Beautiful shot of a stunning waterfall dropping down from a hole inside of a cave on a cold autumn day in Big Cottonwood Canyon located in Utah.

Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City

BY Fifty Grande Editors | October 4, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Salt Lake City? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Salt Lake City?”

Salt Lake City is the straight-laced student council president at a post-graduation party. Smart? Organized? Composed? Yes, yes and yes. But not afraid to let loose either. You may know that SLC was founded by Mormons and built on a perfect grid. But it also has a whole slew of bars, a thriving LGBTQ community, the Sundance film festival and America’s first KFC. If you’re here to tear through scientifically-perfect snow on several different mountains, join the party. There’s no doubt that Utah is an adventurer’s dream with enough outdoor activities to fill a whole trip. But don’t miss its cultural and culinary hotspots either. Here are the best things to do in SLC right now.

 

You’re here for snow sports

Powder hounds, calm your beating hearts. You’re in the land of endless peaks, where Utah residents say they have the “Greatest Snow on Earth” (something about its perfect density). Coloradans will take issue if you call SLC America’s top ski destination, but it might just be. 

Alta Ski Area in Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Alta Ski Area in Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Alta Ski Area

Alta Ski Area, 10010 Little Cottonwood Canyon Rd, Alta, Utah, USA

More than 2,500 acres of skiable area, 11,000 feet in elevation and over 500 inches of snow per year. It’s one of the city’s oldest ski areas—a must-visit for purists (no snowboarders allowed!) and advanced skiers. 

Sundance Mountain Resort
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Sundance Mountain Resort. Pic via Shutterstock.

Sundance Mountain Resort

8841 N Alpine Loop Rd, Sundance, Utah, USA

A rustic resort that lets the mountains do the talking. Some of the area’s best views, combined with elegant accommodations. And, yes, it was built by Robert Redford.)

Park City Mountain Resort, Salt Lake City.
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Park City Mountain Resort. Pic via Shutterstock.

Park City Mountain Resort

1345 Lowell Ave, Park City, Utah, USA

The nation’s largest ski resort, it has more than 7,300 skiable acres and 17 peaks. Plus, Park City itself has some great post-ski eats (try 20 salsas at El Chubasco or homemade pasta at Cortona Italian Cafe).

See the Great Salt Lake (duh)

It’s the whole reason for the city’s name, so you have to check it out. And yes, you can totally float in it. 

Great Salt Lake State Park
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Great Salt Lake. Pic via Shutterstock.

Great Salt Lake State Park

Great Salt Lake State Park, West 1075 South, Magna, UT, USA

The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere and certain parts are 10 times saltier than the ocean. The park contains plenty of beaches and campsites, while nearby Antelope Island Park has some scenic hikes overlooking the lake.

Other only-in-Utah nature destinations

Even if you’re not an outdoorsy type, these are worth a visit. You won’t find them anywhere else. 

Bonneville Salt Flats, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Bonneville Salt Flats, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Bonneville Salt Flats

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA

You know those car commercials where a high-performance car is racing across flat terrain, kicking up white dust? That’s here. The Salt Flats are 30,000 acres of perfectly-level, salty soil with no vegetation. It looks like a barren, foreign planet. You can drive on them if you want, but don’t try it when they’re wet.

Kennecott Copper Mine, Salt Lake City.
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Kennecott Copper Mine, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Kennecott Copper Mine

Kennecott Copper Mine, Utah, USA

This man-made excavation is huge, one of the largest in the world (supposedly you can see it from space). It’s been operational for 116 years and, as of 2010, provided 13-18% of America’s copper.

Beautiful shot of a stunning waterfall dropping down from a hole inside of a cave on a cold autumn day in Big Cottonwood Canyon located in Utah.
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Beautiful shot of a stunning waterfall dropping down from a hole inside of a cave on a cold autumn day in Big Cottonwood Canyon located in Utah. Via Shutterstock.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah, USA

Take a drive through some picturesque mountain vistas and winding roads. If you’re a climber, here’s where you’ll find some of the best routes.

Spend a day in Park City

Park City was once a mining settlement that pulled $400 million worth of silver from the surrounding hills. Today, it’s the quintessential “mountain town,” blending historic charm, ski resorts and a robust restaurant scene. 

Historic Main Street, Park City.
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Historic Main Street, Park City. Via Shutterstock.

Historic Main Street

Historic Main Street, park City, Utah, USA

The hub of Park City’s social life. Buildings where grizzled miners once drank and lodged are now breweries, art galleries and multicultural eateries. Don’t miss the reserve whiskeys at High West Distillery, a charcuterie board at Old Town Cellars or coffee at Atticus Coffee, Books, and Teahouse.  

Egyptian Theater
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Egyptian Theater. Pic via Shutterstock.

Egyptian Theater

328 Main St, Park City, UT

It’s only an annual mainstay for Sundance Film Festival screenings, no big deal. This historic theater’s art deco architecture was inspired by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the early 1920s. Today, it hosts a variety of live performances, including concerts, drama, comedy and dance.

