Utah is a hidden gem in the lower 48. Its proximity to mountains and deserts can satisfy the most adventurous spirits. Nestled between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountain Range, Salt Lake City is an outdoor lovers’ paradise. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be surrounded by mountains, cottonwood trees, or sandstone arches. With amazing outdoor adventures, there are also plenty of things to do in downtown Salt Lake City making it the perfect year-round escape.
Top Things To Do In Salt Lake City
As the capital city of Utah, it boasts a rich tapestry of history, culture, culinary delights, and nature. Whether you are a thrill-seeker looking for your next adventure, a history buff interested in diving into the depths of the city’s past, an art enthusiast seeking inspiration, or a foodie ready to indulge, Salt Lake City has something that appeals to every type of traveler.
In this guide, we’re going to uncover the 29 must-see sights and must-do experiences that make Salt Lake City such an exciting destination. From world-class museums, historical monuments, and live music venues to nature parks, shopping centers, and sporting events, you will discover the unique charm of this diverse city.
Get ready to explore, experience, and enjoy the best that Salt Lake City has to offer. Welcome to the Crossroads of the West! So strap on your walking shoes and let’s start exploring the best Salt Lake City attractions.
Planning Your Trip To Salt Lake City Right Now?
Below are some of the top tours in Salt Lake City. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Utah!
Top Activities and Tours in Salt Lake City:
1. Temple Square
Temple Square is the most popular tourist attraction in Salt Lake City. Located right in downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square covers an area of 10 acres and five city blocks with the imposing Salt Lake Temple at its centerpiece. It is the headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormons).
In 1847 Brigham Young led a band of pioneers declaring, “This is the Place.” And is still used today as a place of worship. Free tours are available where you can learn of Mormon history and faith while exploring the many museums, event spaces, gardens, and libraries.
- Location: 50 N Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, United States
- Cost of Entry: Free
2. Salt Lake City Tabernacle Choir
Even as a kid I had heard of the famous Tabernacle Choir and no visit to Salt Lake City would be complete without taking in a performance at Temple Square. The Salt Lake Tabernacle has been performing for 150 years and continues to do so with live broadcasts and recitals. At certain times of the year, the choir opens its doors to the public and to let them watch their rehearsal. You can check for the full schedule here before visiting.
- Location: 50 N W Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84150
- Cost of Entry: Free
3. Utah State Capitol Building
When visiting any capital city in the United States, you can’t miss seeing the capital building, they are always so grand. Situated on Capitol Hill overlooking downtown Salt Lake City, the Utah State Capitol is a striking example of Neoclassical Revival architecture.
Since its completion in 1916, the Capitol has been the heart of Utah’s government, where laws have been passed, amended, and repealed. Its grand marble interior, featuring beautifully detailed murals and sculptures, captures Utah’s history and its people’s spirit. The Capitol offers free guided tours where visitors can gain insights into the building’s history and architecture, and the lawmaking process. For tickets, hours, and more information, find the details here.
- Location: 350 N State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84114
- Cost of Entry: Free
4. Natural History Museum of Utah
For a day indoors with the whole family, make your way to the Natural History Museum of Utah. For science, culture, and history, this is definitely one of the top points of interest in the city. Nestled in the foothills of the Wasatch Range, the Natural History Museum of Utah is a gateway to the state’s fascinating past.
The museum is housed in the impressive Rio Tinto Center, whose architecture mirrors the layered rock formations found throughout Utah. With ten permanent galleries, the museum presents a comprehensive story of the natural world, from the formation of the earth and life’s evolution to the diverse ecosystems and cultures, present in Utah today. It spans over 500 million years of Utah’s history from the ancient Great Salt Lake to the First People’s Exhibit and other important moments in history. It’s not just Utah history however, it houses the largest collection of horned dinosaur fossils in the world, and it has rotating exhibitions to complement its permanent displays complete with interactive displays.
- Location: 01 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, USA
- Cost of Entry: Adults $14.95, Youth (13-24) $12.95, Child (3-12) $9.95, 2 and under Free
5. Salt Lake City Public Library
Why go to a public library you ask? For the architecture of course. The Salt Lake City Public Library is a beautiful display of modern architecture designed by renowned international architect, Moshe Safdie. It is one of the most beautiful architectural displays in Utah.
The 240,000-square-foot building is six stories high with curving walls. It not only houses 500,000 books, but there is also a public plaza on the ground floor with shops and services, a rooftop terrace with rooftop views of Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake Valley, an auditorium, and reading galleries. This is truly a place in Salt Lake City for a little solitude and quiet time.
