Itineraries

Visiting Salt Lake City: The Best Things to Do

Utah has one of the more unique histories in the United States.

In searching for a place to practice their religion freely and without being harassed, Brigham Young led a group of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, commonly called Mormons, into Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

The first Mormon pioneers settled in what is now known as Salt Lake City, and thousands more established settlements in the surrounding areas.

As you can imagine, there’s plenty of history associated with Salt Lake City, as well as natural beauty.

Today’s blog post presents an itinerary of how to spend 3 days in Salt Lake City and fully appreciate everything it has to offer.

Salt Lake City Day 1: Capitol Hill/Downtown

Utah State Capitol Building

The State Capitol has been one of Utah’s most prominent landmarks for more than a century and is a fitting start to your 3-day trip to Salt Lake City.

Utah State Capitol

Marvel at the architecture, designed by Richard KA Kletting. Gaze at the enormous painting depicting Utah’s history in the dome of the building, as well as all the other significant artwork inside. Historical monuments and artifacts are also dispersed around the grounds.

Enter through the east entrance to find a Visitor’s Desk with brochures if you want a self-guided tour. If you have children in your group and are fewer than 15 people, you can participate in a scavenger hunt activity where children are asked to find significant artifacts.

If you prefer to have a guided tour, volunteer Capitol Docents give them every hour on the hour, Monday through Thursday from 9:00AM to 4:00PM, and Friday from 9:00AM to 12:00PM.

The Visitor Center is designed to teach visitors about the U.S. Government, the legislative functions of the House and the Senate, and all about the Capitol’s development, history, art, and architecture.

When you exit, make sure to linger a bit on the front steps to savor the amazing view of the Salt Lake City valley and the surrounding mountains.

Essential Information
Address: 350 State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 | 801-538-1041
Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-8pm; Fri 7am-6pm; Sat-Sun 8am-6pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: Free
Website: Utah State Capitol

Memory Grove Park

Just a 5-minute walk from the State Capitol is Memory Grove Park.

Memory Grove Park

This park was named for the numerous memorials and tributes honoring the memory of fallen American soldiers who perished during the major wars and conflicts of the 20th century, including the two World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.

Footpaths weave among these memorials, with the Freedom Trail running alongside City Creek. There are also plenty of quiet spots and even a meditation chapel.

Essential Information
Address: 300 Canyon Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84103 | 801-972-7800
Hours: Mon-Sun 5am-11pm
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: Free
Website: Memory Grove Park

City Creek Park

Around 10 minutes from Memory Grove Park along North Canyon Road is another urban park.

City Creek Park

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

City Creek Park is smaller, featuring a stone-lined stream, serene pond, and a triple-arch bridge.

This is your jumping-off point toward Temple Square, but it’s nice to take in the stillness and water features.

Essential Information
Address: 175 North State Street, State Street & 2nd Avenue, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 | 801-972-7860
Hours: Mon-Sun 5am-11pm
Duration: 30 minutes
Cost: Free
Website: City Creek Park

Temple Square

All roads lead to Temple Square.

Seriously.

Salt Lake City’s gridded street system has Temple Square as its origin. Each and every address is an indication of how many blocks north, south, east or west that address lies from Temple Square.

Temple Square

But Temple Square is more than just the start of Salt Lake City’s numbering system. It’s the first page in Salt Lake City’s story.

It draws countless visitors every year, and the members of the Mormon Church do their best to make them feel welcome, with free tours and plenty of activities. Even if you don’t participate in a formal tour, the landscape alone will have you strolling around.

Temple Square covers 35 acres in the heart of Salt Lake City, and there are countless sights to see and things to experience. Here are just a few special spots that you have to go to.

Essential Information
Address: 50 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 | 801-531-1000
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-9pm, up to 10pm on holidays
Duration: 3 hours
Website: Temple Square

Temple Square: Lion House Pantry

After all that walking around, you might be hungering for a good meal.

There are plenty of dining options in Temple Square, but probably none as historic and warm as the Lion House Pantry.

Lion House

Photo Credit: Hansel und Gretel

The Lion House was built in 1856 and was originally part of Brigham Young’s main residence. It was part of LDS College and then housed a volunteer organization before becoming the Lion House Pantry restaurant.

It was recognized as a National Historical Landmark in 1964 as a monument to the achievements of the Mormon Pioneers.

