Your Go-To Salt Lake City Itinerary for a Perfect Utah Trip

a guide to things to do in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is a unique destination that seamlessly blends urban sophistication with breathtaking natural beauty. Its rich history, stunning landscapes, and diverse cultural attractions make it a must-visit travel gem in the United States. In this carefully curated Salt Lake City itinerary, we showcase the best experiences to ensure you have a great time in Utah’s Capital.

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Table of Contents

Salt Lake City Itinerary: History and Culture

1. Tour the Utah State Capitol

Take a tour of the Utah State Capitol Building, where you can learn about the state’s political history.

When we visited, we were utterly blown away by the building’s design. The sparkling white marble floors, ornate columns, the grand rotunda, and the sky-high ceilings are nothing short of an architectural masterpiece!

It’s not just about aesthetics, though. There’s a solid educational component with exhibits on Utah’s government and history. You will notice a lot of artwork chronicling the state’s history throughout the building.

Tip: Unlike many government buildings, the Utah State Capitol does not have stringent accessibility limitations. When you visit, you will be able to explore most of the interior freely.

the utah state capital salt lalke city itinerary

Take a leisurely stroll through Memory Grove Park, adjacent to the Capitol, to enjoy lush greenery and serene walking paths.

woman exploring downtown sallt lake city

2. Visit Temple Square

Head out to the Gothic-inspired Temple Square, the historic center of the downtown area and the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tip: At the time of publication, Temple Square is undergoing renovations; however, you can still admire its exterior architecture.

Don’t miss the chance to listen to the famous Tabernacle Choir at the Tabernacle and admire the beautiful Assembly Hall.

3. Discover Your Roots at the Family History Library

If you are a genealogy enthusiast or simply curious, explore the Family History Library. It houses the world’s largest collection of genealogical records.

Access to the library is FREE and open to the public. It features interactive exhibits, a Discovery Center, and free scanning stations for digitizing personal documents.

The library is staffed by expert consultants and volunteers who offer guidance and free classes to visitors.

Tip: The Family History Library is right next to Temple Square, making it convenient to visit both attractions on the same day.

4. Traverse the University of Utah Campus

Take a stroll around the University of Utah campus, which boasts beautiful grounds and impressive architecture.

The university features one-of-a-kind sights such as the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics with its unique double helix staircase and the photo-op-worthy Legacy Bridge.

5. Step Into History at This Is the Place Heritage Park

Located on Emigration Canyon, This is the Place Heritage Park is a living history museum that offers a glimpse into Utah’s past. It features historic buildings, costumed interpreters, and interactive exhibits.

6. Embark on an Architectural Tour

Salt Lake City has several magnificent buildings. Some of our top recommendations are City Hall, a historic architectural marvel, and the Salt Lake City Public Library, a contemporary gem featuring a six-story curved glass wall.

With a Salt Lake City Guided Bus Tour, you can easily tour some of the city’s oldest mansions and churches.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Art and Museums

7. Explore the Natural History Museum of Utah

The Natural History Museum of Utah is located in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. It features fascinating exhibits on Utah’s geological and cultural history, from dinosaur fossils to Native American artifacts.

8. Marvel at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Are you an art lover? If yes, then the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is a must-visit. It is located on the University of Utah Campus and houses ancient and contemporary art. It features both permanent collections and traveling exhibits.

8. Venture in to the Leonardo Museum

Explore the Leonardo Museum of Creativity and Innovation, an interactive museum that blends science, technology, and art. From hands-on exhibits to rotating art displays, there’s plenty to keep you engaged.

9. Experience Thought-Provoking Art at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art

The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) is Utah’s only museum dedicated solely to contemporary art. It features five galleries showcasing diverse artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and multimedia installations.

Tip: The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City and can, therefore, be combined with visits to other nearby attractions.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Events

10. Watch a Show at the Eccles Theater

Catch a live show at the Eccles Theater, which hosts a variety of shows from Broadway hits to local productions.

Tip: Use the Fever app to find more Salt Lake City events and performances when you visit.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Shopping

11. Indulge in Retail Therapy at City Creek Center

City Creek Center is an upscale shopping and dining destination known for its retractable roof, pedestrian skybridge, and a creek running through the property.

This shopping center has over 100 stores and restaurants, ranging from luxury retailers to local brands and diverse dining options.

Unique features include fountain shows with fire effects, a children’s splash pad, and a visitor discount program.

12. Shop at the Historic Trolley Square

Trolley Square is a historic shopping center that has since evolved into a contemporary shopping and dining destination. It features over 80 shops and restaurants, and is a mix of ocal boutiques and national brands.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Food and Drinks

13. Taste Diverse Flavors at Local Eateries

Salt Lake City offers a wide variety of cuisines, from award-winning restaurants to casual eateries, covering everything from New American to ethnic foods.

