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The 20 Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City for First Timers

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City in Utah is known for several things. First, it is known for its beautiful natural landscapes, which include mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys. Second, it is known for being the founding city and headquarters of the Mormon faith, as the city was founded by the same man who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This interesting city is a fantastic destination to visit with plenty of things for people to see and do, regardless of their age or interests. The problem that many visitors have is deciding which of the activities and attractions they should include in their itinerary, especially if they are only in the area for a short period. To help you decide what you should do while you are in this fascinating city, the following are the 20 best things to do in Salt Lake City for first-timers.

20. Utah Museum of Fine Arts

US News names the Utah Museum of Fine Arts as one of the top attractions in Salt Lake City for art enthusiasts. This is a nice activity to fill one or two hours on a rainy day during your visit. It is filled with a wonderful collection of fine art created by famous artists and local painters.

19. Clark Planetarium

When people think of planetariums, they often image a darkened theater room with images of stars on the ceiling. Clark Planetarium is so much more than this as there are lots of interactive activities and things that will keep people of all ages entertained. There are exhibits relating to Earth, near-Earth, and far beyond. Visitors have the chance to make a volcano, step inside a tornado, see one of the largest moon rocks and view the 6-foot Rand McNally Earth Globe. They can then visit the Lunar Lander exhibition, which is where they will learn more about the forces of gravity, inertia, and acceleration. There is also an IMAX theater that puts on interesting and educational films. Former visitors are impressed with the high-tech elements of this attraction.

18. Hogle Zoo

For those who are visiting Salt Lake City as a family, one of the top family attractions in the city is Hogle Zoo as this is both fun and educational. Just some of the species that call this zoo home are giraffes, rhinos, gorillas, lions, elephants ostrich, and zebras. There is a Safari Express train that will take you on a quick tour of the zoo, although you will get a better experience if you walk and visit each of the areas and exhibits individually. Hogle Zoo also has some other attractions on its site, such as a splash pad and a carousel.

17. Utina-Wasatch-Cache National Forest

If you want to spend time outdoors during your time in Salt Lake City, then a visit to Utina-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is essential. You should set aside at least one full day to enjoy this expansive park, as it covers 2.1 million acres and there is a lot to explore. It is one of the most popular spots for hiking, camping, and biking in Utah. During your visit, you will see a diverse range of landscapes, including rocky mountainsides to vast fields. It is recommended that you wear sturdy walking boots, and don’t forget to bring along your camera to capture some of the beautiful scenery.

16. Big Cottonwood Canyon

Utah is known for its beautiful natural landscapes, and one element of this is Big Cottonwood Canyon. This is a popular destination for hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Therefore, it is the ideal place to visit for outdoor enthusiasts. It is also considered a scenic driving spot if you prefer to admire the natural beauty of the area from the comfort and warmth of your car.

15. Salt Lake Temple

One of the most iconic structures in Salt Lake City is Salt Lake Temple, as this stands out from every other building on the city skyline. It is an impressive six-spire structure that towers 210 feet over the square. Only members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are allowed to enter the temple, but it is still worth visiting to admire the architecture and to tour the grounds.

14. Liberty Park

For a relaxing day away from the hustle and bustle of the city and requiring less effort than the outdoor activity parks, you should spend a few hours at Liberty Park. This park covers 80 acres, ad consists of lawns, picnic areas, playgrounds, tennis courts, and concession stands. It is a nice spot to take a stroll, play with the children, enjoy a picnic, or simply relax in the tranquil surroundings.

13. Utah Wine and Beer Tours

Utah is one of the states that is well known for its high-quality wine production and the production of craft beers. An enjoyable activity during a visit to Salt Lake City is a tour of the wineries, breweries, and distilleries. There are many wine or beer tours available, each of which has something different to offer. During most tours, you will have the chance to try the products after learning about the production process. Some of the tours also include a meal.

12. Sundance Mountain Resort

Nestled in the foothills of Mount Timpanogos, Sundance Mountain Resort is a family-friendly destination. Although skiing is the main activity at this Robert Redford owned resort, there are plenty more winter activities to enjoy. Furthermore, it is just as much fun in the summer as the activities that families can enjoy in the warmer months include fishing, horseback riding, hiking, owling, biking, and art classes. No matter what time of year you visit, you will spend time in stunning surroundings. There is lodge accommodation available at this resort, so it is worth considering booking a stay if you plan to enjoy lots of outdoor activities during your visit to the area.

