aerial view of Salt Lake City
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22 Things To Do In Salt Lake City

Discover the best of the "Crossroads of the West"

Utah is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and national parks, including Capitol Reef, Arches, and Zion. And among Utah’s cities, the state’s capital is a standout destination worth exploring. 

Situated between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges, and adjacent to the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City melds urban culture within its natural surroundings. Notably the global headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the city also boasts a rich Olympic legacy, a thriving arts and culinary scene emphasizing farm-to-table dining, and unrivaled access to some of the nation’s top outdoor recreation.

However you find yourself there, here are some of the best things to do in Salt Lake City, including where to eat and where to stay

Temple square in downtown Salt Lake City
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Salt Lake City Landmarks

As a cultural hub of Utah and a religious seat, Salt Lake City’s main attractions draw thousands of visitors each year for good reason. 

See The Six Spires of the Salt Lake Temple

The Salt Lake Temple is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Salt Lake City. As the centerpiece of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the temple is a dominating symbol of the city’s religious heritage. Designed by architect Truman O. Angell and constructed between 1853 and 1893, the structure features striking Gothic and Romanesque elements, complete with six spires and intricate details. While the temple itself is not open to the public, visitors can explore the surrounding grounds. 

Learn The City’s History At One of Utah’s Most Visited Attractions

The Salt Lake Temple is contained within Temple Square, a 10-acre complex that serves as the headquarters of the LDS Church. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Utah, drawing millions of visitors each year. Temple Square includes several historic buildings, such as the Salt Lake Tabernacle, known for its remarkable acoustics and the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Self-guided and guided tours are free of charge.

Take In The Panoramic Views From State Capitol’s Hill

Perched on aptly named Capitol Hill, the Utah State Capitol building offers commanding views of Salt Lake City and surrounding mountains. Completed in 1916, the structure boasts neoclassical details and an impressive dome designed by architect Richard K.A. Kletting. Visitors can take guided tours of the Capitol to learn about Utah’s legislative process, explore historical exhibits, and admire the intricate murals and artworks adorning the interior.

Bonneville Salt Flats
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Outdoor Activities

Salt Lake City is no stranger to the outdoors. Take part in the action with one of these favorite ways to be active in the area. 

Ride on Horseback in Antelope State Park 

Antelope Island State Park (approximately a 90-minute drive) is the largest island in The Great Salt Lake and a popular destination to escape fully into nature. Among the park’s many activities, hiking, biking, horseback riding with Rhodes Valley Outfitters, wildlife viewing, and birdwatching are particularly exceptional here. The island is home to free-roaming herds of bison, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope, as well as a variety of desert animals.

Take a Sunset Boat Cruise on The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake, the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, is a sight to behold in person. Located just a short drive from the city, the lake’s high salinity levels allow visitors to float effortlessly on its surface. Enjoy your preferred water activity in the world’s 10th saltiest body of water (on average) like kayaking, paddleboarding, and boat tours departing out of the Great Salt Marina. If you’re really feeling like a drive, continue to the north shore to see the Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson’s art installation on Rozel Point peninsula. 

Take a Break at Liberty Park

Liberty Park is a 100-acre urban park located in the heart of Salt Lake City. It is the city’s second-largest public park and a favorite spot for locals. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll or bike ride around the park’s perimeter path, which encircles a scenic pond. Liberty Park is also home to the Tracy Aviary, a bird sanctuary that houses over 400 birds from around the world.

Go For A Canyon Hike Right From Downtown 

City Creek Canyon is mere footsteps behind the state capitol and Memory Grove Park, making it a popular destination for hiking and biking. The Memory Grove Trail (1.7 miles) is a relatively easy loop, while the 6.5-mile out-and-back City Creek Canyon Trail follows the creek and is best hiked between March and October. 

Experience The Beauty of Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats, located approximately 90 miles west of Salt Lake City, is a vast expanse of white salt crust that stretches over 30,000 acres. This unique landscape, formed from the remnants of ancient Lake Bonneville, is one of the most iconic natural features in Utah. The salt flats are famous for their smooth surface, making them a popular site for land speed records. Visitors can walk or drive on the salt flats, a notable spot for photography, especially at sunrise and sunset. The best time to visit is during the cooler months, as the summer heat can be dangerous. 

Picnic at Sugar House Park

Sugar House Park is Utah’s largest urban park, located in the Sugar House neighborhood. The park features rolling hills, mountain views, expansive lawns, and a picturesque pond, making it a great spot for jogging, walking, and biking on its trails. The park also hosts numerous community events and festivals throughout the year.

