We’ll just go ahead and say it: 2020 is a funky year for doing anything at all, including finding safe, enjoyable ways to get outside the house. But, fortunately, there are a number of outdoor places well worth the visit around Salt Lake. Most of these destinations require masks, particularly if you’re passing through areas where social distancing can’t easily happen (such as, say, the ticket line at the aviary). But darn if it doesn’t feel great to get out and about— mask or no!
Here’s a list of some of our favorite activities and destinations around (and just outside of) town—so throw that sanitizer in your day-pack and get ready to venture afield.
If you’ve never been—or haven’t been lately—the Tracy Aviary is a delight and a staple activity for Salt Lake citizens of all ages. Pack your mask and head to the south end of Liberty Park, where you can get to know the Aviary’s incredible birds and wander their landscaped grounds. They offer bird shows most days of the week, and there’s an afternoon “Keeper Talk” presentation from one of the birdkeepers each afternoon. Check their website for the latest.
Learn the local flora Red Butte Botanical Gardens
Stunning from start to finish, Red Butte is a true treasure for this city. Explore acres of impeccably landscaped gardens, featuring plants from all over the world, including local native desert plants. Paved pathways are wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, so anyone in the family can get in on the beauty. They’re currently requiring advance reservations to visit, which you can arrange on their site.
Our city’s beloved Hogle Zoo is open for visitors—you just have to reserve a timeslot in advance. It’s well worth the effort to visit the zoo’s 800-plus animals, who live in recreated habitats ranging from the African savanna to Asian highlands. The zoo’s educational and enrichment programs and displays leave everyone better informed—and enthralled. Schedule your visit here.
Bike the Jordan River Parkway
Many Salt Lake locals don’t realize there’s a 45-mile (!) trail linking Utah Lake with the Great Salt Lake. There are a large number of trailheads along the way, and you can simply pull up your car or bike, hop on the neatly paved parkway, and pedal expansive distances while taking in the Jordan River’s beauty. Grab your water bottle, shades, and your family or friends, then check the map and plan where you’ll set off.
It’s the reason so many people live here: this fair city has so much outdoor recreation access, it’s unbelievable. There are trails you can access right from the city, such as City Creek, Neff’s Canyon, Bell’s Canyon, and Mount Olympus—and there are untold numbers of things to explore once you venture into the loftier heights of the Wasatch range. Keep in mind: 2020 isn’t a good year to take the risk of needing rescue, so play it conservative, choose a trail within your ability, bring a friend or two, and come super prepared with water and basics. Then, reap the endless (free of charge!) rewards of mountain joy. Browse a few of our favorite trails here.
Explore new-to-you parks
There are dozens of parks in our city, and we guarantee there are parks you’d love and don’t even know about yet. Perfect for a picnic, a jog, lawn games, or socially distant hangouts, these parks are worth getting to know. Have you ever strolled the International Peace Gardens, eaten takeout on the hill in Sugarhouse Park, or played cards in the island gazebo in the Liberty Park lake? This is your moment. Check out our ten favorite parks around the valley here.
Snowbird Resort is always a high-alpine pleasure, but it’s an especially nice getaway during the pandemic. Masks are required to be sure, but you can truly enjoy a breath of fresh mountain air on their aerial tram, ropes course, mountain coaster, alpine slide, and bungee trampoline. It’s kid-friendly and adult-approved. Check out your options here.
Get to know our state’s roots at This is the Place Heritage State Park
Nestled in the foothills above the city, This is the Place Heritage State Park marks the spot where the first pioneer settlers determined that this was, indeed, where they’d put down roots after a grueling trek across the country. Today it offers pioneer-themed fun for all ages, including pony rides, Native American history, gift shops, panning for gold, and historic buildings. Reserve your tickets here.
Once a quiet industrial area, the Granary District has fully come into its own as a home of cool restaurants, shops, apartments, and lots of yummy breweries. Then, a couple years ago, the city commissioned an urban project enlisting local artists to paint a total of 24 wall murals around the neighborhood. They’re highly strollable, and it just so happens that a few excellent breweries serve as stop-offs as you go, inducing Bewilder Brewing, T.F. Brewing, Fisher Brewing, and Kiitos Brewing. Learn more about the murals here.
Chow down on an outdoor restaurant or bar patio
Our city sure does patio dining well. Thanks to its penchant for desert sunshine, there are many a restaurant with outdoor patios that are not only bustling but safe—and delicious. Be sure to bring your mask to wear as you wait for a table and enter. Once you’re seated at your socially spaced table, you can unfurl and dig in. Check out a few of our favorite open-air dining patios here.
Finally, what better way to support our beloved locally owned restaurants than to order takeout for curbside pickup, then transport either to your own porch or an open-air venue like a city park for enjoyment? All you need is a picnic blanket and a little sanitizer … and an appetite for our city’s incredible food. Browse restaurants currently offering curbside pickup here.