Today, the Lion House Pantry serves hearty, home-cooked meals and baked goods, with its most popular item being the Lion House roll. Their selection of entrées changes daily, with authentic family recipes passed down through generations.

Essential Information
Address: 63 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 | 801-539-3257
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-8pm; Sunday closed
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Website: Lion House Pantry

Temple Square: Salt Lake Temple

The spires of this temple appear to loom large, and it’s no accident.

Salt Lake Temple

This glorious granite structure took 40 years to build and is the largest LDS temple in terms of floor space.

Take note that this temple is a sacred place for most members of the Church. Thus, the inside of the temple is off-limits to public tours. However, the exterior of the temple is open for everyone. Marvel at the blend of Gothic and Roman architecture, as well as the meaningful symbols and designs on the building.

Currently, the temple is closed for renovation and will reopen in 2024.

Essential Information
Address: 50 West North Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 | 801-240-2534
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-9pm
Cost: Free
Website: Salt Lake Temple

Temple Square: Salt Lake Tabernacle

Another architectural spectacle on its own, the domed Salt Lake Tabernacle was designed as a meeting place of members of the LDS. For the last 132 years, the twice-yearly conference for the church has been held in this venue.

Salt Lake Tabernacle

But the Tabernacle is probably more well-known as the home of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, as well as its legendary pipe organ.

You can hear live rehearsals of the Tabernacle Choir on Thursday evenings, and programs of the Music and the Spoken Word are held on Sunday mornings.

Essential Information
Address: 50 North West Temple Street, Salt Lake City, UT 84150 |
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-9pm; Organ Recitals: Mon-Sat 12pm, Sun 2pm
Cost: Free
Website: Salt Lake Tabernacle

Other Places Of Interest In Temple Square

  • Temple Square North Visitors’ Center
  • Temple Square South Visitors’ Center
  • Family History Library
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Conference Center
  • Joseph Smith Memorial Building
  • The Beehive House
  • Church History Museum
  • Great Salt Lake Base and Meridian

 

Discovery Gateway

Formerly known as The Children’s Museum of Utah, Discovery Gateway is an interactive, hands-on children’s museum with plenty of creative and educational exhibits and programs.

Their goal is to inspire children of all ages and skills to imagine, discover, and connect with their world to make a difference.

Various exhibits teach various subjects, including financial literacy, mechanical science, and fluid mechanics. It also encourages reading, physical activity, and social interactions with other kids.

Essential Information
Address: 444 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 | 801-456-5437
Hours: Mon-Thu 10am-6pm, Fri-Sat 10am-7pm, Sun 12pm-6pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: $12.50 per head for adults and children above 1 year old; free for children under 1; discounts for seniors
Website: Discovery Gateway

Clark Planetarium

The Clark Planetarium is a world-class educational space for learning about the forces that shape our planet, the solar system, and the universe.

Explore 10,000 square feet of free exhibits, plus experience extraordinary visuals when watching educational films at the Hansen Dome Theatre and the Northrop Grumman 3D IMAX Theatre.

Essential Information
Address: 110 S 400 W, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 | 385-468-7827
Hours: Sun-Wed 10:30am-7pm, Thu 10:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10:30am-11pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: Admission to Store and Exhibits: Free; Shows: $7 per head for adults, teens, and seniors before 5pm; $9 per head for shows 5pm and later
Website: Clark Planetarium

Main Street Bar Crawl

It’s a popular stereotype that you can’t drink alcohol in Salt Lake City. In fact, there are more than a hundred bars in Salt Lake City alone.

However, the liquor laws in this state are a bit tricky, so here are some reminders to keep you from accidentally breaking a liquor law during your 3-day stay.

  1. You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase, possess, or be provided with an alcoholic beverage. Expect to always be asked for identification whenever and wherever you order a drink.
  2. If your hotel “bar” is licensed as a restaurant, you must order food when you order a drink. Also, this food can only be shared by two people maximum.
  3. Before you can order another drink, you need to have consumed every drop of your drink in hand.
  4. No more than 1.5 oz of liquor be poured into any drink.
  5. All liquor, wine, and beers with an ABV above 4% must be purchased from a Utah state liquor store or a package agency.
  6. Don’t be surprised if your bartender moves into the kitchen or behind an opaque surface to prepare your drink.
  7. Never drive drunk. Utah has a .05 BAC limit, the lowest in all of the US.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a list of places along Main Street that you can explore.

