Utah's capital, border by its namesake lake and Wasatch mountain range, is an extremely kid-friendly town and offers dozens of fun activities to keep children active and engaged. Whether your kids like splashing around in the pool, learning at museums, or going hiking, here are our 18 favorite activities for kids in Salt Lake City.
Utah's Hogle Zoo dates from 1931 and is located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. The zoo is one of the most visited attractions in Utah and the top paid-for tourist attraction in all of Salt Lake City. It covers 42 acres and includes more than 800 animals.
Hogle Zoo's top exhibits include Rocky Shores, Asian Highlands, and Elephant Encounter. Little ones will enjoy the classic Zoo Train and new Conservation Carousel. Don't miss the World of Flight Bird Show during the spring, summer, and fall. Or visit during the holidays, when the entire zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland as part of the annual Zoolights display.
The Natural History Museum of Utah, near the University of Utah and Red Butte Garden, is an important part of Utah's scientific community but also a great place to visit with kids. Permanent exhibits cover archaeology, geology, paleontology, mineralogy, and zoology.
This Is the Place Monument in Emigration Canyon marks the spot where Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers first entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. One hundred years later, a bronze sculpture of Young and two of his colleagues was placed atop a 60-foot pedestal to commemorate their arrival. The park includes a restored pioneer village with live demonstrations of pioneer life and a restored Brigham Young farmhouse. It's located directly across from Hogle Zoo.
Red Butte Garden is a botanical garden and arboretum near the University of Utah. The garden offers walking paths through 11 themed gardens and nearly four miles of hiking trails. In addition to the botanical garden and arboretum, Red Butte provides children's activities, seasonal family events, and summer camps.
Liberty Park is Salt Lake City's second-largest public park and includes trails, playgrounds, a pond, paddle boat rentals, tennis courts, picnic facilities, amusement rides and a water play area. The park also includes the Chase Home Museum of Folk Arts and the eight-acre Tracy Aviary, one of just two free-standing aviaries in the United States.
Located in the heart of Salt Lake City, The Leonardo is a first-of-a-kind museum where you can explore the unexpected places and ways that science, technology, art, and creativity connect. It's a hybrid museum that's a blast to visit, with cool interactive exhibits. The most popular exhibition is FLIGHT!, where visitors can sit in the pilot's seat of a C-131 aircraft.
The Gateway, in downtown Salt Lake City, has plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment options for everyone, but kids will especially enjoy the Clark Planetarium and Discovery Gateway children's museum. The Olympic Snowflake Fountain in the Olympic Plaza is great for water play in hot weather.
The Living Planet Aquarium in Draper features four main exhibits: Discover Utah, Ocean Explorer, Journey to South America and Penguin Encounter. The aquarium is the ninth biggest in the United States; it houses 4,500 animals and more than 550 species.
Thanksgiving Point is a vast recreation area near the Point of the Mountain that includes spectacular themed gardens, a farm and agriculture center, movie theaters, an IMAX, shops, restaurants, a golf course, party and reception facilities, the Museum of Natural Curiosity, and the world's largest indoor dinosaur museum. There's so much to see and do at Thanksgiving Point that it's difficult to describe, but Thanksgiving Point definitely offers an escape from the everyday.
Lagoon is a large amusement park about 15 miles north of Salt Lake City, near the town of Farmington. In operation since 1896, the park's mix of old and new elements are one of its main draws. The park's carousel has been in operation since 1906, and the wooden roller coaster has been running since 1921. Park owners put up a new big ride just about every year to keep locals coming back. Lagoon is also home to a replica pioneer village and a water park called Lagoon-A-Beach.
If you're visiting during the summer months, one low-cost way to keep kids entertained for hours is a visit to a pool or splash pad. The water park at Cherry Hill in Kaysville features a pirate ship, a Cardiac Canyon River Run, a lazy river, water slides with fog and lighting effects, and two swimming pools, but if you don't feel like getting completely soaked, let your little ones run wild at the Valley Fair Mall's interactive fountain. With 31 jets, the fountain reaches heights of over 30 feet. LED lights in each water stream combine with music to create a choreographed show on the colorful splash pad.
One of Salt Lake's favorite family attractions in the Wairhouse, a trampoline park where you can book time to jump on your very own trampoline or in a room full of dozens. With more than 35,000 square feet, the Wairhouse has plenty of activities for those who aren't trampoline fans, including basketball lanes, dodgeball courts, and more.
Fat Cats combines a bowling alley with an arcade, pizza place and Mexican restaurant. It's not an original idea, but Fat Cats beats out the competition with consistently decent food and a clean, high-energy atmosphere. It's a great place for a birthday party, reunion or family outing.
Temple Square is Salt Lake City's most popular tourist attraction and is the best spot to catch a glimpse of the Salt Lake Temple, the largest and best-known of the 150 operating LDS temples. The square boasts incredible gardens in the spring and summer months and impressive light displays during the holidays. The entire complex is free to visit, and also includes the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, the Family History Library, and the LDS Church History Museum.
Hiking with kids can be tough: You need a trail that is not too long, not too steep, and also interesting enough to keep the little ones engaged. For a mix of all these things, visit Cascade Springs, a series of terraced springs and waterfalls above a natural spring, set along a half-mile trail on a boardwalk. Cascade Springs is also part of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway.
A Double Key treasure hunt kit lets you solve a mystery and explore Salt Lake City at the same time. A kit serves as a self-guided tour, leading you along to various historic sites. In the end, you'll find a real treasure. It's a unique and memorable activity for family and friend groups.
Spend Time on the Ice at the Utah Olympic Oval
A remnant from the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake, the Utah Olympic Oval is a state-of-the-art sporting facility that serves as both a unique piece of history and an activity space for sporty kids. At the Oval, you can go skating, play hockey, and even try curling. Equipment is available for rent as well.
Wheeler Historic Farm is a Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation facility, open to the public 365 days a year. It is a working farm, and the cows, horses, chickens, pigs, sheep, turkeys, goats, and rabbits serve an agricultural purpose. The farm features vendors, entertainment, blacksmith demonstrations, wool spinning, and sheep shearing on a daily basis as well as special Halloween and Easter events, a farmers market, and summer camps.
There is no admission to enter the grounds, which are open dawn until dusk. There are fees for activities such as wagon rides, milking the cow and special events.