Salt Lake City Travel Guide

USA  #17 in Best Cheap Vacations in the U.S.

Best Things To Do in Salt Lake City

Plan on spending a good chunk of your time exploring Temple Square, the official headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This walled neighborhood at the heart of Salt Lake City hosts spectacular religious buildings –  such as the Salt Lake Temple –  as well as lush gardens and soaring sculptures. But there's more to do: The Great Salt Lake provides a spectacular setting for hiking and picnicking, while the nearby Wasatch National Forest is cross-hatched with scenic trails. Check out the Utah Olympic Park for a larger boost of adrenaline, or try your hand on the slopes in Park City or nearby Snowbird Ski Resort.

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Things to do in Salt Lake City
    View all Photos
    #1 in Salt Lake City
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Temple Square's three-block plaza is home to nearly 20 attractions related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's anchored by the towering Salt Lake Temple – where, among other things, weekly meetings of the church's governing bodies are held – and other fascinating buildings like the expansive Tabernacle and the Gothic-style Assembly Hall, which offer insight into the history and development of the Mormon church. You should also stop by the Family History Library, the largest genealogy library in the world. Once you've toured the sites, stroll through the square's scenic gardens and past the gurgling fountains.

    Recent travelers recommend taking a free, guided tour of the square. Tours are not scheduled, but knowledgeable docents are available every day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Visitors are also welcome to attend the Sunday morning concerts in the Tabernacle, as well as the Thursday evening choir rehearsals (7:30 p.m.), both put on by the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

  • #2
    Salt Lake City Public Library
    View all Photos
    #2 in Salt Lake City
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Whether you like to read or look at beautiful architecture, the stunning and contemporary Salt Lake City Public Library could be worth your while. Located in the downtown area, the library has more than 500,000 books and plenty of cozy corners ideal for hunkering down with a good story. Recent visitors say the architecture alone is reason enough to visit, while others appreciated the friendly staff and on-site cafe. There are also a variety of shops and cafes around Library Square (just outside the library), not to mention a garden for those who want to read outside.

    The library is open every day of the week (although hours vary depending on the day), and you don't have to pay to peruse. For more information, visit the Salt Lake City Public Library's website.

  • #3
    Great Salt Lake
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    #3 in Salt Lake City
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Clocking in at approximately 1,700 square miles, the Great Salt Lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River. The lake's name comes from the nature of the water: The evaporation process (the only exit available for the lake's water) leaves behind salty mineral deposits. Salt Lake City's visitors and residents enjoy the area's many hiking trails, ample picnic spots and boating and fishing opportunities.

    According to recent visitors, the Great Salt Lake is also excellent for swimming and for spotting wildlife – including bison – on the way to the park. Travelers recommend stopping by the visitor center, highlighting the informative and friendly staff as definite perks.

  • #4
    Liberty Park
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    #4 in Salt Lake City
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're looking to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving the city limits, head over to Liberty Park's 80 acres for any number of outdoorsy activities. There's a pond, bike paths, concession stands, rides, picnic areas, playgrounds and tennis and volleyball courts. Liberty Park is also home to an aviary and a greenhouse, both of which recent visitors recommend exploring. They also recommend this park for families, as there are plenty of kid-friendly activities.

    This park sits pretty in central Salt Lake. It's open every day from dawn until dusk, and admission is free (although a small fee is required to use some of the sporting facilities). Liberty also hosts several annual events throughout the year. For more information, check out the park's page on the Salt Lake City website.

  • #5
    Park City
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    #5 in Salt Lake City
    Festivals, Hiking, Skiing, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Festivals, Hiking, Skiing, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Park City was made for powder hounds. Sitting about 30 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Park City is home to two major alpine ski spots that sprawl across acres upon acres of mountain terrain. Park City Mountain Resort welcomes skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels to traverse groomed trails, powder-filled bowls and terrain parks. And Deer Valley Resort caters exclusively to skiers (snowboarding is prohibited here), offering groomed runs and gladed steeps along with 10 on-site restaurants. If you're just starting out, all resorts have expert instructors on hand to help you learn the slopes  whether it's through kids ski school, group instruction or private lessons.

    Those who aren't avid skiers can still find things to do. Park City's numerous art galleries and museums will keep visitors entertained. Meanwhile, in the spring and summer, the ski resorts transform their runs into hiking and biking trails, and around town tourists can hit the links at Park City Golf Course or peruse the area's farmers markets.

