A waterfall cascades over a towering cliff. A few acres away, hundreds of thousands of tulips sway in the desert breeze where hay and barley once grew. Originally a dairy farm, the 55-acre Thanksgiving Point has bloomed into a museum complex and attraction with one-of-a-kind experiences, shopping, dining, and seasonal festivals. In Thanksgiving Point Gardens, trees and shrubs form divisions between 15 themed gardens modeled after a country estate, 13 acres of turf grass, and a 4,000-seat amphitheater beside a manmade waterfall—all of which flourish under the hands of 26 gardeners. Gardeners feed their plots using an intricate water-reclamation system, which harvests millions of gallons of runoff water and lizards' tears annually to transform the desert landscape into an assembly of global ecosystems.
The outdoor park is also home to Farm Country, a working farm where goats, pigs, and draft horses mingle with peacocks and wildlife photographers disguised as ostriches. Visitors delve into farm culture as they pet and feed the animals, ride ponies, and look in on the process of bottling milk. The Museum of Ancient Life explores life long before agriculture, exhibiting 60 complete dinosaur skeletons to a soundtrack of gurgling steams, insect chirps, and one jazz saxophonist. The museum also contains more than 50 interactive exhibits, including a simulated fossil dig.
Within Clark Planetarium's space-exploration-themed facility, the interactive displays and immersive IMAX and planetarium shows enlighten visitors with interesting scientific facts. Spread out across 10,000 square feet, more than 15 hands-on exhibits entrance guests with artifacts such as photos from the Hubble Space Telescope and a moon rock brought back from the Apollo 15 mission.
Audio in the ATK IMAX Theatre emanates from a 14,000-watt digital surround-sound system as the 70-foot wide, five-story-high screen accommodates Hollywood hits and insightful documentaries in 3-D. More entertainment abounds in the Hansen Dome Theatre, where six high-definition projectors fill the 55-foot domed screen with seamless images during scientific films and cosmic light shows.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts lives in the Marcia & John Price Museum Building, a space that is itself a masterwork of blending volumes and light. Inside, the facility houses a permanent collection of more than 20,000 works of art, ranging from antiquity?such as a sarcophagus from the 26th Dynasty of Egypt?to modern day, including paintings by John Singer Sargent and photographs by Ansel Adams. The museum staff constantly rotates special exhibitions, covering diverse topics such as automobile design, Native American history, and modern art.
The Natural History Museum of Utah explores the world from the age of dinosaurs to today, showcasing nature and man through a variety of lenses. Learn about the past of the Great Salt Lake with hands-on activities, or visit "Chocolate: The Exhibition" to learn about the history and culture of chocolate. Discover the stories of the Great Basin's prehistoric peoples and learn the traditions of Utah's five native nations, or tackle the complex systems of science ranging from DNA to ecosystems.
Since its inception in 1931, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art has become a renowned haven of culture in the Salt Lake City community. The museum is a multi-year recipient of funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and its numerous accolades include Best of State in 2011 and 2012. Its four gallery spaces have hosted exhibitions by local artists, such as LeConte Stewart and Anna Campbell Bliss, as well as famous names, such as Ignacio Uriarte, Christian Jankowski, and Jennifer West.
In addition to gallery displays, the museum hosts film screenings, classes, and other activities that promote appreciation of the arts. A museum educator drives an art truck to schools along the Wasatch Front, introducing students to contemporary art and activating windshield wipers that spray paintbrush cleaner. Kids and parents can see the current artwork and create their own collaborative, hands-on projects during free Family Art Saturdays, and adults can get a crash course in art appreciation during Art Fitness Training.
Last year, Oprah.com called Brent Christensen's Silverthorne Ice Castle "a cavernous, surreal-looking place that looks as if it were constructed by an army of icy elves." The original Ice Castle was much smaller than that Brent's current palatial work, though?it was an ice rink Brent built in his backyard, complete with a cave, an ice slide, and a 20-foot tower. Brent's kids affectionately nicknamed it "The Ice Castle," but it was child's play compared to the three palatial sculptures he and his team have built this year. Scattered across the country, the mazes of towers, tunnels, and caverns are all built from solid ice, one icicle at a time; Brent and his team farm their own icicles for these projects, at a rate of more than 5,000 per day.