Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital and largest city, nestled between the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains has plenty of activities for all the family to enjoy.
Far more than just a stopping point on your way to Utah’s “big 5” or Salt Lake Valley ski resorts, make some time in your itinerary to check out all there is to see and do in Salt Lake City before you hit the road.
Here we’re going to share our top 12 Salt Lake City attractions to pencil into your itinerary that are lots of fun for the kids, educational and well-suited to a family-friendly road trip itinerary through Utah.
1. Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
You wouldn’t expect a desert state to have an aquarium, but right here in Salt Lake City, you’ll find a brilliant example in the suburb of Draper.
Loveland Living Planet Aquarium is small but an excellent education center for families that may not otherwise get to visit the ocean.
There is a large touching pool, where kids can touch stingrays, as well as a learning center where children touch hermit crabs, starfish, and the like. The displays are of the same quality you’d expect in aquariums across the country.
2. Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
An amazing kids’ museum full of hands-on exhibits, you’re bound to find something here to suit tots through to tweens at Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum.
Open Daily (except Tuesdays) there’s an extensive range of interactive permanent exhibits, as well as temporary exhibits and an events program to enjoy. With over 60,000 square feet of play space it’s a great way to spend a hot or rainy day in Salt Lake City with kids!
3. Clark Planetarium
Another fabulous interactive indoor discovery center the kids will love is the Clark Planetarium. Kids will get a hands-on opportunity to learn about Earth, the moon, and space weather. The Restless Planet Exhibit is a favorite, allowing you to stand inside a tornado and watch a lightning strike, or why not pilot a Rover on Mars?
The great thing about the Clark Planetarium is it’s free to enter! There are shows at the Imax Theater and Hensen Dome that are ticketed, but many of the fun exhibits won’t cost you a cent, making it an awesome free thing to do with kids in Salt Lake City.
4. Hogle Zoo
The classic children’s attraction in SLC is Hogle Zoo. It might not be the greatest zoo in the country, but it does make for an entertaining afternoon. Kids love it and parents will love it, too, because it is not as spread out and exhausting as many zoos you may have been to.
5. Tour the Utah State Capitol Building
An unmissable part of Salt Lake City’s skyline, did you know you can tour the Capitol building for free?
You just need to check in with the Visitor Services Center for self-guided and docent-led guided tours. Your tour will cover Utah history, governance, and the Utah State Capitol building history and architecture. (Top Tip: print out a kids scavenger hunt online before you go to help keep them engaged!)
If the kids really don’t have the patience for a tour, simply enjoy the expansive lawns and outdoor monuments.
6. Great Salt Lake State Park
It isn’t hard to find parks of different sizes in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, there are several notable favorites that are worth taking the time to go see that are either free or very low cost.
There is no better way to get to know the Great Salt Lake than by exploring the Great Salt Lake State Park. Admission is $2 per carload; all occupants of the vehicle are free of charge. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily all year round.
This park not only offers a great view of the Great Salt Lake but also has nice children-friendly trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds, and is nearby to great eating spots. Swimming is allowed, but the water is extremely salty.
7. This is the Place Heritage Park
This is the Place Heritage Park is another popular park family attraction in Salt Lake City. The park is full of history involving Brigham Young and Utah’s Pioneer Day, which is held on the 24th of July yearly.
It’s a great place for kids to learn an important part of Utah History. Explore the historic village and learn about the pioneer era with actors bringing stories to life; pan for gemstones to learn about Utah’s mining past and enjoy a ceremonial dance by Native American performers.
Your journey continues around the park outside. Kids can enjoy endless mini train rides or pony rides and a petting corral. In the summer there’s the irrigation station splash park to cool off. Admission rates depend on the day and season.
8. Sugar House Park
Sugar House Park is another of Salt Lake City’s favorites. It is one of the most attractive parks with much to offer to its visitors, including nice trails and a creek that runs through the park.
It is located at 1300 E 2100 S. Admission is free, and it is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the months of April through October. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the months of November through March.
9. Liberty Park
A wonderful outdoor space, there are over 100 acres of parkland here to be explored. In addition to plenty of walking paths, and a splash pad in summer, there’s a playground for smaller kids and one especially for older kids too, so pack a picnic and spend the day!
Within the park, you’ll also find Tracy Aviary and Botanical Garden. In addition to over 8 acres of gardens and exhibits, they have live daily keeper talks – you can check out the schedule on their website in advance to time your trip.
10. Canyon Rim Park
Canyon Rim Park is also a wonderful place to take your kids out for fresh air. There is lots of space for kids to play and for dog walking, also nice playgrounds. This park has horseshoe courts, two pavilions, and several other fun amenities for you and your family to enjoy.
It is located at 3100 S 3100 E. Admission is free, and it is open daily from dawn until dusk.
11. The Tabernacle & Mormon Church Office Building Tour
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Salt Lake City is touring Temple Square and the Tabernacle.
You can tour this amazing religious building for free. If the choir is rehearsing or giving a recital, you can sit in for free. If you are interested in watching the choir perform, then you will want to visit the Tabernacle on a Sunday when their normal morning performances are delivered.
If you or your kids are interested in learning more about the Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, or if you would like a great view of the city, then take the free Mormon Church Office Building Tour!
The Mormon Church Office Building can be found at 50 East North Temple Street. This tour will show you around not only Temple Square, the fabulous artwork inside the building, as well as take you to the observation platform found on the 26th floor.
This is a great vantage point for taking photographs of the Salt Lake City cityscape and natural landscape.
12. Utah Olympic Park in Park City
Last but not least, got kids that love their sports and outdoor activities? Then you must make a stop in at Utah Olympic Park.
Built for the 2002 Olympics, explore the free Olympic Museum first, then let the kids loose in the Discovery Zone. Test their agility and skills on the ropes course, zip line, and bob sled – open year-round.
Dining in Salt Lake City With Kids
There are literally hundreds of restaurants to choose from in Salt Lake City. Some local favorites to try with the kids include:
- Blue Iguana (Mexican on West Temple)
- Eight Settlers Distillery (Complete with a kids menu, open daily in Cottonwood Heights)
- Carson Kitchen (Burgers in a contemporary bar setting in Downtown)
Salt Lake City is known for its great skiing, its Mormon residents, and its amazing history. If you are planning a vacation to this western city, then take some time to tour its attractions. Many of the attractions in Salt Lake City, even the most famous ones, are free of charge.
Did you happen to see any that caught your interest in Salt Lake City? Fill up your gas tank and go have some fun in the sun in Utah.
More on visiting Utah on a Family Road Trip
- Heading onwards to the Utah National Parks? This is the Ultimate Utah road trip for some serious desert magic.
- Extend your trip onward to Arizona with this incredible Utah + Arizona itinerary.
- Unfamiliar with driving conditions in the desert? You’ll want to check out our desert driving tips before you hit the road.
- Never forget an important road-tripping item again! Check out our guide to road trip essentials and grab your downloadable road trip check list.
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