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Salt Lake is a fun city with lots of great family activities! If you’re new to the area it can be a little daunting to choose the best ones. That’s why I have compiled this list. I’ve lived in Utah since birth, so I know what the highlights are! Here is a list of the best 7 activities for families near Salt Lake City. I’ll tell you a little bit about our recent experiences at each of these places to help you get an idea of what they are like.
Kids love zoos, and they are a great addition to any itinerary. We began our Hogle Zoo visit with a train ride. We rode around the African Savannah while the conductor told us about the animals in these enclosures. She pointed out the baby zebra and shared fun facts. Then the train took us through the wild west, where we saw donkeys and old mining towns.
As we explored, we frequently saw zoo keepers who could answer our questions and teach us about the animals. Two of them had set up a table with various things to feel. We touched skin from the bottom of an elephant’s foot and leopard fur! Another zoo keeper was holding a cockroach. She offered to let us touch it, but I quickly said, “No thank you!” Ew.
New animals are coming to the zoo all the time. This year there are new babies of all kinds: zebras, leopards, monkeys, and youngest of them all, a giraffe! Hogle Zoo also added a whole new enclosure for a red panda recently!
Our favorite part of the zoo was seeing the Gorillas. It’s incredible to be so close to them! I thought it was so interesting to see how they act so much like people.
City Creek Mall
We frequently visit City Creek Mall for a fun weekend activity. It isn’t called City Creek for nothing: a creek runs right through the mall! This large mall covers two city blocks with a skybridge connecting the two sides. It has high-end stores like Tiffany’s, Swarovski, and Porsche. With a splash pad, a musical fountain, the Disney store, and fish in the creek, it’s a great place for kids too.
Thanksgiving point has a lot of options for things to do. We could easily spend a full day at each of their venues. We opted for their explorer pass which is a day pass and includes admission to the Museum of Natural History, the Ashton Gardens, the Museum of Natural Curiosity, and Farm Country. Unfortunately, the Ashton Gardens was closed for the season, but I have walked through them in the past, and they are stunning! When you visit, you’ll be able to see the “largest manmade waterfall in the Western Hemisphere.”
Museum of Natural History
This museum features many fossils and dinosaur skeletons. We started by walking through a tunnel that felt like outer space and led us to the beginning of life on Earth. As we walked through the museum, we learned about different periods of time. Each exhibit is designed to be life-like with foliage and sounds to add to the atmosphere. There were some great hands-on activities for kids throughout the museum. We tried a video game where we were a dinosaur trying to escape falling meteors! There is also an area for kids to dig for dinosaur bones!
Museum of Natural Curiosity
This museum is kid heaven. I’m not even joking. There are so many cool things to do here that I’m a little overwhelmed as I try to write about it. We started by going to the Kidopolis section. This area is set up to look like a city. Kids can go in various buildings to play and learn. We learned some cool moves in the dance studio. In the magic shop, we tried to wrap our minds around different optical illusions. At the theater, kids were dressing up and performing a play. Our son crawled around in the baby area which is made to look like a garden.
Next we visited the traveling exhibit area to learn about bloodsucking insects. When we first entered we were greeted by a giant tick! We learned about how mosquitos and other bloodsuckers find their food, and how we can avoid being their food!
The next area was dedicated to water. This was definitely a favorite. Our son loved the water table for babies. It had a fountain in the middle and some cute water toys. For older kids, there were tubes, ramps, and plugs for them to create water systems. We also tried out the tornado simulator!
Last, we headed to the rainforest.This area has “ancient ruins” for kids to explore which are really a large play area. They can also “fly” a plane and climb on bridges.There was another cute baby area here with a slide and some ramps and balls. Our son loved it. He could have played there for hours.
If your or your kids have ever wondered what it’s like to be on a farm, Farm country is for you! Farm Country is a fully functioning farm. When you come here, you’ll be able to see and pet various animals. If you plan ahead, you can even participate in milking a cow! After petting the animals, we hopped on a wagon ride around the farm. Our favorite part of farm country was the pony ride! This was the baby’s first pony ride, and he was so amazed by the horse and the movement that we couldn’t get him to look up for a picture!
Visit Temple Square
Temple Square is an iconic landmark in Utah. We love visiting temple square to see the beautiful grounds and visitor centers. The grounds are gorgeous year-round. Christmas here is particularly beautiful though, with thousands of lights! You can go up to the top of the church office building which is the second tallest building in Utah! (It is only two feet shorter than the Wells Fargo Center, which is the tallest.)
If you are interested in a particular building here, go inside for a tour! The exception to this is the Temple, but you can go in the south visitor’s center to see a scale model of it and learn what happens inside. Fun fact: It took 40 years to build the Salt Lake Temple.
Utah is known for its outdoor adventures. This hike is a way to get a little taste of that. Ensign Peak is just a 5 minute drive from the Capitol building. It’s one mile round-trip, but don’t be fooled! We were surprised to find that it’s pretty steep all the way to the monument! It’s definitely doable, but if you are bringing young children, be prepared to take a few breaks. Also, be sure to wear good quality shoes.
The hard work will definitely pay off, because the views on this hike are incredible. I was glad that we needed to take a couple of breaks. This made me stop to look around and soak it all in.
At the top, there are places to sit and rest. We spent some time reading plaques about the history of the area and taking pictures. This hike is famous because it leads to the spot that early settlers came to in order to survey the land.
When you are finished with your hike, you can relax at the cute garden across the street from the trailhead. All the shade makes it a great place to relax after hiking, but it also has plaques about Utah history.
This is the perfect place to visit if you are interested in the history of Utah, or the history of the West in general!
The first section of the park is set up like a town from the early days of Utah. We felt like we had stepped back in time. In each building there was an employee dressed as a pioneer who taught us all about the building. We visited homes, the school, bank, church building, post office, and lots more. Some of these buildings had things to make. At the farm, we enjoyed petting goats and sheep, we put designs on pieces of leather in the tanner shop, and in one of the homes you can make a bird house.
After all this walking around, we were pretty hungry, so we popped in the Huntsman Grill. This restaurant is inside a charming historic hotel. I ordered the salad, and Skyler opted for a burger. There’s something you should know about Skyler; he is a burger man. He could eat a burger every day without getting tired of them! I was interested to hear his thoughts about the burger here. After his first bite, he said, “Wow! This is super good! It’s seasoned really well, and it’s so fresh. I’d say it’s as good as a homemade burger.” Huntsman Grill for the win! I loved my salad too.
We made our way up the hill toward the treasure house. This area is designed for curious and active kids. They can pan for gold, explore a replica of the Ship Brooklyn, dig for dinosaur bones, and meet a mountain man. Just a little farther up the hill is the Native American Village. There are various types of Native American homes for kids to explore here.
Check their website before you visit This is the Place Heritage Park. They have lots of fun events!
Tour the State Capitol Building
State Capitol buildings are a great way to learn a lot about a state in a short amount of time. Guided tours are offered frequently at the Utah State Capitol building, but you can also do a self-guided tour. The displays here feature great works of art and pieces that tell the story of Utah. We loved the display which shows famous movies that were filmed in Utah. We were surprised by a lot of them!