Red Butte FishTom Wharton, Salt Lake Tribune (Nov. 22, 2011)--The opening of the $103 million Museum of Natural History of Utah on Salt Lake City’s northeast bench added another major connection to those who love Utah. Its site on the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville overlooking the Salt Lake Valley and Great Salt Lake provides a physical connection to the world it interprets.

It serves as part of a mosaic called the Foothill Cultural District that allows Utahns to examine their natural, human and artistic connections. (Details on the museums and parks in the district can be found at the end of this story.)

"We feel like one of the primary strengths of the Foothill Cultural District is that it integrates fine arts, pioneer history, military history and natural history," said Linda Hunt, the district’s executive director. "It offers a full range of Utah experiences to visitors from outside and within our state."

Want to learn about natural history?

Walk Red Butte Garden’s hiking trails, or wander through the exhibits of the Natural History Museum or tour Hogle Zoo’s exhibits.

Interested in the Salt Lake Valley’s settlement and human history? Tour the living history exhibits at This Is the Place Heritage Park, the parade grounds and museum at Fort Douglas or the Olympic Cauldron Park on the south side of Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Want to connect to Utah and the world with art? Wander through the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on the University of Utah campus, enjoy a special exhibit at the Marriott Library or experience an outdoor concert at Red Butte’s amphitheater.

Or simply hike or bike along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that connects many of these attractions.

Ann Hannibal, spokeswoman for the Natural History Museum, said that the facility was designed to accommodate the hikers, bikers and dog lovers who use the trail.

The museum’s coffee shop and patio will invite hikers to take a break without having to pay for museum admission. There are restrooms and even a dog water fountain to accommodate those strolling past.

Shawn Stinson, director of communications for Visit Salt Lake, said the openings of the new Leonardo Museum on Library Square and the Museum of Natural History coupled with the 2012 opening of City Creek Center mean Salt Lake City is experiencing a renaissance.

He said the new facilities will further allow his agency to promote and market Salt lake City as a world-class destination. They complement the skiing, dance, theater, opera and music scene the city already offers.

Both the Foothill Cultural District organization and Visit Salt Lake are using the new Natural History Museum in marketing area attractions to locals and tourists.

Hunt said families looking for discounts on the museums in the Foothill district can download deals at the organization’s website, or pick up a brochure from visitors centers throughout the valley.

Facilities with gift shops in the cultural district are participating in the annual holiday gift sale that began Monday and runs through Dec. 31. There is no admission fee to shop at these gift shops, which offer some unusual gifts, often made in Utah and not easily found in most stores.

A Visit Salt Lake Connect pass adds Park City’s Utah Olympic Park, Lehi’s Thanksgiving Point, Snowbird, Liberty Park’s Tracy Aviary and Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium, Discovery Gateway, The Leonardo and The Lion House Pantry Restaurant to the foothill district museums.