Find the best restaurant options here, where you can filter by preferences such as fine dining, local eats, budget-friendly bites, and more.

We found the reviews from people who have actually been to the restaurants really helpful!

14. Savor Culinary Delights on Food Tours

Local food tours are a great way to sample various local specialties and learn about the city’s culinary scene.

15. Go on a Salt Lake City Brewery Tour

Hop on a brewery tour to sample local brews and learn about the brewing process.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Outdoor Activities and Natural Wonders

16. Go Hiking at Ensign Peak Park

Head to the iconic Ensign Peak Park for a short hike on a 0.5-mile trail to the summit. From the top, you will be rewarded with panoramic views of the city skyline, surrounding mountains, and the Great Salt Lake. It is no wonder it is a popular spot for sunset viewing!

Tip: Ensign Peak Park is located just 1.5 miles north of Temple Square.

17. Unwind at Salt Lake City’s Oldest and Second-Largest Park

Venture out to Liberty Park for a diverse blend of history, nature, and unique attractions. Some notable features include the Tracy Aviary, Liberty Lake, Seven Canyons Fountain, and the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art.

There is no shortage of ways to spend time at this park. Some options include strolling along the tranquil trails, renting a paddleboat on the lake, or simply relaxing and enjoying a picnic while taking in the serene surroundings.

Tip: Liberty Park is a short walk from the University of Utah, making it convenient to visit both attractions on the same day.

18. Ascend the Living Room Trail

The Living Room Trail is a relatively short 2 to 2.8-mile round-trip hike that is accessible to various fitness levels. Based on our experience, you can complete the hike in 1.5-3 hours.

The trail’s highlight is its summit, which features rock formations arranged to resemble furniture (hence its name, ‘Living Room Trail’).

From the top of the trail, expect spectacular views of the city, Salt Lake Valley, and the Great Salt Lake. It’s a popular spot for watching sunsets over the city; therefore, we recommend a late afternoon/early evening hike as the best time to visit.

Tip: The Living Room Trail is located near the Natural History Museum and Red Butte Garden, making it convenient to combine multiple activities in one day.

19. Bask in Nature at Red Butte Garden and Arboretum

The Red Butte Garden is one of the largest Botanical Gardens in the Intermountain West (a region that includes parts of Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, and New Mexico.) It features over 100 acres of diverse plant collections and themed gardens.

The garden features several miles of hiking trails through native vegetation, and offers breathtaking views of offers stunning views of the Wasatch Mountains and the Salt Lake Valley.

Depending on when you visit, you can also attend special events and concerts like the Red Butte Garden Outdoor Concert Series during the warmer months, Garden After Dark for Halloween, and the Holiday Open House.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Day Trips from Salt Lake City

If you are interested in an outdoor adventure beyond Salt Lake City, consider scenic drives to experience the great outdoors and other Utah attractions.

The following are some great options for places you can travel to from Salt Lake City and be back on the same day.

20. Take a Scenic Drive to Antelope Island State Park

Antelope Island State Park is located in the Great Salt Lake, northwest of Salt Lake City. It’s home to varied wildlife, including free-roaming bison, pronghorn antelope, and numerous bird species, making it ideal for wildlife viewing and photography.

Fun Fact: The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere.

Antelope Island State Park is a great place for multiple recreational activities, such as hiking, biking, and swimming, as well as historical sites like the Fielding Garr Ranch.

21. Venture Out to the Surreal Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats are a bucket-list-worthy experience. This unique landscape features a
vast expanse of shimmering white salt that stretches as far as the eye can see.

bonneville salt lake flats visitor

The natural beauty of the place is unmatched! We had an AMAZING time there and finally understood what all the hype about the flats was.

Check our detailed Bonneville Salt Flats Guide.

the ultimate guide to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah

22. Head Out to the Charming Mountain Town of Park City

If you visit in winter, Park City is home to two major ski resorts: Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. Both resorts offer some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the United States.

Park City is also a great summer destination with activities like hiking, mountain biking, and outdoor concerts.

We visited Park City in the spring and enjoyed exploring historic Main Street with its boutique shops, art galleries, specialty stores, speakeasies, and more.

Fun Fact: Park City hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival— the largest independent film festival in the United States.

23. Take a Dip in a Hot Spring

If you want to enjoy Utah’s natural geothermal features, hot springs are the place to go!

Homestead Crater is in Midway, about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. It is a unique geothermal spring inside a 55-foot tall, beehive-shaped limestone rock. Here, you can swim, snorkel, or scuba dive in the warm waters.

