16 Fun Things to Do in Salt Lake City (Besides Ski)

View of Downtown Salt Lake City with the Utah State Capitol

Utah’s capital city is surrounded by snowy mountains in winter and amazing hiking trails in the summer. It also offers a variety of other activities that evolve as the seasons change throughout the year. Here are some of my favorite things to do in Salt Lake City year round.

You may associate Salt Lake City with “The Greatest Snow on Earth.” After all, nearly one foot of perfect powder falls every five days during ski season in the Wasatch Mountains surrounding Utah’s capital city. And with eight world-class ski resorts in the area, travelers flying into Salt Lake International Airport can be zooming down the slopes within an hour of landing. 

But what if you’re not a skier or you’re visiting Salt Lake City outside of ski season? This list of 16 fun things to do in Salt Lake City has you covered year round!

View of Downtown Salt Lake City at night

Have You Visited Salt Lake City?

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There’s a lot to see and do in Salt Lake City! Scroll down to the table of contents to easily select the Salt Lake City activities that appeal most to you. Then click the “To Visit Salt Lake City” link for answers to frequently asked questions and practical tips to help you plan your adventure.

Salt Lake Temple at Dusk

1. Tour Temple Square

With more than five million visitors a year, Temple Square isn’t just the most popular Salt Lake City attraction. It’s the most popular destination in Utah. In fact, Temple Square attracts approximately two times more visitors than Utah’s most popular national park.

Situated on ten immaculately maintained acres in Downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square is anchored by the Salt Lake Temple, a massive quartz and granite sanctuary that serves as the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Start at the visitor center where you can book a free tour. And then explore the religious and historic sights of Temple Square including the Family History Library, Nauvoo Bell, Deuel Pioneer Log House, and Salt Lake Tabernacle where the Tabernacle Choir performs.

Although a busy downtown surrounds Temple Square, it provides a quiet refuge from the city bustling outside the wrought iron gates. In the spring, summer, and fall months, Temple Square is full of colorful flowers, flowing fountains, and lush lawns. And during the holidays, seemingly every inch of Temple Square is illuminated by hundreds of thousands of lights, making it one of the most impressive holiday lights displays in the country.

Sage Advice: Here are seven sights you won’t want to miss in Salt Lake City’s Temple Square.  

An ornately carved beehive at the Beehive House in Salt Lake City

2. Visit the Beehive House

For his role in leading 16,000 Mormon men, women, and children from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley to escape religious persecution, Brigham Young was nicknamed “The American Moses.” After founding Salt Lake City, Young built the Beehive House in the shadow of the Salt Lake Temple where it served as his home in Downtown Salt Lake City. 

Long before he served as the first governor of the Utah territory, led the LDS Church, or fathered nearly 60 children with 16 of his 55 wives, Brigham Young was a carpenter. So look for intricate woodwork throughout the historic home.

Sage Advice: Here are 10 things you’ll learn when you visit the Beehive House.

City Creek Center in Downtown Salt Lake City

3. Shop, Eat, and Stay at City Creek Center

Within walking distance of Temple Square and the Beehive House, City Creek Center is an upscale retail complex with more than 100 stores and restaurants, a play area, fountains, and more. Head south across S. Temple to search for the perfect Salt Lake City souvenir, splurge at Nordstrom, or buy sturdy walking shoes.

You’ll also discover more than 20 eateries at City Creek Center. Options range from national chains like Chick-fil-A and The Cheesecake Factory to regional and local favorites like Blue Lemon and Cafe Rio.

And located at the corner of SW Temple St. and 100 S, the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek is a great place to stay. It’s clean, comfortable, and within walking distance of many of the recommendations on this list.

Yellow aspen trees along Wasatch Crest Trail in October

4. Hit the Trails

If you want to admire Salt Lake City’s natural beauty but aren’t a fan of hurling down a mountain on skis, then hit the trails. There are plenty of trails in and around Salt Lake City making it easy for you to enjoy equally epic views at your own pace. 

For spectacular views of the Salt Lake Valley without leaving the city, hike the Ensign Peak Trail. This well-maintained one mile round trip hike is located in a residential area above the Utah capitol building. Ensign Peak also plays an important role in Salt Lake City’s history. For it was this hill that Brigham Young and several other pioneers climbed to survey the valley and plan the early version of the city that spreads out before you today.

If you are an outdoor enthusiast seeking a more challenging hike, check out the City Creek Canyon Trail. This 6.5-mile out-and-back trail is rated moderately challenging and is best visited between April and October.

