Salt Lake City is the capital of the US state of Utah, famed for its mountains, canyons and world-class ski resorts. The city is also known as the spiritual home of the Mormons and the Church of Latter Day Saints.
The city advertises itself as “a laid back place where it’s sunny five days a week”. Salt Lake City is packed with interesting attractions from museums and parks to theaters and top restaurants.
It’s also the perfect base for exploring the stunning Utah landscapes, the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere, and getting out into the mountain wilderness for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities.
So, let’s get stuck in and discover the very best things to do in Salt Lake City, Utah!
Salt Lake City lies at the intersection of major pan-American highways 15 and 80. There are direct road links to San Francisco (753 miles / 11 hours), Las Vegas (420 miles / 6 hours) and Denver (520 miles / 8 hours).
One of the best ways to drive is to go by campervan or RV. Not only do you have everything you need right with you, but you'll never be caught short looking for somewhere to stay for the night!
Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is just 7.5 miles from the downtown area and has flights to and from most major cities in the US.
There are international flights from Paris, France, Tokyo, Japan and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, among other destinations.
Check for the latest flight deals on Skyscanner!
Salt Lake City is on the main Chicago to San Francisco line and is served by the Amtrak California Zephyr.
This route is one of the most scenic in the United States and offers great views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Great Salt Lake of Utah.
Other stations on the route include Omaha, Denver, Reno and Sacramento, making traveling by train a great option.
It’s easy to reach Salt Lake City by bus using America’s Greyhound coach service.
From Denver it takes just 10h45m and costs from as little as $66.00 if booked in advance. Check the Greyhound website for fares and schedules!
It’s easy getting into central Salt Lake City from the airport with a distance of just 7.5 miles!
The cheapest and quickest option is to take the TRAX Light Rail (take the Green line) which takes just 20 minutes and costs as little as $2.50.
Hiring a car is a great way to get around as it gives you the most freedom to explore on your own. For the best deals you'll want to check out Rental Cars!
However, one of the best ways to get around Salt Lake City is to go by RV/campervan.
This is perfect for exploring the wilds of Utah and means you can save on expensive accommodation!
Salt Lake City benefits from the TRAX Light Rail with three set routes (Red, Green and Blue) covering much of the city, including the airport, making it a great way to get around.
Cycle - In the warmer months, Salt Lake City is a great city to bike around, however in winter the snow means that it’s not possible.
Guided Tour - One of the best ways to see the city and learn all about Salt Lake City’s history is to take a guided tour like this sightseeing bus tour of the city.
There are plenty of great accommodation options in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas.
Whether you're looking for a dorm bed in a hostel or a little more luxury, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes and wallet.
Here's a small selection of places to stay in Salt Lake City:
With a seasonal outdoor pool, a laundrette, and free WiFi, this is one of the best budget-friendly options you'll find in Salt Lake City. Pets are also allowed so the whole family can come along and there are a variety of rooms to choose from!
Little America Hotel is just a 5-minute drive from Temple Square and is known for its spacious rooms, great location, and fantastic facilities. During your stay, you'll have access to two swimming pools, on-site boutique shops, spa facilities, and a restaurant.
When it comes to luxury getaways, Grand America Hotel seems to have it all! Not only is this 5* hotel absolutely gorgeous, but it's located in Downtown Salt Lake City so you'll have a great base for exploring!
The impressive 10-acre Temple Square in the center of the city is a National Historic Landmark District commemorating the Mormon settlement of Utah.
The Square is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA and strangely attracts more visitors than both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.
Within Temple Square you will find a series of churches and buildings erected by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons).
The most impressive of these is the Salt Lake Temple, which rises up 222 feet (68 meters) above the city like a gothic Cathedral in Milan or Barcelona.
As the temple is in use for religious purposes, visitors unfortunately can’t enter, but it's well worth viewing from the outside for its impressive architecture.
The Square is home to countless exhibitions and displays, museums and libraries, making it one of the top things to do in Salt Lake City.
One of the best things to do in Temple Square is to watch the Tabernacle Choir perform. This tour combines a performance with a city bus tour and is a great way to get to know the city!
The National History Museum of Utah houses a fantastic collection of plants, minerals, animals and other natural wonders from the Great Salt Lake, Utah and beyond.
From paleolithic fossils to rare plant specimens, and over 4,600 Native American artifacts, there is something to interest everyone.
Some of the permanent exhibitions include “Life”, “Land”, “Native Voices”, “Gems and Minerals”, “Great Salt Lake” and “Sky”.