Crystal Hot Springs in Honeyville is about 60 miles north of Salt Lake City. It is known for its high mineral content and offers both hot and cold pools.

Fifth Water Hot Springs is about 60 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. These natural hot springs are accessible via a scenic hike and feature several soaking pools with varying temperatures.

24. Journey Through Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons

Little Cottonwood Canyon and Big Cottonwood Canyon are sister canyons that are part of the Wasatch Range. Little Cottonwood Canyon is about 25 miles from Salt Lake City, while Big Cottonwood Canyon is approximately 22 miles or a 25-minute drive from the Salt Lake International Airport.

Both canyons are known for their dramatic alpine scenery, including forests, lakes, and mountain views.

Tip: If you are an experienced hiker, explore the Maybird Lakes Trail in Little Cottonwood Canyon or the Mount Raymond Trail in Big Cottonwood Canyon for stunning views and a good workout.

In the summer, you can participate in rock climbing, bouldering, hiking among wildflowers, trail running, cycling, and mountain biking.

In the winter, both canyons are popular destinations for skiing and snowboarding, with world-class ski resorts in each canyon. Snowbird Resort and Alta Ski Area are in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort are in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Other Utah Trips

Explore Utah’s Iconic National Parks

Salt Lake City serves as an excellent starting point for traveling to national parks. Within a 3.5 to 4.5-hour drive, you can reach five iconic parks: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands.

Each park offers unique attractions: Zion is known for dramatic cliffs and narrow canyons; Bryce Canyon for its distinctive hoodoos; Capitol Reef for colorful cliffs and historical sites; Arches for its namesake rock formations; and Canyonlands for vast panoramic views.

These parks provide diverse opportunities for hiking, scenic drives, wildlife viewing, and photography. While they are a bit far for typical day trips, their proximity to Salt Lake City makes them accessible for extended day trips or short overnight stays.

Practical Salt Lake City Itinerary Tips

Salt Lake City Airports

Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is by far the busiest and most convenient option for travelers visiting Salt Lake City. It is only 10 minutes from downtown and offers easy access to extensive domestic and international flight connections.

Regional Airports

Provo Municipal Airport (PVU) is 46 miles from Salt Lake City. It is Utah’s second-busiest airport and offers commercial flights by Allegiant Airlines and Breeze Airways.

In October 2024, American Airlines will launch flights from Salt Lake City International Airport to Dallas, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Ogden-Hinckley Airport (OGD) is 35 miles from Salt Lake City and offers domestic flights.

Other regional options:

Canyonlands Field near Moab offers connections to Salt Lake City via SkyWest Delta Connection.

St. George Municipal Airport (SGU) provides direct service to Denver, CO, and connections to Salt Lake City.

Find the best flight rates for your trip to Salt Lake City here.

Salt Lake City Transportation

Salt Lake City has a reliable public transportation system, including buses and a light rail system known as TRAX.

TRAX offers a “free fare zone” in the downtown area. If your ride begins and ends within this zone, you won’t have to pay.

In our experience, renting a car is the best way to explore Salt Lake City unencumbered. However, be aware of parking costs in the downtown area.

For the best deal on a rental car, we recommend Discover Cars.

Accommodation in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has accommodations to suit every budget and preference. Check out some options below:

If you prefer a vacation rental home, check out some vacation home rental options here.

How to Get Discounts on Utah Attractions

Get the Connect Pass and save BIG! This pass will grant you access to 17 of Northern Utah’s most popular attractions.

If you only want to explore downtown Salt Lake City, get the Downtown Discovery Pass and enjoy significant savings. You will have access to 3 attractions with one easy-to-use pass.

With the Salt Lake Specialities Pass, you can explore 3 unique Utah attractions.

What to Pack for Salt Lake City

Consider the weather. Salt Lake City experiences all four seasons, so pack accordingly, depending on when you visit.

Local Laws

Utah has unique liquor laws, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them.

How To Explore Salt Lake City in a Day

Are you short on time but still want to experience some of the best activities that Salt Lake City has to offer? Check out our Salt Lake See The City In A Day Travel Guide.

a guide to exploring salt lake city in a day

Salt Lake City Itinerary: Final Thoughts

As we wrap up this Salt Lake City itinerary, we can’t help but feel excited for the adventures that await you. This city surprised us at every turn, from its stunning mountain backdrop to its lively downtown scene. We were blown away by the blend of natural beauty and urban charm, and we can bet you will, too!

There’s so much to explore, but whatever path you choose in Salt Lake City, we are confident you will create memories that will stick with you long after you’ve returned home. Get ready to discover your own favorite spots in this remarkable city. Happy travels!

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the ultimate salt lake city itinerary

the best things to do in the state of utah

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