15 Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City (UT)

Written by Veronique Raes
Updated on
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Salt Lake City is probably best known as the base of the religious community known as the Mormons or the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

The city is also the state capital of Utah and is known for its scenic location, being situated in a valley that sits high above the majestic Jordan River.

The city was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young who trekked here from Illinois and decided to set up a community.

As a result, the Mormon faith was established here, and many of the buildings and attractions in the city reflect this illustrious history.

There is even a replica of a Mormon village here that represents life much as it would have been when the city was established in the 1800s, if you really want to enjoy a slice of historical Salt Lake City.

If you want to learn more about Mormonism then you can certainly do so in the city, but there is more to Salt Lake City than just religious monuments, and you can enjoy other attractions like zoos, vibrant museums, and planetariums.

1. Temple Square

Temple SquareSource: flickr
Temple Square

Temple Square is considered a holy location for Mormons, and here you will find a scenic square that covers over 10 acres.

The square is lined with trees and pretty flowers, and several buildings of interest look out over it.

Just some of these include important Mormon sites such as the Mormon Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple Annex, and the Assembly Hall.

There are also some monuments and memorials in the square, as well as an information center where you can learn more about Mormonism.

2. Liberty Park

Liberty ParkSource: flickr
Liberty Park

Liberty Park covers an impressive 80 acres of land which makes it the largest park in the Salt Lake City area.

Due to its size, you can expect a huge range of activities here and you can go walking, hiking, or biking around the green slopes.

There are a range of sports and recreation grounds here such as basketball courts and volleyball nets, as well as a swimming pool.

The park is also known for its beautiful scenery in the form of a wealth of greenery, indigenous flowers, and shady trees, many of which are hundreds of years old.

3. Clark Planetarium

Clark PlanetariumSource: flickr
Clark Planetarium

The Clark Planetarium sits in the Gateway District of the city and is an ideal spot to visit if you want to go on a whistle stop tour of the night sky.

Signature features in the planetarium include the Hansen Dome Theater which has a dome under which you can see a simulation of the galaxy, as well as an IMAX theater that shows three dimensional films related to space.

As well as films about the earth and other planets, you can also tour exhibits and galleries that span over 10,000 square feet.

4. Mormon Temple

Mormon TempleSource: flickr
Mormon Temple

The Mormon Temple is one of the most important religious buildings in Salt Lake City and was built in 1893. The building is impressive in style and stature, and is made of granite with three large signature towers at each end.

The tallest tower, which is to the east of the building, features a statue covered in gilt which is modeled in the shape of an angel named Moroni who is significant in the Mormon faith.

Visitors here can view the temple from the outside, as only Mormons are allowed to enter.

5. State Capitol

State CapitolSource: flickr
State Capitol

The State Capitol is found, perhaps unsurprisingly, on Capitol Hill, and is the symbol of the state of Utah.

The building is 300 feet above the rest of the city, which means that it can be seen from many different vantage points, and is designed in the Neo-Classical style.

The building is topped with a dome and the inside of the capitol is furnished with marble.

You can visit some of the rooms in the capitol such as the Golden Room which is also the Governor’s reception room, as well as a gallery that has rotating exhibitions with collections of interest related to the state of Utah.

6. Tracy Aviary

Tracy AviarySource: flickr
Tracy Aviary

The Tracy Aviary is located within the iconic Liberty Park, and is the place to come if you like bird watching.

The aviary was set up by a prominent local banker in 1938 and houses a large range of birds that visitors are sure to enjoy.

Many of the species here are from North America, but you can also see some examples of amazing birds from all over the world.

As it was first established in the 1930s, this also has the claim to fame of being one of the oldest aviaries in the world.

7. Mormon Tabernacle

Mormon TabernacleSource: flickr
Mormon Tabernacle

Located in Temple Square is the Mormon Tabernacle which is shaped like an oval and topped with a dome.

This dome is notable for sitting on the top of 44 separate pillars made of sandstone, and this is quite a feat of engineering, even for those who are not usually interested in design.

The interior of the tabernacle has a capacity of over 6,000 spectators and is known for its beautiful acoustics, in part thanks to the engineering prowess of the dome.

The Tabernacle Choir performs here, and there is also a great organ that acts as an accompaniment.

8. This is the Place Monument

This is the Place MonumentSource: flickr
This is the Place Monument

In the Mormon faith, followers went on a 1,300 mile trek after which Brigham Young walked out of Emigration Canyon and recognized a valley that had previously come to him in a vision.

