The best things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah go beyond the city's ties to the peculiarities of Mormon culture and the state's recently revamped liquor laws ("private club memberships" are no longer required when entering bars).
With an average of more than 220 days of sunshine each year, ski resorts and high-end hotels, renowned restaurants and hidden speakeasies, salt flats and double-feature drive-ins, Salt Lake City is a destination you should certainly add to your travel bucket list.
At the top of our list? The Utah Olympic Park, which was built back in 2002 for the Winter Olympic games and is now the site of year-round sports activities. If staying indoors is more your vibe, you'll want to make sure to be in town on the third Friday of every month, when the city's galleries stay open late for public perusal. Still not convinced? Browse through our entire selection of must-try activities below.
Best things to do in Salt Lake City
Built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the Utah Olympic Park operates year-round and offers a multitude of summer and winter activities, such as bobsledding, luge, ski jumping, extreme tubing, ropes courses, rock climbing and ziplining. You can even have a go at aerial ski training in the splash pool if you dare! Don’t miss a chance to take a ride on the Comet Bobsled; for $67 you can zoom down the track at more than 70mph and experience at least three G’s of gravity.
Drive-in movie theaters were all the rage in the 1950s, but have been steadily dwindling during the age of Netflix. Only 15 states still have drive-in movie theaters and, fortunately, Utah is one of them. The Redwood Drive-In Theatre has been showing double features since 1948 and enjoys a strong fan base. At just $9 per person, two movies for the price of less than one at a regular movie theater is a smokin’ deal. Get there early to pick the best parking space and grab your popcorn. It doesn’t get better than watching a movie under the stars on a warm summer night.
Red Butte Garden is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West, with more than 21 acres of developed gardens and five miles of walking and hiking trails. The community-funded space is known for its numerous plant collections and display gardens as well as its education programs and special events. The Garden offers many educational programs including horticulture classes, bird watching, summer camps, art exhibits and Monday Family Nights with music and dance performances.
The family history library is a research facility (open to the public, free of charge) that has the largest on-site collection of genealogical data in the world. It has been in operation since 1894 and is run by FamilySearch, the LDS (Mormon) Church—no need to be a member of the church to use their genealogical resources, though, as the Family History Library is open to everyone. Using microfilms, microfiche, books, serials, periodicals and electronic resources such as genealogical websites, the library helps patrons discover their families histories.
The Great Salt Lake is a remnant of the massive ancient Lake Bonneville and is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. It’s just slightly less salty than the Dead Sea! Kayaking, paddle boarding, pedal boating and sailing are great ways to experience the spectacular sunsets on the lake. You can rent pedal boats and book dinner cruises with Gonzo Boat Rentals at the Great Salt Lake Marina. On your way to or from the marina, stop for photos at Saltair; the historic building from 1893 hit its peak favor in the 1920s as a beach resort but now operates as a concert venue.
The Bonneville Salt Flats offers one of the most unique landscapes in the world; it’s no wonder so many movies and car commercials are filmed there. The Salt Flats consist of hard, white salt crust as far as the eye can see—almost one hundred cubic yards of it. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, it was designated as an area of Critical Environmental Concern in the mid-‘80s for its unique geology. It’s one of only a handful of salt pans in the world and the only one in the United States.
Timpanogos Cave is a National Monument located in American Fork Canyon that has colorful caverns and all of the helictites, stalactites, stalagmites and anthodites you can handle. The Hansen, Middle and Timpanogos caverns make up the cave system that is accessed by a strenuous 1.5-mile paved trail with an elevation gain of 1,100 feet. On your ranger-guided tour, you’ll learn the science behind the formations as you make your way through the natural passageways of these delicate underground formations.
Pedal your way around town while learning about the history of SLC by bike with an expert local guide who will give you all of the ins and outs during your ride. Four different loop tours are available for $44 to $64 per person and range from mild to medium in ability level, lasting one to three and a half hours. Cruiser bikes, helmets and light refreshments are included on all of the tours. You can also do a self-guided tour for $7 using Green Bike, Salt Lake’s non-profit bike share program.
On the third Friday of every month, Salt Lake City’s local galleries open their doors late for the public to browse their art collections, listen to music and enjoy snacks and drinks for a few hours. Founded by the Salt Lake Gallery Association in 1983, the Gallery Stroll began as a small consortium of art galleries but has become a social gathering for Salt Lake City’s “in” crowd and tourists alike. Nearly 40 galleries participate in the monthly event, which is a self-guided tour (no tickets required). Gallery Guide Maps are available at participating galleries.
