Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City's top activities, in any season

Utah is famous for many things, but its Mormons and mountains are probably the most well-known of all. And though those aren't the only things Salt Lake City has to offer, they do play a big role in the area's culture.

Whether you're Mormon or not, it would be blasphemous to visit Salt Lake City without taking a trip to Temple Square, the very center of the Latter-day Saints religion. Here you can take a free, missionary-led tour of the grounds and listen to a rehearsal or concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. During the summer, you'll see hundreds of thousands of flowers a' bloom – and, during the holidays, as many decorative lights twinkling. While there, take a trip to the Family History Library to research your own genealogy. But just don't expect to see the insides of the Temple itself; this is a privilege reserved for only the most pious of Mormons.

If your visit falls during winter, head up into the canyons to ski at Alta or Snowbird, two of Utah's most famous and classic resorts. If you're looking for a more laid-back atmosphere, and enjoy a little hiking to reach secret stashes, Alta is your place. But if you want a fast-paced, big mountain-style resort with a top-to-bottom tram, head to Snowbird.

During the summer, both resorts open their slopes to hikers and bikers. Give yourself a break from the valley heat and enjoy some fresh, high-elevation Wasatch air while you look at wildflowers or rock climb on the limestone of Albion Basin.

Of course, the city and its surroundings have many other offerings. Stop by the museums to learn about the area's history and geology. Or consider a Utah Jazz game to catch some NBA action. Whatever the season of your trip, you'll find that Salt Lake City has a generous and diverse set of attractions.


Open since the late 1930s, Alta is the country's second oldest ski resort. This popular venue has long been synonymous with great downhill skiing, hidden powder stashes, and great tree runs. Advanced skiers from around the world rave about Alta's steep bowls and long, fast runs, especially the mile-long Crooked Mile and the high-speed Greeley Bowl. Beginners and intermediates are taken care of at Alta as well, with several slopes groomed especially for them. Alta's ski season usually runs from November to May, but during the summer, Alta remains a popular place for recreation. Whether you're into wildflower peeping, birdwatching, or hiking, you'll find this high-elevation area to be a welcome reprieve from Salt Lake Valley's summer heat. After the snow melts, Rock climbers even scale the limestone walls of Devil's Castle in Albion Basin.

Christine's expert tip: Skiers only at Alta; no snowboarders allowed.

Read more about Alta Ski Area →

Southwest Salt Lake City
Front Climbing Club
Photo courtesy of David Sjöquist

Looking around Salt Lake City, it's not hard to imagine that this area is home to one of the nation's biggest rock climbing communities. With such an active and large group of climbers, it is only fitting that the city itself should contain excellent training and recreation facilities precisely for that sport. The Front Climbing Club is Utah's premier bouldering facility. I.e. the walls at The Front are not tall enough to mandate the use of a rope; all you need to climb there is a pair of shoes. And in case you don't own any (or forgot yours at home), The Front has a rental fleet.

Christine's expert tip: After climbing, you can lift weights, use aerobic equipment, or join a yoga, Pilates, or kettlebell class; check online to see the class schedule.

Read more about Front Climbing Club →

Red Butte Garden and Arboretum
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

The Red Butte Garden and Arboretum stands on the far northern edge of Salt Lake City, occupying the margin between the city and Wasatch foothills, above. Filled with life, and spanning more than 100 acres, the gardens and arboretum of Red Butte contain 11 themed gardens and over 4 miles of foot paths. In the spring alone, over 300,000 bulbs bloom, saturating the grounds in color. In addition to the plants and trees, Red Butte hosts child- and adult-specific events, summer camps, orchid and bonsai shows, and educational tours. Spend your time learning about the plants themselves, taking photographs, painting, or hiking in the garden and along the adjacent Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Christine's expert tip: If you happen to be around during the summer, be sure to check the Garden's event schedule; the Red Butte Summer Concert Series imports ultra-famous musicians from around the world.

Read more about Red Butte Garden and Arboretum →


Salt Lake City has been home to this National Basketball Association team since 1979. Playing home games in the Energy Solutions Arena (formerly Delta Center), in the center of downtown, this team keeps a busy schedule, playing games from November through April every winter and spring. Though the legendary Stockton and Malone have been gone from the team since 2003, the team has rebuilt in the intervening years, adding names like Williams, Boozer, and Corbin. Check online to get tickets for a home game against rival teams, Houston, Portland, and Los Angeles. On any given month, the Jazz play a half dozen (or more) home games, so if you're a basketball fan, you're in luck.

Christine's expert tip: Follow the Jazz on Twitter in and out of season.

