Hey, Winter, you're really pretty when you snow all the fluffiest flakes and pile up in the mountains and on our lawns, but not when you get all dingy and gross and dirty and we keep bringing in those darned inversions. And then you tease us with spring-like sunny days...followed by blizzards where you remind us that we got nothin' on nature, and we don't know what the heck we're talking about. Sometimes, as much as we love you, you kind of drive us crazy--especially our kids.
Parents of the Northern Counties
Here's your go-to list of museums, libraries, indoor pools and all their activities (lots of them FREE) that will keep you lovin' the littles you love most.
1. Salt Lake City Public Libraries - Free Activities
Ahh yes, the library--a place to shush your children and corral them into a chair to look at books without destroying them. Well not anymore! While you were busy watching a behind the scenes documentary about Home Alone 1 and 2, libraries became a community center to learn, socialize, and play. Did you know that the Salt Lake Public Library System has soooo many FREE activities for babies, toddlers and kids (and teens! and adults!) everyday at every library location? There are free art workshops, preschool story time, playtime, Lego time, Mini Maker Wednesdays, Kids Zumba, etc, etc,. I mean honestly people! Turn off that Home Alone documentary and get to a library!
P.S. At the Main Library downtown you can take a ride in the glass elevator to the roof, peep at the dormant beehive, and walk down the steps to the courtyard. Not on a windy day though. And not on a windy day with the paper crafts you just made with your kid at the art workshop. Don't do that.
Check out the events calendar here
ASK ABOUT THE:
- Mini Maker Wednesdays | Every Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. | Main Library
- CUAC Art Workshops for Kids | Every Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. | Sprague Branch
- Playtime | Every Thursday, 11:00 a.m. | Day-Riverside Branch
- Preschool Story Time | Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. | Anderson-Foothill Branch
- Community Exploration Card (for the locals)
2. Natural History Museum of Utah - Salt Lake City
First things first: this museum is be-a-u-tiful. The lobby is a stunning alabaster white slot canyon criss-crossed with arched walkways. One wall of the lobby is a three story glass case displaying just a smidgen of the museum’s collection of exotic butterfly specimens, minerals, and indigenous masterpieces. Not that your kids will care that much. They will be running and probably screaming for the dinosaur walkway, a switchbacking boardwalk through the fossil record. We're talking Allosaurus, Utahceratops, Utahraptor, and other dinosaurs that may or may not have been secretly cloned on an island near Costa Rica.
If your offspring are not sufficiently awed by the sheer perfection of the museum's design, point out the awesome resurrected fossilized skeletal remains that surround them, representing eons of time, and how their lives are only a microscopic blip on the lifespan of the earth. Continue running and screaming to the hands-on exhibits scattered throughout the levels of the museum. Enjoy this beautiful place, surrounded by the rich artifacts of Utah because it is only a teeny, tiny moment amongst the eons of time.
ASK ABOUT THE:
- Free Admission Days
- After School Adventure Club
- Discovery Classes
- Bug Brigade
- Utah's Animals
- Chocolate & Cheese Festival
3. Museum of Natural Curiosity | Thanksgiving Point | Lehi
All you need to visit this children's museum is a homing device for your kid. Strap a radio collar around their necks and off they go! Your kid will disappear into the Rain Forest jungle gym and then take the bus home three days later. (But you don’t mind, right? You've got crap to do.)
The fact that this is a museum built solely for kids to explore and play is not lost on them. Upon entry they scatter like a handful of slowly suffocating tadpoles plopped back into their natural habitat. Finally! A museum where they can touch and play with everything! It's big, fun, and educational in a delightfully tactile way. Let your kids soak themselves in the Waterworks section, a plumber's nightmare and a child's dream. Kidopolis offers a glimpse of a what a town invented by children might be like, but without all the health hazards of children actually inventing a town like root-beer drinking fountains and no place to quarantine everyone with lice.
There is a downside to this place though: there are a lot of kids. Let's just say there are other humans' spawn as far as the eye can see. Spawn, spawn, spawn. If your spawn can handle a little bit of chaos then this place is worth a trip. And also try not to elbow them out of the way when you realize how much you want to play with everything too.
