Outdoor adventures? Check. Family fun? Check. Sporting events? Triple check. Historical sites? Monumental check. Whatever your interest, there are plenty of fun things to do in Utah. You might say we are The Place. In fact, someone said just that once upon a time. But that’s another story.
About the same time all those dinosaurs were roaming the Earth (before man, anyway), the landscape was getting some pretty heavy action. Now, we’re left with arches and valleys unlike anywhere else. We have five national parks, seven national monuments and more than 40 state parks that readily show off the spectacular scenery.
We have more than our share of salt wonders, too. There’s the Great Salt Lake, of course, so large it’s featured on every world map. It’s actually a smaller version of what was once Lake Bonneville. When that ancient lake dried up, it left behind the Bonneville Salt Flats, too. Then there’s the Redmond Salt Mine, a cavern of pure salt. Order some fries to go with it.
Kick your vacay into low gear with a spa day. That could be at one of the luxury hotels in St. George or Park City, Utah, or at one of our many natural mineral baths. In fact, we have more than a dozen hot springs sprinkled across the state. Some have resort-like surroundings, such as Crystal Hot Springs, while others are more rustic, such as Meadow Hot Springs.
Brigham Young once said Utah would bloom in the desert. We’re not sure if he was being literal, but there certainly are beautiful plots here. At Red Butte Garden, the displays are organized by theme — rose, fragrance, medicinal, conservation — nestled among graceful arches and towering trees.
Ashton Gardens includes 50 acres of themed green spaces, surrounded by tall trees and vast lawns. A highlight is the annual Tulip Festival, held in April and May, when there are more than 750,000 spring flowers in bloom.
A different kind of flora, Red Hills Desert Garden celebrates xeriscaping. As you meander through the park, you’ll see some 5,000 water-efficient plants and native fish swimming in the 1,150-foot stream. There are even some prehistoric dinosaur tracks, discovered onsite.
See fauna — large and small — at one of the many animal kingdoms around Utah. Hogle Zoo has zebras, giraffes, gorillas and other wild animals. For water creatures, visit Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, with penguins, stingrays and sharks.
For creatures of flight, visit the Tracy Aviary in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. You’ll find more than 300 birds, from flamingos and macaws to vultures and eagles. Learn more about the birds during keeper demonstrations, or participate in an interactive bird show.
See even more colorful wings at the Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point. There are thousands of the showy insects flitting among tropical plants.
Any state can give you amenities, but how many have Olympic ones? Since hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics, Utah has kept the venue doors (and tracks) open to the public. You provide your own medal ceremony.
- Olympic Oval: Skate on the fastest ice on Earth, or learn curling
- Sliding Track: Race in a bobsled (summer or winter) going 70 mph
- Extreme tubing: Ride an inner tube down a ski jump
- Guided tour: Hear stories of Olympic feats and visit the world’s highest ski jump
- Soldier Hollow Nordic Center: Learn what it takes to compete in a biathlon
Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the Utah Jazz. When there’s a home game, all roads lead to the Delta Center. Just throw a jersey over your button-down. It’s a thing.
Real Salt Lake brought pro soccer to Utah, thrilling the 1 million pre-teens enrolled in the after-school version. Too tame? Watch the Utah Warriors rugby team. Let’s just say, they don’t take their name lightly.
The Salt Lake Bees, Utah’s minor league baseball team, plays from April through October. The season ends just in time for you to head to the ice rink to watch the Utah Grizzlies. Catch a hockey game through March.
Shopping can be so much more than just looking at stuff. It can be an experience. At least, that’s what makes it one of the fun things to do in Utah. City Creek Center has upscale retailers, restaurants and an open court complete with a water fountain. There’s even a small creek that runs through it.
The Gateway is an outdoor mall, with shops lining a cobbled road that ends in a water fountain — which spurts in time to music. During the summer, kids don swimsuits and call it a splash pad. It’s also the home of several community events, including car shows, parades and a monthly art stroll.
Once the trolley station for Salt Lake, Trolley Square still has brick-lined hallways between its specialty stores. You can get a bird’s eye view of the city with a tour of the Water Tower, offered Monday-Saturday from 1-8 p.m.
In a similar vein, Gardner Village is a collection of repurposed early Utah buildings and homes, including a flour mill. You’ll know it by the huge water wheel. Not only will you find unique shops, but also fun events such as a spring fairy festival and a Halloween witches tea.
With so many families, we may have the corner on dad jokes around here, but Utah is no schlub when it comes to real comedy. WiseGuys and Boxcar Comedy Clubs, for example, feature both touring comedians and local talent, as well as open mic nights. In Provo, Dry Bar Comedy hosts “clean” comedy shows, where the jokes are strictly PG-13 (although you do need to be 16 or older to attend).
