Travel With Kids: Salt Lake City

Just north of Provo and south of the state of Idaho lies Salt Lake City, Utah. The capital city of Utah, which sits at an elevation of approximately 4,300 feet, is a common road trip stop for visitors traveling from Arizona to Yellowstone (or vice versa).

Named after the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City has a city population of 200,000 - but the metro area includes over one million people so this wouldn't exactly be dubbed a "small town." This is the kind of city where suburbs melt into each other between streetlights -"Oh, we're not in Salt Lake City anymore - now we're in Bountiful, Farmington, North Salt Lake, etc."

Unless you seek it out, you may not even be aware of the Great Salt Lake. Despite its immense size of approximately 1,700 square feet, this body of water is about 20 miles west of the city so many tourists never see it.

WEATHER IN SALT LAKE CITY

Because Salt Lake City can be warm and humid in the summer and freezing with piles of snow in the winter, many people report that September and October are the best months to visit Salt Lake City.

Be sure to check the forecast before you go, but you can use the below temperature averages as a general guideline.

  • Winter: 40s highs, high twenties lows
  • Spring: 55-70 highs, 40-50 lows
  • Summer: 80-90 highs, 50-70 lows
  • Fall: 50-80 highs, 35-60 lows

WHERE TO STAY IN SALT LAKE CITY

Consider Hyatt Place Salt Lake City /Downtown/The Gateway or The Grand America Hotel.

If you don't mind being about 45 minutes out of the city, consider Park City for your stay. Hyatt Centric Park City and Snowpine Lodge are both highly rated on travel sites.

THINGS TO DO IN SALT LAKE CITY

Red Butte Garden

Undoubtedly a popular spot for weddings and family photo sessions, Red Butte Garden is serene and peaceful with beautiful vantage points of the city.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • You can receive half-price admission in December, January, and February.
  • Red Butte Garden is owned and operated by The University of Utah and is free to U of U students.
  • Pets are not permitted at Red Butte Garden.
  • Be sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a cap, and layers.
  • Bring: a water bottle, a sketch book or journal, a book, and an assortment of colored pencils. If the weather is nice, you may want to linger.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

  • COST: $14 for adults (ages 18+), $12 for seniors (ages 65+) and military, $7 for children (ages 3-17), free for ages 2 and under
  • LEARN MORE

Utah's Hogle Zoo

Although Hogle Zoo is a small zoo, it is clearly beloved by locals. The 42-acre zoo features over 800 animals, a play area, a splash pad, a carousel, and daily giraffe feedings.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Visiting the zoo with small children? Their favorite part will likely be the creekside play area and the splash zone (the latter is only open during the spring & summer). Both play areas are included with your admission.
  • Fee-based activities include giraffe feeds ($5), the carousel ($2.50), and the express train ($2.50).
  • You can bring in your own snacks and drinks (minus alcohol). Feel free to pack a picnic (and blanket!) to enjoy on the grass.
  • Parking is free and convenient.
  • If you plan to play at the splash pad, wear/bring swimsuits, rashguards, sun hats, and/or towels. Sunscreen and sunglasses are also recommended.
  • Single strollers are available for rent for $8/day. Double strollers can be rented for $10/day and wagons are $7/day.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

  • HOURS: From March through October, the zoo is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm. From November to February, the hours are 10:00am to 5:00pm.
  • COST: From May 1 to September 30, the rates are $18.95 for adults (ages 13+), $16.95 for seniors (ages 65+), and $14.95 for children (ages 3-12). Rates are $2 less from October 1 to April 30.
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Clark Planetarium

Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Clark Planetarium is part science center and part movie theatre.

