Moving in for a closer view of Great Salt Lake
  • Home
  • Destinations
  • 10 Fun Things To Do in Salt Lake City (Even if You Don’t Like Downhill Skiing)

10 Fun Things To Do in Salt Lake City (Even if You Don’t Like Downhill Skiing)

Julie and I have never tried downhill skiing. Now in our 50s, the thought sounds daunting. So, when Visit Salt Lake invited us to explore the region, I was apprehensive. My first thought was, if we don’t ski, what in the world will we do?

The region has many adventures on and off the slopes. We will share our favorite things to do in Salt Lake City so you can plan your vacation in beautiful Utah. You can bring your skis if you want, but they are not required to have a good time.

Disclosure: We received gifted products from adidas that we are sharing in this post. All opinions are our own.

Red Butte Garden

Scott McConkey, travel writer and founder of Miles with McConkey travel blog walks a path in Red Butte Garden, Salt Lake City, Utah
Path in Red Butte Garden. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah 84108

Julie and I love day hikes and botanical gardens. Red Butte Garden perfectly combines the two. We could not contain our grins as we walked along peaceful paths through manicured grounds skirted by patches of snow, flowers starting to bloom, and towering snowy peaks in the background. Singing birds and a gurgling stream put us in a state of bliss.

Although I can only imagine how beautiful this place is during spring’s full bloom or autumn’s peak foliage, I enjoyed seeing nature’s transition on full display with flowers emerging from the melting snow. The slice of heaven is worth visiting regardless of the season.

Red Butte Garden is the state arboretum and is part of the University of Utah. It offers nearly 600,000 springtime blooming bulbs, beautiful plant collections, themed gardens, and over five miles of hiking trails across more than 21 acres. For those who want a longer hike, the conservatory is adjacent to the stunning Bonneville Shoreline Trail, providing closer views of the mountains.

Natural History Museum

things to do in Salt Lake City - visit the Natural History Museum of Utah
Julie takes a picture of the wall of horned dinosaur skulls. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, Utah 84108

As a kid, I was fascinated with dinosaurs. Anytime I visit a museum with dinosaur exhibits, my inner child awakens with anticipation. The Natural History Museum of Utah has one of the best exhibits I have seen, featuring dozens of skeletal reconstructions and the world’s most extensive display of horned dinosaur skulls. 

Julie and I were mesmerized as we walked through this section of the museum. The exhibit focuses particularly on the mystery surrounding the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, the densest concentration of Jurassic dinosaur fossils ever found.

The museum contains much more than fossils, including exhibits on Native American art and culture, life, climate, and the Great Salt Lake. Julie and I enjoyed the current temporary exhibit, which highlights Dr. Jane Goodall’s life and work with chimpanzees. The exhibit gives more insight into her bravery, love for her work, and conflict between her work and family life.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Miles with McConkey travel blog visits the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City
Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

Nestled on the University of Utah campus, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts features global visual arts, from ancient artifacts to contemporary pieces. The museum comprises nearly 20,000 original works of art. You will discover works from various cultures, including Japan, Africa, China, and Europe.

Julie and I marveled at some of the paintings from previous centuries. The brushwork and level of detail are incredible. Some of the ornate frames bring their contained masterpieces to life. 

Be sure to grab a bite to eat at the cafe. The food is tasty, and you have a fantastic view of mountains on the horizon. The whole experience makes for a relaxing morning or afternoon.

Tracy Aviary

things to do in Salt Lake City - visit Tracy Aviary
Julie enters the Owl Forest at Tracy Aviary. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 589 East 1300 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84105

Tracy Aviary, which houses over 300 birds from across the globe, is in Liberty Park, a popular public urban park. Although I am a novice, I enjoy birding, so Julie and I were excited to explore Tracy Aviary. It did not disappoint.

Across 8 acres of themed exhibits and botanical gardens, you will find many types of birds, including owls, tropical birds, roseate spoonbills, sandhill cranes, long-billed curlews, kookaburras, flamingos, and pelicans. I was especially delighted to see a golden eagle, my high school mascot. 

