Originally posted on Lonely Planet https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/top-things-to-do-in-salt-lake-city 

The Best Of Salt Lake City's Great Outdoors (and Indoors)


Lonely Planet Writer

Whether you enjoy exploring the great outdoors, wandering through a museum, learning about your family history or experiencing Olympic activities, Salt Lake City, Utah, has it all.

With a combination of city life and nearby world-class outdoor adventures, you get the best of both worlds. Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and has a history steeped in the Mormon faith. Therefore, there are plenty of interesting religious institutions and monuments to visit. It is also surrounded by a variety of landscapes and terrain that make it a top spot for world-class skiing, hiking, mountain biking and, of course, taking a dip in the Great Salt Lake.

We’ve put together a list of our top things to do while visiting this eclectic city.  


1. Mormon Tabernacle Choir 

One of the most iconic things to see and do in Salt Lake City is to attend a rehearsal of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. With a 360-member volunteer chorus of men and women, their vocals lift the spirits of those attending their rehearsals. Visitors to the Mormon Tabernacle, located in Temple Square, can also listen to pipe organ concerts, organ recitals and bells rehearsals.

2. Utah Olympic Park

Olympics fans will love experiencing what it’s like to be in the shoes of an Olympian at Utah Olympic Park. Built for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, visitors can try things like bobsledding or freestyle skiing and snowboarding (both in winter and summer). The facility also has adventures like ziplining, airbag jumps, alpine slides, extreme tubing and more. 

Check out the Flying Ace All-Stars Freestyle Show, get a guided tour of the venue or jump off the 41-foot high dive platform. The 400-acre venue is located 25 miles east of Salt Lake City. For ice skating, check out the Utah Olympic Oval and for Nordic skiing and e-bike rentals, visit the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. To get a glimpse of the Olympic cauldron, go to the south end of the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah.

3. The Great Salt Lake

You can’t visit Salt Lake City without floating in the Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the western hemisphere. It is located within the Salt Lake City State Park, just 16 miles west of Salt Lake City. The salinity of the water, ranging anywhere between 5 to 27 percent salt, makes it very buoyant. Other activities include sailing, kayaking, and hiking. Bring binoculars because there is a plethora of wildlife to view, such as bison, antelope, deer, bobcats, coyotes, elk and birds.

4. Natural History Museum of Utah

Visitors to the Natural History Museum of Utah can learn about and explore collections related to paleontology, anthropology, vertebrate zoology, entomology, botany, mineralogy and malacology. There are 11 permanent exhibitions that range from life and land to gems and minerals and so much more. The museum also features special exhibitions that rotate throughout the year. Just the mineralogy collection alone contains 5000 items. Explore an archeological reconstruction of a Median Village in the First People exhibit. The museum will entertain adults and children with hours of content to examine.

5. Red Butte Garden

Red Butte Garden, located at the University of Utah, has 21 acres of award-winning gardens. There is something for everyone. Visitors can wander through the many themed gardens of the area which spans the flora scope from medicinals, herbs and roses to an orangerie. Guests can also enjoy concerts, educational workshops, garden tours and five miles of hiking trails. One of the most impressive times to visit is spring when there are 524,000 bulbs in bloom.

6. Family History Library

To do in-depth research about your heritage, visit the Family History Library. The tools and resources available include the largest collection of genealogy materials in the world, which consists of books, film, photographs and documents. The library has skilled research assistants on hand to help discover your roots. Want to preserve your memories to share with future generations? Take advantage of the free photo and document scanner or convert your VHS and DVD videos to digital formats for easy sharing and storing. 

7. Thanksgiving Point

With a working farm, expansive gardens and interactive museums, Thanksgiving Point is full of educational and entertaining experiences for the whole family. Be surrounded by 1000 butterflies in the Butterfly Biosphere, try out some of the 400 interactive experiences at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, get up close and personal with cows, goats, horses, chickens, sheep and pigs at Farm Country, examine life-sized dinosaur skeletons or wander through 50 acres of pristinely manicured gardens – that includes the largest manmade waterfall in the Western Hemisphere.

