This Is the Place Heritage State Park has a major place in Utah’s history — quite literally. After a grueling multi-month trek across the unsettled frontier of America, the first settlers set foot in the Salt Lake Valley. They stood on the hill where the park sits today and looked out over the stunning mountain valley, and Brigham Young declared (according to legend anyway), “This is the place.”
Fast forward 170 years, and Salt Lake has grown into a bustling metropolitan hub. But you can still step back in time to those very first pioneer days by heading to the This Is the Place State Park. It’s a blast for kids of any age, but adults will get a kick out of the history component of the experience too. If you have children in tow, plan on spending a solid day there enjoying the games, food, educational experiences and pony and train rides.
Sitting at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, the pioneers’ entry point into the valley, the park’s location is still on the wilder fringe of the city’s edge. Rocky trails and sagebrush-studded foothills surround the park, maintaining its Wild West feel.
Start at the Village
Your first stop at the park will be at the towering monument at its gates, which pays tribute to the historic “This is the place” declaration. Get your bearings at the visitor center, a replica of a nineteenth-century sugar mill. Purchase tickets to enter the Village or shop for Utah-themed gifts, souvenirs, decor, jewelry and books.
Inside the park, kids can go hog-wild exploring different aspects of pioneer-era life. At the mining-themed Treasure House, little ones will love digging for gemstones, panning for gold and cracking geodes while playing educational games about the role of mining in local history.
The Native American Village provides another authentic taste of local history. This part of the park represents the original tribes of Northern and Southern Utah. You’ll find a beautiful, Shoshone-style display here, and inside traditional Native American performers awe visitors with ceremonial dances. You can also explore several replicas of tribal dwellings and learn about the petroglyphs inscribed by ancient people on the red rock cliffs of Southern Utah.
Take a Train Ride
Many a train-obsessed kiddo will be delighted to learn that unlimited train rides are included with park admission. Historic replica trains — including the 119, Jupiter and Blackhawk — take guests for rides around the park, which is a hands-on way to experience the lay of the land while soaking up incredible views of the entire Salt Lake Valley. Train conductors tell stories and narrate the ride, so it’s both fun and educational. Another Mini Train makes a circle around the Settlers Pond, a natural spring that irrigates the park and provides water for the farm animals.
Meet the Animals
A train ride’s pretty darn good, but many children will argue that a pony ride is even better. So mosey over to the Livery, where you can greet the gentle animals and saddle up for a pony ride supervised by the park’s stable hands.
While you’re in animal-visiting mode, make another stop at the Petting Corral, where you can get to know a goat or hold a fluffy chick. The animals are all used to the adoring attention of children, and it’s a memorable experience for the whole family.
Cool Off in the Splash Pool
In the summer, plan to spend plenty of time at the Irrigation Station splash pool. Here, where a massive splash pad pretty much guarantees refreshing fun whether kids are in swimsuits or play clothes. There’s also an educational component that helps them learn about early Western irrigation.
A Sweet Finish
An action-packed day at the park is sure to work up a serious appetite, and you can take your pick of old-fashioned eats from several options in the Village. One recommended spot is the Huntsman Grill, set inside a replica of a historic frontier hotel, where you can snag a tasty serving of waffle fries or kettle chips.
There are plenty of places for sweet-toothed visitors, too — like Brigham’s Donuts, where you can watch donut gems being fried in traditional style and eat them piping hot. Other old-school dessert options await at the Ice Cream Shop, where root beer floats and chocolate twisty cones are perennial favorites — and make the perfect way to wrap up a pioneer-centric day. (Okay, pioneers probably didn’t have chocolate twisty cones. But would they have loved them? We think so.)
Trip Planning & Logistics
The park and visitor center are year-round from 10 am to 5 pm daily, and admission prices depend on the day and season. From Monday-Saturday during baby animal and summer season, admission is $12.95 for adults, $10.95 for seniors (65 and over) and $8.95 for children (3-11); kids two and under are free. On Sundays, admission is reduced. During winter season, admission prices are $6.95 for adults, $4.95 for seniors and $3.95 for children (3-11).
Admission from Mondays-Saturdays includes any three activities: take-home crafts, pony rides or mini-train rides.
Special events are held throughout the calendar year, including Pioneer Days and a Christmas market.
Written by RootsRated Media for Utah Office of Tourism.