  • Beerhive Pub
  • Murphy’s Bar & Grill
  • Bourbon House
  • Good Grammar
  • Junior’s Tavern
  • Cheers to You
  • White Horse
  • Whiskey Street
  • Alibi Bar & Place
  • Twist
  • Quarters Arcade Bar
  • The Green Pig Pub

Salt Lake City Day 2: The Outdoors

Living Room Trail

A hike is a good way to start your second day in Salt Lake City.

Start your journey at the trailhead, near Red Butte Garden. There’s plenty of parking on the street.

Living Room Trail

Photo Credit: Jeff Robinson

It’s a moderate trail, but it’s a bit confusing at the start of the hike if this is your first time, so pay attention and stay on the big trail.

The rocks at the top are arranged to look like couches and chairs, which makes for some good, fun photos. This is not even considering the fantastic view of the Rocky Mountains and Salt Lake Valley you’ll get at the top.

The view is amazing the whole way up so if you can’t make it to the top turn around and see the view, it will still be worth the trip!

Essential Information
Address: 383 Colorow Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Hours: Open 24/7
Duration: 2 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes
Cost: Free

Red Butte Garden and Arboretum

When you come down from the Living Room Trail, pay a visit to the nearby Red Butte Garden, the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West region.

Red Butte Garden

Photo Credit: Andrey Zharkikh

Explore more than 21 acres of themed gardens, with sections such as the Children’s Garden, Fragrance Garden, Desert Harvest, Gravel Garden, Environmental Exchange exhibit, and Adaptive Beauty.

They are committed to building awareness on plant conservation, especially those that grow in less than ideal conditions. To this end, they host classes for kids and adults to spread horticultural knowledge.

Essential Information
Address: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 | 801-585-0556
Hours: January to March: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm; May to August: 9am-9pm; April and September: 9am-7:30pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: $14 per head for adults; discounts for children, seniors, military, University of Utah students
Website: Red Butte Garden

This Is The Place Heritage Park

This Utah state park is dedicated to the experiences and contributions of the earliest Mormon settlers who came to the area in the 1840s.

This Is The Place Park

Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrust

The peculiar name comes from something Salt Lake City founder Brigham Young said when he chose this area for settlement: “This is the right place.”

On the drive to the park, you’ll pass by a few monuments. The National Pony Express Monument is one of the most well-done and informative monuments among them. Take a few minutes to read about the history of the Pony Express, a mail delivery system where men on horseback carried the mail along a multistate trail.

National Pony Express Monument

Photo Credit: Ken Lund

The park is divided into different sections. In the Pioneer Village, you can pan for gold and ride trains and ponies. The Heritage Village has stables, farmhouses, blacksmith shops, chapels, and more.

The Native American Village section pays tribute to the five Native American tribes and their contribution to Utah’s history.

Refresh yourself at the Irrigation Station Splash Pad after a long day of walking around, and then head on over to the Gift Shop to shop for memorable souvenirs.

Attractions and activities vary per season, so check out their website to know what is on their schedule.

If lunchtime finds you still here at the park, grab some grub at the Huntsman Grill, where they serve awesome sandwiches, burgers, and chips.

Essential Information
Address: 2601 E Sunnyside Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 | 801-582-1847
Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes, 2 hours 30 minutes if you’re having lunch
Cost: Mon-Sat: $13.95 per head for adults; Sun: $7.95 per head for adults; discounts for children and seniors
Website: This Is The Place Heritage Park

Hogle Zoo

The 42-acre Hogle Zoo is home to more than 800 animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals from every corner of the earth. The feature exhibits include African Savanna, Rocky Shores, Asian Highlands, Elephant Encounter, Great Apes, Primate Forest, Small Animal Building, and World of Flight.

Hogle Zoo

The zoo also hosts daily programs, such as a bird show, elephant encounter, and a discovery theater featuring their Big 6 conservation animals.

The goal of the Hogle Zoo is to promote conservation and education, often reaching out to children, families, and communities to educate people of all ages about how we can preserve the wildlife we have left.

Before you head on home, take a detour first toward Foothill Village Shopping Center to have dinner at the Red Butte Café, which serves classic American and Mexican dishes, as well as award-winning Desert Edge Brewery beers.

