Discover the Wonders of Utah on Your Next Family Vacation

Terri Marshall Avatar

Utah vacations for families include a view of Arches National Park.
Arches National Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Tasked with planning your next family vacation? If you have outdoor adventure seekers in the family, Utah should rank at the top of your list. This stunningly beautiful state reveals jaw-dropping vistas at every turn. Whether your family wants to ski, hike or chase dinosaur relics, there’s something for everyone in this gem of a state. And if a road trip filled with scenic drives is your goal, Utah delivers in abundance. Here are the top ideas for Utah vacations for families.

Utah vacations for families include a look at the Welcome to Utah sign.
Welcome to Utah! Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Northern Utah vs. Southern Utah

With beckoning mountain ranges,  northern Utah attracts skiers, snowboarders and snowshoe enthusiasts in winter months. Year round, it’s a mecca for backpackers, hikers and mountain bikers. Meanwhile southern Utah boasts five national parks with a seemingly endless array of rock formations, dazzling sunrises and sunsets and enchanting night skies. Hiking, mountain biking and ATV-ing are also enjoyed in southern Utah.

Every corner of the state harbors a fascinating history of dinosaurs, Native Americans and pilgrims. No matter which portion of Utah you choose to explore, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly activities to keep everyone happy. Here’s a sample of adventures awaiting your family in Utah.

1. Exploring the Capitol of Utah

If you fly into Utah, you’ll likely arrive in Salt Lake City, the state’s capital. Notable architecture here includes the Utah State Capitol – an impressive marble building topped with a domed rotunda. If you choose to venture in, self-guided and free guided tours are an option. For the kiddos, pull the scavenger hunt bingo cards from the Capitol’s website and make the tour into a game.

Utah vacations for families should include Antelope Island State Park.
Antelope Island Entrance Photo credit: Shutterstock

2. An Island in the Great Salt Lake

Located just northwest of Salt Lake City, lies the Great Salt Lake which is home to 10 islands. The largest of these is Antelope Island State Park. The park offers family-friendly hiking trails that lead to overlooks where it’s not uncommon to spot antelope, bighorn sheep, bison and deer. Linger after sunset until the stars come out because Antelope Island is a designated International Dark Sky Park, and you don’t want to miss the night sky show!

3. Travel from Earth to Space and Beyond at the Clark Planetarium

With so many otherworldly landscapes, Utah’s the ideal place for a planetarium. In Salt Lake City, the Clark Planetarium houses three floors of interactive exhibits about the earth, space and beyond. The kiddos will enjoy the opportunity to pilot a Mars Rover simulator. All exhibits are free. Tickets are required for the IMAX Theatre shows and the Hansen Dome. It’s one of the best things to do in Utah with kids.

4. Spend a Day at the Lagoon

If amusement parks rank among your family’s favorite vacation spots, schedule a day at the Lagoon in Farmington, Utah, just 15 miles north of Salt Lake City. Home to one of a few remaining wooden roller coasters still in operation, the amusement park also features a Ferris wheel, a water park and newer attractions like Cannibal and Red Rock Rally to entertain kids of all ages.

5. Deer Valley Ski Resort

It should come as no surprise that Utah is home to one the country’s top-notch skiing facilities. Just a short drive from Salt Lake City, Deer Valley Ski Resort is known for ideal ski conditions spreading over 2,000 acres of varied terrain and ski runs. Paradise for outdoor adventurers, Deer Valley offers snowshoeing, dog sledding, Nordic skiing and snowmobiling during the winter season. Ski rentals are available, as are ski lessons should you need them.

In warmer months, rafting, kayaking, fly fishing, trap shooting and hiking keep adventure seekers busy. And for mountain biking, Deer Valley is a dream, with 70 miles of trails accessible by chair lift. 

Stay where you play with vacation rentals at the Deer Valley Ski Resort. Choose from a variety of accommodations with all the amenities you need for your family vacation.

Utah vacations for families include Main Street in Park City.
Park City Main Street Photo credit: Shutterstock

6. Park City Main Street Historic District

The former basecamp of a silver mining town, Park City’s Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nestled within the surrounding mountains, this charming town provides a variety of boutiques and restaurants popular with locals and visitors alike.

7. Adventures in Park City

Beyond the charming Park City Main Street, you’ll find more adventures for thrill seekers. One of those claims the title of Utah’s largest Alpine Coaster. An elevated track winds through more than a mile of loops, curves and hairpin curves at speeds up to 30 mph. Think of it as a roller coaster with a stellar mountain view!

For more thrills try the Flying Eagle Zip Line that takes you 100 feet above the ski runs of Park City Mountain providing a stunning view of the city below. The speed of this 2-person ride reaches up to 45 mph for a true adrenaline rush.

Another favorite Park City attraction, the Utah Olympic Park was the former site of the Winter Olympic Games in 2002. The park offers a range of summer and winter activities including rope courses and a bobsled track as well as a Discovery Zone play area. A free museum displays exhibits about the event that took place here 20 years ago, as well as sports included in the Winter Olympics.

8. Sample Ice Cream in Provo

Who goes to college for ice cream? Anyone passing through Provo – the home of Brigham Young University. Make your way on campus for a stop at the BYU Creamery on Ninth. The Creamery sells over 35 flavors of ice cream along with grilled burgers and sandwiches. Made from Brigham Young University’s own dairy cows, the ice cream is available in sizes starting from a single scoop to a whooping 3-gallon bucket!