Utah Olympic Park, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Utah Olympic Park, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Utah Olympic Park

3419 Olympic Pkwy, Park City, Utah, USA

It was constructed and used for the 2002 Olympics, and now you can try your hand at bobsledding and ski jumping, along with milder activities like ziplining and tubing.

Where to hang out

If you’re going to spend a day wandering, make sure you do it in one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods.

Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Sugar House Park, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Sugar House

Sugar House, Holladay Cottonwood, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

This is your spot for artisanal goods, eclectic shops, local produce and laid-back bars. It’s got a flair for reinvention. For example, land that used to hold a prison is now Sugar House Park. Be sure to stop at Wasatch Brew Pub for a beer or two.

Downtown Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Downtown Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Downtown

Downtown, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Is it cliché to say that Downtown Salt Lake City is one of the best places to hang out? The area surrounding Temple Square contains some of Utah’s best restaurants and nightlife. Get a meat plate at R&R BBQ and wash it down with one of the 300 beers available at The Bayou.

Order your scones fried

If you order a Utah scone, don’t expect a crumbly, European-style pastry. These things are puffy and deep-fried, more like fry bread or sopaipillas. Get them topped with butter, powdered sugar, honey or jam. And they’re available all day, so treat them as your entire breakfast, a side dish or a dessert.

Sill's Cafe scone. Pic via Sill's.
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Sill's Cafe scone. Pic via Sill's.

Sill’s Cafe

335 E Gentile St, Layton, Utah, USA

Get pastrami on your burger and fry sauce on the side

The best topping for a beef patty? More meat. Salt Lake City is a burger town, and the burger of choice is piled high with pastrami. Supposedly Crown Burgers pioneered this meaty behemoth, but other restaurants have their own versions, like Lucky 13 and Apollo Burgers. When you order your side of fries, don’t reach for ketchup. Instead, grab Utah’s patron condiment: fry sauce — a creamy blend of ketchup, mayo and spices. 

Crown Burgers
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Crown Burgers

Crown Burgers

3270 S State St, South Salt Lake, Utah, USA

For the fam

They might be touristy, but they’ll keep everyone entertained for the afternoon.

Clark Planetarium
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Clark Planetarium, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Clark Planetarium

110 400 West, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Free, interactive exhibits and educational shows in IMAX and dome theaters.

Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.
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Tracy Aviary, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Tracy Aviary

589 East 1300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Located inside Liberty Park and has 135 different bird species from around the world (and you can feed some of them). 

iFly, Salt Lake City.
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iFly, Salt Lake City.

iFly

2261 Kiesel Ave, Ogden, Utah, USA

The thrill of skydiving without jumping from a plane and plummeting through the open sky. Instead, you’ll “fly” inside a wind tunnel with upward winds of 150 mph. And it’s safe for kids too (more than 3 years old).

See the center of the city

At the absolute center of Salt Lake City stands a 10-acre complex that includes the Mormon Salt Lake Temple, two visitors centers, libraries and museums, all dedicated to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You’re here to see the pristine gardens and stunning Gothic architecture. 

Temple Square
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Temple Square, Salt Lake City.

Temple Square

Temple Square, N Temple, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

Where to catch a live show

When you want to spill some sweat on a dance floor or kick back with live tunes, try these. 

Kilby Court
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Kilby Court, Salt Lake City.

Kilby Court

748 S W Kilby Ct, Salt Lake City, UT

Supposedly founded by accident, Kilby Court is a sticker-clad garage with a grunge, backyard-concert aesthetic. They routinely book on-the-rise local bands. 

The Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City.
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The Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City.

The Urban Lounge

241 500 East, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

A 21+ bar that books shows almost every night of the week, from local artists to big-name indie bands. 

Diabolical Records, Salt Lake City.
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Diabolical Records, Salt Lake City.

Diabolical Records

238 S Edison St East, Salt Lake City, UT

Primarily a record store with rare, can-you-believe-it deep cuts that hosts in-house shows. 

Trace your lineage

Anyone with a family tree scrapbook and or who emails distant relatives from Ancestry.com needs to go here. It’s the world’s largest genealogical library, with data from more than 110 countries, territories and possessions. And they offer free research assistance for anyone who wants it. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find out you’re related to Joan of Arc or Thomas Jefferson or the woman from the Progressive commercials. 

Family History Library, Salt Lake City.
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Family History Library, Salt Lake City. Pic via Shutterstock.

Family History Library

35 North West Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Where to stay

The Grand America Hotel stands like a monolith against the rugged mountain backdrop. It’s the largest hotel in Salt Lake City, but also the most luxurious. Think marble-laden bathrooms, spa amenities, afternoon tea, old-world European style and peaceful courtyards. 

Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City.
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Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City.

Grand America Hotel

555 S Main St, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

Also, while you’re in town:

Gilgal Sculpture Garden
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Gilgal Sculpture Garden, Salt Lake City.

Gilgal Sculpture Garden

749 E 500 S, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

It’s a collection of 12 stone sculptures and 70 engraved stones that pertain to Mormonism, including a half-cool, half-creepy sphinx with Joseph Smith’s face.