It is common knowledge that Utah is one of the best places to ski or snowboard. However, Utah's not-too-cold winters and outdoorsy attitude mean that there are many fun ways to play in – and out of – the snow.
Here are a few fun things (other than skiing and snowboarding) to do in Utah this winter.
Sledding is one of Utah's top family activities because it is inexpensive and fun for all skill levels. You just need to buy a sled and then ask around to find the best local sledding hills. Hills at public parks like Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City are free and popular.
For serious sledding thrills, try a commercial sledding hill like Soldier Hollow, Gorgoza Park or Brian Head. These hills provide tubes, groomed hills, lanes and rope tows so you don't have to walk back to the top. You typically pay a per-person fee to tube all you want during a two-hour session.
Related: Tips for Tubing at Soldier Hollow
Soak up the Olympic spirit
Utah's Olympic legacy allows us to see or try practically all of the sports of the Winter Olympics. If you’re adventurous, ride a bobsled or ski-jump inspired zip line at Utah Olympic Park in Park City.
For those who prefer something calmer, the Olympic Park has two museums devoted to the history of skiing in Utah and the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
Utah is home to two Olympic ice rinks that are open to the public year-round. The Olympic Oval in Kearns hosted long-track speed skating events and the Ice Sheet in Ogden hosted the curling competition. Both venues offer open skating hours, as well as opportunities to learn and play hockey and curling. I think it’s awesome that our kids can learn to can skate where the Olympians skated.
The cauldron from the 2002 Winter Olympics still stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium at the University of Utah. It is re-lit during each new Winter Olympics and it's worth seeing.
Take a train ride
My son has a winter birthday. When he turned two we celebrated with a ride on Frontrunner to Ogden's Union Station where historic trains are on display. This is just one of many fun Wasatch Front destinations you can reach via Frontrunner and Trax. Click the button below to get more ideas for Frontrunner day trips.
My family enjoys taking Frontrunner into downtown Salt Lake City during the winter because we don't have to worry about driving in snow or finding parking. This is a really fun day trip during the Christmas season.
Finally, Heber Valley Railroad has fun itineraries for families year-round. Their Polar Express trip is popular throughout the holiday season, and other fun and scenic options are available on select dates after the New Year. We enjoyed a trip on the Heber Valley Railroad for a family reunion one year. Click the links below for more tips.
- Family fun on Heber Valley Railroad
- 3 Day Trips on Frontrunner
- Tips for Using Public Transportation in Salt Lake City
Explore an Ice Castle
The Midway Ice Castles are an engineering wonder where families are invited to explore ice tunnels, cathedrals, and slides. They are lit with colorful lights at night and there is something new to see in every room and courtyard. Be sure to wear your snow boots.
We've visit the Ice Castles nearly every year and are looking forward to returning this year. For more information, click the link below.
Go SCUBA Diving
Have you heard of the Homestead Crater in Midway? It's the only warm water SCUBA diving destination in the continental United States. Who'd have guessed?
You don't have to be a diver to try the Homestead Crater's geothermally heated mineral water. Soaking and swimming sessions are available year-round and the bathwater-warm underground pool feels especially nice in the winter. We tried it on a winter weekend getaway in Heber Valley. Click the button to get more tips for the Homestead Crater.
Ski resorts without the skis
If you have friends or family who are going to ski or snowboard, you don’t have to stay home because there are a lot of fun things going on at Utah’s big winter resorts.
For example, Snowbird’s Cliff Spa is a wonderful place to spend a day. You can get a day pass for $25 and enjoy the year-round outdoor pool and hot tub, take a yoga class or use the fitness room, which all have scenic mountain views. When you schedule a massage, facial or other treatment, a day pass is included in the price.
All of the bigger resorts have excellent restaurants, and often provide live music or a DJ throughout the winter season. Park City has great shopping on Historic Main Street or at the outlet mall. It also has restaurants and museums to fit nearly all tastes. Hotels like The Montage in Deer Valley offer a list of fun alternate activities for non-skiers.
Winter is one of the best-kept secrets of Utah's national parks.
My husband and I visited Bryce Canyon National Park last winter and if you thought the orange hoodoos were beautiful in the summer, you should see them when they are capped with fresh snow! Bryce Canyon offers fun ranger programs like stargazing and snowshoe hikes throughout the winter. In mid-February, Ruby’s Inn – just outside of the park – will host a winter festival. They’ll have an ice skating pond, snow sculpture contest, activities for kids and a lot of other fun activities.
The red rocks of Arches National Park soak up the sun year-round and winter is an excellent time to hike there. Temperatures are often a sunny 40-50 degrees (F) in January and February and all you may need is a light jacket. For me, there is no better time to make the hike to Delicate Arch.
Canyonlands National Park is just a few miles from Arches. It is at a higher elevation, so it's chillier, but that has never stopped us from enjoying the amazing views. Moab hotel rates and crowds are at their lowest in the winter so it's not too difficult to get those views all to yourself.
Winter doesn't have to be dreary when there is so much to do and so many fun places to go!