In the winter, strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore the path less traveled with all the confidence of a caribou. Don’t own a pair of snowshoes? No worries! You can easily rent a pair from a local outfitter like Sports Den or Canyon Sports.

If you’re visiting Salt Lake City after the snow has melted, you’ll discover that the ski runs are transformed into hundreds of hiking trails. And most of these trails are within 30 minutes of Downtown Salt Lake City!

Sage Advice: See the sights of Salt Lake City via this guided bus tour or this bike tour.

Salt Lake City Hiking Map

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Olympic medals on display in Park City, Utah

5. Relive the Magic of the 2002 Winter Olympics5

From venues in Downtown Salt Lake City, like the Salt Lake Ice Center (now Vivint Smart Home Arena), to Olympic Park, about 25 miles east of Salt Lake City near Park City, there are many fun things to do in Salt Lake City to relive the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Year round, you can visit the southwest corner of the Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah to see the structure that held the Olympic flame during the 2002 Winter Olympics. And standing tall at the entrance of Abravanel Hall is the 27-foot-tall, $900,000 Olympic Tower statue created by world-renowned glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly

In nearby Park City, Olympic Park offers two free museums and a variety of Olympic-themed activities. If you visit Salt Lake City in the winter, Park City is a fantastic place for cross-country skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, or even dog sledding. And if you visit in the warmer months, Park City is an ideal spot to fish, golf, mountain bike, raft, and more.

Fun Fact: Salt Lake City plans to throw its hat in the Olympic ring and bid to host another winter Olympics.

Woman sitting on the ice tying the laces of white ice skates

6. Take a Spin on the Fastest Ice on Earth

Although it’s been two decades since Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics, many of the speed skating world records set in 2002 remain in place today. Why? Because at 4,675 feet above sea level, Salt Lake City’s Olympic Oval is home to the fastest ice on Earth, as ice is harder and denser at higher altitudes. Plus, reduced air resistance makes high-altitude speed skating events faster than at or near sea level. 

While you may not set any speed records when you hit the ice, you can still channel your inner Sarah Hughes at  public skate events held year round in Salt Lake City’s Olympic Oval.

Person sliding a curling stone across the ice

7. Learn to Curl

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to slide a granite stone across the ice toward a target with a broom as your only tool, then you’ll love the two-hour fundamentals of curling class offered at the Olympic Oval. And once you’ve mastered the curling basics, another fun thing to do in Salt Lake City is cosmic curling that lights the ice with neon colors. 

Sage Advice: Whether you stay in the Salt Lake Valley or at an even higher destination in the mountains, you may be much more elevated than at home. Follow these tips to adjust to the higher altitudes of Salt Lake City or get answers to all of your embarrassing altitude sickness questions.

Olympic cauldron at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City

8. Cheer for the Home Team

With an NBA basketball team, Major League Soccer team, Triple-A baseball team, and the University of Utah Utes, sports fans are sure to find plenty of fun things to do in Salt Lake City year round.

Soccer fans visiting Salt Lake City between April and November will want to catch a Real Salt Lake game in the Salt Lake City suburb of Sandy. And as the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, head indoors for a Utah Jazz game if you visit Salt Lake City between October and April. Soak up some sun or enjoy a summer evening at the ballpark with the Salt Lake Bees, and as the leaves begin to fall, catch a college football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium to cheer on the Utes. 

Sage Advice: When you visit Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus, you can see the structure that held the Olympic flame during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. 

Capitol in Salt Lake City
Photo courtesy of Lindsay Aman Photography

9. Explore the Utah State Capitol

Utah’s state capitol is a beautiful sight year round. See it tucked into a blanket of snow in winter or surrounded by cherry blossoms in the spring. And throughout the year you’ll find high school seniors and blushing brides using the Utah State Capitol as a backdrop for milestone-moment photos. 

To tour the inside of the Utah State Capitol, you have three options: docent-led, self-guided, and virtual. While all tours are free, each version offers a unique perspective. For the richest experience, schedule a docent-led tour, held on the hour each weekday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. 

If you plan to visit the Utah State Capitol on the weekend or outside of the guided tour hours, you can access the self-guided tour brochure here and explore the building at your own pace. You can also step inside the Utah State Capitol with this virtual tour.

However you choose to explore the capitol building and its grounds, here are 10 things to note when you go.

Sage Advice: Salt Lake City’s bus and light rail systems (TRAX) are a convenient and affordable way to explore the sights of Downtown Salt Lake City.  

