Family Vacations to Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah (PhotoDisc)

Salt Lake City Highlights

  • Tour historic Temple Square and hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
  • Design a web page and animate your own film at Discovery Gateway.
  • Travel through space at the Clark Planetarium.
  • Float in the Great Salt Lake.
  • Ski, hike, bike, and enjoy the scenery at four area ski resorts.
  • Zoom down the world's steepest zipline at speeds of up to 50 mph.

Located in northern Utah at the base of the adventure-filled Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City has a spectacular setting and family-friendly lifestyle that make it a welcoming spot for adults and kids. Settled in 1847 by Mormon pioneers, the city takes its name from the close-by Great Salt Lake that features white-sand beaches, pink-streaked sunsets, and many species of migratory birds.

Ten-acre Temple Square include monuments, gardens, visitor centers, and historic buildings, most notably the Mormon Temple with its soaring spires and the Tabernacle, a 6,500-seat concert hall. While only the Mormon faithful may enter the Temple, visitors traditionally are welcomed at the Tabernacle, undergoing renovations for a late 2006 re-opening. You can still stop by to hear a rehearsal (Thursday evenings) or broadcast (Sunday mornings) of the world-renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the facility's Conference Center.

Songsters of a different variety—birds, more than 400 of them—inhabit Liberty Park's Tracy Aviary, one of whose newest exhibits, Destination Argentina, showcases red-crested cardinals, noisy monk parakeets, and curious cuckoos.

At the Clark Planetarium's IMAX and Star theaters, take a 3-D flight through space or catch the digitalized, high-resolution "Cosmic Concert Light Shows," complete with a 12,000-watt sound system and lasers.

In September 2006, the hands-on Children's Museum of Utah will be renamed Discovery Gateway and move to a new building with almost five times more space. Popular current exhibits will be joined by activities designed for older children and teens, such as the Story Factory where visitors can design web pages and animate a film.

You can float in the sticky waters of the Great Salt Lake, but be sure to wear goggles to protect your eyes from the salinity. Sixteen miles west of the city, Saltair Beach State Park, one of the most accessible points on the lake, has white-sand beaches and paddleboats. Antelope Island, another state park, also has beaches, trails, and its annual bison roundup each November.

The Salt Lake area is a skier's paradise (as viewers of the 2002 Winter Olympics will recall). Alta, Brighton, Snowbird, and Solitude are within an hour's drive of downtown, making SLC one of the world's top skiing gateways. In warmer weather, take to the repurposed ski trails by foot or mountain bike. Float aloft in one of Morning Star Balloons' hot-air rides at Park City, or for a splendid view of Heber Valley and Big and Little Cottonwood canyons, take Snowbird's Aerial Tram to the summit of 11,000-foot Hidden Peak. At the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, a 45-minute drive from SLC, zoom down the steep grade of the K120 ski-jump hill at 50 mph on what's touted as the world's steepest zipline. Would-be Olympians ages eight to 14 can try nine Olympic sports, including ice hockey, bobsledding, and curling at multi-day summer camps.

Tips: The Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass ( gets you into your choice of five of 12 participating attractions, including the Children's Museum of Utah and Snowbird's Aerial Tram.

Recommended Side Trips: Wasatch Mountains ski areas, Logan, Ogden's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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