Like most larger cities, Salt Lake City has its fair share of museums. Since it's such a family-friendly destination, you can plan to bring your kids to museums like the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Discovery Gateway Museum. But everyone from art connoisseurs to military buffs will find something to enjoy in the museum lineup.
Located on the University of Utah campus, Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) has a little bit of everything. With more than 20,000 pieces of art in its collection, UMFA features work from around the world, including Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Don’t miss first Wednesdays and third Saturdays, when everyone can visit for free. Admission is $5 after 5 p.m. every other Wednesday of the month, which is great for an affordable date night.
Located in the Gateway, an open-air shopping center in downtown Salt Lake City, Discovery Gateway Museum is perfect for those with young children. Full of hands-on learning experiences, the museum features interactive exhibits like the First Utah Bank Discovery Bank, where kids learn math literacy concepts as they act out the role of a banker. And don’t miss the Water Play exhibit, which is always a hit. Beyond exhibits, Discovery Gateway has all kinds of programs and classes.
The Natural History Museum of Utah showcases all things natural, with a focus on the intermountain West. Don’t miss the dinosaur and fossil exhibits—they are a guaranteed hit with all ages. You'll also find displays on plants, gemstones, the natives of the region, the history of the Great Salt Lake, and more. You can easily make a day (or half day) out of your visit as there are more than 5,000 artifacts to explore and a café on-site. Special exhibitions also regularly come through.
Examining how science, technology, art, and creativity connect, the Leonardo is awesome for all ages and levels of nerdiness. In the Flight exhibit, you can watch the moon landing while sitting in a replica of an American living room from 1969, explore a C-131 aircraft, and try your hand at flight simulators. Later, check out Perception, an exhibit that takes you through the mind as you dive into optical illusions.
Clark Planetarium is especially perfect for families with older children who can really delve into the exhibits, or adults who love all things space. First and foremost are the shows, which you can view on an IMAX screen or dome theater. There are several to choose from, so check the schedule in advance to better plan your visit.
The planetarium features hands-on experience as well, with exhibits spanning three floors and covering topics like volcanoes and earthquakes, the solar system, and deep space.
If what you seek is more modern art, make your way to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA). Here, you'll find everything from photography to pop art, spread out over six gallery spaces. The exhibits rotate, so no two visits are the same.
Beyond wandering the galleries, stop by the AIR space to see what the latest artists in residence are coming up with. UMOCA hosts a number of educational art programs as well; chief among these is Family Art Saturday, which involves hands-on art activities for kids on the second Saturday of each month, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you’re visiting Salt Lake City and don’t know much about the history of the area, this museum is worth a visit. There are plenty of exhibits, including Mormon Trails—which focuses on the pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley between 1846 and 1890—and a gallery of artwork on the second floor.
The Pioneer Memorial Museum has thousands of artifacts harkening back to the time pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley—so many, in fact, that it has the world’s largest collection of items on a single subject! Expect to see the full range of the pioneer experience, including items packed for the journey such as salt shakers, dolls, and pianos. Admission is free.
Fort Douglas Military Museum
Located near the University of Utah, the Fort Douglas Military Museum gives you an up close look at tanks, artillery, helicopters, uniforms, and more. The museum is free and not as large and bustling as many of the other museums on this list, so it’s great if you want something a bit more quiet.