11. Grandeur Peak

From an elevated position, Salt Lake City and the surrounding area is a stunning sight. For one of the best vantage points, you should climb Grandeur Peak. You can then enjoy spectacular views across the city. If you start at Church Fork Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon, there is a three-mile hike to the summit. The total distance for the loop trail is 6.5 miles. The path goes through a lush forest and follows a pretty stream.

10. Timpanogos Cave Tour

Located in American Fork Canyon, Timpanogos Cave is a National Monument that is made up of the Hansen, Middle, and Timpanogos caverns. You can take a guided tour of this stunning cave system, which has a 1.5-mile paved trail. The path has an elevation of 1,100 feet, and as you climb through the underground passageways, your tour guide will explain the science behind the fascinating formations.

9. Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum

If you are visiting Salt Lake City with children, then one of the top attractions to include in your vacation itinerary is the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. This is divided into sections covering different topics, and the focus is on making learning fun for children. With this in mind, most of the exhibits at this museum have interactive elements so that children can get involved and learn through play.

8. Visit the Bonneville Salt Flats

One of the most unique landscapes in the world, the Bonneville Salt Flats consists of a hard, white salt crust that stretches for as far as the eye can see. It is a fascinating sight and one that you will not see anywhere else in the world. Since the mid-1980s, this area has been a designated area of Critical Environmental Concern. It is the only salt pan in the United States and one of just a handful anywhere in the world.

7. Go to the Family History Library

If you have ever wanted to learn more about your family’s history, then a visit to Salt Lake City is the time to learn more. The Family History Library has been open since 1894 and it has the largest on-site collection of genealogical data in the world. It is open to the public for free and the helpful staff will show you the best ways to find out the information you are seeking.

6. Admire Red Butte Garden

One of the prettiest places to visit in Salt Lake City is Red Butte Garden. This is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West as it covers 21 acres of land that have been developed into stunning gardens. There are also five miles of hiking trails around the gardens. Something that this attraction offers is a range of educational programs. There are also art exhibitions and various events hosted throughout the year.

5. Have a Retro Experience at Redwood Drive-In Movie Theater

Something a little different to do during your time in Salt Lake City is to visit Redwood Drive-In Movie Theater, which has a 1950s vibe. The outdoor screen shows double features for less than the price of watching one movie, it is a budget-friendly option for evening entertainment. It is important to make sure you are there early to get a good viewing spot and to buy your popcorn before the film starts.

4. Visit the Natural History Museum of Utah

Although there are many museums in Salt Lake City, US News recommends a visit to the Natural History Museum of Utah. This is an interesting place to learn about the formation of the lakes and mountains in the reason. The displays are divided into sections, such as botany, zoology, mineralogy, entomology, and anthropology. A trip to this museum is something that all the family can enjoy, as the interactive elements of the exhibits will keep the children entertained.

3. Go to Temple Square

Temple Square is a central hub in Salt Lake City, so it makes sense that you should spend some time there during your visit. It is a 35-acre plaza, and it is where you will find more than 20 attractions that relate to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Therefore, it is an interesting place to visit if you want to learn more about the history and culture of the city. Some of the structures you will see include Salt Lake temple, the Gothic-style Assembly Hall, the Family History Library, and the tabernacle. The square also has many scenic gardens and interesting fountains, so it is a pretty spot despite the urban setting. There are guided tours available of the square, and this is one of the best ways for visitors who have never been to the area before to learn about the city.

2. Enjoy the Beauty of the Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City sits by the Great Salt Lake, after which the city is named. This is the most stunning natural feature of the city, and it is also a fantastic resource for activities. The lake is surrounded by hiking trails from which you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings and see the wildlife. The Great Salt Lake is also a great place for fishing and sailing. If you head to the Great Salt Lake Marina, you can hire boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and more.

1. Have Fun on the Slopes of Utah Olympic Park

According to Time Out, one of the top attractions to visit in Salt Lake City is Utah Olympic Park. Many people who visit Utah do so to enjoy the winter sports scene, and this is a top destination. The park was built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games that were held in Salt Lake City. There are lots of different activities to enjoy, including rock climbing, rope courses, bobsledding, skiing, and extreme tubing. Regardless of age or ability, there is something fun to try at Utah Olympic Park.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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