UPDATED APRIL 2015
In 1847, Brigham Young announced, “This is the right place” as he gazed over the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. More than 150 years later, Utah is still the right place, especially if you are looking for fun family activities and adventures. Here is an A to Z list of the best Utah destinations for families.
You’ll never forget the first time you see the iconic Delicate Arch in person. It is just one of hundreds of arches and other natural wonders to be found in Arches National Park, located near Moab in southeastern Utah.
Hikers, photographers, and casual tourists love Bryce Canyon for its spectacular array of brightly colored hoodoos and other rock formations in this national park. It is also one of the best places around to view the night sky and the park offers night programs year-round.
Though one of the lesser known of Utah’s national parks, Capitol Reef is a great family destination. Whether, you prefer gorgeous scenery, geology, dinosaurs, Native American or pioneer history, Capitol Reef has something for you. You can even pick your own fruit in its historic orchards.
Located in the Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City, this fun family museum boasts 60,000 square feet of interactive hands-on exhibits. Kids will enjoy sending balls through transparent pipes in the Beehive, playing grocery store, putting on a play or pretending to fly a helicopter.
Utah has two of these, one in Park City and one in Ogden. Both theaters are historic landmarks dating back to the 1920’s and have since been renovated and restored. Both theaters host a variety of productions and events, including screenings for the Sundance Film Festival.
There is nowhere else in the United States where you can stand in four states at the same time. Head to the Navajo Nation in Utah’s southeast corner for this one-of-a-kind experience.
This state park has doubled as the landscape of other planets in Hollywood movies and you’ll understand why when you climb and scramble through the sandstone “goblins”. Goblin Valley is located in central Utah near the town of Hanksville.
Visit the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City this summer to see the new Rocky Shores exhibit featuring bears, sea lions, seals and otters. It is an exciting addition to the existing Elephant Encounters and Asian Highlands habitats. If you haven’t been to the Hogle Zoo in the last ten years, it’s a whole new place.
The city of Ivins is the home of Tuacahn Amphitheatre where you can watch Broadway-style shows against a stunning backdrop of red rock. See Disney’s Aladdin and Hairspray in the summer of 2012, along with a variety of concerts. Ivins is also the gateway to Snow Canyon State Park, where it is warm enough to hike and play outdoors year-round.
This system of parks and trails runs along the Jordan River west of Salt Lake City between the Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake. This trail is popular with runners, cyclists and equestrians and accesses many public parks. There is also canoe access into the river itself. Off-highway and motocross enthusiasts will want to visit Jordan River State Park, which features several tracks.
J is also for Jordanelle State Park
Kennecott Utah Copper Mine near Salt Lake City is the biggest man-made hole in the world, it is three-quarter-miles deep and it has produced more copper than any other mine in the world. Stop by the visitor center for interactive exhibits, mining artifacts and a video tour of the mine.
Lagoon is a summer tradition for many Utahns. Scream on the thrill rides, take photos of your little ones on the kids’ rides, splash at Lagoon-a-Beach, stroll through the museums in Pioneer Village, or enjoy the musical entertainment. Come back in October for Halloween-themed Frightmares.
This state-of-the-art road racing facility in Tooele is a can’t-miss destination for fans of auto and motorcycle racing. If watching these high-performance vehicles is not enough, sign up for one of the MMP’s performance driving schools and check off an experience on your bucket list.
This new museum is one of Salt Lake City’s best attractions. Interactive exhibits and play areas will keep families happy, while everyone can enjoy the informative exhibits on dinosaurs, native cultures, weather, and more.
N is also for Newspaper Rock
Salt Lake City was the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics and the legacy of that event continues at the Utah Olympic Park near Park City. Walk through the museum, take a tour of the Olympic venues, try a zipline or alpine slide, or learn freestyle skiing or another Olympic winter sport.
Utah is home to an exceptional number of ancient petroglyphs. Petroglyphs can be found in seven of Utah’s national parks and monuments, as well as in numerous other places throughout southern and eastern Utah.
P is also for Palisade State Park, Pineview Reservoir
Quail Creek’s warm climate and convenient location just off of I-15, north of St. George, make it a popular place for boaters and anglers year-round. Come camp here, or just stop by to go wading on one of its many warm days.
Find peace and beauty in the middle of Salt Lake City at Red Butte Garden. Children will enjoy the splash pad, koi pond, waterfall and maze in the Children’s Garden. Adults will love the gardens, the classes and the concerts. Everyone will enjoy the memories.
R is also for Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
Utah’s State Capitol Building is a symbol of our state’s citizens and heritage. Go for a guided tour or explore this recently renovated state treasure on your own. In 2012, USA Today put Utah’s capitol building at the top of a list of ten favorite capitol buildings in the United States.
Located at the geographic and cultural heart of Salt Lake City, Temple Square is one of the best-known symbols of the state of Utah. Walk the temple grounds and then choose from surrounding visitor centers, libraries, museum, the conference center, restaurants, or the new City Creek Center that are also owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Theater lovers have flocked to the Tony-Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City for more than 50 years. The festival produces six plays, both Shakespearean and contemporary, every summer and additional plays during the fall season. The shows are complemented by the Green Show, which is free and great for kids, and educational programs.
Vernal is dinosaur country. The Utah Field House of Natural History and Dinosaur National Monument are located nearby. The Field House is one of the best places in Utah to find dinosaur fossils and replicas. Dinosaur National Monument recently opened a new visitor center after a five-year closure.
Take one look at a photo of the Wave and you’ll understand why this southern Utah hike is so popular. Get a permit in advance to see this colorful sandstone chute on the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
W is also for Wasatch Mountain State Park
Categorizing extreme sports under the letter X might be a stretch, but finding world-class extreme sports in Utah is not. Skiing, snowboarding, canyoneering, paragliding, jeeping, BMX racing, motocross, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and even sky diving are all here in Utah.
Popular with boaters, Yuba State Park is a sprawling lake in central Utah. Yuba boasts warm waters, sandy beaches, fishing, OHV trails, and it is one of the few state parks with boat-in camping areas. Don’t have a boat? You can rent boats, personal watercraft and off-highway vehicles in the park.
Zion is a happy place for casual tourists and adventurers alike. Marvel at the towering red rock cliffs from a hike, a bike, the shuttle, or a shady spot on the lawn in front of the Lodge. You’ll see why many Utahns return to Zion year after year.
Want more details on these and other Utah destinations? Please check out our Utah page.