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Salt Lake City has long been a popular destination for Mormon travelers who head there to visit the Salt Lake Temple, the largest and most important place of worship for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as well as other important places in LDS history and contemporary church administration. In recent years, though, it’s also become a hotspot for visitors of all sorts: skiers capping a weekend at a resort with some urban fun, lovers of nature, history, and architecture, and even craft beer fans, visiting to discover the burgeoning (and super-creative) brewing scene.
Whatever brings you to Salt Lake City, your experience will likely be enhanced by one of its excellent tours. Whether it’s your first visit or you live locally; you’re looking to understand the city better or get out of town a bit; prefer bikes, buses, or your own two feet, there’s a tour out there that will exponentially improve your SLC visit. Here are the best of the best.
Best Bus Tour: Salt Lake City Sightseeing Tour
This fairly straightforward sightseeing tour gives travelers a solid, in-depth look at all of Salt Lake City’s major attractions, with a particular focus on historical buildings and other sites. Your day will begin with a pickup from your downtown Salt Lake City hotel (or a meetup spot) in a comfy, climate-controlled coach. From there, it’s on to the magnificent Utah State Capitol Building for a visit, followed by a stop at Pioneer Village for a glimpse into the lives of the Mormon settlers of this area.
Then, you’ll make an in-depth stop at Temple Square, the historical heart of Salt Lake City and the spiritual and administrative heart of the LDS Church. Non-Mormons can’t enter the Temple itself, but you’ll tour the visitor centers and the gorgeous gardens, as well as hear a recital in the Tabernacle building, home of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir as well as one of the world’s largest pipe organs. After your visit to Temple Square, you’ll head to the Lion House, once the home of Brigham Young and now a restaurant (you’ll have time to buy and enjoy lunch here if you choose).
After lunch, you’ll see even more of Salt Lake City’s highlights from your bus, complete with narration from your expert guide: Fort Douglas, the University of Utah, the Pony Express Monument, and a number of the facilities from the 2002 Winter Olympics. The tour ends with a drop-off back at your downtown hotel.
Best Bike Tour: Big City Loop Tour
Mormon and non-Mormon bicyclists alike who are interested in the Mormon history of the city should consider this pleasant three-hour tour of the city’s historical monuments (with a hefty dose of contemporary architecture and green spaces). You’ll meet up with your guide at Liberty Park, Salt Lake City’s oldest park. There, you’ll get fitted for your cruiser and, of course, your bike helmet.
On your gently-paced route, you’ll visit the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, the historic homes of the South Temple district, the scenic view from City Creek Canyon, and Temple Square, where your guide will illuminate the early history of the Mormon settlers of the city. Finally, you’ll end up at the recently-built Salt Lake City Public Library, the contemporary crown jewel of the city. You’ll visit the building’s gorgeous rooftop terrace, which provides a 360-degree view of the city skyline and the surrounding mountains. From there, it’s back to Liberty Park where you’ll bid a fond farewell to your guide.
Best Walking Tour - Ultimate VIP Salt Lake City Tour with Mormon Tabernacle Organ Recital
If you fancy a good city stroll, sign up for a private tour with this expert guide and have them show you around Downtown Salt Lake City, answering all your questions and customizing every step to your needs. Your tour will start with a pickup from your Downtown SLC hotel, from which you’ll be transported straight to Temple Square, where your stroll will begin.
You’ll take in the visitor’s centers and the gardens before entering the beautiful Mormon Tabernacle for a 30-minute organ recital on one of the world’s largest pipe organs (it has over 11,000 individual pipes). You’ll also see the surrounding buildings, which include both historical monuments and structures that are used now for various aspects of LDS administration and other functions.
After you’ve toured the Temple Square area, you’ll zip over to Capitol Hill to see the sights there, and then on to Union Pacific Station and historic Brigham Street to view the gorgeous architectural and historical masterpieces at both. At the end of your tour, you’ll be delivered by vehicle back to your hotel.
Best Private Tour: Best of Salt Lake City: Private Tour
Tours are a great way to meet new people and get lots of information about a place, but if you’re up for a splurge, a private guide can really be a wonderful treat. If you’re particularly interested in architecture, say, or are specifically interested in one period of the city’s history, you can simply tell them and they’ll make a point of focusing on those points when they come up. You can also move at your own speed, skip attractions that don’t interest you, spend extra time at attractions that do, and ask every question you can possibly think of.