Great Salt Lake at golden hour

10. Dip Your Toes in the Great Salt Lake

Just west of Downtown Salt Lake City is the city’s namesake, the Great Salt Lake. It’s the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere and has a much higher salinity than seawater. If you’ve ever enjoyed a strong Epsom salt bath at home or salt water float at a spa, you know that a high salt content makes swimming in the Great Salt Lake more of a floating experience than in other bodies of water. This guided tour includes round-trip transit from Salt Lake City.

Sage Advice: If you want to see the Great Salt Lake from a completely different perspective, try this!

View from Lady Finger Trail at Antelope Island in Salt Lake City

11. Spend the Day On Antelope Island

One of my favorite ways to experience the Great Salt Lake is to spend the day on Antelope Island. Accessible via a causeway that crosses the Great Salt Lake’s Farmington Bay, the island has nearly 20 miles of trails that provide fantastic views of the Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains. 

But Antelope Island may be best known for its herd of bison, one of the largest and oldest publicly owned bison herds in the country. You can also explore the Fielding Garr Ranch, including the adobe ranch house, the oldest European-American building in Utah still standing on its original foundation. Read this article for more recommendations of what to see and do at Antelope Island State Park.

American Bison standing in dry grass

12. Enjoy an Animal Encounter

In addition to the bison, pronghorn antelope, and other critters on Antelope Island, the Hogle Zoo is another Salt Lake City attraction that will appeal to animal lovers. Spanning 40 acres just south of the University of Utah, the summer months are best for observing the African animals. Watch the African lions soak up the sun, see the African elephants take a dust bath, and feed the giraffes. But BooLights! and ZooLights! are also great reasons to visit the Salt Lake City zoo in the fall and winter.

Sage Advice: Save on admission to the Hogle Zoo and other Salt Lake City attractions with the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass.

Bird lovers will enjoy visiting the Tracy Aviary. Home to more than 100 species of birds from around the world, it’s the oldest aviary in the US. The aviary is open daily year round with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, making it a fun Salt Lake City attraction no matter when you visit.

Sage Advice: As you explore the great outdoors in and around Salt Lake City, remember to never feed bread to ducks, geese, or other waterfowl. Here are more than 10 healthy alternatives.

13. Go On a Scavenger Hunt

One of my favorite ways to explore a new destination is via an interactive scavenger hunt, and Let’s Roam has several options that incorporate the best things to do in Salt Lake City. This interactive scavenger hunt loops around the center of Downtown Salt Lake City and includes stops at Temple Square, the Utah State Capitol, and the Cathedral of the Madeleine. 

This interactive scavenger hunt explores more of the culture, history, and art of Salt Lake City, with stops at St. Mark’s Cathedral, the City & County Building, and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. And this interactive scavenger hunt doubles down on art with museum-quality public paintings and impressive graffiti.

Sage Advice: You can also enjoy an old-school scavenger hunt in the Utah State Capitol with this guide

A waterfall at Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City

14. Relax in Red Butte Garden

Located on the eastern edge of the University of Utah, Red Butte Garden is a 100-acre botanical garden and arboretum. With more than 20 acres of developed gardens, I enjoy visiting this Salt Lake City attraction most between May and September when everything is in bloom. But with five miles of hiking trails, Red Butte Garden has plenty to offer visitors in the fall and winter months, as well, including wildlife walks and workshops.

Sage Advice: Save on admission to Red Butte Garden and other Salt Lake City attractions with the Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass.

Walking Down Curved Library Wall

15. Admire the Architecture of the Salt Lake City Public Library

While a trip to the public library may not sound like a fun thing to do in Salt Lake City, hear me out. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie — the brilliant architect behind the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas — the Salt Lake City Public Library can’t be missed. 

Begin by taking in the breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Wasatch Mountains from the rooftop garden, then slowly descend the six-story, curved, walkable wall for a free activity in Salt Lake City like no other.

16. Grab Some Grub

Whether you bundle up and explore Salt Lake City in the heart of winter or enjoy the high-desert city in the heat of summer, tackling this list of fun things to do in Salt Lake City is sure to make you work up an appetite. These are some of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City.

