13 Best Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah

things to do in salt lake city
Salt lake City offers families many free things to do. Photo credit: David Mark/Pixabay

Utah is home to Zion National Park and many visitors fly into the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) and get on their way without spending time in this charming city. Plan to spend a few days exploring its urban charms. Downtown Salt Lake is safe, walkable, and, in my opinion, one of the cleanest metropolitan areas in the United States. Enjoy historic sites, museums, an eclectic dining scene, art galleries, and upscale shopping. In warmer months, sip coffee at a sidewalk cafe or visit a farmers market.

The city and its suburbs are located in the Salt Lake Valley and are surrounded by mountains in almost every direction. No visit to this city is complete without venturing into its namesake Salt Lake. It is the perfect destination for a romantic weekend or a fun getaway with your favorite gal pals. Here are the top things to do.

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Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - The massive staircase leading up to the Utah State Capitol building.
Utah State Capitol. Photo credit: Peggy Cleveland

1. Tour the Utah State Capitol Grounds

Head out to the Utah State Capitol, Memory Grove Park and City Creek Canyon; park your car once to visit all three sites. The Capitol grounds were beautifully landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, sons of famous American landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted. There are interpretive exhibits throughout the grounds making it easy to take a self-guided tour.

2. Memory Grove Park

Just down the stairs of the capitol is the lovely Memory Grove Park with 8.7 acres of a lush oasis filled with trees. The park is filled with monuments and memorials including the Pagoda, the first memorial. The classical structure is built from marble that came from the same Vermont quarry that provided marble for the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C.

3. Explore City Creek Canyon

For those who prefer longer hikes, you can access City Creek Canyon for a 6.5-mile trail through an urban wilderness. Biking is a popular activity on the paved road that runs the length of the canyon and is mostly car-free. The road is divided into two sections with one side for foot traffic and the other for cyclists. City Creek Canyon was set aside as a nature preserve in the early days of the city and is now a protected watershed.

Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - Statue of an Antelope with the Great Salt Lake in the background.
Statue at Antelope Island State Park. Photo credit: Peggy Cleveland

4. Antelope Island State Park

One of the best places to visit in Salt Lake is Antelope Island State Park. To get to the park you drive over a narrow causeway for your first views of the lake. It is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. Allow plenty of time to explore as the island is extensive and there is so much to see and do.

Start at the visitors center to learn about the history of the island. There are plenty of overlooks and stops to enjoy views of the lake and explore the park’s hiking trails. Keep an eye out for the bison herd, antelope deer, bighorn sheep, and many other species of wildlife. Just take in the solitude of the area. Stop at the Fielding Garr Ranch House, one of the oldest Anglo-built homes in Utah. In warm weather enjoy kayaking on the Great Salt Lake and other water activities. This is truly a must-see when visiting Salt Lake City.

5. Abravanel Hall Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has a vibrant performing arts scene. Plan to attend a Utah Symphony performance or other show at Abravanel Hall. It is known for its acoustic excellence. Guests will be blown away by the stunning interiors with 12,000 square feet of gold leaf adorning the lobby stairs and tiers. The highlight is the four-story glass lobby with the Olympic Tower prominently displayed. Created by Dale Chihuly, a renowned glass artist, it is an incredibly intricate red-blown glass sculpture. Special events happen throughout the year so check the Abravanel Hall website for upcoming events.

Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - Bright white Mormon temple at night.
Temple Square at night. Photo credit. Steve Greenwood

6. Temple Square

One of the most iconic symbols of the Mormon faith is the Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. It was established in 1847 by Brigham Young and belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Taking up five city blocks, the complex consists of the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, and other structures situated on beautifully landscaped grounds. Visitors are welcome and millions visit each year. There is no admission charge and parking is free. Guests may need tickets for performances but there is also no charge. Enjoy a guided tour or take in a performance of the acclaimed Tabernacle Choir.

On an interesting note, the Family History Library operated by FamilySearch is located at Temple Square and is one of the largest genealogical libraries in the world. It is dedicated to connecting families with their generations. It is one of the top tourist destinations in Utah.

