Salt Lake City is my hometown and we spend many of our weekends and school breaks exploring all the free ways to enjoy Salt Lake City with kids. Whether you're vacationing in Utah, or you're a local family looking for ways to get out of the house, we have a list of ideas.
Keep reading for descriptions and addresses for every activity. Here are my favorite FREE things to do in Salt Lake City with kids.
Parks and Gardens
Liberty Park – This is Utah's oldest and best known public park. Located a few blocks from downtown, Liberty Park has a large adaptive playground and tracks for walking, running or rollerblading. You'll also find courts for horseshoes, bocce ball, basketball, volleyball, baseball and tennis. The Chase Home Museum of Folk Arts is free. You can enjoy the Tracy Aviary, carousel, swimming or paddleboats for a fee.
Sugarhouse Park – Sugarhouse Park is another of Salt Lake City's most popular parks, but with 110 acres, there is plenty of room to spread out. There are two playgrounds, sport courts and a wide road to accommodate walking, running and biking. Sugarhouse Park hosts one of Utah's biggest Independence Day celebrations and has a great sledding hill in the winter too.
Wheeler Farm – This free urban farm is especially good for younger families. Wheeler Farm is a working farm and visitors are welcome to visit the cows, horses, chickens, pigs, sheep and other farm animals during daylight hours. There is a fee for activities like wagon rides, milking the cows, house tours and for special events. This 19th century farm has been preserved at 6351 South 900 East.
International Peace Gardens – Replicas of landmarks from 28 countries are represented at the Salt Lake City International Peace Gardens on the west side of the city. There is a playground, picnic area, and trail to the Jordan River Parkway nearby. Find the International Peace Gardens at 1000 South 900 West.
Gilgal Garden – This is a quirky public park that you probably won't find unless you know where to look. It was once the backyard garden of an LDS bishop who expressed his faith through stone and sculpture. Find Gilgal Garden at 749 East 500 South in Salt Lake City.
Red Butte Garden – Is a beautiful public garden near the University of Utah that is lots of fun for families and it is well worth the price of admission. However, Red Butte Garden hosts four FREE days each year. Here are the dates for 2015. If they are out of date, try this link for current information.
- Pioneer Day, July 24
- Labor Day, 1st Monday in September
- Dumke Day, 1st Monday in October
- Holiday Open House and Art Fair, 2 days in early December
The Downtown City Library – My kids enjoy visiting the library near our home anytime, but a trip to the City Library at 210 East 400 South is a special treat. It's fun to ride the elevator to the top floor to wander the rooftop garden and visit the beehive. The children's library has a large selection, with themed reading areas and a private outdoor waterfall.
Check the calendar of the Salt Lake Library or another local library to find fun, free programs for families that are bigger and better than story time. Look for free live animal presentations, movies, activities and more, especially during the summer.
Clark Planetarium – The Clark Planetarium at the Gateway is always free. There is a charge for star shows and IMAX movies, but there are lots of fun and free hands-on exhibits to keep kids happy. My kids like checking their weight on other planets, watching metal balls flow through Newton's Daydream, or checking out the demo toys in the gift shop.
Utah State Capitol Building – Wow your kids with the marble halls of the Utah State Capitol Building. Tours are offered Monday-Friday, but the building is open to visitors seven days a week. It's a great opportunity to teach kids about government, but families can have fun by exploring the unique building and grounds and perusing fun exhibits about why Utah is the Beehive State and popular movies that were made in Utah.
Pioneer Memorial Museum – Operated by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, this free museum is located across the street from the Utah State Capitol Building. The DUP has an extensive collection of artifacts, photos and histories of the Mormon pioneers, who founded Salt Lake City in 1847.
This is the Place Heritage Park – Go back in time to learn what it was like to live in Salt Lake City in the late 1800's. There are lots of fun pioneer-themed activities for families here. This is the Place hosts one free day each year, sponsored by the Huntsman family. Visit this link for more information.