Aerial view of Canyonlands National Park, a top Utah vacation idea for families
Canyonlands National Park. Photo credit: Shutterstock

9. A Land of Water and Rocks

Southern Utah provides a wealth of family activities and many of those start with the state’s five national parks. In Arches National Park, red sandstone arches earn the park its name and rock formations resemble a variety of animals, kings and all manner of unusual shapes. Stretch your legs and help the kiddos burn off excess energy with the 3-mile round trip  hike to Delicate Arch. The park’s largest freestanding arch stretches 64 feet high and 45 feet wide. And it appears on every postcard of Arches National Park.

Nearby, the Colorado River carved out what we now know as Canyonlands National Park. Easy family-friendly hikes here include the Grandview Overlook – a 2-mile trail that leads hikers along the rim of Grandview to views of Island in the Sky – a flat-topped mesa with panoramic overlooks. In the Needles, towering rock pinnacles take the stage.

Hikes in Capitol Reef National Park reveal a unique blend of human history and nature. The Hickman Bridge Trail is one of the most popular in the park. This relatively easy 1.7-mile roundtrip trail offers stunning views as you meander along the Fremont River looping back to Hickman Bridge. With a 133-foot span, this natural bridge hovers above the hiking trail.

10. Hoodoos, Epic Summits and Slot Canyons

Towering sandstone hoodoos dominate the terrain in Bryce Canyon National Park. These red rock marvels are gorgeous in any light but catch a glimpse at sunrise or sunset and you’ll secure a memory for life. Not up for a hike? Travel along the park’s Southern Scenic Drive, which spans 18 miles from the park entrance in the north to the end of the road at Rainbows at Yovimpa Point. Linger after dark for a possible glimpse of the Milky Way in this Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park.

Further south, Zion National Park attracts a variety of outdoor adventurers from curious hikers to daredevils. Established on November 19, 1919, Zion National Park contains epic summits, slot canyons and dazzling overlooks. Check out the park’s scenic roads, challenging hiking trails and jaw-dropping vistas at every viewpoint and you’ll soon understand why millions flock to Utah’s first National Park.

Utah vacations for families can include hiking in Snow Canyon State Park
Hiking Snow Canyon State Park. Photo credit: Gregory Holder

11. Snow Canyon State Park

In southern Utah. the unique formations and breathtaking landscapes at Snow Canyon State Park rival those of national parks. Red and white Navajo sandstone cliffs and dunes provide a perfect backdrop for adventure. Hikers have plenty of hiking trails to choose from including kid-friendly trails. Don’t miss the petrified sand dunes trail!

Utah vacations for families should include the views in Monument Valley.
Monument Valley. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

12. Monument Valley

A Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley straddles the border of northern Arizona and southern Utah. Surrounded by a captivating desert landscape dotted with monumental rock formations, Monument Valley tours – led by members of the tribe – highlight the beauty of the landscape while sharing stories of the Navajo nation.

13. Whitewater Rafting on the Colorado River

For a family-friendly water adventure, consider a whitewater rafting half-day trip on the Daily section of the Colorado River. Gentle rapids make this outing fun for everyone. Kids must be 40 pounds or heavier to go on area river trips. Moab has a number of river rafting companies offering trips, so you can stop by their offices in town or do research online to find the company that best meets your needs.

14. Mountain Biking at Dead Horse Point State Park

Known for excellent mountain biking, the family-friendly Intrepid Trail System at Dead Horse Point State Park, 32 miles from Moab serves up three loops to explore. From the easy 1.1-mile Intrepid Trail loop to the harder 4.2-mile Great Pyramid Trail loop and finally the most challenging Big Chief Trail that brings you on a 9-mile loop ride, there’s something for everyone to try.

15. Chasing Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs always capture the attention of the kiddos. At Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park there are hundreds of dinosaur sculptures. Check out the modern robotics technology and artificial intelligence to experience dinosaurs as living creatures.

Within the walls of the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site, you’ll encounter remnants of 200-million-year-old dinosaur footprints. A boardwalk extends over the original slab stones containing the Jurassic footprints.

Also In St. George, the family-friendly St George Dinosaur park highlights prehistoric tracks and life-size models of the dinosaurs who made them. The museum houses other fossils and replicas and includes a working fossil preparation lab.

Read More: 18 Best Dinosaur Museums in the US

With so many outdoor activities and natural wonders to discover, your family vacation in Utah will undoubtedly leave you with lifetime memories! Learn more at www.visitutah.com

Terri Marshall Avatar
Based in New York City, Terri Marshall is an award-winning writer covering cultural travel, multi-generational travel, road trips, soft-adventure, camping, cars and characters. From hanging out with penguins in Antarctica to fishing for piranhas in Peru to road-tripping through the jungles of Belize, Terri’s always up for an adventure. Drop her into a landscape filled with mountains, towering evergreens, waterfalls and a glacier or two and she’ll be in heaven. But what thrills her most of all is traveling with her teenage grandkids. Terri serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA). She also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Eastern Chapter for the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Terri’s publication credits include AARP, Island Soul, Girl Camper Magazine, A Girls Guide to Cars, CHILLED, World Footprints, North Hills Monthly, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Contractor and more. Follow her on Instagram at TrippingWithTerri.
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