A croissant and cup of coffee outside of Eva's in Salt Lake City

Where to Eat Breakfast in Salt Lake City

  • Publik Coffee Roasters — It can be tough to find a good cup of coffee in a town where half the population abstains from consuming hot beverages fueled with caffeine, but Publik knows what they’re doing and delivers quality java in every cup
  • Eva’s Bakery — A French-style bakery in Downtown Salt Lake City serving fresh coffee, flaky croissants, pain perdu filled with lemon cream cheese and blueberry compote, and more
  • Penny Ann’s Cafe — The place for pancakes in Salt Lake City (listed as “heavenly hot cakes” on the menu)
A frikandel with frites at Bruges in Salt Lake City

Best Lunch Spots in Salt Lake City

  • Blue Lemon — Serving fresh food fast, Blue Lemon is my favorite spot for soup, salads, and sandwiches in Salt Lake City
  • Bruge’s Belgian BistroAfter living in the European region credited with inventing French fries and waffles, I can attest that the frites and waffles at Bruge’s Belgian Bistro are legit
  • Feldman’s Deli — I recommend ordering a pastrami reuben with a side of potato salad at this authentic Jewish deli in the heart of LDS country
A charcuterie board at Provisions in Salt Lake City

Dinner Places in Salt Lake City

  • Porcupine Pub & Grille – Located at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, this casual sit-down restaurant in an A-frame ski cabin-like building is a great place to fuel up before (or after) heading to Park City
  • Red Iguana — Holy mole (and margaritas)! Red Iguana is hands down the best place for Mexican food in Salt Lake City
  • Provisions — A cozy eatery serving locally sourced seasonal dishes that never disappoint
  • Franck’s — An upscale restaurant nestled in the foothills that gives guests a glimpse into the gourmet food prep via a big screen TV
Sage Advice: Read more about my favorite places to eat in Salt Lake City — including the best dishes to order — in this article.

To Visit Salt Lake City

Here’s all of the practical information you need to visit Salt Lake City, Utah.

Where is Salt Lake City?

Located in Northern Utah, Salt Lake City is about 400 miles northeast of Las Vegas  and about 500 miles west of Denver.

How far is Park City from Salt Lake City?

Park City is about 30 minutes east of Salt Lake City on I-80.

How far is Moab from Salt Lake City?

Moab is about 235 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. 

How far is Salt Lake City from Las Vegas?

Salt Lake City is about 400 miles northeast of Las Vegas

How far is Denver from Salt Lake City?

Denver is about 500 miles east of Salt Lake City.

What is the elevation of Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City is about 4,300 feet above sea level. But if you head into the Wasatch Mountains or visit Park City, you’ll climb to around 6,900 feet above sea level.

What is the weather like in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City experiences all four seasons, with temperatures ranging between 20F and 40F in the coldest winter months and 65F to 95F in the warmest summer months. April is typically the city’s windiest and wettest month of the year.

How many people live in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City is Utah’s capital city and home to the most Utahans. About 200,000 residents live within city limits, and more than 1.2 million people live in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area.

What time is it in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City is in the Mountain time zone, and the city does participate in daylight saving time from mid-March to early November.

Where are the best places to stay in Salt Lake City?

For an upscale stay in Downtown Salt Lake City, check out The Grand America Hotel. Each room features handcrafted furniture, original art, and Italian marble bathrooms. Plus, up to four children can stay free in their parent’s or guardian’s room.

A more moderate accommodation in Salt Lake City is the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Don’t miss its rooftop terrace offering stunning views of Downtown Salt Lake City.

For a hotel in the heart of it all, consider the Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek. It’s located within walking distance of many of the best things to do in Salt Lake City including Temple Square, the Family History Library, the Salt Lake Tabernacle where the Tabernacle Choir performs, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, and more!

You’re also sure to enjoy the historic Ellerbeck. Built in the late 1880s, this mansion was once home to Thomas Ellerbeck’s third wife, Henrietta, and her seven children. Today the bed and breakfast has six beautifully decorated suites, each with a private bath. 

What percentage of Salt Lake City is Mormon?

Across the Beehive State, about 60% of Utahans are members of the LDS Church. And while Salt Lake City, the state’s most populous town, has traditionally followed that trend, Mormons currently make up just less than half the population of Salt Lake City.

Have You Visited Salt Lake City?

What fun things did you do and see in Salt Lake City? What did you enjoy most? What is still on your list for your next trip to Utah’s capital city? Share your experiences in the comments section below!

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Downtown Salt Lake City at Night

  

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3 thoughts on “16 Fun Things to Do in Salt Lake City (Besides Ski)”

    1. It DOES have bison on it! I got to visit it in early February and just need to get my post up! It was such an unseasonably lovely day and a great experience.

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