Essential Information
Address: 2600 E Sunnyside Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 | 801-584-1700
Hours: March to October: Mon-Sun 9am-6pm; November to February: Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Duration: 2 hours
Cost: May to September: $18.95 per head for adults; October to April: $16.95 per head for adults; discounts for children and seniors
Website: Hogle Zoo

Salt Lake City Day 3: Museums and Urban Parks

Natural History Museum of Utah

This natural history museum was designed to provide a space to display Utah’s natural wonders, educate minds of all ages, and delve into still-undiscovered wonders of Utah’s natural history.

Salt Lake City Natural History Museum

Check out the ten permanent exhibits: Our Backyard, Utah Futures, Past Worlds, Great Salt Lake, Gems and Minerals, Native Voices, Sky, Land, First Peoples, and Life.

Aside from these permanent exhibitions, the museum continually hosts temporary exhibitions and many educational programs available at the museum for schools, youth, adult and family programs, youth at risk, and more.

Essential Information
Address: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 | 801-581-4303
Hours: Thu-Tue 10am-5pm, Wed 10am-9pm; Mon closed
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: $14.95 per head for adults; discounts for children and seniors; free for University of Utah students, faculty, and staff
Website: Natural History Museum of Utah

Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Art-lovers need to visit this 74,000-square foot Utah Museum of Fine Arts, with a collection of around 20,000 original pieces of artwork.

Feast your eyes on the ongoing exhibitions: American and Regional Art, European Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Chinese Art, Arts of Africa, Ancient Mediterranean Art, Ancient Mesoamerican Art, Arts of the Pacific, and South Asian Art.

Aside from these permanent exhibitions, the museum offers temporary exhibitions, talks and panel discussions, gallery tours, creative activities for families, and outreach for teachers and schools around Utah.

Essential Information
Address: 410 Campus Center Dr, Salt Lake City, UT 84112 | 801-581-7332
Hours: Tue 10am-5pm, Wed 10am-9pm, Thu-Sun 10am-5pm; Mon closed
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: $12.95 per head for adults; discounts for children and seniors; free for University of Utah students, faculty, and staff.
Website: Utah Museum of Fine Arts

The Leonardo

The Leonardo is an art and science museum that aims to educate visitors about the interconnection of science, technology, innovation, art, and creativity.

The museum is named after Renaissance icon Leonardo da Vinci, whose educational philosophy is rooted in the belief that art and science are not in conflict; rather, they are both necessary so humans can make sense of the universe.

The permanent exhibits in this museum include Flight (the history, art, science, and technology behind human flight), Leonardo’s Workshop (design and engineering), Leonardo’s Studio (modern art techniques), and Perception (the power of the mind and the senses).

Essential Information
Address: 209 East 500 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111 | 801-531-9800
Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cost: $12.95
Website: The Leonardo

Liberty Park

Liberty Park is a highly popular urban park for enjoying nature, picnics, and various sports.

The sports facilities in this park include a jogging/walking path, basketball court, 4 volleyball courts, 3 bocce ball courts, and a swimming pool.

Other facilities include picnic facilities, a children’s amusement park, a playground, and just plenty of trees, flowers, and grass.

Essential Information
Address: 600 E 900 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105 | 801-972-7800
Hours: Mon-Sun 8am-11pm
Cost: Free
Website: Liberty Park

Within the park is a couple of historical sites that you can also visit:

Chase Home Museum

The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts is a unique museum situated in the middle of Liberty Park.

It features contemporary folk art in four galleries: the Native Gallery (art from the American Indians of Utah); the Ethnic Gallery (traditional art of the ethnic, racial, and immigrant communities of Utah); the Occupational Gallery (functional art); and the Rural Gallery (handmade crafts of rural Utah populations).

Essential Information
Phone Number: 801-245-7285
Hours: Wed–Sat 11am-4pm; Sun-Tue closed
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: Free
Website: Chase Home Museum

Tracy Aviary

Tracy Aviary is the largest and oldest free-standing aviary in the US. Their goal is to educate people about the importance of conserving birds and nature.

Tracy Aviary

Photo Credit: Cliff Johnson

There are 18 exhibits showcasing many different bird species, such as flamingos, pelicans, Andean condors, eagles, vultures, and many more.

Aside from exhibits, Tracy Aviary hosts interactive events, student camps, and classes. They also reach out to students in the surrounding neighborhood.

Essential Information
Phone Number: 801-596-8500
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Duration: 1 hour
Cost: March to October: $11.95 per head for adults; November to February: $9.95 per head for adults; discounts for children, seniors, and military
Website: Tracy Aviary

State Street

The evening of your third day is perfect for strolling along South State Street, from the 1300 South corner all the way south to Chinatown.

