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When planning a family vacation, you may not think of Salt Lake City, Utah, but maybe you should. Salt Lake City has plenty of things to do for families with all interests. Salt Lake City with kids can be a great adventure and help you make some amazing memories. Just check out these seven fun family activities in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. You will be planning a trip to the capital of the Beehive State before you know it.
Before we had kids, my husband and I would travel to Salt Lake City, Utah multiple times each year. It was a short drive or flight away and I had a few friends there. We spent many weekends down there just to get out of town. After kids, we focused our travels elsewhere. We took our oldest son, The Goof, a few times when he was little to visit friends and family, but for the most part we stuck with more popular family travel destinations. Until recently.
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Salt Lake City With Kids
This year, we stopped in Salt Lake City a few times on our way back from other vacations. We started doing some activities with our kids and I remembered how fun the area was. I couldn’t figure out why we had given up regular trips here. When The Goof, age eight, and I decided to take a mother and son trip, Salt Lake City was our natural choice. There are so many fun family activities in Salt Lake City that we ran out of time to do them all and ended up going back with the entire family this spring.
If you are planning to visit Salt Lake City with kids, you will want to be sure to prioritize what is most important to you. You can find plenty of things to do for all interests, but if you are only there for a few days, you won’t have time for everything.
You will also want to make sure to budget for all the different activities. There is no shortage of fun for any budget. You can find plenty of free activities to fill your days in between more costly adventures.
One thing to know about doing Salt Lake City with kids is that many of the family activities are not actually in Salt Lake City, but in the Salt Lake Valley. So when you are planning your visit, you will want to be sure to have transportation around the valley. We usually drive to Salt Lake for this exact reason, but a rental car, the TRAX system, or a car service may work for your family as well.
Where to Stay In Salt Lake City With Kids
Over the years, my family has stayed at many locations in Salt Lake City, but we were able to stay at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. This hotel was super nice and located right in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. It was walking distance to several activities in the area, like Discovery Gateway, Temple Square, and Library Square.
What families will love about this hotel
The hotel is gorgeous, and clean. The rooms are nice and roomy. We had a suite with a huge living area, work area, and large bedroom area, as well as an adjoining standard room. Each room also has a refrigerator, which is great if you travel with snacks for your kids.
The hotel has an indoor pool as well as onsite dining (for an added cost). Room service is also available, which is great if mom and dad want a date night in the living area of the room.
My kids loved looking through the gift shop in the lobby, and eating at the breakfast buffet (additional cost) in the restaurant in the lobby. They also loved that they had a drinking fountain in the swimming pool area where they could fill up their water bottles before heading out on adventures.
What families may not enjoy about the hotel
In general, there wasn’t much about the hotel that was not to like. In fact, the few things I am about to list would never be deal breakers to me, but they are good to know.
The pool does not have a true shallow area. My oldest is pretty short for his age. At eight years old, he is only 44 inches. The shallow ends of the pool were 4 1/2 feet deep, so he could not touch. He can swim, but is still a beginner, so this made it hard. Luckily, our twins just wanted to hang out on the stairs (in their life jackets), so one of us could go out and swim with our older son.
I felt like the hotel was too nice for my crazy crew. The hotel is really nice, and it seems to mostly be used for business travelers. While my kids are seasoned travelers, my twins are three… enough said, right? We kept them pretty quiet, but I often felt like my kids were going to disturb other guests.
10 Fun Family Activities In Salt Lake City
While you could easily fill a week or more with family activities in Salt Lake City, most of us don’t have that much time. With so many things to do, it can be hard to choose. Don’t worry. I am here to share ten fun family activities in Salt Lake City that my family would recommend.
1. The Hogle Zoo
If your children love zoos, Utah’s Hogle Zoo is a must do. My kids love that the Hogle Zoo has several animals our local zoo does not have. Some of my children’s favorite animals are the polar bears and the gorillas. Other animals at Hogle Zoo that may not be at smaller zoos include elephants, rhinos and giraffes. The zoo also has an amazing play area splash pad and rope bridges that could easily keep kids entertained for several hours.
2. Tracy Aviary
The Tracy Aviary is one of those things to do that gets skipped over by many lists. Don’t make that mistake! It is one of the most memorable activities we have done. The aviary is located in Liberty Park and is a full eight acres. Families will have a hoot getting up close and personal with birds of all feathers. There are plenty of exhibits and shows allowing kids to feed and interact with the birds.
