12 Best Things to Do for Free in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City skyline with the mountains behind it

Ken Redding / Getty Images

You don't have to spend money to have fun in a city surrounded by an outdoor playground. Salt Lake City, with its impressive Wasatch Range backdrop, prides itself on being a recreational hub of the West, whether you prefer to take a hike in the mountains, swim in any of the surrounding lakes, or bird watch along the shores of Great Salt Lake. Culture and history lovers can also engage in the Salt Lake City vibe by perusing a museum or hanging out at the farmer's market, all without ever opening your wallet.

01 of 12

Research Your Roots at the Family History Library

Family History Library

Family History Library

Salt Lake City is considered to be sort of like Vatican City for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and genealogy just so happens to play a major role in the Mormon religion.

If you're thinking about starting a family tree or are in the process of doing one to discover your roots, visit the Family History Library to have a look at the wealth of complimentary and available genealogy resources, get some help from volunteer researchers, learn techniques for doing it yourself, view records and microfilms, scan important documents and photographs you find, and convert audio and video records to digital formats—all for free. Kids can learn about the places and cultures they come from in the Discovery Center, while other exhibits allow them to search for famous relatives in their family tree and see what life was like for their ancestors.

35 N W Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, USA
Phone +1 801-240-6996
02 of 12

Go On a Free Walking Tour of Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Utah

Darwin Fan / Getty Images

Preservation Utah offers a number of guided tours to important historical, cultural, and heritage sites around Salt Lake City, including the Kearns Mansion, the McCune Mansion, and Memory Grove Park and Meditation Chapel. There's also a special tour held the third Thursday of each month that offers different themes and locations—Trinity AME Church, historic homes of the area, the McGillis School, Sprague Library, Springville Museum, and International Peace Gardens have all been visited on past guided tours.

If you'd prefer to tour the city at your own pace, download the Preservation Utah Tours app, available for android via Google Play and iOS via the App Store, or print out one of the self-guided tour brochures to take around town so you can better understand what you're looking at while you walk.

03 of 12

Head for the Hills

Salt Lake City mountains

TripSavvy / Joe Drivas

Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah 84092, USA

Park City and nearby Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons offer locals and visitors alike a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of this small Western city. Head up to Little Cottonwood Canyon, home of the popular Snowbird and Alta Ski Resorts or Big Cottonwood Canyon, home to Brighton and Solitude Resorts, to ski, hike, or mountain bike. Then, follow it up with a bite to eat at one of the resort's restaurants. Alternatively, the interstate drive to Park City takes only minutes from downtown. Once there, you can engage in a plethora of outdoor activities or enjoy a stroll through the trendy downtown scene.

04 of 12

Play Outside at a Park or Take a Hike

Sugar House Park
600 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105, USA

Together with the city, Salt Lake County maintains more than 145 parks in the Salt Lake Valley, with great parks located in nearly every neighborhood.

Liberty Park—the city's oldest and most famous—boasts outstanding facilities including playgrounds, jogging paths, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a museum, and an aviary. Sugar House Park is popular with joggers and contains one of Salt Lake City's best-known sledding hills—it's also the former site of Utah State Prison, though it now contains playgrounds, a sports facility, and several pavilions. Memory Grove, located at the entrance of City Creek Canyon, sports a U.S. veterans memorial, scenic bridge, meditation chapel, walking and jogging paths, and an off-leash dog area.

Hiking is fun, healthy, and free, and is one of the most accessible outdoor activities in the Salt Lake City area. Not only that, you don't have to be an expert or even an athlete to enjoy the area's scenic hiking trails. Start with an easy stroll around a lake near Brighton Resort. The Donut Falls trail offers the reward of a waterfall at the end of the 3.5-mile hike. For a more strenuous affair, climb to the top of Mount Olympus for some of the best views in the region.

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05 of 12

Learn About Area History at the Pioneer Memorial Museum

Wagon in the Church History Museum, Temple Square
Richard Cummins / Getty Images
300 N Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103, USA
Phone +1 801-532-6479

In downtown Salt Lake City, the Pioneer Memorial Museum is free to enter, run by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, and contains a large collection of artifacts and memorabilia from some of the earliest settlers in the Salt Lake valley. Peruse both the everyday items and ornate works of art belonging to the pioneers, while imagining the trek it took to migrate across the continent. When you've had your fill, check out the nearby Fort Douglas Military Museum, head to the LDS' Church History Museum, or add a free day at another area museum to your itinerary.