Julie and I spent considerable time observing the owls. A couple fluttered around the enclosure with a mouse in tow to present their dinner. Other owls seemed to monitor us suspiciously while trying to act calm, cool, and collected.

Plan to arrive early in the day if you want to experience the feedings, shows, or talks. Those regularly wrap up by 2:30. Regardless of whether you arrive in the morning or afternoon, it is a relaxing way to admire and learn more about our feathered friends.

If you enjoy museums, consider purchasing a Salt Lake Connect Pass. One pass grants access to 18 of the city’s most popular attractions, including Red Butte Garden, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and Tracy Aviary.

Walk Around the City

Eagle Gate Monument in Salt Lake City
Eagle Gate. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

I get anxious about walking on city streets. Although Salt Lake City is growing rapidly, it feels less crowded than a typical downtown area. We felt perfectly safe strolling and exploring.

Salt Lake City does a lot of things right. Its ordinances ensure that buildings are not too tall or too close to each other, keeping the breathtaking mountain views intact. One of the things we love most about the city is that you glimpse mountains between many of its streets. Despite being in a city area, you still feel surrounded by nature. Let me tell you, those mountain views are glorious!

We suggest you stop at Eagle Gate Monument. The eagle-topped archway at the intersection of State and Temple Streets honors Brigham Young and the pioneer past of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and honors a significant part of Utah’s history.

Attend a Utah Jazz Game

things to do in Salt Lake City - watch a Utah Jazz game
Julie walks toward the Delta Center entrance to watch a Utah Jazz game. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Delta Center location: 301 S Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

Even if you are not a basketball fan, we recommend seeing a Utah Jazz game at the Delta Center. It was the most effortless and enjoyable sporting event I have ever experienced. 

As we said, walking in the city is a breeze. We stayed at the wonderful Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City, a few blocks away. Swarms of pedestrians, congested streets, and angry drivers’ honking horns never materialized. Road and sidewalk traffic flowed freely like a tranquil river.

We waited less than five minutes to enter the arena. On the way to our seats, Julie scanned the mobile order menu. Upon sitting down, she placed our order. I immediately went to get the food, and it was already waiting for us. It all felt like a dream, yet it was real.

The passionate fans adore their city and team, generating a contagious, electric energy that pulses throughout the stadium. With friendly staff working the facilities and proud community members watching the game, you can’t help but have a good time.

Cross-country Skiing

Scott McConkey, travel writer and founder of Miles with McConkey travel blog, and his wife, Julie go cross-country skiing in Salt Lake City
Cross-country skiing at Solitude’s Nordic and Snowshoe Center. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Solitude Nordic Center location: 8073 South Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, Brighton, Utah 84121

Hurtling down a mountain at breakneck speed has never struck my fancy, so I’m averse to downhill skiing. I enjoy nature’s solitude and beauty while getting a good workout, so I have always wanted to try cross-country skiing. Julie and I were excited to take private lessons at Solitude’s Nordic and Snowshoe Center

The drive up the mountain looked like something out of a storybook. Peering out the car’s window, we saw spruce and fir trees freshly coated with snow and a rushing mountain stream. As we climbed to higher altitudes, quaking aspens and their bone-white frames joined the breathtaking mountain forest.

We entered the Nordic Center with a warm welcome from Eric and Mark, who expertly helped us with our gear. Being new to the sport, these gentlemen had their work cut out. Mark taught us the basics with a guiding hand and a lot of patience.

Let’s just say we were not great. Mark politely indicated that my technique was lacking, but the results were sufficient. While Julie appreciates all of Mark’s efforts, she admittedly did not enjoy the experience. She spent more time watching her skis to prevent falls than enjoying the stunning scenery. For the record, we both fell more than once.

Although I looked every bit the amateur, I loved it. The rapid snowfall, crisp mountain air, and breathtaking landscapes quickly won me over. 

Mark aptly compared alpine skiing to an amusement park. It is a lot of fun but draws big crowds, whereas cross-country skiing lets you focus on nature. If Nordic skiing makes you uncomfortable, Solitude offers snowshoeing as well. Regardless of which activity you choose, the facilities and staff are excellent.