- Location: 210 E 400 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
- Cost of Entry: Free
6. Discover the Wonders of Tracy Aviary
Established in 1938, Tracy Aviary in Liberty Park is one of the oldest and most significant bird parks in the United States. Spanning eight acres, the aviary is home to over 400 birds from 135 different species, many of which are endangered or rare. Embark on a fascinating journey, observing birds from around the world in exhibits like the South American Pavilion, home to giant condors, or the Kennecott Wetland Experience, where pelicans and ibises reside. Don’t miss the interactive bird shows where you can see birds of prey swoop and dive.
It’s located in a residential neighborhood so the best way to explore is to take this guided cycling tour where you’ll meet your guide at the oldest park in the city and then cruise through the sculpture garden of Gilgal Park, and explore the century-old neighborhoods as you wind your way to City Creek Canyon in downtown Salt Lake.
- Location: 589 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105
- Cost of Entry: Adults $11.95, Youth (4-13) $7.95, 3 and under Free
7. Uncover History at This is the Place Heritage Park
Step back in time at This is the Place Heritage Park, a living history museum that celebrates Utah’s pioneer heritage. Named after Brigham Young’s famous declaration when he first viewed the Salt Lake Valley, the park captures the spirit of the 19th-century Mormon pioneers.
Wander through the village featuring more than 50 historic buildings, each telling a unique story. Watch blacksmiths, printers, and tailors at work, or enjoy a ride on a historic train. Visit the Native American Village to learn about the indigenous cultures of the region. The park also boasts a petting zoo, making it perfect for a family day out. This is the Place Heritage Park that offers an immersive history lesson, revealing the challenges and triumphs of Utah’s early settlers.
- Location: 2601 Sunnyside Ave S, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
- Cost of Entry: Adults $13.95, Seniors (65+) $11.95, Youth (3-11) $9.95, 2 and under Free
8. Relax in Sugar House Park
Sprawling over 110 acres, Sugar House Park is one of Salt Lake City’s most loved green spaces. Once home to the Utah State Prison, the park now offers a peaceful escape from the city hustle. Winding pathways invite visitors for leisurely walks or vigorous runs, while the rolling green hills are perfect for picnics or simply relaxing with a book.
The park also features a large pond, playgrounds, and sports facilities. In the winter, the park’s slopes become popular for sledding. Throughout the year, Sugar House Park hosts various community events, from Fourth of July fireworks to charity runs. Whether you’re an active outdoor enthusiast or just in search of tranquility, Sugar House Park has something to offer.
- Location: 1330 2100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84106
- Cost of Entry: Free
9. Family History Library
Located in the city center in Temple Square, The Family History Library is free to enter and is open to the public for people in search of their genealogy. It is one of the largest Geneology museums in the world and it is run by the Church of Latter Day Saints. They have an extensive collection with 1.3 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records.
The state-of-the-art facility is climate-controlled preserving temperature, humidity, and light to protect the books, microfiche, and other records. It’s not just for Americans or Mormons either, they have records of 8 billion people (deceased) from 100 countries! It’s one of the most popular things to do in Salt Lake City with millions of people from around the world entering its doors in search of their family history. Visit their website to see how you can discover your family history.
- Location: 35 N W Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84150
10. Clark Planetarium
The Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City is a space and science lover’s paradise. This world-class facility features an array of exhibits on astronomy and space exploration, including meteorites, a scale model of the solar system, and a real moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission.
The planetarium’s centerpiece is the Hansen Dome Theater, which boasts a 3D immersive environment for experiencing shows about our universe. Additionally, the ATK IMAX Theater offers educational science films and thrilling feature movies. By offering a mix of education, exploration, and entertainment, a visit to the Clark Planetarium is truly an out-of-this-world experience. We love hitting a movie theater when traveling and IMAX Theatre presentations are always a treat.
- Located at: 110 400 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
- Cost of Entry: Free (additional costs for IMAX and dome theatre)
11. Red Butte Garden
Located at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City’s Red Butte Garden is not only a botanical garden, it’s the largest botanical garden in the American Intermountain West.
Covering over 100 acres, with 22 acres of display gardens, it is home to a remarkable collection of over 20,000 plants, arranged in various themed sections. Wander through the rose garden, aromatic herb garden, or the new Water Conservation Garden, which showcases water-wise landscaping solutions. The Garden also boasts a natural area with 5 miles of walking trails, offering stunning views of the mountains and city below. Throughout the year, Red Butte Garden hosts a range of events, from horticultural classes to outdoor concerts in its amphitheater.
