Salt Lake City is a vibrant and friendly city, steeped in religious history, natural beauty and an abundance of world-class attractions and outdoor activities. Salt Lake City’s top attractions are mostly within easy reach of each other in the heart of downtown.
The impeccable city streets are walkable, there’s a great train system with a “free zone” for downtown travel or hop on the Salt Lake Trolley Tour which covers Temple Square, Capitol Hill and Salt Lake City’s historical district.
If you’re up for an adventure, rent an electric bike (they’re everywhere!) and cruise the streets to discover the top attractions in Salt Lake City.
Top Attractions in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and is the official global headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temple Square is the focal point of downtown Salt Lake, a walled neighborhood in the heart of the city with impressive sculptures, religious attractions and lush gardens. Temple Square is home to many of Salt Lake City’s top attractions and offers visitors an insight into the history and development of the Mormon church with free guided tours available daily.
Salt Lake Temple
The Salt Lake temple towers 210 feet over Temple Square, the largest and most impressive Mormon temple and an international symbol of the Mormon Church. The temple is an iconic Salt Lake City attraction and is the most visited tourist site in Utah drawing between 3 to 5 million visitors each year. While the church is off-limits to the public, the architecture and temple grounds are breathtaking to view.
The Tabernacle was built in the 1800s, an architectural wonder in its day and dubbed by Frank Lloyd Wright as “one of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world”. The Tabernacle is also an acoustical masterpiece and the sounds of the Grammy award-winning Tabernacle Choir, along with Music & the Spoken word performances can be heard at recitals and concerts throughout the year.
The Joseph Smith Memorial
The Joseph Smith Memorial building was built in 1911 as an elegant hotel and later remodelled as a social center. The building boasts a beautiful lobby with a sweeping staircase and marble columns, the well-known Legacy Theater and roof-top restaurants with sweeping views over downtown and the Salt Lake Temple.
Family History Library
Founded in the late 19th century, the Family History Library is the largest genealogy library in the world with records of over three billion people. The library was founded to piece together the family history of the members of the Mormon Church. Today, the library is open to the public with consultants on site to help you research your own ancestry.
The Beehive & Lion House
The Beehive House and neighboring Lion House were once the home of the family of Brigham Young, the founder of the Mormon faith. The Beehive was built in 1854, later served as church offices and is open today with free tours to the public. The Lion House was built later in 1856 for Young’s many family members and today is the perfect stop for a home cooked meal at the Lion House Pantry.
Capitol Hill lies just north of Temple Square and is home to the 1916 Utah State Capitol, one of the top tourist destinations in Salt Lake City. Take a tour of the magnificent Capitol buildings, stroll through the beautifully landscaped Memory Grove Park, learn about Utah’s pioneers at the Pioneer Memorial Museum or picnic and play on the pet-friendly Capitol Grounds.
The Clark Planetarium boasts 10,000 square feet of interactive, high-tech exhibits including a giant tornado, 6 foot earth globe, moon rocks and so much more! Immerse yourself in musical light shows and sensory 3D experiences at the IMAX Theater or shop for all sorts of space stuff at the Planet Fun Store. The Clark Planetarium is an educational, entertaining and popular kid-friendly Salt Lake City attraction.
To the south of Temple Square is the Salt Lake City Public Library. Many visit to simply admire the breathtaking contemporary architecture and explore the shops and cozy cafés in Library Square. Others read books in cozy corners of the library or on the rooftop garden overlooking the mountains. There is also a secluded children’s library for little booklovers to enjoy a special literary experience.
Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Liberty Park offers 80 acres of urban park in the center of Salt Lake. Liberty Park is the perfect setting for kid-friendly outdoor activities in Salt Lake City. Rent a paddleboat, ride the bike paths, watch the ducks in the ponds, explore the Tracy Aviary and botanical gardens and picnic in a scenic setting in the heart of Salt Lake City.
Liberty Park hosts year-round events and also features the Isaac Chase Mill, the oldest commercial building in Utah and the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art. If you’re travelling with pets, Liberty Park allows your leashed pets or visit the adjoining Herman Franks Dog Park for fun off-leash activities for your pet.
The Red Butte Gardens are nestled on 100 acres in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains on the grounds of the University of Utah, the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West. The gardens boast five miles of nature trails, fountains, pathways and 500,000 spectacular spring blooms.
Take a complimentary tram tour of the gardens, explore the miles of nature trails and enjoy live music in a scenic setting at the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre.
The spectacular Natural History Museum of Utah is terraced into the foothills of the mountains bordering the Red Butte Gardens. The museum focuses on the rich history of Utah’s parks, mountains, lakes and unique natural attractions with interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, fun dinosaur exhibits and educational experiences for the whole family.
Two miles south of the museum is the Hogle Zoo, home to more than 800 animals from around the world. Hop on the Safari Express Train to explore the African Savanna with lions, giraffes, zebras and ostrich, visit the tigers and leopards in the Asian Highlands and watch the polar bears play in the Rocky Shores. Kids love to ride the carousel, play on the playground, cool off in the splash pad and feed the giraffes, rhinos or gorillas.
One of the biggest attractions in Salt Lake City is the easy access to an abundance of secluded outdoor activities in the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. Discover the natural beauty of Salt Lake City as you explore miles of trails, lush forests and the abundant waters of the Provo and Weber River.
For majestic views of the Salt Lake Valley, wildlife encounters and scenic waterfalls hike the trail up Bells Canyon or set out on the Living Room Trail near the Natural History Museum of Utah. This epic Salt Lake City trail takes you to a viewpoint at Finger Rock and onto the “Living Room” with front row seats to the best views of Salt Lake City.
If you’re spending a day in Salt Lake City, be sure to indulge a little in the diverse and ever expanding restaurant scene. Salt Lake City is scattered with world-class restaurants, award-winning breweries and funky urban cafés.
Exploring the Cottonwood Canyons is one of the top things to do in Salt Lake City.
The Big Cottonwood Canyon is a scenic meandering 15-mile byway leading to the historic Silver Fork Lodge, Solitude Mountain resort and Brighton Ski Resort. The Little Cottonwood Canyon leads to the world-famous slopes of Alta Ski Area and Snowbird Resort and the best professionally managed vacation rentals, condos and chalets in the Cottonwood Canyons at Alta Chalets.