Read more about Utah Jazz →

Utah Museum of Contemporary Art

Long known as the Salt Lake Art Center, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art got a new name in 2012. Founded in 1931, it has grown to be a thriving community art hub, offering both exhibits and educational programs alike. On display are the works of international and local artists alike, featuring global and regional themes. If you're in town for a while, check out the "Events" and "Education" sections of the museum's website, which include youth programs, workshops, talks, programs, films, and even galas. Winner of the "Best Museum" award in the Utah Best of State 2011 Competition, this is certainly one of Salt Lake's must-see museums.

Christine's expert tip: Offering free admission, this museum can easily be added to a tour of the neighboring Temple Square.

Read more about Utah Museum of Contemporary Art →

Bonneville Shoreline Trail
Photo courtesy of Ted Percival

If standing in Salt Lake City, look at the foothills towering above town, to your north and east. It is there that the Bonneville Shoreline Trail crisscrosses above the city, covering roughly 100 total miles. This trail has no map, but instead is a broad and rich network of interconnected trails with many access points. More than 10,000 years ago, the Salt Lake Valley (and much of northwestern Utah) was filled with a massive body of water called Lake Bonneville. Caused by natural, earthen dams and wet climactic conditions, that enormous lake would have submerged modern Salt Lake City underneath hundreds of feet of water. When one of the natural dams eventually burst, the lake drained once and for all, leaving behind the visually obvious ancient shorelines of this once massive lake. For more information on accessing the trail, visit the trail's website.

Christine's expert tip: This large and complex trail system has no map, but is easy to navigate due to low-lying vegetation.

Read more about Bonneville Shoreline Trail →

Antelope Island State Park

Great Salt Lake's largest island owes its name to John C. Fremont, who hunted antelope there in 1845. Several years later, a herd of 17 bison was introduced to the island, and their descendants now number around 600 and share the island with a variety of other animals, including elk, pronghorn, coyotes, and several species of waterfowl and birds of prey. Visitors to the island's state park may explore the island's 15-plus miles of hiking and biking trails. Every May, the Salt Lake Century bicycle tour rides from Salt Lake City to Antelope Island State Park and back; consider joining this event (or doing the ride by yourself) to enjoy a unique way of visiting the island.

Christine's expert tip: If visiting in the summer, bring bug spray; unpredictable swarms of insects pop up during the year's warmer months.

Read more about Antelope Island State Park →

Utah has some seriously big mountains. And Snowbird is one of the biggest resorts in the Wasatch Range. With 3,200 feet of vertical relief, 2,500 skiable acres, a top-to-bottom tram, and some of the most serious chutes and cliff lines in all of Utah's in-bounds terrain, Snowbird challenges even the best skiers. Not an expert? No problem. Snowbird also offers vast amounts of less steep and invitingly groomed terrain - as well as lessons for those who want to learn. Given all of this, Snowbird's 500-inch average annual snowfall is just the icing on the cake. In summer, Snowbird turns into a hiker's and biker's paradise. Those staying at Snowbird will find an enormous selection of restaurants and hotels - that people drive from Salt Lake City expressly to visit, all year long.

Christine's expert tip: Extreme skiers should bring a beacon, shovel, and friend to explore the out-of-bounds terrain accessed by Snowbird's lifts.

Read more about Snowbird Resort →

Natural History Museum of Utah
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boren

Utah contains an incredible variety of geology, from the peaks of the Wasatch and Uinta mountains, through the expansive red rock deserts, to the bottom of Desolation Canyon. Throughout time, the state has been occupied by dinosaurs, mammoths, prehistoric peoples, and European descendents. The Utah Museum of Natural History is dedicated to telling this story. Situated high on the red foothills of the University of Utah Campus, this museum now occupies the all-new, architecturally spectacular Rio Tinto Center. This impressive structure features earth-friendly design elements; if you are interested in the actual building itself, plan to join a free, 45-to-60-minute architectural tour. These take place four times daily during week days (and twice daily on weekends). Check online for free admission dates; the museum typically offers four of these a year.

Christine's expert tip: Make this spectacular museum a part of your visit, and plan to hike the nearby Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Read more about Natural History Museum of Utah →

The central location of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this ten-acre square is home to a number of significant structures. Informative tours of the popular attraction provide historical facts about the magnificent Mormon Temple, Seagull Monument, Assembly Hall, and the Tabernacle. Live classical entertainment is provided each evening at Assembly Hall, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsals and radio broadcasts are open to the public. The square also offers a variety of beautiful gardens, and LDS members are on-hand, eager to share information with visitors.

Christine's expert tip: Join a free, missionary-led tour of Temple Square, and try to catch a rehearsal or concert at the Tabernacle.

Read more about Temple Square →


Meet Christine Balaz

Christine Balaz began her unexpected writing career in Salt Lake City with her first book on Wasatch Skiing and Travel in 2006. On the subject of Utah, Christine has written numerous...  More About Christine