This tour guide offers that in-depth experience based around a guided framework that includes three specific attraction-dense areas of the city: Temple Square, Capitol Hill, and Union Pacific Station and the 2002 Winter Olympics landmarks nearby. You can arrange itinerary changes in advance if you wish. Bottled water is provided on this tour.
Best Small-Group Tour: Ultimate VIP Salt Lake City 2-Hour Small Group Tour
Get personal attention from your expert guide on this small-group tour of Salt Lake City’s landmarks, with a maximum group size of just six people. With a group this small, it’s easy to cover a lot of ground, and in just two hours, you’ll get to see Temple Square and its stunning landscaped gardens, the Mormon Tabernacle, Assembly Hall, Lion House, Eagle Gate, the Mormon Handcart Monument and Seagull Miracle Monument, the Utah State Capitol Building, Union Pacific Station, historic Brigham Street, the Governor’s Mansion, the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and countless others.
At each stop, you’ll have ample opportunity to ask questions, snap pictures, and get all sorts of great info from your guide. Downtown SLC hotel pickup is included in this tour with 24 hours’ advance notice, and free downtown parking is available for those who’d prefer to drive in.
Best Ghost Tour: Old Town Tour
Even a wholesome city like SLC, if it’s been around awhile, has seen plenty of dark days and dastardly doings. This 1.5-hour tour takes you on a journey into these dark legends, both on foot and by bus. You’ll learn about the legend of the Hoppity Lady, still searching for her lost husband. You’ll see Salt Lake City’s oldest mansion (where perhaps some residents never left) and the largest municipal cemetery in the United States.
You’ll visit old train depots and other historic buildings and hear tales of some of Salt Lake City’s most brutal crimes. It’s a scary (though often quite funny) tour that welcomes anyone ages five and up, though parental guidance is very much suggested for the 12 and under set, and if your kids are either squeamish or easily frightened, a different tour might be a better choice.
Best Combo Tour: Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Ultimate Salt Lake City Tour
Combine a guided private tour of four of Salt Lake City’s most intriguing areas — Temple Square, Capitol Hill, Union Pacific Depot, and Historic Brigham Street — with one of the most spectacular choral concerts you’re likely to ever see: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live. Depending on when you book your tour, you’ll either catch a full rehearsal or a live broadcast of the choir’s weekly “Music and the Spoken Word” concert. If you book the Sunday morning tour, you’ll start your morning with the concert and then move on to the private tour of the city.
If you choose the Thursday evening tour, you’ll start with the private tour of the city and then settle in for the weekly full rehearsal of the concert. Either way, it’s quite a treat, and with the attention of your private guide, you’ll get all sorts of insider knowledge and “backstage” info that you’d never find in a guidebook.
Best Great Salt Lake Tour: Great Salt Lake Tour by Bus
Salt Lake City sits at the edge of the massive inland sea that is the Great Salt Lake, but if you really want to see the latter and get a sense for its size and impressive geological history, it helps to get out of town a bit. This tour allows you to really get a sense for this marine oddity, with helpful explanations from a guide who is an expert in both the history and scientific background of the lake and the people and creatures who have lived near it over time.
Your day will begin with a downtown Salt Lake City hotel pickup in a comfy air-conditioned motorcoach, from where you’ll zip out to the lake, punctuating an impressively scenic drive with several stops. You’ll visit the Great Salt Lake State Marina, the Saltair Resort (once called the “Coney Island of the West”), the Wetlands Habitat, a migratory bird sanctuary, and you’ll even have a chance to take a swim in the lake’s water, which is so salty that only brine shrimp can survive in it!
Best Antelope Island Tour: Antelope Island Small Group Tour from Salt Lake City
One of the more popular get-outta-town excursions from Salt Lake City is a visit to Antelope Island, a 42-square-mile island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake itself. Now a State Park, Antelope Island was once home to Brigham Young’s ranch, Buffalo Point. Visitors interested in Mormon history will enjoy visiting the farmhouse itself, and those who enjoy natural history will love spotting the buffalo, antelope, deer, coyotes, and wide variety of migratory and regional bird life that live in this little micro-ecosystem. The tour lasts about four hours and includes pick-up and drop-off at Salt Lake City hotels. It’s very much a family-friendly tour, and with tours capped at 16 people, you get lots of private attention from your knowledgeable guide.