View The Expansive Salt Lake Valley 

Millcreek Canyon, a 20-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, is an exceptional getaway. The canyon is home to several popular trails, such as the Mill Creek Pipeline Trail, which offers views of the canyon and the Salt Lake Valley. During the winter months, the canyon is a popular destination for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. 

Utah State Capitol Building
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Cultural and Historical Sites

From whimsical sculptures to interactive exhibits, Salt Lake City’s cultural and historical sites offer visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the region’s heritage and creativity. 

Tour One of Salt Lake’s Many Museums 

Salt Lake City has a vibrant art scene with several noteworthy museums. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) on the University of Utah campus features an extensive collection spanning 5,000 years, with European paintings, American Indian art, and contemporary works. The Leonardo Museum blends art, science, and technology, offering interactive exhibits that engage visitors of all ages. Housed in the Glendinning Mansion, The Alice Gallery highlights contemporary Utah artists through rotating exhibitions. 

The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) downtown showcases cutting-edge works from local and international artists, complemented by educational programs and workshops. Lastly, Phillips Gallery, the oldest commercial gallery in Utah, presents a wide array of contemporary art, from paintings to sculptures, representing both established and emerging artists.

Experience a Thriving Arts Scene Firsthand

Salt Lake County Arts & Culture is dedicated to supporting and expanding art and culture in the County. Visit their website to discover performing arts programs, including the Utah Symphony, Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, and nationally touring shows through the city’s prominent venues like Eccles and J.Q. Lawson Capitol Theatre (which also houses Ballet West). Additionally, check out the Salt Palace Convention Center’s website for current exhibits or stop by the Visit Salt Lake Visitor’s Center on-site. 

Stroll Through a Whimsical Sculpture Garden

The Gilgal Sculpture Garden is one of Salt Lake City’s most unique and whimsical attractions. Created by local artist Thomas Battersby Child Jr. in the mid-20th century, this hidden gem features a series of surreal and thought-provoking sculptures. The garden includes 12 original sculptures and over 70 stone engravings, each imbued with religious and philosophical themes. Highlights include the famous Joseph Smith Sphinx, a sculpture that combines the face of the Mormon prophet with the body of a sphinx. 

Glimpse Into The Early Life Of Brigham Young

The Beehive House, located in downtown Salt Lake City, is a historic landmark that once served as the residence of Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS (Latter-day Saints) Church and an early leader of the Mormon pioneers. Built in 1854, the house is named for the beehive symbol that adorns its exterior, representing industry and cooperation. Today, the Beehive House is a museum that offers guided tours, providing a glimpse into the life of Brigham Young and his family. (Currently the house is closed for renovations, scheduled to open in 2025). 

Live Like a Pioneer

This Is The Place Heritage Park is a living history museum that commemorates the arrival of the Mormon pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The park features historical buildings, pioneer reenactments, and interactive exhibits that bring the past to life. Visitors can ride a replica of the Mormon Handcart, visit the old-fashioned ZCMI General Store, and observe blacksmithing, weaving, and other traditional crafts. The park also includes a Native American Village, where guests can learn about the indigenous cultures that have inhabited the region for centuries. 

Meet an Ambassador Bird Up-Close

Located in Liberty Park, Tracy Aviary is the oldest aviary in the United States and a beloved attraction for bird lovers. The aviary spans eight acres and is home to over 400 birds representing more than 135 species. It’s team is deeply dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats, offering educational programs and initiatives that promote environmental awareness. 

Park in Salt Lake City
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Sports and Recreation

Salt Lake City is a premier destination for outdoor adventure. With its rich Olympic history and proximity to world-class ski resorts, the city offers year-round opportunities to get outside.

Cultivate Your Olympic Spirit

It’s hard to imagine visiting Salt Lake without thinking of the Olympics. At the Utah Olympic Park complex, visitors can experience the excitement firsthand. The park’s attractions include the Olympic Museum, which showcases the history of the Games and highlights memorable moments from the 2002 Winter Olympics. Adventure seekers can get their fill with ziplining, extreme tubing, and the alpine slide. In the winter, visitors can try their hand at bobsledding on the same track used by Olympic athletes. 

Get Out To The Mountains, No Matter The Season

Located just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, Park City Mountain Resort is renowned for its world-class skiing and snowboarding. As one of the largest ski resorts in the United States (over 7,300 acres of skiable terrain), the resort caters to all skill levels from beginners to experts.   The resort provides year-round activities such as mountain biking, hiking, and scenic chairlift rides during the summer. Post-activity, stop by Park City’s main street for aprés ski or hike ice cream before heading back to the city. 