Upon seeing it, he said ‘This is the place!’ and a monument was erected to commemorate the history of the Mormons arriving at and settling in Salt Lake City.

The monument dates from 1947 when it was erected for the 100th anniversary of the Mormons’ arrival.

9. The Beehive House

The Beehive HouseSource: flickr
The Beehive House

The charmingly named Beehive House was built in 1854 and is known for being the former home of Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormon faith and the previous Governor of Utah.

Young lived in the residence alone with his 19 wives and 56 children and the home is designed with features of the Mormon faith in mind.

One such feature is the turret of the house that has a beehive as a symbol of the industrious nature of those involved in the Mormon faith.

Incidentally, this symbol is also part of the coat of arms of the state of Utah.

10. Hogle Zoo

Hogle ZooSource: flickr
Hogle Zoo

Hogle Zoo stretches across an amazing 42 acres of land and is known for its collection of different ecosystems under one roof.

The location of the zoo is also impressive, as it sits at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, the spot where the Mormons first arrived in Utah.

The zoo first opened in 1931 and is known for being separated into different sections that feature animals from different parts of the world.

Just some of these are the Asian Highlands, the Rocky Shores, the African Savannah, and an Elephant Encounter.

11. Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Joseph Smith Memorial BuildingSource: flickr
Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Another famous building located on Temple Square is the Joseph Smith Building which dates from 1911. The building used to be called the Hotel Utah before being renamed after the first president of the Mormon Church and the multipurpose area is known for its amazing design features such as intricate glass work, sweeping staircases, and impressive marble columns.

In the Joseph Smith Building you will find the FamilySearch Center, a range of restaurants, and the famous Legacy Theater.

12. Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Utah Museum of Fine ArtsSource: flickr
Utah Museum of Fine Arts

If you are interested in culture and the arts then the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is the place to come and indulge your passion.

The building is part of the campus of the University of Utah and as such is both a state and university museum.

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts first opened in the 1950s and you will find more than 20 different galleries here with both static and rotating exhibits.

Of the permanent collections here, you will find over 17,000 objects on display, and the pieces here come from all over the world, so you will find Asian, European, and American art represented.

There are also classical as well as modern pieces featured here, so whatever your preferences, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

13. Discovery Gateway: The Children’s Museum of Utah

Discovery Gateway The Children’s Museum of UtahSource: waymarking
Discovery Gateway The Children’s Museum of Utah

Discovery Gateway: The Children’s Museum of Utah stretches over 60,000 square feet and is a discovery center that is dedicated to interactive learning when it comes to all things science related.

If you are traveling with a family then this makes a great rainy day activity, and you can get hands on with a range of different galleries that will help you to better understand science and the way the world works.

14. Marmalade Hill Historic District

Marmalade Hill Historic DistrictSource: flickr
Marmalade Hill Historic District

The Marmalade Hill Historic District is so named because of the fact that many of the street names here were given after fruit trees and plants that were brought to the area by early settlers in Salt Lake City.

The area is small and compact and you will find one of its borders on the delightfully named Quince Street.

Many of the architectural features here are a throwback to how Salt Lake City would have looked in the days of old, and there are a number of historic buildings here such as John Platts House and Thomas Quayle House, so if you want to feel as if you have stepped back in time then this is an excellent place to come for a historic walking tour.

15. Old Deseret Village

Old Deseret VillageSource: deseretnews
Old Deseret Village

Close to the This is the Place Monument in Salt Lake City is the Old Deseret Village, which is a model of a traditional village that was erected to commemorate the Mormon arrival in Utah.

Here you will find a collection of different homes and period buildings, some of which are replicas and some of which have been painstakingly resorted, that will give you a glimpse of how life would have been in the 1800s in Salt Lake City.

Actors in period garb will help you get into the mood of the time as you walk around, and as the village sprawls over 440 acres, you will be able to stroll around traditional streets taking in the entire atmosphere.

Some attractions to look out for include a typical inn and a heritage replica of a farmhouse where you can learn all about how a Mormon village would have operated in the days of old.

15 Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City (UT):

  • Temple Square
  • Liberty Park
  • Clark Planetarium
  • Mormon Temple
  • State Capitol
  • Tracy Aviary
  • Mormon Tabernacle
  • This is the Place Monument
  • The Beehive House
  • Hogle Zoo
  • Joseph Smith Memorial Building
  • Utah Museum of Fine Arts
  • Discovery Gateway: The Children’s Museum of Utah
  • Marmalade Hill Historic District
  • Old Deseret Village