Tour the Utah State Capitol

things to do in Salt Lake City - tour the Utah State Capitol
Julie walks through the Utah State Capitol. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 350 North State Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114

Walking through the Utah State Capitol is free and can be experienced as a group or self-guided tour. We explored independently.

The beautiful architecture stands out against an alluring mountain horizon. Inside, the building continues to take your breath with its massive columns, ornate decor, sculptures, open floor design, and dome ceiling.

You will find plenty to explore, whether you like architecture, art, politics, or history. The gorgeous open floors proudly honor Utah’s past and present leaders, displaying detailed architecture, works of art, and historic artifacts. You can even peek inside the chambers of the Supreme Court, Senate, and House of Representatives.

With a similar design and cherry trees dotting the grounds, it reminds me of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, cherry blossoms had not yet begun to show during our late March visit. Despite this, the grounds are lovely, and it is also a great spot for sunset.

City Creek Center

things to do in Salt Lake - shop at City Creek Center
City Creek Center. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 50 South Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101

Salt Lake City has a shopping mall unlike anything we have seen. City Creek Center is unique for a few reasons. First, it has a fully retractable glass roof so shoppers can enjoy fresh air during pleasant weather. During inclement weather or cold days, the roof is closed.

An actual creek, not artificial, runs through the shopping center. Additional water features include waterfalls and a trout pond.

The pedestrian-friendly mall offers a healthy mix of luxury retailers, unique shops, and eateries. While the shops are excellent, the real treat is how the center elevates your experience by combining nature and city elements.

Antelope Island

Bison on Antelope Island, UT
Julie takes pictures of bison on Antelope Island. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Location: 4528 West 1700 South, Syracuse, Utah 84075

Julie and I had never heard of Antelope Island. The highlight of our trip was visiting the Utah state park, which is 28,000 acres and accessible by a 7-mile causeway. It features unique wildlife and 25 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails.

Although the park is named for its antelope, we didn’t spot any during our visit. However, we did see many bison and a coyote. Other than South Dakota’s Custer State Park, it is the most bison we have encountered in a state park.

You may wonder if it was difficult to find the bison. Not at all. Driving through the park, we spotted bison peacefully grazing in a sprawling meadow between soaring mountains and Great Salt Lake. 

Scenic driving and hiking yield rewarding views of mixed landscapes on Antelope Island. Meadows give way to a sandy beach skirting the vast Great Salt Lake, and snow-capped mountains decorate the distant horizon. The whole scene feels surreal, stretching into eternity. Breathe in the fresh air and soak up the stunning view. It is some of God’s best work. 

I implore our government leaders to deploy all our resources to preserve Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island. The place is special and deserves the highest level of federal protection. It is worthy of a national park designation, and the local community understands the significance and duty of protecting the natural treasure.

Plan Your Trip to Salt Lake City

things to do in Salt Lake City - visit Antelope Island State Park
Julie enjoys the view of Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Salt Lake is a haven for alpine skiers. However, if you are not into downhill skiing, Salt Lake City offers a treasure trove of things to do, from shopping to museums to outdoor recreation. 

The region is an arid mountain desert that experiences all four seasons. Locals joke that Salt Lake is one of the few places to ski and golf on the same day. With pleasant weather and beautiful scenery, you will want to spend time outdoors. 

If you visit during spring, fall, or winter, I suggest packing light layers, including comfortable hoodies. Julie and I love our adidas hoodies. They are warm, stylish, and durable. 

Use our list of things to do as a starting point for your activities. Check out the Visit Salt Lake site for additional details and ideas for your trip.

Salt Lake’s Future

Trees that look like something from a Dr. Seuss book in Red Butte Garden, Salt Lake City, UT
Julie poses between trees in Red Butte Garden. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The region’s future is bright. Salt Lake’s downtown area is growing, and the city has become coveted for sporting events. The city is the preferred host for the 2034 Winter Olympic Games and is under consideration to obtain professional baseball and hockey teams. 

Salt Lake City is the place to go if you want a safe city that offers plenty of entertainment and recreation. With the Wasatch Mountains painted on the horizon, the picturesque setting will warm your heart—I know it did ours.

Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey

Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!
LEARN MORE