Within the grounds of Thanksgiving Point Gardens are 15 separate themed gardens, including a quarter of a million tulips and seventy varieties of roses.
Home to five national parks, 43 state parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, one national historic site, a myriad of cultural opportunities, and the Greatest Snow on Earth®; it is difficult to narrow the list of top Utah visitor attractions. Based on visitation numbers, the following places stand out as perennial favorites not to be missed:
Antelope Island State Park is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. Accessed by a seven-mile causeway across the lake, the park offers the most stunning views available of the Wasatch Mountain range. The island is also home to free-roaming bison, bighorn sheep, deer, pronghorn antelope and many varieties of shore and wading birds. 801-773-2941.
Lagoon Amusement Park: Visit the largest amusement park between the Mississippi and West Coast. Lagoon boasts over 40 rides, musical entertainment, historic Pioneer Village, and Lagoon A Beach waterpark, along with shopping, food, and games. Fly the Bat, twist and turn on the Spider, accelerate on the "Wicked" roller coaster, splash on Rattlesnake Rapids, or zip upside down in two huge loops on Colossus - the Fire Dragon. 800-748-5246.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, in the northeastern portion of the state, features 207,363 acres of land and water popular for fishing, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife watching and access to the neighboring Ashley National Forest. 800-477-5558.
Dinosaur National Monument, in northeastern Utah, shelters more than 2,000 dinosaur bones exposed in a 200-foot-long sandstone wall. The site was discovered in 1909 by paleontologist Earl Douglass. Over 350 million tons of fossils, including full skeletons and previously unknown dinosaur species, were excavated by Douglass's crew and now reside in museums all over the world. 435-781-7700.
Temple Square and surrounding Salt Lake City attractions include a state-of-the-art Conference Center, the world's largest genealogical library and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building that serves as a community gathering place and features a knowledgeably staffed Family History Center and large-screen theater showing films related to Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) history and religious concepts. The Museum of Church History and Art houses historic displays as well as works of modern LDS artists from around the world, and two visitor centers interpret church history and faith. 800-363-6027.
Clark Planetarium: See what's out there at Clark Planetarium. IMAX® Theatre, a Digital Dome Theatre, free interactive space-themed exhibits and one of Utah's largest science stores make it a destination for the whole family. 110 S 400 W, Salt Lake City, 801-456-STAR.
Utah's Hogle Zoo: Located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon since 1931, the zoo is SLC's top paid attraction. Spread out over 42 acres of hillside, meandering tree-covered pathways guide the visitor on a discovery of nature. Housing hundreds of animals from hundreds of species, it is recognized as one of the top zoos in the world. Be sure to visit Asian Highlands, a re-creation of a Himalayan village featuring five endangered Asian cat species, and Elephant Encounter - where the Serengeti meets Salt Lake City - and spotlights African elephants and white rhinoceros. 2600 E Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City, 801-582-1631.
This Is The Place Heritage Park lies at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley. This 450-acre park features the Heritage Village Living History Experience, where you will find 40 original and replica homes and businesses featuring period villagers demonstrating crafts, trades and home-making skills typical of 19th Century Utah. You will also find hands-on crafts, pioneer chore activities, school lessons, a village train, and farm animals to see and experience. Also featured in the park is This is the Place Monument with its sweeping panoramic view of the Salt Lake Valley. The monument was erected in 1947 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Mormon settlers to Utah and the West. 801-582-1847.
