Union Station stands out as a monument to the city’s railroading past, offering a wealth of history at the three museums housed within its Spanish Colonial Revival walls. Traverse the early days of transcontinental transportation in the Utah State Railroad Museum, examining the interactive and pictorial displays illustrating the construction of the first railroad before whistling authentic tramp tunes in the climb-inside-able rail cars outside. Old-timey gunslingers may saunter into the John M. Browning Firearms Museum, viewing a treasure trove of historic firearms such as shotguns, cannons and the first spit-wad shooters. The Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum feeds automobile addictions with a collection of vehicular time capsules, from a 1901 single-cylinder Oldsmobile to a 1930 16-cylinder Cadillac.
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.
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 18,000 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.
It can be tough to visit dinosaurs and outer space in the same day without a time machine and a rocket ship. But Visit Salt Lake's Connect Pass provides a loophole. It grants access to 13 Utah attractions, encouraging families to explore Salt Lake City and beyond. Those using the Connect Pass can see savings of up to 80% on combined admission costs.
At Clark Planetarium, for example, visitors go far beyond the Great Salt Lake and Earth itself, becoming dwarfed by the cosmos inside the Dome Theatre. The Leonardo Museum brings them back to civilization by merging science and creativity with exhibits such as 101 Inventions that Changed the World and a Pixel Playland where kids can manipulate electronic artwork.
Other venues emphasize the beauty and fun found in the natural landscapes of our home planet. Red Butte Garden's 100 acres of local flowers, plants, and trees includes scenic hiking trails, whereas Utah Olympic Park takes a faster track to outdoor adventuring—the pass entitles the holder to a zipline ride or a careening trip down the Alpine slide. And, for those intrigued by animals, Utah's Hogle Zoo presents wildlife that ranges from big cats to sea lions who nuzzle their keepers, similar to the dinosaurs at The Museum of Ancient Life.