ASK ABOUT THE:
- Classes offered for specific age groups (even adults!)
4. Indoor Swimming Pools | Wasatch Front
When I was a kid, pools were rectangular cuboids with a low dive and, if you were lucky or rich, a high dive. Now public swimming pools are shallow playgrounds complete with lazy rivers and buckets that pour water in your eyeballs when you least expect it. Needless to say: kids love it. The water is comfortably warm and parts of the pool are shallow enough for the wee babes to toddle about in. Some of the pools even have a water slide for those 6 and older. I mean, not like it's-so-fast-and-steep-you'll-lose-your-bikini-top water slides (this is a public pool after all and they can't be funding such things!), but enough to delight your kids for an afternoon. And really, in the end isn't that what it's all about? Just getting through one delightful afternoon at a time?
INDOOR POOLS WITH PLAYGROUNDS
Fairmont Aquatic Center
1044 East Sugarmont Drive (2225 South)
Salt Lake City, UT 84106
1661 East Murray-Holladay Road (4800 South)
Holladay, UT 84117
Lehi Aquatics Center
123 North Center Street
Lehi, UT 84043
Provo Recreation Center
320 West 500 North
Provo, UT 84601
Clearfield Aquatic Center
825 South State Street
5. Kangaroo Zoo & Jump Around Utah | North Salt Lake & Salt Lake City
Four score and seven years ago bounce houses didn't exist, and that is sad. What were kids doing back then? Learning valuable life skills? Chopping stuff? Planting crops? Selling papes? Well no more! The future is here, and the future is bounce houses. Imagine a warehouse full of inflatable PVC tarpaulin castles, dragons, slides, and other unintelligible creatures just waiting to decimate all of that potential/kinetic energy stored in your child's body. Kangaroo Zoo and Jump Around Utah are those warehouses. With bouncy, inflatable contraptions covering almost every inch of available space your child can jump safely and slide vigorously.
If you feel up to it, you can hide in a corner and just when your kid is about to reach the top of a slide you can grab at their legs and try to pull them down. Make it a teaching moment by telling them that you represent "Life" and that sometimes Life pulls you down by the ankles just when you are about to succeed. They will probably stop to ponder this, and then ask what life was like before bounce houses. "It was really hard, we could never just...bounce, you know?" you can say. With new-found respect and empathy, your child will take you by the hand and together you will slide the three-story slide for all children everywhere who have never just... bounced.
6. Utah State Railroad Museum | Ogden
Your kid likes trains? I mean reallllly likes trains? Try this: ride Front Runner up to the Utah State Railroad Museum in Ogden. You simply exit the train at Historic Union Station and bada-bing bada-boom you have arrived at the Museum. Check out the retired trains outside and head inside to watch some model trains doing their thing. Fun times for kids who like trains. Trains, trains trains. Extra points for taking the train to see some trains.
ASK ABOUT THE:
- Volunteers that can help you tour the caboose outside.
7. Treehouse Children's Museum | Ogden
Now this is not your state-of-the-art multi-billion-dollar kids museum. This museum was built by the people, for the people. There are no pretenses here folks, no overly designed and fussy exhibits, just good old American and International fun. If you're wondering if there is an animatronic rodeo announcer, why yes, yes there is. If you are wondering if there is a kid-sized replica of a 50's diner where your child can serve you a plastic burger and shake, yes and yes. If you have been dying to know the location of a life-sized replica cow that you can milk when its udder is not closed for repairs, I will tell you where. The Ogden Treehouse Museum. You will leave here loving America, loving Ogden, loving the rodeo, and loving the good people of the world. You will find yourself considering building a giant chess-set in your backyard, or a replica of the oval office in your front room. Or not. Because you can just come back to the Treehouse Museum and sit at the presidential desk again and again. Err, I mean, your kids can just come back and sit at the presidential desk again and again. Right. Because it's a Children's Museum. For children. Wink, and dare I say, wink.
ASK ABOUT THE:
- Daily Art Activities | FREE with admission | 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday - Friday, September - May | 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Saturdays (and weekdays in the summertime).