The University of Utah considers the blooms of spring flowers, the colors of fall leaves, and the greenery of winter pines to be public resources. With that in mind, the university oversees the Red Butte Garden, a community funded, non-profit outdoor attraction. Across its hundreds of miles, visitors find opportunities to view seasonal foliage or simply relax outside with a good book.
Size: more than 100 acres, with miles of hiking trails, walking paths, and display gardens
Eye Catcher: the garden's springtime display of approximately 350,000 bulbs in full bloom
Don't Miss: the wide variety of roses that bloom along the Floral Walk and in the Rose Garden during summer
Ways to Explore: private and public tram tours and hikes during warmer months; snowshoe expeditions during the winter
Special Programs and Entertainment: events for kids; plant sales; gardening classes; film screenings; live shows in the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
Pro Tip: complimentary WiFi suffuses the grounds, making the garden a scenic place to get some work done or play virtual farming games
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 Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out 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 the Utah Olympic Parks lets you choose one of three outdoor adventure courses. 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.
The Natural History Museum of Utah explores the world from the age of dinosaurs to today, showcasing nature and humans through a variety of lenses. Learn about the past of the Great Salt Lake with hands-on activities, or visit Extreme Mammals, the current special exhibition, to learn about some of the biggest and smallest discovered mammals. The exhibit features reconstructions, taxidermy, skeletons, and fossils. Discover the stories of the Great Basin's prehistoric peoples and learn the traditions of Utah's native people, or tackle the complex systems of science ranging from DNA to ecosystems.
Traditionally, if you wanted to find out the length of a giraffe's tongue, you'd have to hide in a tree with a ready hand and a yardstick. Utah's Hogle Zoo has streamlined the process, however: one of its animal encounters allows guests to feed the long-necked creatures alongside a keeper, who will happily tell you that their purple tongues stretch for 20 inches. The giraffes are just one of more than 800 animals inside the zoo grounds. Spanning 42 acres of verdant hillside property, the exhibits strive to showcase fauna in arenas that mimic their natural habitats.
The polar bear inside Rocky Shores—the zoo's largest exhibit to date—lumbers through a landscape inspired by North America's western coast, with a pool that affords guests underwater views of the bear’s attempts to secure its swim cap. Snow leopards, Siberian lynxes, and amur tigers prowl the Himalayan-inspired scenery of the Asian Highlands. At Elephant Encounter's African Lodge, visitors can touch an elephant skull or a rhino horn before glimpsing the pachyderms in the flesh. Summer shows send eagles and hawks swooping overhead in the Wildlife Theatre. From loping wolves and toothy crocodiles to the sagely gorillas of the Great Apes house, the beasts all benefit from the staff's enrichment efforts, which encourage learning as well as instinctual behaviors.
As an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Utah's Hogle Zoo demonstrates a commitment to wildlife conservation that extends beyond its gates. Many of its special events contribute funds to preservation programs. For example, the Orange Utahn Art show raises donations for endangered primates, selling original works by both local artists and the zoo's orangutans, who compose colorful paintings. Guests can even get a closer look at imperiled species by saddling up on top of one—the Conservation Carousel arrays 42 hand-carved sculptures of at-risk animals, such as the red panda, the giant panda, and the false panda, which is just a black poodle that rolled in some paint.
This Is The Place Heritage Park, Utah’s living-history attraction, is a fun and educational way to learn firsthand what life was like during the settlement of the West. Strap on proverbial spurs and settle into one of the original or replicated historic homes as knowledgeable actors tell epic accounts of the excitement, danger, and horse whispering that occurred in the Old West. Take a gander as artisans demonstrate 19th-century frontier life by spinning wool into yarn, making candles, and blacksmithing, or stop by the petting corral to pet the animals like they did in the days before robotic livestock. And don’t miss a visit to the Native American village, where members of Utah’s indigenous tribes tell histories of their native ancestors.
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.