For one of the best views of the Salt Lake Valley hike to the summit of Grandeur Peak. Start at the Church Fork Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon and hike just over three miles to the summit for a view of, well, grandeur. The 6.5-mile round trip trail starts steep and follows a small stream north into the forest and then climbs to a saddle via switchbacks, from the saddle it’s just a half mile to the 8,299 feet summit. The trail is easily marked and has an elevation gain of 2,650 feet. It features wildflowers and stunning views along the way.
Axe Throwing is an old Celtic game, but you don’t have to be Braveheart to try your hand at it. Visit Social Axe Throwing and you can throw real axes at bullseye targets. Even if you’re not great at it you’ll find it amusing—but your session will include an instructor to show you how it’s done so you’ll be sticking your throws in no time. Go solo or with a group for a couple of hours of a hootin’ ‘n’ hollerin’ good time. If you discover that you can’t get enough, you can join a league. Yes, there are axe throwing leagues! Flannel is not required but is encouraged.
If you love skydiving, visiting iFLY Utah is a great way to get your fix in between plane jumps. If you’ve never been skydiving, a session at iFLY will give you a sense of what it’s like to really fall through the sky. No experience is necessary to fly, and even kiddos 3 years and older can try it out. iFly hosts The 12-foot wind tunnel boasts speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and once you take your first two-minute flight you won’t want it to end. Professional instructors teach you the basics and will join you in the tunnel to help you perfect your skills.
Sundance Mountain Resort is a family-friendly destination nestled in the foothills of Mount Timpanogos with gorgeous scenery in every direction. The resort, owned by none other than Robert Redford, is known as a great year-round destination, offering great skiing as well as other fun winter activities, and an impressive array of summer activities, such as hiking, biking, fishing, owling, horseback riding, art classes and more.
You don’t have to be British to enjoy a good afternoon tea session at the Grand America Hotel. Guests delight in tasty teas and cocoas, finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream. Go ahead and wear your derby hats, fancy white gloves, and that pretty strand of pearls you save for special occasions. When else might you get the chance to wear them? Tea time isn’t just for the ladies, gentlemen are welcome too, especially those who wear top hats, pocket watches, and monocles. Reservations must be made 24-hours in advance.
Ditch the Coca-Cola and movie theater popcorn for a delicious plate of nachos or pizza and a pint or pitcher of craft beer. Brewvies is a movie theater with two screens and an adjoining pub where patrons can order food and booze to eat and drink during the shows. Brewvies has a full bar and serves pub grub like wings and burgers. The cinema features new releases and indie films and even shows throwback movies on Mondays for free.
You’ll picked up from your hotel and shuttled to some of Salt Lake City's best wineries, breweries and distilleries at Utah Wine Tours, which provides guided private and group tours of two to six people in a luxury SUV along with the tastings of your preference. Choose from wine, wine and beer, beer and hard spirits, or distillery tastings. The driving tour lasts roughly five hours and lunch is included for an additional $30.
The TNT Experience has the largest indoor shooting range in the Mountain West and offers a wide variety of range options. Gun rentals are available starting at $10 and options include a clay pigeon range, 25-yard range, 100-yard range and a 300-degree simulator. TNT accommodates beginners and experts and should you find yourself hooked, you can purchase a membership.
Who doesn’t love dancing? DF Dance Studio has 13 professional dance instructors in Salsa, Ballroom, Latin, West Coast Swing, Argentine Tango, Country, Hip Hop, Break Dancing, Ballet and Jazz. The studio offers over 50 group dance classes per week for adults and kids, in addition to West Coast, Salsa, Ballroom and Blues weekend dance socials. Complete beginners are welcome and you don't need a partner for any of the dancing lessons or socials. If you’re in town and want to do a drop-in class, you can choose Salsa/Bachata any Wednesday at 8pm or Swing and Things any Friday at 7:30pm.
In their signature game, Top Golf players score points by hitting balls that are assigned using a microchip technology into any target. The more accurate your shot and distance, the more points you earn. There are also eight other games to choose from. Top Golf has more than 100 climate-controlled hitting bays, a full-service restaurant and bar, a rooftop terrace with a fire pit and over 200 HDTVs. Each reservation is good for groups of six players per bay.
Experience a Speakeasy at Bodega and The Rest. It’s not really a secret, but it’s still fun to experience a speakeasy-style underground bar and restaurant. Bodega looks like a pretty inconspicuous place with a small market and bar, but if you have a reservation, upon request, you’ll get a key with your name on it and you’ll gain access to The Rest. Cocktails are abundant, food is greasy-diner-style, and space is limited. Walk-ins are welcome, but seating is not guaranteed.
More of the best in Salt Lake City
Forget everything you think you know about Salt Lake City’s food scene; it’s much more than the culinary capital of Jell-O. Vibrant immigrant communities, the legendary Salt Lake sweet tooth and old-fashioned, humble talent make the eating scene more than worth its salt.