Many of the displays are interactive bringing the flora and fauna of Utah to life right in front of you!
The museum’s goal is to “illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it” and it has to be said it does a fantastic job of doing so.
The museum is housed within the Rio Tinto Center in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains above Salt Lake City.
The building is finished with 42,000 square feet of copper mined from the nearby Kennecott Utah Copper's Bingham Canyon Mine.
Given the museum’s location in the mountains, the views across Salt Lake City are spectacular.
Visiting the Natural History Museum is definitely one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City because of its unique collections, architecture, and views.
There are audio tours available, a gift shop, café and toilets on site. Tickets cost $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for children!
The museum is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm every day, and until 9:00pm on Wednesdays.
The Great Salt Lake is the largest salt lake in the western hemisphere (the largest in the world is Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan).
The lake is fed by three rivers; the Jordan, Weber and Bear. As there is no flow out of the lake, the only way water can escape is through evaporation, and this results in the high levels of salt and other minerals.
The lake provides a habitat for a large population of birds from the American white pelican to the peregrine falcon, bald eagle and a variety of swans, ducks, geese and wading birds.
One of the lake’s most famous inhabitants was Pink Floyd the pink flamingo. Floyd had escaped an aviary in Salt Lake City in 1987 and had befriended the local gull and swan population, though he hasn’t been seen since 2005.
Other wildlife around the lake includes elk, deer, bison, antelope and coyotes.
The scenery around the Great Salt Lake is nothing less than incredible. With snow-capped mountains rising majestically from the lake shore, islands, rocky outcrops and reefs, this is an area of outstanding natural beauty like no other.
The Great Salt Lake Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and there are limitless activities from sailing on the crystalline waters to boat tours, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and camping.
The white, sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing and swimming in summer. As the salinity is so high (around 12%) you can float easily, just like in the Dead Sea!
The southern shore of the lake is just 19 miles from Salt Lake City and it takes around 20 minutes to drive there. Another great way to see the lake is to take a tour like this one, which takes all the hassle out of a visit.
The Utah State Capitol Building is one of Salt Lake City’s most iconic landmarks. It was first constructed 1912 to a design by local architect Richard K.A Kletting and has been home to Utah’s state government since 1916.
The building is built in the neoclassical corinthian style and rises majestically like an ancient Greek temple above Capitol Hill.
Although the building is in use as a government office, it's still possible to take a tour and marvel at the architectural brilliance on display.
You can even hire the building for your own event (though that’s probably not going to happen on a vacation budget).
The Capitol building is open Monday to Thursday from 7:00am to 8:00pm and Friday to Sunday 7:00am to 6:00pm.
You can take a self-guided tour of the Capitol, or there are plenty of other wonderful things to do around Capitol Hill.
One of these is having a picnic on the hill which overlooks Ensign Peak in the distance!
If you're lucky enough to visit in spring, the paths around the Capitol are overflowing with cherry blossoms from the 443 Yoshino cherry trees that line the paths.
There is also the nearby Memory Grove Park which is home to 8 acres of trails, river, monuments and picnic tables.
A mile directly north of the State Capitol building lies Ensign Peak, a small mountain in the foothills of the Wasatch Range.
The peak is 5,417 feet (1,651 meters) above sea level and offers a panoramic view over the city.
The peak was scaled by the first President of the Church of Latter Day Saints Brigham Young (a name you'll hear a lot in Salt Lake City) who surveyed the surrounding valley and chose it as the location for his city and church.
Since that day in 1847 the peak has had special meaning to the Mormons but is also a hugely popular Salt Lake City attraction for residents and visitors alike.
There is a trail that leads from the Latter Day Saints Church House on Ensign Vista Drive to the summit.
It’s a short, but uphill (obviously) hike to the peak following the 1.6 mile trail and should take under one hour for those in relatively good shape.
During your time at Ensign Peak, you should take a picnic and watch the incredible sunset as the city below is bathed in a golden glow.
Watching the sunset from here is definitely one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City.
This huge (80-acre) park in the center of Salt Lake City is perfect for relaxation or enjoying a host of activities on offer.
There is a public swimming pool, tennis courts, a boating lake, playground and plenty of places for picnicking.
Explore the walking and biking trails, manicured gardens and look out for local birds and wildlife.
Here you will also find the Tracy Aviary, where Pink Floyd the flamingo escaped back in 1987 and fled to the freedom of the Great Salt Lake!
