By Megan Hulse, Deseret News — When one says vacation, most minds wander to tropical beaches, exotic landscapes and foreign languages. Many don’t think quiet, developing Salt Lake City. But although the city doesn't have a reputation as a tourism hotspot, Salt Lake has a thriving family-oriented entertainment scene with many venues that are frequented by locals as much as by tourists. If you’re looking for a staycation this summer, here are some of the top options for Utah families.
Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass
The Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass has been around for over a decade, and it is a great way to see some of the area's most popular attractions. According to the Visit Salt Lake office, the top three most-redeemed are the Hogle Zoo, Clark Planetarium and the Lion House Pantry. A full list of included attractions can be viewed here.
The Connect Pass is offered in one-, two-, three- or 365-day options. Shawn Stinson of the Visit Salt Lake office said that while the pass was initially designed for out-of-state visitors, officials added the 365-day pass so locals could use the pass to host visitors and to entertain their families.
The 365-day pass is $90 for adults, $85 for seniors and $80 for a child, and it is valid at attractions with the combined value of $192 for adults. The pass is activated the first day you use it and is valid for the duration of the designated period. Passes can be shared simply by clicking the “Share Pass” link on the mobile site and entering your guest’s email and mobile phone number.
Although the pass has some clear popularity winners, it doesn't mean you should skip the lesser-known and lesser-visited. Here are a few attractions on the Salt Lake City Connect Pass deserving of your attention:
Red Butte Garden
Red Butte Garden is the biggest garden in the Intermountain West, according to visitsaltlake.com, and it specializes in showing off local plants and flowers. The gorgeous grounds include a herb garden, a fragrance garden, a children’s garden and a water pavilion. All in all, Red Butte has 21 acres of gardens with another 5 miles of hiking trails for the dedicated explorer. For an additional cost, the gardens also offer educational courses in gardening and art for adults and kids, and offer “Adventure Tours” in the summer for kids in the Children’s Garden. On May 20, Red Butte is also opening a new Water Conservation Garden. More information on the Water Conservation Garden and Red Butte, in general, can be found at www.redbuttegarden.org.
Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort
In the summer, the Connect Pass offers one ride on the Scenic Foot Passenger Tram. The ride takes passengers 1.6 miles and 2,900 vertical feet up Hidden Peak, according to visitsaltlake.com. Snowbird Resort offers some of the best scenic views in the Salt Lake area, and by taking the tram ride, big and small legs alike won’t have to scale the mountain to see them. Go to www.snowbird.com for more information.
Utah Olympic Park
One free Adventure Course activity at the Utah Olympic Park is included on the Connect Pass, but since it is located in Park City, many locals skip it to avoid the drive. However, the Olympic Park has some of the best rushes for adrenaline seekers in the state and should not be overlooked. The included Adventure Courses are described on visitsaltlake.com as “alpine obstacle courses featuring traverses, swinging, and problem-solving,” and are great for a fun day of physical activity. But obstacle courses aren’t the only adventures the park has to offer. While visiting, consider purchasing an additional pass for the zip-line or tube rides down the ski-jump landing hills. Opening May 26, activities at the park range from $15-$75 per person. Taking a guided tour or simply exploring the facilities is a great way to learn about Utah’s Olympic legacy. For more information, check out www.utaholympiclegacy.org.