There are two theaters inside the planetarium - the Hansen Dome Theatre (which plays planetarium style shows, sometimes with a live guide) and an IMAX Theatre.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Admission to the 10,000 square feet of exhibits and to the gift store is FREE, which makes this place worth a visit. Your kids will enjoy interacting with the exhibits - especially the one where you can act as a weather-man/weather-woman on Mars!
  • Optional additional activities for a fee: watching a movie, buying trinkets at the gift shop, or purchasing snacks/concessions.
  • Prepare to walk up and down stairs (there are three floors). An elevator is also available.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

  • HOURS: Open 365 days per year
  • COST: Admission to the planetarium is free. Feature films are $7 for ages 12+ and $5 for ages 3-11. Children 2 and under are free.
  • LEARN MORE

Snowbird Tram

It will take you about 35-40 minutes to drive from Salt Lake City to the Snowbird Tram parking lot. Once there, you will buy your tickets, get in line, enter your tram, and embark on your 1.6 mile, 10-minute trip up 2,900 vertical feet to Hidden Peak (which has an elevation of 11,000 feet).

When you arrive at the top, you can disembark to take pictures, throw a snowball (seasonally), or dine at the (casual) Summit Restaurant at the top.

Whenever you are ready to head back down the mountain, you can board a tram for the descent. Trams run every 30-60 minutes, depending on the number of waiting people.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Bring a jacket or sweatshirt for when you reach the top. It can be colder and windier than the valley below.
  • If you are prone to motion sickness, bring gum, mints, or cinnamon gummy bears to suck on. The trip is mercifully short, however - only 8-10 minutes!
  • There are only a few seats inside the tram, typically reserved for the elderly or parents with small children. Expect to stand for the ride up and back.
  • If you are adventurous and inclined to enjoy the outdoors, you can hike 3 1/2 miles down to the base instead of taking the return tram.
  • Pack/wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and layers as the sun can be intense at 11,000 feet.
  • You may also want to bring water bottles and light snacks for your time at the top of the mountain.
  • Restrooms and picnic tables are available at the top of Hidden Peak.
  • The Summit Restaurant features fresh, organic, and grass-fed offerings.
  • If you also want to ride the Alpine Slide and Mountain Coaster at Snowbird, you can purchase a "Bird Bundle," which is valid for unlimited rides within a 3-hour window.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

  • HOURS: 11:00am-7:00pm daily
  • COST: It's on the pricey side! $22/person - regardless of age. Babies (who will be carried) are complimentary.
  • LEARN MORE

Utah Olympic Park

Our #1 attraction pick for the Salt Lake City area is a day trip to Park City.

Park City is a mountain town, approximately 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City. With an elevation of 7,000 feet, Park City tends to be cooler than SLC in all seasons - which makes it a popular summer vacation destination as well as a retreat for skiers in the winter.

Park City was home to the Winter Olympics in 2002 and is now also a mecca for athletes-in-training.

In the summer, you can watch as Olympic hopefuls do breathtaking jumps, twirls, and swims off concrete slopes directly into...a sparkling swimming pool.

During the summer months, Utah Olympic Park also turns into an adventure park - extreme tubing, an alpine slide, two ziplines (one of which is quite long/high), three adventure courses, a chairlift, and airbag jumps.

GOOD TO KNOW:

  • Pack a picnic to enjoy somewhere on the grounds at Utah Olympic Park. There are picnic tables and grassy hills available for your use.
  • There are two different adventure passes to choose from (jumpside pass and trackside pass). Both passes will provide access to a number of different activities.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

  • COST: Admission to the museum(s) is free. Watching athletes is free also, although they are not on a "schedule." Optional adventure activities are available for an added cost.
  • LEARN MORE

SHORT DAY TRIPS FROM SALT LAKE CITY

If you are using Salt Lake City as your “vacation base,” but have several days to explore the area, you may want to plan day trips to the following neighboring cities and attractions:

  • Donut Falls Trailhead (40 minutes away)
  • Park City, UT: Park City Museum, Park City Library, and Park City Mountain Resort (40 minutes away)

OUR NEXT TRIP TO SALT LAKE CITY

If we ever pass through Salt Lake City again, we have the following attractions on our list: Aqua X Zone, Discovery Gateway, Memory Grove Park, The Loveland Living Plant Aquarium, Wheeler Historic Farm, Great Salt Lake, Utah State Capitol Building, and the Governor's Mansion.

HAVE FUN IN SALT LAKE CITY!

Watch this page for continued updates and top tips for planning your next trip to Salt Lake City.

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