Salt Lake City is a fun and vibrant city with plenty of activities to keep you busy. Surrounded by mountains, Salt Lake City, Utah is a gem of a city in the western US. From arts and culture to things for families and outdoor adventurers.
There is always something to do in this city, no matter the time of year. Known for outdoor recreation and just some good old-fashioned fun, here are ten fun things to do in Salt Lake City.
How to Get to Salt Lake City Utah
Salt Lake City is easily accessed by flying into the brand new airport. The Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) recently underwent a billion-dollar renovation. The old airport was demolished, and the new terminal opened in 2020. So, it is the newest airport in the United States for the time being.
1. Clark Planetarium at the Gateway
The Clark Planetarium is a museum with interactive exhibits that teach you all about astronomy and science. Entry to the museum is free, but it does have two types of shows that cost $9 per person.
One is the IMAX theater, with documentaries such as Antarctica 3D: BBC Earth narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.
The other is the Dome Theater, a 55-foot dome-shaped screen that gives you a 360-degree immersive experience. You can watch everything from educational content to laser shows featuring the music of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin, and U2 on the weekend.
2. Hike Ensign Peak
Salt Lake City, Utah, is surrounded by mountains, and there are some great hiking trails within city limits. Ensign Peak is one of the best hikes near Salt Lake City and is the perfect hike if you’re visiting downtown and want something quick and easy.
The trailhead for Ensign Peak is in a residential area near downtown SLC, and the trail itself is less than 1 mile roundtrip.
In addition, there’s a monument to the pioneers who settled in Salt Lake in the 1800s – this is where they climbed to survey the valley and envision the city settlement they planned to build.
Today it’s still a great place to view the entire valley – from the downtown cityscape, the Utah State Capitol, and sunsets over the Great Salt Lake.
3. This is the Place Heritage Park
When the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley, their leader, Brigham Young, famously proclaimed, “This is the place.” Afterwards, they decided to settle in what is now Salt Lake City, Utah.
One hundred years later, they erected a monument to Brigham Young and the early leaders of that group of pioneers.
In addition to the monument at This is the Place Heritage Park, you can take a step back in time and experience what life was like in the 1800s with several interactive exhibits, shops, and food vendors.
4. Natural History Museum of Utah
This museum is also a great place to learn about local history. It is on the campus of the University of Utah. But instead of learning about pioneer settlers, this museum focuses on all that came before them in Utah and the Intermountain West, from Native Americans to dinosaurs found locally.
The museum has been around in some form since the 60s but moved into a new home in 2011. The current building is somewhat of an architectural wonder and a case study in green design.
5. The Leonardo Museum
The Leonardo opened in 2011 and is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City if you enjoy learning about art, science, and technology. The museum boasts many immersive, interactive exhibits and a modest collection of art.
It is best known for bringing world-class touring exhibits, such as Body Worlds. It’s currently exhibiting From Monet to Kandinsky, which brings impressionist art to life through 3D projections.
6. Drive to Antelope Island
No trip to Salt Lake City is complete without seeing (and smelling) the Great Salt Lake, the city’s namesake body of water and largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.
One of the best places to visit the lake is Antelope Island, about a one-hour drive north of downtown. Swimming, or rather floating, in the lake, was a big tourist draw a hundred years ago.
These days, people shy away from that because the lake is even saltier than the ocean. But if you’re a fan of the unique or unusual experience, then go for it.
Otherwise, the main draw of visiting Antelope Island is seeing the herd of bison that freely roams the island and taking in views of downtown from across the lake.
7. See a Broadway Play at Eccles Theater
Eccles Theater opened in 2016 and is Salt Lake’s premier venue for touring Broadway plays and other cultural performances. Popular shows such as Hamilton, Frozen, School of Rock, Mean Girls, and many more have run at this popular theater.
If you prefer to culture yourself through classical music rather than a Broadway musical, head over to Abravanel Hall to catch a performance of the Utah Symphony.
8. Watch the Utah Jazz
One of the most fun things to do in Salt Lake City is attending a Utah Jazz game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jazz is best known for the Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, who battled Michael Jordan in the NBA Final in 1997 and 1998.
Today, they’re led by Lauri Markkanen, and team ownership has passed from the old guard to a flashy, young tech billionaire named Ryan Smith.
Salt Lake City residents are passionate about their hometown team, and the energy at these games is hard to beat.
9. See the Other-worldly Bonneville Salt Flats
There are only a few places in the world quite like the Bonneville Salt Flats, located just a two-hour drive west of Salt Lake City.
These salt flats are the remnant of an ancient sea and are most famous for where rocket car drivers set the land speed record. You might also recognize it from movies like The World’s Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins or Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (#3).
Even though it isn’t located in Salt Lake City proper (it’s not near anything, really, so Salt Lake City is the best starting point to visit anyway), it is one of the best places to visit in Utah, so you won’t want to miss it.
10. Learn Local History at the Iconic Temple Square
The top thing to do in Salt Lake City is, without question Temple Square – Salt Lake’s most famous and most visited landmark. Temple Square is the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly referred to as “The Mormons”.
When Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers arrived in the valley in 1847, they immediately set to work on planning and building this temple.
It’s built out of solid granite, mined from a quarry from the canyons over 20 miles away. It’s not only an underappreciated feat of American ingenuity but a great place to learn about local history.
And if you have the chance, make sure to catch a Sunday morning performance of the world-famous Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square a.k.a “America’s Choir”.
Places to Stay in Salt Lake City Utah
Luxury – The Grand America
The Grand America is not only the largest hotel, it’s also the only “Five Diamond” hotel in Salt Lake City. It’s also very popular for its high-end spa and Sunday brunch.
Mid-Range – Marriott Downtown at City Creek
Located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City at the upscale City Creek mall, it’s hard to find a better value in town.
Budget – Salt Lake Plaza Hotel
This popular budget hotel is located right across the street from Temple Square.
Where to Eat in Salt Lake City
Ruth’s Diner is a Salt Lake institution that’s been around since 1930! It’s an old-fashioned diner built in a historic trolley car and is most famous for its breakfast.
If you want to hit a few birds with one stone, try going on a scenic drive up Emigration Canyon (especially in the fall), grabbing breakfast or brunch at the diner, then checking out This is the Place Monument afterwards.
Hires Big H – This classic local icon serves everything you’d expect at such a diner, from burgers to French fries to shakes. But if you want to eat like a local, make sure to order fry sauce and a root beer freeze.
Red Iguana is known locally as the best and most authentic Mexican restaurant in town. It was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-In, and Dives.
Valter’s Osteria: If you want high-end fine dining, Valter’s is the best of the best in Salt Lake. It’s a modern twist on a Tuscan granary and is known for delicious Italian food and a full bar.
Final Thoughts on Things to do in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City has a lot to offer and it all starts with the people. The city is known as one of the most welcoming in America and there are plenty of things for everyone to enjoy, from art galleries and museums to delicious restaurants and unique neighborhoods that make this place so charming.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures like skiing and snowboarding, festivals filled with life’s best foodie finds or historical landmarks such as Temple Square – there’s something for everyone in Salt Lake City Utah.
Author JJ from The Minivan Bucket List lives in Utah with his wife and four kids and is passionate about exploring all that his home state of Utah has to offer, from skiing in the north to hiking the red rocks in the south. JJ graduated from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, so we hope you enjoy these tips from a local!