  • #6
    Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort
    View all Photos
    #6 in Salt Lake City
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The historic and cultural attractions are interesting and all, but let's face it: Skiing is one of the main reasons to visit Utah. And Salt Lake City is in close proximity to some of the state's best slopes, including those found at the Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort. Sprawling across 2,500 acres with a 3,240-foot vertical drop, this ski resort features 169 runs that cater to both novice and advanced skiiers. According to recent visitors, the slopes here rival those in Colorado.

    Winter isn't the only time to enjoy Snowbird, though. The resort also features numerous warm-weather activities, including hiking, biking, fishing and even zip lining.

  • #7
    Salt Lake Temple
    View all Photos
    #7 in Salt Lake City
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Rising a whopping 210 feet over the square, this impressive six-spire structure is the universal icon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While you are not allowed to enter the church itself, recent visitors said that the beautiful grounds are worth touring.

    Recent visitors agree that that this should be your first stop when touring Temple Square, and many noted that the staff at the visitor centers and museum were friendly and knowledgeable.

  • #8
    Family History Library
    View all Photos
    #8 in Salt Lake City
    Museums, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting in Temple Square, the Family History Library houses millions of genealogical records profiling more than two billion deceased people, making it the largest library of its kind in the world. The library was founded in the late 19th century to assist members of the Mormon Church piece together their family history. Today, visitors are welcome to peruse the records – all meticulously preserved – and possibly track down a few ancestors of their own. Recent visitors said this is a must-visit place for everyone, and especially genealogy buffs, as the staff are friendly and incredibly helpful and the resources are astounding.

    The Family History Library is open Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., as well as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is free. The library recommends that you plan ahead, organizing family information that you already have and determining what you want to find. This will make it easier for the reference consultant to help you with your search. For more information, visit the Family History Library website.

  • #9
    Utah Museum of Fine Arts
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    #9 in Salt Lake City
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Sitting near the center of the University of Utah campus in northeast Salt Lake City, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts houses more than 17,000 artifacts from across the globe. The permanent collection includes Greek and Egyptian antiquities, paintings from the Italian Renaissance and even some early 20th-century photography. The museum also hosts a variety of notable traveling displays that focus on everything from early scientific discoveries to contemporary art.

    "This place is gorgeous, quiet, peaceful, and amazing," writes one TripAdvisor user. "[I]f you want true culture, don't miss out on this place." Recent visitors also recommend strolling through the sculpture garden or grabbing a quick bite at the on-site cafe.

  • #10
    Red Butte Garden
    View all Photos
    #10 in Salt Lake City
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Filled with meticulously landscaped plots, gurgling fountains and pleasant pathways, Red Butte Garden is a great place for budding botanists as well as visitors looking for quiet respite. Housed on the University of Utah campus in northeast Salt Lake City, the garden is divided into sections, each devoted to a specific type of plant or ecosystem.

    Recent visitors said you should prepare to spend a good chunk of your day here, as there's plenty to see. Also, many recommend coming here during the warmer weather for a concert – just remember to bring your own picnic blanket. Red Butte Garden also hosts a variety of educational lectures and kid-friendly activities.

  • #11
    Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
    View all Photos
    #11 in Salt Lake City
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest boasts 2.1 million acres of Mother Nature. Encompassing seven wilderness districts in total, this national park offers a diverse array of landscapes – ranging from verdant fields to rocky mountainsides – as well as plenty of opportunities to hike, bike and camp.

    Recent visitors highly recommend bringing a camera and wearing sturdy walking shoes, as there are plenty of trails you'll want to explore (many vary in length and skill level, so check the website before you go to properly plan ahead).

  • #12
    Hogle Zoo
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    #12 in Salt Lake City
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Home to more than 800 animals, Hogle Zoo allows visitors to get up-close and personal with its residents. Visitors can feed the zoo's rhinos and birds (for additional fees), an activity that recent guests loved. Don't forget to pay a visit to Zuri: This African elephant was born at the zoo in 2009.

    Most visitors agree that, although this isn't the best zoo in the country, a visit here is worth the price of entry. Recent visitors were especially pleased with the size of the animal enclosures and also noted that the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.

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