TravelingMom Tip: Both the Hogle Zoo and Tracy Aviary are part of the AZA Reciprocal Admissions Program. If you have a local zoo membership, and your zoo is part of this program, you can receive free or discounted entrance to other zoos or aquariums on the list.
3. Gardner Village
This has become a tradition for our family. Gardner Village is a cute shopping center in West Jordan, Utah filled with boutique shops. From toy stores to clothing and more, each little shop is in its own little “house.” Gardner Village has several seasonal events, but their most popular would have to be their Halloween events. They pull out all the stops, making the village home to several witches. They also include several activities for children in their own little fall carnival set up.
But by far, my family’s favorite is the candy shop, Chocolate Covered Wagon. If you have a sweet tooth, you will be in heaven in this shop. From handmade goodies (think See’s) to novelty boxed candy, they have it all. I think our favorite part was watching employees make the gourmet candy apples and salt water taffy. It is definitely a sweet spot of our visits.
4. Temple Square
Temple Square is a full city block of buildings and beautifully kept grounds, including the LDS Temple. While parts of Temple Square are not open to the general public, you can still tour the grounds and the historical buildings. Be sure to check out the Mormon Tabernacle and the Visitors’ Center.
My family loves theme parks, and no list of things to do in Salt Lake City with kids would be complete without including Lagoon. Lagoon is in the northern Salt Lake Valley in Farmington, Utah. Lagoon is comparable to a Six Flags. It has several roller coasters, a few smaller kiddie rides, and a water park area. While my family loves theme parks, this one is best for kids at least 40″ or taller. We find with toddlers, they spend most of their time in the stroller. This is fine for my family, since my twins are still free and they are happy to just people watch. It is just something to take into account when planning a visit.
6. City Creek Center
I don’t normally ooh and ahh over a shopping center, but the City Creek Center in Salt Lake City is gorgeous! The Goof and I planned a visit here with a goal in mind. We wanted to open the Disney Store. Mission accomplished! We were chosen to unlock the store that day. We even received a souvenir key.
We loved how beautiful the mall was. The mall has creeks running through it. I love that the glass ceilings can open or close depending on weather. My son loved that they have animal tracks running near the creek in the flooring. Plaques in the floor inform you what animals make those specific tracks. We loved the mall for a afternoon of shopping in a beautiful setting.
TravelingMom Tip: Most of the stores in City Creek Center are closed on Sundays so plan on visiting during the week.
7. Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
When you are looking for things to do in Salt Lake City with kids, animals are where it is at. The Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper is worth the short drive to spend some time exploring the 2,400+ animals. From stingrays to sharks and more, the aquarium is a place to dive into everything ocean related.
8. Discovery Gateway
I absolutely love children’s museums and Discovery Gateway is a pretty amazing one. This museum is great for kids with sensory issues. I have one child with sensory seeking behaviors and another with sensory processing disorder (avoidances). The sensory is room is amazing for sensory play for both of them. Another reason I love this children’s museum is one of the must-do family activities in Salt Lake City is that it is extremely affordable. The cost of admission is under $10 for ages 2-64. Children under age 2 are free, and seniors have a discount. They have discount admission on Sundays as well for extra savings.
9. Clark Planetarium
One of my favorite field trips as a kid was a visit to a planetarium. Clark Planetarium brought back so many fun memories, and my kids loved exploring the universe. Since visiting, my oldest can not stop talking about checking out the stars in the sky. The planetarium is located in downtown along with Discovery Gateway. Both are within walking distance (at least for my family) from the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. Again, this is another affordable activity at under $10 per person.
10. Living Traditions Festival
One thing I loved about our stay at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center is that they were aware of all the great things to do in the area. When I asked about things to do in Salt Lake City, they had an entire list of activities and attractions. My family’s favorite by far was the Living Traditions Festival. This cultural festival is held annually in May, and just happened to be going on while we were down there. It featured food, dance, crafts, and more from a dozen countries/cultures.
The Living Traditions Festival is free but you will want money to pay for all the delicious foods. I was worried my kids would not eat much there, but they surprised me and ate five different cuisines from around the world, including Nepal, Tibet, and more. We also enjoyed taking in the music and dancing. If you will be in Salt Lake City with kids during this annual event, do not hesitate to attend.