to helping you find your next adventure. Sign up for our newsletter for expert-backed tips for navigating our favorite U.S. destinations!
Is Salt Lake City a good place to visit if you are not a Mormon?
There are lots of fun things for non-Mormons to enjoy in Salt Lake City. Not only does the city provide a variety of nightlife options, but there are also tons of secular attractions to enjoy, including museums, gardens, and historic architecture. Salt Lake City is also home to some tremendous landscapes, so outdoor enthusiasts will have plenty of places to occupy their time.
What is the best thing about Salt Lake City?
While different people will gravitate to different parts of the city, many agree that the best part of Salt Lake is the scenic landscapes and opportunities for outdoor adventures. The city also provides access to some of the most sought-after skiing destinations in the world. During the summer months, these locations open up for hiking, mountain biking, and camping.
Are there free things to do in Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City offers many things to do that don’t cost a thing. Some of the city’s most famous architectural landmarks, like Temple Square, the Family History Library, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building offer free tours. Other attractions, like the Utah Contemporary Museum of Modern Art, are also open to the public, and only request a suggested donation. The city is also home to tons of outdoor areas, parks, and gardens that do not charge an entrance fee.
What should I do in Salt Lake City in winter?
Salt Lake City is one of the most popular winter destinations in the country. Every year, tourists from around the world flock to the city’s world-class ski resorts such as Alta Ski Area, Deer Valley Resort, and Brighton Ski Resort. These facilities also offer opportunities for snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and snow tubing. They also happen to contain some of the best dining facilities in the state.