12. Get Inspired at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts, located on the University of Utah campus, is the Mountain West’s primary resource for culture and visual arts. Its vast collection includes over 20,000 original art pieces spanning 5,000 years, representing cultures from around the globe. From European paintings to African tribal art, from Asian scrolls to contemporary American pieces, the museum offers a truly comprehensive and enriching exploration of human creativity.
The museum is also dedicated to engaging its audience with dynamic exhibitions, educational programs, and various special events. Step into the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to witness the universality of human expression and take away a deeper understanding and appreciation for art and culture.
13. The Eccles Theater
If you are looking for things to do in Salt Lake City at night, a visit to the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater is a must. This state-of-the-art performing arts center in downtown Salt Lake City hosts a diverse lineup of performances, including Broadway shows, concerts, comedy acts, and more. The grand lobby, with its soaring six-story glass façade, offers stunning views of the city.
Inside, the Delta Performance Hall, known for its excellent acoustics and intimate feel, can seat over 2,400 people. Meanwhile, the smaller Regent Street Black Box is a versatile space for more experimental productions. With its combination of stunning architecture, great performances, and rich cultural experience, Eccles Theater offers a night out to remember.
- Location: 131 S. Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
- Cost of Entry: Varies by performance
14. City Creek Center
Situated in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, City Creek Center is an upscale open-air shopping center that offers a unique shopping and dining experience. More than just a retail hub, City Creek Center stands out with its architecturally striking design and its incorporation of the natural beauty of Utah.
Retractable glass roofs, a pedestrian skybridge, and a fully functioning creek with live fish are just a few features that enhance the shopping experience. The center boasts more than 100 top retailers, including high-end brands, along with a variety of restaurants that cater to all tastes. Additionally, City Creek Center is just steps away from other city attractions like Temple Square and the Salt Lake City Public Library, making it a convenient stop during a day of exploration.
15. Visit Trolley Square
Steeped in history, Trolley Square is a unique shopping center housed in a renovated 1908 trolley car barn. With its charming brick architecture, vintage water tower, and collection of original trolley cars, the Square is a reminder of a bygone era. However, the shops within are decidedly modern, ranging from fashionable boutiques and specialty stores to gourmet restaurants and a thriving food court.
Additionally, Trolley Square is often host to special events such as music performances, festivals, and art shows, making it a vibrant community hub. Combining retail therapy with historical ambiance, a visit to Trolley Square offers a shopping experience like no other in Salt Lake City.
- Location: 602 S 700 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
- Cost of Entry: Free
16. Feel Serene at the Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Tucked away in the middle of the city, the Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a hidden gem. This public city park, created by local businessman Thomas Battersby Child Jr., is home to 12 original sculptures and over 70 stones engraved with scriptures, poems, and philosophical texts.
Each piece represents aspects of Child’s beliefs and his interpretation of LDS theology. The centerpiece is a sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith. The garden is a peaceful, meditative space, providing an intriguing exploration of art, religion, and philosophy. A visit to the Gilgal Sculpture Garden offers a unique blend of tranquility, creativity, and contemplation.
- Location: 749 E 500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
- Cost of Entry: Free
17. Great Salt Lake
Salt Lake City got its name from the massive Great Salt Lake and this outdoor playground is just 20 miles from the city center. Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the entire western hemisphere and outdoor lovers will enjoy kayaking, sailing, hiking, and biking around the Great Salt Lake.
It is a popular area for bird watching thanks to the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve where millions of birds migrate through the area. Go for a walk along the boardwalk following the interpretive towards the 30-foot viewing tower. Drop by the visitors center for more information before you start exploring.
18. Delight in the Beauty of Antelope Island State Park
A gem in the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island State Park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. The island boasts striking natural landscapes, from its rugged mountains and desert plains to its serene beaches. Its diverse habitats support a wealth of wildlife, including bison, pronghorn antelope, and numerous bird species, offering excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.
The park’s network of trails caters to hikers, bikers, and horse riders, with paths meandering through scenic terrain and providing breathtaking views of the lake and mainland. History buffs will appreciate the 19th-century Fielding Garr Ranch, which offers a glimpse into the island’s past. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, wildlife encounters, or tranquility, Antelope Island State Park delivers an unforgettable experience.
