11 Family-Friendly Activities Near SLC

Summer or winter, outdoors or in, Salt Lake City has myriad activities to keep everyone in your family entertained.

Written By Matcha

Hogle Zoo   |  Michael Kunde/Visit Salt Lake

If you are looking for a great vacation spot to travel to with kiddos in tow, then Salt Lake City has you covered. Summer or winter, outdoors or in, Salt Lake has myriad activities right at its fingertips to keep everyone from the hiker in your family to the history buff or animal lover entertained. We have plenty of fun ideas for family vacations of any type, whether you visit in spring, summer, fall or winter. (Read: Why Your Kids Need a Utah Trip)

Here is a list of 11 must-do family activities in Salt Lake City for your next visit.

Natural History Museum of Utah

Photo: Michael Kunde/Visit Salt Lake

1. Discover the Trailhead to Utah

Really get to know Utah while entertaining the whole family with a visit to the east bench of Salt Lake City. Spanning five floors and tucked along the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, the Natural History Museum of Utah features an outstanding display of paleontology (in addition to beautifully curated exhibits such as first peoples, the Great Salt Lake, life land and native voices) that covers eons of Utah's history and includes a frequently updated display of the latest dinosaur find — like Utah's state fossil, the Allosaurus, and incredible species from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This figurative "trailhead to Utah" also sits on an actual trailhead to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. Continue the exploration at the adjacent to Red Butte Garden. The Intermountain West’s largest botanical garden includes kid-friendly areas and activities as well as a calendar of events, workshops and summer concerts.

Antelope Island State Park

Photo: Utah State Parks

2. View wildlife at Antelope Island

For families who love outdoor vacations, make the easy day trip to Antelope Island State Park. This island on the Great Salt Lake has sandy beaches with amazing photo-worthy views of the surrounding valley and towering Wasatch Mountains (Read: Great Salt Lake Needs Your Visit). It is home to wild pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and bison — it’s not unusual to catch a glimpse or two. There are trails of all difficulties that crisscross the island and are open to hikers, mountain bikers and horses. To spend more than a day here, you can camp at any one of three rustic campgrounds. If you're feeling especially adventurous and are here in October, plan ahead to see — or participate in — the annual bison roundup.

Lagoon Amusement Park

Photo: Cheyenne Twitchell

3. Ride a roller coaster at Lagoon Amusement Park

More than just an amusement park, Lagoon something for everyone in the family. It has roller coasters for the thrill seekers, a waterpark for the soakers, a zoo for the animal lovers, a pioneer village for the make-believers, live performances for the show-goers, a kiddie area for the youngsters and a campground for the whole family. Admission includes all areas of the park. Camping is additional but gets you a discount on tickets.

Views overlooking Temple Square.

Photo: provided by Temple Square

4. Learn your family history at Temple Square

At the heart of Salt Lake City is Temple Square — a beautiful public park and site of the magnificent Salt Lake Temple. While visitors may not enter the Temple itself, bring the family to explore flower-filled gardens in the summer and Christmas-light filled grounds in winter. You can learn about the pioneer history of Utah and the founding of Salt Lake City. Be sure not to miss the Family History Center, an interactive genealogy database that makes it easy and fun to discover your ancestors and retrace your family’s roots. Admission to everything is free and open year-round. Even better if you time your visit to hear a free performance inside the Tabernacle. (Read: Temple Square: The Geographical and Musical Heart of Salt Lake)

The Leonardo

Photo: Visit Salt Lake

5. Tease your brain at The Leonardo

Named in honor of Da Vinci’s creative innovation, The Leonardo museum is designed to inspire discovery. Exhibits change regularly, so every visit offers something new. The overarching theme is ‘perception’— exploring the ways we experience the world and intentionally challenging our typical methods. At The Leonardo you can dive into a life-size optical illusion, transport to other worlds with a live-action green screen, or sit through a virtual haircut. The museum is also one of 18 attractions included on the money-saving Salt Lake Connect Attractions Pass.

This Is the Place Heritage Park

Photo: Visit Salt Lake

6. Experience history at This Is the Place Heritage Park

At This Is the Place Heritage Park, the family can pretend to be part of Utah’s history. Learn how the settlers lived by stepping into their shoes. You can walk, ride a train, or saddle up on a pony for a tour around the replica pioneer town. Kids will love digging for gemstones, panning for gold, petting farm animals and watching a real blacksmith at work. The Native American Village honors pre-European heritage with Shoshone teepees and authentic live dance performances.