7. Hogle Zoo

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a city is to go to the zoo. SLC’s Utah’s Hogle Zoo offers a wide variety of animals from all over the world. New in 2024 is the Aline W. Skaggs Wild Utah exhibit which highlights Utah-native species including cougars, badgers, bobcats, and bighorn sheep. Visitors can learn all about animals that call Utah their home. The zoo offers a VIP Cart Tour Experience two hours before the zoo opens allowing a unique opportunity to see the animals without crowds.

Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - Wooden boardwalk with three women walking on it. Views of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains in the background.
One of the beautiful hikes at Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. Photo credit. Austin Diamond Photography

8. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum

The beautiful Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is on 100 acres on the edge of the University of Utah campus. The property includes an over 21-acre botanical garden and five miles of hiking trails. The garden comes to life in the spring when 560,000 bulbs spring forth in a burst of color. The Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre is the site for a popular summer concert series with live music. The gardens are open year-round.

Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - A waterfall and creek surrounded by rocks in the middle of an outdoor shopping center.
Water feature at the City Creek Center. Photo credit. Peggy Cleveland

9. Shop City Creek Center

The beautiful City Creek Center is one of the most beautiful outdoor shopping centers I have ever visited. Buildings are lined with walkways with a creek flowing through the center ending in a beautiful waterfall. There are also artistic water features throughout the space. Visitors will love the upscale shopping experience. Anchor stores include Nordstrom and Macy’s.

10. Visit Park City

If you have time on your visit, take a day trip to Park City. Just a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake, this charming small town is home to the famous Sundance Film Festival and the site of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The town really shines in the winter. Ski at a world-class ski resort or try the bobsled experience at the Utah Olympic Park. Winter or summer there is plenty to do.

11. Stay At The Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City’s newest hotel is stunning. The Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City is in the heart of downtown, the perfect base to explore the city. Built from the ground up, the hotel offers 700 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows with views of downtown and the Wasatch Mountains.

The amenities are over the top with an infinity pool, a club-level floor, a fitness center, and a rooftop terrace with charming fire pits for seasonal events. The hotel is filled with an eclectic collection of artwork, many by local artists. Make sure to read the interpretive signs at each piece for more information. The hotel is comfortably modern, capturing the urban feel of Salt Lake City while paying homage to the outdoor culture that permeates the area.

Things To Do In Salt Lake City, Utah - Murals and firepits on the rooftop terrace at the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City.
Dine al fresco on the terrace at Mar Muntanya. Photo credit: Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City.

12. Dine At Mar Muntanya

You won’t have to venture far to enjoy one of the best restaurants in the city. Mar Muntanya is the Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City’s signature restaurant. The menu is inspired by the cuisine of Catalonia and the Basque Country in Northern Spain mixed with the culinary traditions of the city. Chefs incorporate the bounty produced by local farmers, growers, and artisans into delectable choices. Diners are encouraged to share tapas-style offerings with your table.

If you are visiting with a group, order the paella. This mixtas-style paella is a foodie delight with saffron bomba rice chock full of Bilbao chorizo, Gulf shrimp, duck confit, Maine mussels, piquillo peppers, peas and lemon. It serves four to six. The team is very knowledgeable about the menu so ask questions about unfamiliar items.

13. Eva’s Bakery Boulangerie

Feel like you are at a sidewalk cafe in Paris at Eva’s Bakery Boulangerie on Main St. It is just a short walk from the hotel. Chef and owner Charlie Perry learned his passion for French cooking from his great-grandmother Eva Coombs. His respect for ingredients and liberal use of real butter translates into delectable pastries, croissants, breads, and other treats. Grab to go at the counter or order off the breakfast or lunch menu to dine inside or outside.

There is so much to see and do in Salt Lake City. I will have to wait until my next visit to check out the Clark Planetarium, the Tracy Aviary at Liberty Park, This is the Place Heritage Park, and the Big Cottonwood Canyon. I also didn’t realize the Bonneville Salt Flats were nearby and so easy to visit. It is a rest area off of I-80.

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