- Location: 4528 W 1700 S, Syracuse, UT 84075
- Cost of Entry: $10 per vehicle
19. Traverse the Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats offer a surreal landscape unlike any other in Utah. This vast expanse of hard salt crust, covering over 30,000 acres, is a remnant of the ancient Lake Bonneville. The flats’ unique surface has made it a popular spot for land speed racing, with numerous records set here over the decades.
Even when there aren’t cars or motorcycles rocketing across the flats, they are a sight to behold, especially when the thin layer of standing water turns the surface into a giant mirror. Whether you’re a speed enthusiast, a photographer, or simply a traveler in search of otherworldly landscapes, the Bonneville Salt Flats are an unforgettable sight.
- Location: Interstate 80, Wendover, UT 84083
- Cost of Entry: Free
20. Hike Ensign Peak
Just north of the Utah State Capitol Building lies Ensign Peak, a prominent hill that offers one of the best views of Salt Lake City. The brief but steep hike to the summit takes about 30 minutes, leading to a panoramic vista of the city, the Great Salt Lake, and the surrounding mountains.
The peak holds historical significance as it’s where Brigham Young and other early Mormon leaders first surveyed the valley to plan the city. A monument at the summit pays tribute to this moment. Ensign Peak provides an easily accessible escape to nature and a stunning viewpoint, rewarding every hiker with unforgettable scenery.
21. Park City
If you’re in the area, it’s worth stopping by the mountain town of Park City, especially on Sundays, when “Park Silly,” the city’s open-air market, is on. From local honey to handmade jewelry, to street performances and food trucks, this market has something for everyone. Pick up your walking guide to Park City on Amazon
With a closing time of 5 pm, you can enjoy your morning paddle session, and still get a bit of mountain culture in the afternoon. With hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and so much more, one weekend isn’t enough for how much northern Utah has to offer, but it’s enough to leave you wanting more.
22. Ice Climbing
If you are visiting Salt Lake City in the winter, this guided ice climbing trip takes you from Salt Lake City to learn how to climb or practice your skills. Some of Utah’s best ice climbing venues are near Salt Lake City and they include Little Cottonwood Canyon, Provo Canyon or Maple Canyon.
23. Catch Olympic Fever At Utah olympic Park
Salt Lake City was home to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and Utah Olympic Park is still bustling with Olympic energy. Athletes train year-round at Olympic Park at their state-of-the-art freestyle skiing facilities and the Olympic Oval speedskating rink. During the Olympics, this park hosted ski jumping events, bobsleigh, luge, and Nordic skiing. But the park isn’t only open to athletes, the public can enjoy Olympic sports and outdoor activities from extreme tubing to ziplining and guided bobsledding tours taking you down the Olympic track.
If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at ski jumping, you can go for it in the splash pool. The museum’s interactive exhibits offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Olympic Games, from the science behind winter sports to the stories of athletes who have competed here.
Of course in the winter, it’s home to world-class skiing and snowboarding while summers can be spent mountain biking and hiking. For more information visit the Park City website.
24. Ski Resorts
No trip to Salt Lake City in winter would be complete without hitting one of the nearby ski resorts. There are four world-class ski resorts at its doorstep including Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude Mountain. They are all situated in the same area just 90 minutes out of the city center. In fact, you can ski all four of them in one day! Challenge accepted.
If you don’t want to go that far into the mountains, there are 9 ski resorts within one hour from the city. Ogden Resort is great for families, Park City for its Olympic ties, and the other resorts in Cottonwood Canyon have a great powdery base.
Looking for your post-adventure eats? Lone Star Taqueria is a local post-adventure eatery that is an easy two miles from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Here you’ll find the best fish tacos in Utah. Wrapped in two corn tortillas, and overflowing with the fish of the day, these tacos, topped with a cilantro-lime dressing, will give you reason enough to start planning your next trip to Salt Lake City.
25. Snowbird’s Mountain Bike Trails
Snowbird is known for regularly receiving 500+ inches of snowfall each year. Once the snow melts, however, the mountain opens for some of the most breathtaking mountain biking in the Salt Lake region.
The Big Mountain Trail, accessible by purchasing a $25 lift ticket, takes bikers on a 7.5 mile downhill ride through forested turns, wooden bridges, and wide-open straights. With 2,900 feet of vertical drop, and an 8% grade, you won’t have to worry too much about sore muscles from last night’s hike, but you will want to make sure to wear a helmet.
26. Hiking In The Mountains
Load up the hiking gear, you’re headed to the mountains. Because the Wasatch National Forest is so close to Salt Lake Valley, it’s feasible and easy to head into the mountains for a quick overnight backpacking trip. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore but my favorite is Desolation Lake.