8. Clark Planetarium

Learn about space at the Clark Planetarium with interactive exhibits focusing on meteors, the moon, space weather, solar flares, planets, magnetic fields and more. Touch a meteorite, experience the force of gravity, watch water freeze instantly or test-drive a rover. Visit the Hansen Dome Theater for a musical laser light show or get a tour of the night sky.

9. Timpanogos Cave

About 40 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, in the nearby Wasatch Mountains, is Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Visitors can discover the wonders of geology as they explore the cool underground caves. Learn about how helicities are formed, enter the Chimes Chamber with hundreds of spiral formations, or follow fault lines in the Imagination Room. Take a guided tour to get dirty as you crawl and climb through the caves.

10. Gilgal Sculpture Garden

Meander through the free Gilgal Sculpture Garden with 12 sculptures and 70 large stones engraved with meaningful passages. The creator, Thomas Battersby Child, Jr. worked on building the pieces of art on his property for 18 years until he passed away in 1963. The garden is now a Salt Lake City park and is maintained by the Friends of Gilgal Garden and the Salt Lake City Master Gardener Association. It is a unique and inspiring outing for all to enjoy.

11. Temple Square

Located in the center of downtown Salt Lake City, the Salt Lake Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is surrounded by the five-block area of Temple Square. The Square is the hub of worship, history, commemoration, gatherings and music. Visitors can take a free guided tour to visit the temple, museums, libraries, gardens, monuments and fountains.

12. Utah Museum of Fine Arts

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is located at the University of Utah and was created to showcase contemporary art and prompt discussions about the role art plays in our lives. The museum’s collection houses 20,000 pieces of art. The gallery features 10 ongoing exhibitions that showcase art from several regions and cultures around the world, including Japan, China, Europe, America, Africa, South Asia, the Pacific and more. Revel at the nearly 4000-year tradition of Chinese ceramics, the tribal textiles from Africa or the twenty-sixth dynasty Egyptian coffin. Temporary exhibitions rotate throughout the year. The museum also hosts events such as Art and Yoga, art classes, lectures and online programs.

13. Grandeur Peak

The Wasatch Mountains offer excellent hiking and opportunities to interact with nature. Get picturesque views of Salt Lake City by hiking the six-mile loop from Church Fork Trail to Grandeur Peak East located only about 20 minutes from downtown. The steep hike, which includes a waterfall and switchbacks, leads to Grandeur Peak at 8299ft – a worthwhile way to spend some time outside of the city.

14. Tracy Aviary and Botanical Garden

Located in Liberty Park, Tracy Aviary and Botanical Garden is a delight for the senses. This eight-acre aviary lets you see, hear and touch a large variety of birds including pelicans, eagles, cranes, flamingos, vultures, owls and more. There are 18 exhibits such as the Amazon Adventure, Destination Argentina, Wetland Experience and Treasures of the Rainforest. Visitors can feed birds, adopt birds or see an entertaining bird show. 

15. Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicles State Recreation Area

Partake in the thrill of off-roading at the Jordan River Off-Highway Vehicles State Recreation Area. This Utah State Park, located in Salt Lake City, features five motocross tracks and one ATV/UTV track with tabletops and banked turns. Helmets, vehicle registration, safety certificate and driver’s license or OHV education program required.

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Visit Salt Lake is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. In partnership with Salt Lake County, Visit Salt Lake improves the area economy by attracting and providing support to conventions, sports events, leisure travelers and visitors with a strong commitment to sustainability and stewardship of the area’s natural environment. Through its sales and marketing programs, Visit Salt Lake’s impact on Salt Lake’s annual $5.4 billion visitor economy equates to nearly $1,800 in tax relief for each household within Salt Lake County. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, go to www.VisitSaltLake.com.