06 of 12

Tour Temple Square

Temple Square
Panoramic Images / Getty Images
50 North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150, USA
Phone +1 801-240-8945

Temple Square, Salt Lake City's best-known tourist attraction, is definitely worth a visit for newcomers, especially those wanting to revel in the city's history. Find out why it took 40 years to build the temple while enjoying the spectacular spring and summer flower gardens or the impressive Christmas lights display. Highlights include the North and South Visitor's centers, the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Family History Library, and the LDS Church History Museum.

07 of 12

Hit the Beach at Blackridge Reservoir

Salt Lake City beach
Universal Images Group

Even though it's in the middle of the country, Utah still has great beaches. Located just southwest of the city lies the Blackridge Reservoir and its sandy lakeside beach. Use of the area is free and its facilities include restrooms, a playground, concessions, and gazebos with tables. Break out your paddle board and get some exercise or beat the summer heat by floating around on a tube—avoid this Herriman, Utah, locale on weekends and holidays, though, unless you like crowds.

15000 S Ashland Ridge Dr, Herriman, UT 84096, USA
Phone +1 801-446-5323
08 of 12

Chill out With a Free Summer Concert

Utah summer concert

Ski Utah

239 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, USA
Phone +1 801-535-6110

Lovers of all music genres will enjoy the numerous free concerts held throughout Salt Lake City. Downtown, Excellence in the Community (a nonprofit arts organization) provides weekly concerts at the Gallivan Center May through July. Catch local artists performing jazz, rock, and big band music while kicking back on their green lawn. Temple Square hosts recitals, concerts, and other musical events seasonally and most performances start at 7:30 p.m. Snowbird Resort's Cool Air Concerts also get you out of the city and into the mountains to enjoy both local and national acts.

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09 of 12

Splash Around at a Water Park

Olympic Legacy Plaza
Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Several regional towns in the Salt Lake City area offer free splash pads or interactive fountains where kids can splash around. If you're looking to take a down day or just need to beat the summer heat, head to Legacy Park in North Salt Lake, which will keep the whole family busy with walking trails, shady hang-out spots, ball fields, picnic tables, and, best of all, a kid-friendly splash pad. You can also reserve a pavilion in two-hour increments if you're up for hosting a large group or an outdoor party.

1140 W 1100 N, North Salt Lake, UT 84054, USA
Phone +1 801-335-8726
10 of 12

Check out the Capitol Building

Aerial Shot of the Utah State Capitol Building and Downtown Salt Lake City Utah

 grandriver / Getty Images

The beautiful Utah State Capitol sits on a hill and looks over downtown Salt Lake City, welcoming guests to take a tour. Guided tours happen hourly Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. while self-guided tours are also available during normal operating hours, complete with brochures to help you plan out your route. The Pioneering Women Tour (by reservation only) lends a look at the important historic women displayed in the artwork throughout the building. A tour specifically suited to educators gives children and teachers a glimpse of the Gold Room and the Rotunda covered in magnificent murals—and drops in on a real legislative session.

350 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84103, USA
11 of 12

Visit a Bird Preserve

Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve in Salt Lake City

Chadthomas2013 / WikiCommons 

Check out freshwater marshes, ponds, pools, sloughs, and mudflats at the Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve, a unique ecosystem that serves as a robust feeding ground for tens of thousands of migratory birds each year. Here, you can view over 250 species of birds as they make their way from Canada to the South and back again. In fact, the area is frequented by so many feathered friends that it's received the designation of a "Site of Hemispheric Importance" by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. The grounds are located between the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area and the Antelope Island State Park causeway.

1002 S 3200 W, Layton, UT 84041, USA
Phone +1 801-531-0999
12 of 12

Eat Local at the Farmer's Market

Caputo's Market in its second year at the market in Salt Lake City

 Christian Harrison / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

There's no better way to get the feel of a vibrant city than by visiting its farmer's market when fresh produce is in season. The Downtown Farmer's Market in Salt Lake offers a lot more than just fruits and veggies. This Tuesday and Saturday market has a free kid's club, complete with fun activities like scavenger hunts that foster healthy local eating. It also has special workshops for adults, such as "Summer in a Jar," which teach food lovers how to preserve market goods.

300 W 300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, USA
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12 Best Things to Do for Free in Salt Lake City