Desolation Lake, located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, is ideal for the beginner to moderate backpacker. The hike begins about 9.5 miles up the canyon at the Mill D North Fork Trailhead. Winding through Aspen Groves, meadows, and alongside the creek, make sure to stop and enjoy your surroundings. Also keep an eye out, as moose are often spotted along this trail.
At 7.8 miles round-trip and roughly 2,024 feet in elevation gain, you can start this trail in the late afternoon/early evening, set up camp, enjoy the stars and a campfire, and be back in your car by 11 am. Pick up the Salt Lake, Park City and Wasatch Trail Map on Amazon
27. Camping at Jordanelle State Park
If you are looking for places to go camping near Salt Lake City, Jordanelle State Park is the place to be. Less than 40 minutes from downtown Salt Lake, on the east side of the Wasatch mountain range, you can find even more to explore: the Uinta National Forest, Park City, and the East Canyon Reservoir.
For this trip, you’re heading to Jordanelle State Park. Tent sites at Jordanelle Campground are $20-$30 depending on the day, but you’ll want to book ahead to secure a site. The park is surrounded by hills and mountains, and with so many stars splayed out above you, it’s easy to forget how close you are to the city.
28. AQUA x ZONE and Jordanelle State Park
Once you’ve brewed your first cup of Caffe Ibis (made in Logan, UT), and are ready to start the day. Your options are endless at the AQUA X ZONE. At the Jordanelle Reservoir, you can rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, motorized boats, jet skis, and more. There’s also AQUA x ZONE, a floating water park on the lake, which is suitable for all ages, and if you aren’t a child, it’ll bring out the child in you.
29. Proper Brewing Company
This is an amazing place for a burger and brew. The proper brewing company is for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans alike, Proper Brewing has a burger (and brew) for everyone. From the Hipster Burger (red onion jam, kale pesto, fresh herb cheese spread, garlic aioli, and spinach) to the Vegan Chili Cheese Burger (house-made vegan chili, vegan cheese, and red onion), you might be tempted to order two. You can also book this bike and brew tour to sample 3 to 5 different microbreweries in Salt Lake City.
Utah Liquor Law Loophole
Proper Brewing also keeps its store open on Sunday which is a loophole in Utah’s strange liquor laws. For beer lovers: Utah’s liquor code requires all draft beer to contain less than 3.4% alcohol content. So, if you’re looking for something stronger, spring for the can or bottled version.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
For sightseeing in Salt Lake City, you’ll want to stay in Salt Lake City Center Hotels to be near the downtown tourist attractions of Temple Square, art galleries, and museums. Here are some suggested hotels to stay in Salt Lake City.
- Salt Lake City Marriott City Center – Located in the heart of the city, the Marriott City Center is near the Beehive House, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and many of Salt Lake City’s top tourist attractions. View details on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
- Hilton Salt Lake City Center -Another great hotel in the city center that is close to attractions and offers beautiful views of Salt Lake City and the valley View details on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Things to do in Downtown Salt Lake City FAQ
Is the Salt Lake in Utah worth visiting?
Yes, the Great Salt Lake in Utah is definitely worth visiting. It’s known for its high salinity which allows you to float in the water, and its beautiful, ever-changing colors. It’s also a haven for millions of native and migratory birds, making it a unique spot for bird watching.
What is Salt Lake City known for?
Salt Lake City is known for several things including its outdoor recreation opportunities (skiing, hiking, biking), being the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Great Salt Lake, its historic architecture, and being the host of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Can you walk around downtown Salt Lake City?
Yes, downtown Salt Lake City is very walkable. It features numerous attractions within walking distance of each other, including Temple Square, City Creek Center, and the Utah State Capitol. There are also numerous shops, restaurants, and public transportation options.
Can you swim in the Great Salt Lake?
Yes, you can swim in the Great Salt Lake. Its high salt content makes the water denser than freshwater, allowing swimmers to float easily. However, be aware that certain areas of the lake may be inaccessible depending on water levels and other conditions. Always check local advice before planning your swim.
Why you should visit Salt Lake City, Utah
With hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, and so much more, one weekend isn’t enough in Salt Lake City. There is so much to do northern Utah has to offer, it will leave you wanting more. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your Salt Lake City trip today.
Note: This post was originally written by Megan Walsh who is a Salt Lake City resident and runs The Quirky Climber. When she’s not traveling, you can usually find her with a thermos in hand somewhere along the Wasatch Front. Follow her on Twitter: @megwalsh02. We have updated the content for this year.