Utah Museum of Fine Art – Ask for an activity backpack at the front desk full of enrichment activities for families at this museum on the campus of the University of Utah. UMFA is free to the public on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of every month.
Natural History Museum of Utah This new and innovative museum is one of our family's favorites. It's full of interactive exhibits, educational play zones and lots of dinosaurs! Here are the free days in 2017. If they are outdated, try this link for upcoming free days.
- Monday, January 23
- Monday, May 15
- Monday, August 21
- Monday. December 11
There are a whole lot of nature hiking trails in and around the Salt Lake Valley. Here are a couple that I especially recommend.
Temple Quarry Trail – This short, stroller-friendly hiking trail can be found at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. In addition to beautiful scenery, you can see where granite for the Salt Lake Temple was quarried.
Ensign Peak – This short uphill hike above the Utah State Capitol Building offers panoramic views of the Salt Lake Valley. There is a monument at the top because Brigham Young hiked to this peak soon after arriving in the valley.
Many of Utah's public parks, including Liberty Park, now have free splash pads. Downtown Salt Lake City has two free splash pads in popular gathering areas. Find them at:
The Gateway – This downtown outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment center is located just west of Vivint Smart Home Arena, and is also home to the Clark Planetarium, Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, and Megaplex movie theaters. The splash pad is good sized and the water is sometimes choreographed to music.
City Creek Center – The small splash zone in Utah's newest and most stylish downtown mall is a fun and convenient place to blow off some steam on a warm day. City Creek likes to keep it classy by requiring kids to keep shoes and shirts on, so plan accordingly. Shaded seating is available for parents and others who want to stay dry. There is also a dry play area inside the food court.
Other fun free activities City Creek has to offer are: discovering “fossils” and animal tracks embedded in the sidewalks, checking out the live fish in the waterways, window shopping at shops like the Disney Store, and watching the fountain show at the top of every hour.
Temple Square – If you're a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or just interested in learning more about local history and culture, Temple Square welcomes families and is always free. You can take a tour, enjoy the gardens, walk around the temple, explore interactive exhibits, watch movies or catch an organ recital or Tabernacle Choir practice during your visit.
Family History Library – This library across the street from Temple Square houses the largest collection of family history resources in the world. All of it is free for your use. Staff and volunteers are on hand to help you get started or solve the mysteries in your family tree. This museum is especially good for older children and teens who will be able to log in on their own and participate in research.
Church History Museum – The Church History Museum is located next to the Family History Library and is currently closed for renovations. It is scheduled to re-open in Fall 2015. Before the museum closed, it had an interactive play area that my kids loved, along with four floors of historical and art exhibits.
Conference Center – The Conference Center to the north of Temple Square is a massive auditorium that holds more than 20,000 people. It also has a theater, rooftop garden, waterfall and an extensive collection of art. If you haven't seen it in person, you should. Free tours are given daily.
Joseph Smith Memorial Building – Take the elevator to the 10th floor and head either direction to enjoy panoramic views of Salt Lake City. On the bottom floor, relax in the beautiful lobby, see the movie Meet the Mormons or visit the family history center where you'll find a small play area.
Living Traditions – This annual celebration of Salt Lake City's diverse cultures is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2015. Admission is free and it's fun to walk around and watch on-stage performances from local groups that perform music and dances from around the globe. If you'd like, bring cash for the food and craft fairs too. Living Traditions is held on a weekend in mid-May. Visit www.livingtraditionsfestival.com for more information.
Days of '47 Float Preview – We hit this free event at the South Towne Expo Center nearly every summer because it's so fun. It's scheduled a few days prior to the Days of '47 Parade on July 24th. You get to check out the beautiful floats up close, and many of the float committees also offer games and giveaways to get your vote for Crowd Favorite.
What are your favorite FREE activities in SLC?
I know that there are plenty more splash pads, parks, hiking trails, events and museums in the area, but I haven't yet had the chance to try them all. Please share your favorites in the comments!
For low cost and discounted ideas of things to do in Salt Lake City, Groupon-Salt Lake is often a good resource.