Foothill Cultural District: In addition to Hogle Zoo and This Is The Place Heritage Park, mentioned above, this concentration of family attractions boasts Red Butte Garden, Fort Douglas Military Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Natural History Museum of Utah, and Olympic Cauldron Park - all atop Salt Lake's picturesque east bench featuring stunning views of the Salt Lake Valley. Locations adjacent to Foothill Drive, Salt Lake City, www.foothillcd.com
Thanksgiving Point: Thanksgiving Point Gardens, the Children's Discovery Garden, Farm Country, the Museum of Ancient Life, and the Emporium and restaurants offer stimulating and engaging experiences in a family-friendly setting. Explore the world's largest collection of mounted dinosaur skeletons, or check out dino-themed 3D movies on the giant six story Xango Screen. Stroll among 13 acres of turf grass, a quarter million tulips, seventy varieties of roses, and the largest manmade waterfall in the Western hemisphere. 3003 N Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, 888-672-6040, www.thanksgivingpoint.com
Wasatch Mountain State Park, in northern Utah's Heber Valley, has two excellent 36-hole golf courses. Its Soldier Hollow section was the venue for the biathlon and cross country events during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Soldier Hollow is open year-round. Winter activities include cross-country skiing, tubing and snowshoeing. 435-654-1791, www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch
Arches National Park Near Moab in the southeastern part of the state, it features hundreds of the sandstone arch spans for which the park was named, including Utah icon Delicate Arch. Combined, the park has more than 2,000 significant eroded formations. A 40-mile scenic drive provides access to hiking and stunning viewpoints. 435-259-8161.
Capitol Reef National Park The dominant geological feature of south-central Utah is the Waterpocket Fold, a massive uplift which created the huge dome-like formations that inspired the park's name. Historic features make this park unique, from evidence of the ancient Fremont Culture to orchards planted by settlers in the mid-1800s, which are still maintained by the park service and harvested by visitors in season. 435-425-3791.
Canyonlands National Park, in southeastern Utah, is divided into distinct districts: The River, Island in the Sky, The Needles and The Maze. Each district of this vast park is unique. The River District has stretches of the Green and Colorado Rivers, both lazy and wild. The Island in the Sky is a huge mesa with paved roads and scenic overlooks into the wild canyon country below. The Needles section is named for its myriad rock spires, fins and formations. The Maze is some of the wildest and most rugged country in the United States. The area can only be accessed by hiking or mountain bike trails, on the Colorado River or via limited four-wheel-drive trails. 435-259-7164.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is surrounded by Dixie National Forest in the southwestern area of the state. Similar to Bryce Canyon, this monument is an amphitheater on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau filled with pillars, columns and hoodoos which are particularly vivid because they are concentrated in a small area surrounded by verdant meadows and forest. 800-354-4849.
Bryce Canyon National Park, situated in southwestern Utah, is a series of amphitheaters and bowls filled with massive and delicate pillars of stone eroded into bizarre shapes called hoodoos. Visitors may hike or drive to viewpoints on the canyon's rim or hike down into the bowls for a truly surreal experience. 435-834-5322.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, in south-central Utah, is divided into three areas: the canyons of the Escalante River, the Grand Staircase and the Kaiparowits Plateau. The monument is a vast and rugged region. It is intersected by National Scenic Byway 12 (which has earned the federal All American Road designation) and provides access to various recreation opportunities in the monument and vicinity. 435-675-3200.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, in extreme south-central Utah, includes world famous Lake Powell, which backs up for more than 186 miles behind the dam that formed it. Nearly 2,000 miles of serpentine shoreline with hundreds of side canyons, inlets and coves await exploration. 928-608-6200.
Zion National Park, in southwestern Utah, features soaring monoliths, an interpretive center, hiking and the Virgin River still flowing through the geological masterpiece it carved. 435-772-3256.
Snow Canyon State Park, outside St. George in southwestern Utah, is best known for its enjoyable hiking through acres of vibrant red Navajo sandstone capped by an overlay of black lava rock. 435-628-2255, www.stateparks.utah.gov/parks/snow-canyon
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park straddles the border of southeastern Utah and Arizona. Goulding's Trading Post and Museum recreates life in the 1920s and documents the starring roles of Monument Valley's formations in movies and television through several decades. 435-727-5870.
View and print our "Must See" one-sheeter to help plan your vacation in Utah.