Downward Dog At The City’s Most Up-and-Coming Arts District

Situated in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, The Gateway is an emerging arts district, home to Olympic Legacy Plaza, and one of the city’s largest outdoor art galleries. The revitalized destination features community-driven events, including concerts, pop-up markets, festivals, and outdoor fitness classes, plus dining and entertainment. It’s also part of Salt Lake City’s UTA Free Fare Zone, with direct access via TRAX. Check @atthegateway to see what’s on during your visit.  

Offset Your Carbon Emissions on a GREENbike

The city is better experienced on a GREENbike, of which you‘ll see many around the city. GREENbike is Utah’s only non-profit bike share; providing a less expensive and green transportation option for locals and tourists. Beyond its commuter function, it’s a grand way to see Salt Lake City’s beautiful architecture from a unique perspective. Download the app for quick access at one of their 47 locations, making it a breeze (not to mention a blast).

Ski Your Heart Out

Salt Lake City is a gateway to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world, thanks to its proximity to the Wasatch Mountain Range. In addition to the famous Park City Mountain Resort, other popular destinations include Snowbird (famous for its challenging runs and deep powder; Alta, (known for its steep and deep powder skiing); and Deer Valley Resort (a luxury resort with meticulously groomed trails and top-notch amenities. 

Catch a Game

There’s plenty to fill your itinerary with sports in the city. Catch an NBA game with the Utah Jazz at the Vivint Arena in downtown. For soccer enthusiasts, Real Salt Lake plays MLS at America First Field in the nearby suburb of Sandy. Particularly exciting is the Utah Royals FC return to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) for the 2024 season. 

Baseball fans can enjoy a game with the Salt Lake Bees, a Triple-A team, at Smith’s Ballpark, known for its family-friendly atmosphere. Or, head over to West Valley City to watch the Utah Grizzlies, SLC’s exciting mid-professional ice hockey team (ECHL) which has sent over 200 players to the NHL since 1994. 

Farm to table dinner
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Where To Eat  

Salt Lake City is increasingly recognized for its evolving culinary scene, best known for its farm-to-table restaurants, a growing international food scene, and local staples. Here are some of the best places to eat in Salt Lake:  

  • Pago: A pioneer of the farm-to-table movement in Salt Lake City, Pago celebrates small-scale production, local ingredients, and sustainability through its New American cuisine and internationally recognized wine program.
  • Red Iguana: Renowned for its authentic Mexican cuisine (especially its signature mole dishes), Red Iguana serves a collection of award-winning Cardenas family recipes. 
  • The Copper Onion: A brasserie-style restaurant committed to sourcing local and sustainable ingredients, The Copper Onion serves American fare made in-house daily.  From the creative mind of former chef de partie at Jean-George (Two Michelin Stars), Ryan Lowder.  
  • Takashi: Led by Chef Takashi Gibo, Takashi has earned a stellar reputation for its meticulously crafted sushi. 
  • Valter’s Osteria: Valter’s mother’s recipes with a modern twist are the backbone of Valter’s Osteria, a warm and lively Italian restaurant. 
  • Log Haven: A culinary experience set in the picturesque Millcreek Canyon, Log Haven consistently ranks as one of Salt Lake City’s most romantic restaurants.  
  • HSL (Handle Salt Lake): A curated dining experience, HSL brings the innovative American cuisine of Park City’s Handle to downtown. 
  • Table X: James Beard Semi-Finalist, Table X serves creative tasting menus using seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients, often grown in their own garden.
  • Roots Cafe: A favorite cafe among locals, Roots is the place to go for breakfast, served all day. 

Where To Stay

A number of Salt Lake City’s best hotels are located right in the middle of the action. Element is Marriott’s new eco-conscious hotel near downtown, featuring recycled materials throughout the design and a rooftop pool. In the Granary District, the evo company’s unique concept, Evo Hotel, sits within the complex’s community-minded campus and brings outdoor adventure that much closer to guests. The Ellerbeck Bed & Breakfast charms guests with its personalized service in a historic 1892 Victorian mansion. For a hallmark Salt Lake experience, the 5-star Grand America Hotel’s European design and meticulous attention to detail consistently impress guests. Further out on Capitol Hill, the Inn on the Hill is a favorite Bed & Breakfast in the restored Woodruff home manor. 

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