Salt Lake City is home to world-class hiking, skiing, and the fascinating history and culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In addition to the inherent draw of these features, there are many things to do in Salt Lake City.
We lived in here from July of 2022 until April 2023. We spent our free days breezing from one end of the valley to the other, visiting with friends and family, and exploring the nearby national parks and monuments. Salt Lake Valley is one of the better places we have visited and the following are what we found to be the 15 best things to do in Salt Lake City and the greater valley.
Hiking and skiing are incredible things to do in Salt Lake City, but the Temple Square experience in unlike any other. The Salt Lake Temple is the crown jewel of the town — everything is built in accordance to its location. Also found in Temple Square are the Tabernacle, Conference Center, Church History Museum (must-do), and beautiful gardens. This is a wonderful place to take photographs, admire architecture, and learn about the Church of Jesus Christ from a missionary.
Welcome to the Greatest Snow on Earth. How fluffy is it? So fluffy you can decide to carve around the mogul or just plow the sucker over.
There are 11 ski resorts along the Wasatch Mountain Range: Alta, Brighton, Deer Valley, Park City, Snowbird, Snow Basin, Powder Mountain, Solitude, Woodward Park, Nordic Valley, and Sundance (all links). Take your pick — There are no bad choices. We enjoyed Brighton, one of the more affordable mountains.
Frary Peak is often lost in the discussion of SLC hikes. Antelope Island is located about an hour north of Salt Lake City in the Ogden area (map). The hike is 8-miles RT. At times the trail borders on aggressive/abusive, but views are interesting mostly throughout. This is the best place in the valley to admire the Great Salt Lake and an assortment of wildlife. We saw two buffalo, two coyotes, a huge mule deer, and a majestic ram. The payoff is an incredible, 360-degree panorama.
We’ve never floated a river like this — where the raft is under constant threat of rocks, trees, and sea creatures. Half of our group exited the river bruised and scraped, some to alarming degrees. So why would we recommend a river full of treacherous obstacles? Where every bend puts you into boulders and branches? Well, I’ll answer those questions with some questions: Do you like adventure? Do you like danger? Do you like beautiful river canyon views? So do we. Map.
This state-of-the-art-facility near the University of Utah houses an enviable collection of dinosaur skeletons, including a brachiosaurus, Utah Raptor, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and variations of the Triceratops. Many of these fossils were dug from the Dinosaur Nat. Monument in Vernal, Utah. Learn about Utah geography, plants and animals, gems and minerals, and ancient peoples. During our visit there was a traveling exhibition about Angkor Wat and the Khmer Empire.
This is the Place Heritage Park is one of the definitive things to do in Salt Lake City. Have you ever wondered how the Mormon Pioneers lived? Perhaps not, and that’s ok. The good news is you don’t have to wonder anymore. This is the Place lets you walk through old-timey towns, dwellings and shops, and get hands on experience washing linens, watching blacksmiths, riding horses, panning for gold, carding wool, and many others pioneer activities.
Red Butte Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West and is the state arboretum of Utah. The Garden is renowned for its plant collections, themed gardens, over 500,000 springtime blooming bulbs. It also boasts a world-class outdoor concert series and a magnificent view of the Salt Lake Valley.
The Wasatch Range runs all along the Salt Lake Valley, and is host to an embarrassing number of world-class hikes. Some of the most popular trails are Mt. Olympus, Mt. Timpanogas, Bell Canyon, and Ensign Peak. If you’re looking for the most challenging hikes, go for Olympus or Timpanogos. If you’re looking for something easier, try Ensign Peak or Living Room. Donut Falls is overrated.
Park City is a community of wealthy Utah transplants located in the mountains 30 minutes east of SLC. Known primarily for spectacular skiing, Park City is also a terrific place to walkabout in the summertime. The town has an elegant city center with fun shops to peruse. Our favorite visit was during the Autumn Aloft balloon Festival, but it sounds as if we caught the final ascent in 2022. Does anyone want to take over the organization of a small balloon festival in Park City, Utah?
The Bonneville Salt Flats are a 30K acre expanse of hard, white salt crust on the edge of the Great Salt Lake basin. Located 110 miles west of SLC beside the gaming community of Wendover, Nevada. The flats host an assortment of events, from auto racing to archery to endurance runs. We visited in the late summer and found the flats were quite wet.
The hike to Timpanogos Cave is arduous and gains 1,100 feet of elevation in 1.5 miles. Views are spectacular in the upper portion of the trail. The cave is small, but beautiful, and the history is interesting. The first cave tours were in 1922, and the National Park Service took over in 1944. If you’re looking for a challenge, the Timpanogos Cave trail is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City.
Downtown Salt Lake is mostly clean and under-crowded. Abravanel Hall is a stunning building that hosts the Utah Symphony. The Vivant Arena is home to the Utah Jazz. Gateway Plaza and City Creek are nice outdoor shopping venues. Other interesting facilities are: Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington Square Park, and the Utah State Capitol. One of our best memories was ice skating as a family at the Gallivan Center.
For baseball fans and those who like sitting outdoors, the Salt Lake Bees have a fantastic downtown location. Seats are always available, which is a good and a bad thing — mostly good if you need space to spread yourself out. Tickets are affordable, too. Perhaps most impressive is the mountainous Wasatch backdrop beyond the outfield wall.
In ten months we ate comparatively few meals out, but if we ate only one incredible meal, it was at Mumbai House on Foothills Drive. Make that two delicious meals, because we had to go back. Seldom food tastes as good as this. The only problem is conversation gets dull when everyone gushes about the meal after every bite. Be sure to order the Tikka Makhani (and everything else).
Come Autumn and the changing of the leaves, everyone in the Salt Lake Valley talks about driving a scenic loop in the mountains. There are a handful of drives to choose from, the most popular being the Alpine Loop, Nebo Loop, and Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Apparently it is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City. We drove the Alpine Loop — the aspen trees were beautiful but it underwhelmed a bit. Traffic gets heavy, too, especially after church on Sundays.
This one is kind of silly, but we are a family and families like arcades. The advantage of Nickel City is games cost five cents. It feels like spending Canadian dollars in the 80’s. A nickel for you, Street Fighter II, and a nickel for you, Big Buck Hunter. The downside is it costs $5 to enter, which means we need to spend a crapload of nickels to earn our money back.
Salt Lake City does not gather sluggards. Locals are frequently found hiking, canyoning, skiing, snowmobiling, wake boarding, motor biking, mountain biking, off-roading, and fishing. The culture here is active family mayhem and it is good.
You aren’t coming for the food. And while the opera is nice, SLC is far from a cultural artistic hotspot. I mean, some of them try pretty hard, so they deserve credit for what they have accomplished.
If you still watch basketball — what’s left of it — the Jazz are the biggest ticket in town. That’s all these Utah folks have got, and like Green Bay and St. Louis fans will tell you, that’s all they need.
Some would call the town “vanilla” or “bland,” but that’s more of a dig on the citizenry. We found the people to be bright and kind as a whole. If you’re looking for somewhere to raise a family, you can’t do much better than here. Houses are expensive, yes, but neighborhoods are safe, schools are good, and children can be found here, there, and everywhere.
Lastly, within 3.5 hours of SLC are five National Parks: Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Arches. Colorado National Monument is about four hours away, and Dinosaur National Monument is about three. In addition to these amazing places, there are dozens of other incredible points of interest.
Southern Utah is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the United States. One could spend a lifetime exploring only this part of the country. And that’s what my friend Kathy is doing. Do it all, Kathy! And then maybe some other stuff, too.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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