You’ll get to see experience an international cornucopia of restaurants and establishments, mostly of Asian origin. Sample everything from Hong Kong and Korean BBQ, Taiwanese bubble tea, Japanese sushi, Pad Thai, Vietnamese banh mi, and authentic Chinese lauriat.

Additional Information And Tips When Traveling To Salt Lake City

Below is more information about Salt Lake City to help you plan your 3-day stay.

Getting To Salt Lake City

If you’re flying into Salt Lake City, you’ll be landing at the Salt Lake City International Airport. From here, it’s only a 10-minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.

Getting Around

Salt Lake City has a solid, reliable public transportation system overseen by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) that utilizes buses and light-rail trains to provide travelers with access from the airport to the different neighborhoods in Salt Lake City.

You can download the UTA app on your smartphone to have easy access to train and bus schedules, as well as easy reloading of your FAREPAY card. For more information, visit the UTA website.

For maximum convenience, there are plenty of car rental companies, or you can use the ride-sharing app Lyft.

If you’re mostly downtown and don’t mind biking, Salt Lake City has recently offered a bike-sharing program for locals and tourists called GREENbike, which allows you to take any bike from any GREENbike station and ride it as many times as you want for as little as $5 for a 24-hour access pass.

Where To Stay

Staying in downtown Salt Lake City is certainly the most convenient.

Transportation-wise, it’s the most accessible to the airport, all three light-rail train lines pass here, and GREENbike stations.

Plus, the prices on hotels, hostels, Airbnb spaces, and bed-and-breakfasts here range from luxury, to mid-range, to budget prices. Whatever your budget is, you’re sure to find a place that fits.

However, if you want to stay in a neighborhood with a hip, modern vibe, look for accommodations in the Sugar House neighborhood, located south of the city center. And for families and those who love nature, the University and Foothill areas are ideal.

What To Eat

The cuisine of Salt Lake City is characterized by a mix of Native American, Mormon pioneer, and Mexican influences made with local ingredients.

Some distinctly Utahan dishes include Navajo tacos, fry sauce, funeral potatoes, and tater tot nachos.

Navajo tacos are made with frybread instead of a tortilla, with a mixture of ground meat and beans and taco-type seasonings and toppings.

Fry sauce is a mixture of equal parts of ketchup and mayonnaise, made popular by a chef named Don Carlos Edwards who served it in his restaurant in the 1940s. Known as Arctic Circle since the 1950s, they still serve fry sauce in their restaurants and even sell bottles of it.

This tangy, savory, creamy mixture is a seemingly simple formula, but this is known as Utah’s favorite condiment.

Funeral potatoes is a casserole made of diced potatoes mixed with cheese, onions, cream soup (e.g., chicken or mushroom) or cream sauce, topped with crushed cornflakes or potato chips mixed with butter and then baked.

Funeral potatoes get their name from its popularity as a post-funeral side dish, particularly in the culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It eventually became a staple and served any time of the day.

Tater tot nachos, as apparent in its name, are tater tots that think they’re nachos. Crispy fried or baked tater tots are topped with bacon, diced tomatoes, cilantro, cheese sauce, and sour cream.

In recent years, international cuisine has made its way to Salt Lake City. It’s no longer strange to find restaurants serving Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, French, and Ethiopian dishes. Then, of course, fusion places have also cropped up (curry pizza, anyone?)

Should You Get A Connect Pass?

The Connect Pass saves you up to 80% on regular admission to 16 included attractions, most of which are mentioned in this itinerary.

Passes are available as 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, or 365-day options, and if you’re traveling as a couple or a group, each of you needs their own pass.

What’s brilliant about this pass is that even though you buy the 365-day pass, you still end up saving 60% off regular admission prices, provided you go to the attractions. Here are the details of the admission prices and savings.

Plan Your 3 Days In Salt Lake City Today!

There’s so much more to do in Salt Lake City, but the highlights are here in this guide. Hopefully, this 3-day Salt Lake City itinerary helps you plan your trip.

Which places are you most interested in? Least interested in? Any hidden gems in Salt Lake City that I should have included? Tell us in the comments!

Other Places To Visit In Utah

Salt Lake City, for all its surrounding natural beauty, is still an urban area.

If you prefer a more scenic trip, here are other places to visit in Utah with breathtaking views and scenery.