There’s plenty of improv comedy theater going on, too.
- The Improvables, Bountiful
- Quick Wits, Midvale
- Laughing Stock, Draper
- Improv Broadway, Provo
- Off the Cuff, Cedar City
An amusement park with thrill rides and kiddie rides, Lagoon has been taking folks for a spin since 1899. You’ll find the traditional carnival offerings, such as the merry-go-round, ferris wheel and a wooden roller coaster — the fourth oldest in the U.S., by the way. But there are also some rides with daunting names: Cannibal, Wicked and Primordial. Yes, they are as intense and breathtaking as they sound.
Once a campground surrounded by fruit trees, Cherry Hill is now a popular summer playground. You can still camp onsite, in a tent or RV, or you can simply stop in for an hour or two. You’ll find a charming miniature golf course lined with limericks and castles. There’s also a waterpark, complete with a pirate ship and a dragon water slide. Grab a pie from the onsite shop — cherry, of course, or one of the other fruit or cream flavors.
Living in a desert, Utahns appreciate a fine water park — the bigger the better. Cowabunga Bay, located in Draper, looks like a giant toy. It has nine waterslides with twists and corkscrews for every thrill level. In Provo, Splash Summit Waterpark has more than 15 play areas, including slides, pools and the Rainforest River.
Want to explore ancient life? Utah has a museum for that. How about trains? We have one for that, too. When you’re looking for things to do in Salt Lake City, put visiting a museum on the list.
- Utah Museum of Fine Art: Rotating collection of global art
- Springville Museum of Art: Several exhibitions per year, including juried art shows
- Southern Utah Museum of Art: Regional artists and Southern Utah University fine arts students
- Natural History Museum: Mounted skeletons of Utah’s own dinosaurs, hands-on exhibits
- Prehistoric Museum: See a mammoth, sans the wooley part
- Dinosaur National Monument Quarry: More than 1,600 dinosaur bones
- The Dinosaur Museum: Life-size sculptures, dino eggs and fossilized skin
- Hill Aerospace Museum: SR-71, B-52, Jolly Green Giant and other retired aircraft
- Union Station: Climb on a caboose at the former railroad hub
- Millstream Classic Car Museum: Restored classics and out-of-production cars
- Land Cruiser Heritage Museum: A love story for Land Cruiser enthusiasts
Looking at the Utah State Capitol Building may give you a bit of deja vu — it’s a replica of the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C. You’re welcome to roam the grounds or head inside for a guided or self-guided tour, where you can see the legislative chambers and an ornate reception room for meetings with dignitaries. Climb the marble stairs to the fourth floor art gallery, which displays artifacts representing the state’s heritage. When you’re in the rotunda, be sure to look up: There’s a massive mural depicting pioneers.
When the Hotel Utah was built in 1911, it was considered one of the finest in the West.. It closed in 1987, but was renovated and reopened as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building; it’s now used for receptions and meetings. The building retains its original grandeur, including chandeliers, a grand staircase and marble-like columns in the lobby. Step inside and imagine what it was like when celebrities and dignitaries such as Katherine Hepburn, Liberace, John Glenn and John F. Kennedy stayed there.
The Salt Lake City and County Building is easily recognizable for its Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. There’s a turret, a clock tower and loads of arched windows. Preservation Utah offers free tours during the summer, each third Wednesday from June through September. You must preregister to attend, but you’re free to walk the grounds anytime.
Perhaps the most notable structure in Utah is the Salt Lake Temple. If nothing else, the structure stands as a testament to perseverance — it took 40 years to complete. Patterned after the great cathedrals in Europe, the neo-Gothic structure features several striking spires. The tallest is topped by a gold-leafed statue of the angel Moroni. The building, itself, is not open to the general public, but you can walk around it at Temple Square. (NOTE: The area is undergoing major renovations, scheduled for completion in 2025.)
Another architectural beauty, construction on the Cathedral of the Madeleine began in 1899. Some notable features in the Gothic interior include an onyx baptismal font, stained glass windows and stunning art. Regular services are held there daily. You can take a guided tour on Sundays after the 11 a.m. mass. The Eccles Organ Festival is held here each September. The free event includes organ performances, lectures and master classes.
Jobs in the mining industry brought an influx of Greek immigrants to the state in the early 20th century. At a community meeting in January 1905, more than 200 people gathered to make plans for a church — the site, the fundraising and the priest. In October of that same year, Holy Trinity Cathedral was dedicated, becoming the 14th Greek Orthodox Parish in the U.S. Tours are given during the Salt Lake City Greek Festival, held each September. You can also schedule a private group tour.