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

Photo: Michael Kunde/Visit Salt Lake

7. Touch a stingray at Loveland Living Planet Aquarium

The Great Salt Lake is more than salty enough to be an ocean, but the only real sea life resides inside this aquarium, and there is a lot of it. Take a trip to Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, featuring a huge shark tank with a viewing tunnel, a stingray touch pool, penguin encounters and multiple exhibits dedicated to Utah’s native aquatic animals. There is also a special exhibit showcasing South American Rainforests. Kids will be amazed by up-close interactions with the animals that are possible throughout the aquarium.

Salt Lake City Farmers Market

Photo: Downtown Alliance

8. Go local at the Downtown Farmers Market

Discover one of the longest-running and largest farmers markets of its kind in the country. There’s a mix of vendors from more than 100 farms and ranches from within 250 miles of Salt Lake City, plus nearly 150 local artists during the season, live music and an abundance of energy and things to see and taste to keep the whole family entertained on Saturday mornings all summer long.

The Living Room Trail offers scenic views of Salt Lake City.

Photo: Jay Dash

9. Hike the Living Room Trail

For the outdoorsy family, the popular hike up Red Butte Ridge is not to be missed. This 2.5-mile round trip travels among the bushes and wildflowers of Red Butte Canyon and leads to a spectacular overlook known as The Living Room where hikers have constructed surprisingly comfortable furniture out of rocks. Sit on a sandstone sofa or armchair and watch the sunset over Salt Lake Valley. The trailhead is on Colorow Road just east of downtown. This hiking trail is a local favorite for quick hikes in the evening. If the hike's nearly 1,000 feet in elevation gain and distance are a concern (please consider factors of high elevation, appropriate footwear, summer heat and younger children), the shorter hike to Ensign Peak behind the Utah Capitol Building is an alternative for the view, or you might consider a stroll or ride up City Creek Canyon.

Hogle Zoo

Photo: Michael Kunde/Visit Salt Lake

10. Feed a giraffe at Hogle Zoo

Of course, no family vacation would be complete without a trip to the zoo. Not everyone will get to feed a giraffe, as this costs extra, but there are still plenty of up-close animal encounters and fascinating exhibits in SLC’s Hogle Zoo, which has over 800 animals. Kids will also enjoy the carnival rides, discovery theater and mini water park that the zoo offers. Talented elephants, seals, and birds put on daily shows with their trainers, and there is plenty of shopping and dining to complement the trip as well, so save time for these side-adventures.

Hiking at Snowbird

Photo: Jay Dash

11. Ski or hike the Wasatch Mountains

The huge mountains right outside the city hold snow late into spring (with the occasional Fourth of July ski novelty at the highest elevations), because in winter they get dumped on. Thanks in part to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the Wasatch Mountains are world famous for winter sports, so there are plenty of opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, no matter your ability level. Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude are Salt Lake City's four resorts, but add Ogden's three resorts, Park City's three resorts and Sundance and you have 11 resorts right along the Wasatch Front. They all offer various options for lodging, dining, child-friendly activities, gear rental and lessons. And come summer, these same backyard mountains offer an array of hiking, climbing, bouldering, lift-served mountain biking, wildflower walks and more.


Traveling With Children

A good family adventure vacation often begins in Salt Lake City, with a visit to the stunning Natural History Museum of Utah to set the context. From there, set out on any of our family-oriented itineraries to explore Utah's world-class outdoor recreation and spectacular landscapes. 

Kid-Friendly Itineraries

Hiking Southern Utah with Kids

Hiking with kids is a great way to combine quality family time with exercise and exploration of the outdoors. Part of preserving wilderness for future generations is teaching children to appreciate and enjoy nature. But it can also be intimidating for the parent planner. Here is some information and a few tips to help increase your chances of a successful hike, as well as make your kids want to do it again next time.

Tips for Family Visits to Southern Utah

Planning for a Family Ski Trip

Salt Lake City isn't your regular ski town. It's the only Ski City. With big city, world-class amenities galore and 10 different resorts within an hour of Salt Lake City International Airport, a trip to Ski City can satiate any skier's or snowboarder's bucket list. Best of all, it's family-friendly and budget-friendly. See what makes Utah one of the best ski destinations in the western U.S. for families on a budget.

Family Ski Guide

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