The Liberty Park is open daily from 8:00am to 11:pm and makes a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Salt Lake City Public Library is considered one of the most unique pieces of architecture in the city. The six-story building was designed by international architect Moshe Safdie and first opened in 2003.
The library stores over 500,000 books and other documents and is home to reading galeries, a large auditorium and a roof terrace with panoramic views of the city.
The inside is no less impressive than the outside, and each room is bathed in natural sunlight making it feel spacious and airy.
There is a creative lab with the latest computer equipment, browsing library, a teen lounge, newspaper and magazine section (and even a “fanzine” section), language room and gallery.
Whether you want to read a book or not, this must-visit Salt Lake city attraction is worth spending an hour or two looking round for the impressive architecture and views from the roof terrace.
In and around the first floor of the library, you'll find artisan shops selling locally made arts and crafts, plants and local produce.
The library is free to enter and open from Monday to Thursday 10:00am to 8:00pm, Friday and Saturday 10:00am to 6:00pm, and Sunday 11:00am to 5:00pm.
Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most impressive scenic areas around Salt Lake City. It's home to not one, but two world-class ski resorts (Solitude and Brighton), and a host of other outdoor activities for all seasons.
Whether you fancy trying out rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking or just enjoying a picnic in pristine wilderness, Big Cottonwood is definitely worth a visit.
It’s an easy 25 minute drive from Salt Lake City, but if you don’t have your own transport then taking a ski tour is a great option.
The tour starts and finishes in Salt Lake City and will see you hitting the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains as you glide through the backcountry (some skiing experience is required).
If you're looking for free things to do in Salt Lake City, then why not head to the City Creek Center?
The City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake is a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex, not far from Temple Square.
This is the perfect place for a bit of retail therapy, to enjoy a nice lunch or dinner date, or check out some of the activities on offer.
The open-air complex has a large pond and fountain, and even a creek running through it. There are landscaped gardens and a “sky bridge” connecting the two sides of the complex across the creek.
The City Creek Center is open Monday to Saturday 10:00am to 9:00pm, so take some time to just have a wander and enjoy the sights!
Utah Olympic Park is a great day out for all the family and one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City thanks to the wide range of activities on offer.
The Park was created for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and can now be enjoyed by the public.
This sporting and theme park boats a skating rink, large pool with water slides, tennis courts, museums, shops and cafes.
The Olympic Park has three locations across the city. The Utah Olympic Park consists of a bobsled track, ski jump and hosts summer activities such as canyoning, ziplines, tubing and airbag jumps.
Check the website for year-round entertainment and activities including summer camps, biathlons and more.
The beautiful Red Butte Garden sits in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains and consists of a botanical gardens, themed gardens, arboretum and amphitheater for live concerts.
The themed gardens include a medicine garden, herb garden, floral walk and rose garden amongst others.
There is a water pavilion garden, wild flower meadow, four seasons garden and water conservation garden too, so there's a lot to see!
The gardens form part of Utah State University and are community funded. They cover 100 acres of countryside on the outskirts of the city including five miles of hiking trail.
Red Butte is the perfect place to escape the summer heat with plenty of shade and cool air from the mountains and is definitely one of the best places to visit in Salt Lake City.
The gardens are host to events throughout the year from art exhibitions, learning workshops and wildlife walks to concerts.
Entry to Red Butte Garden is $14.00 for adults and $7.00 for children. The gardens are open from 9:00am to 9:00pm in summer and 9:00am to 5:00pm in winter.
The sculpture is made up of basalt rock, mud and salt crystals and forms a 1,500 foot (460 meter) long spiral stretching out into the lake from the shore.
Since its construction, the sculpture has occasionally been covered completely by the lake’s waters
However, it's been visible for prolonged periods since the year 2000 as drought has led to lower water levels in the lake.
Spiral Jetty is a two and a half hour drive from Salt Lake City to Rozel Point. The best way to get there is to drive as there are no public transport links thanks to its remote location.
The 11,752 foot (3,582 meter) Mount Timpanogos is the second highest peak of the Wasatch Mountain Range. The mountain rises out of the Utah Valley and dominates the landscape for miles around.
Mount Timpanogos, or Timp as it is colloquially known, is a hugely popular summit with hikers and climbers, and can be climbed year-round.
Those attempting to summit the peak in spring or winter should have proper mountaineering and climbing experience as conditions can be dangerous and people have perished in crevasses.
June to October are the best months to visit and you'll find plenty of other people on the mountain at this time
There is a 15 mile (24km) round-trip trail leading to the summit which takes around 9 hours to complete. Hikers will need to be in a good state of fitness to complete the trail!
As well as hiking and climbing, the area is popular with campers and those looking to escape the city.
Timpanagos lies 50 miles southeast of the city and takes about an hour to drive.
It’s not really easy to reach by public transport, but you can take the Greyhound Bus Line 8453 to Provo and then Line 850. You’ll then need to arrange a taxi for the final leg.
If you're a fan of mountains then make sure you add the breathtaking state of Alaska to your bucket list as well!
Timpanogos Cave National Monument is located within Timpanogos Mountain and houses an impressive network of underground caves and caverns.
There are three caves within the system, Hansen Cave, Middle Cave and Timpanagos Cave and you can visit these only on guided tours from May through September.
Within the incredible labyrinthine caves system you can witness stalactites and stalagmites as well as other interesting geological features.
As you would imagine, the caves are home to a large (but declining) population of bats. The Townsend’s Big-eared bat to be precise!
Other animals that can be found around Timpanagos include mountain lions, moose and chipmunks.
It’s not uncommon to see Great Basin rattlesnakes on the trail to the caves, so wear sturdy boots or shoes and stay on the paved trail.
The trail leading to Timpanogos Cave National Monument is very steep, and although short, a moderate level of fitness is required.
The former is a good introduction into the sport of caving and will see you being taken underground by a park ranger who will first teach you all you need to know about safety and leaving no trace.
If the thought of scrambling underground with helmet and torch fills you with dread, then the lantern tour is a much better option as it doesn’t involve anything too physical!
The 4.6 mile (7.4km) Bell Canyon Trail is a short but challenging round trip hike that takes in a beautiful waterfall, reservoirs and stunning mountain scenery.
The hike takes about three hours to complete and those attempting it should have a moderate level of fitness and be well prepared.
The best time for this hike is June through September and be sure to carry plenty of water on hot days.
Be careful around the falls as people have been injured and even killed. Remember, your life really isn’t worth that “perfect” Insta shot!
Bell Canyon Trail is located within the Salt Lake Valley not far from the city. The best way to get there is to drive, which takes around twenty to twenty five minutes, though it could be cycled in the summer months.
June to September is considered the best time to visit Salt Lake City as the summer months are perfect for exploring the Great Salt Lake and nearby mountains and caves of the Wasatch Range.
Those looking for a great winter getaway also won’t be disappointed thanks to the world class ski resorts right on the city’s doorstep.
With so many amazing things to do in Salt Lake City, one to two weeks would be best.
From swimming and sunbathing on the Great Salt Lake to the many hiking trails, camping spots and waterfalls, there is enough to keep you occupied for some time.
And then there are all the great Salt Lake City attractions in the city, the restaurants, architecture and parks.
Budget Your Trip recommends a daily budget of $197.00 for Salt Lake City, however this can be reduced by using a few money saving tips.
Consider buying fresh produce from local supermarkets and having picnics in the city’s many parks, gardens and green spaces to save on expensive restaurant bills.
If you rent a camper van or motorhome, you can save on accommodation and cook meals yourself, as well as having the ultimate freedom to explore on your own.
Given that many of Salt Lake City’s attractions are not easily reachable by public transport, hiring an RV really is a great way to see them all while saving money.
Most Salt Lake City tours are for day trips or to specific attractions in and around the city or the adjoining national parks.
It may be possible to book a bespoke tour with a travel agent, but we recommend a mixture of exploring the city on your own combined with some of the great tours mentioned above.
I've rounded up some other popular tours below too:
Just a quick tip for your visit, make sure you book your tours in advance like this Great Salt Lake guided tour as spots can fill up way in advance!
Once you’ve checked out all the fun things to do in Salt Lake City Utah, there are all manner of options for moving on.
If you haven’t had enough of rugged mountains and canyons, then head to Colorado next door, as Denver is just an eight-hour drive east from SLC. From here, you can head out on the ultimate Colorado road trip!
Las Vegas is a 6 hour drive southwest (and remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas)!
If you're looking for cooler air then consider heading up to the stunning Pacific Northwest. Portland is an 11 hour drive northwest, and is one of the best places to visit in Oregon!
Wherever you decide to head next, Salt Lake City is in a great, central location with access to highways 80 and 15 so you can pretty much head north, east, south or west with great ease.
If you're planning an epic USA road trip then here are some other articles that you might find helpful: