What To See And Do While Visiting Utah: Salt Lake City, National Parks, And More

Utah was first settled in July of 1847 by Brigham Young and Mormon pioneers, looking for a place to live where they could be free from religious persecution. Granted statehood in 1896 as the 45th state admitted to the Union, Utah is now known as a major tourist destination for outdoor recreation, as well as a center for information technology, mining, government services and transportation. There's something here for almost everyone, from the five national parks with plenty of recreation and sightseeing opportunities, to the major ski resorts, and tourist opportunities in the capital city of Salt Lake. If you are into genealogy, Salt Lake City is home to the largest genealogical repository in the world--the LDS Family History Library. If you're a sports fan, the only major professional sports team representing Utah is the Utah Jazz (basketball), but there are other minor league and collegiate sports events to enjoy. Enjoy cultural events, shopping and sightseeing here. Love the outdoors? You'll find lots of outdoor recreational activities to indulge in.

Getting There Is Half The Fun

If you're flying to Utah, Salt Lake City is home to the only major airport: Salt Lake City International. This airport is served by most of the major air carriers, including American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Northwest, Skywest, Southwest, United, and USAirways. If you need a rental car, you'll find service from Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Fox, Hertz, National and Thrifty. Many hotels offer shuttle service to and from the airport, and the Utah Transit Authority offers scheduled bus service to and from the airport. Salt Lake City is also served by Greyhound bus lines and Amtrak. If you're driving, travel into the Salt Lake area by automobile is via Interstate 15 from north or south, and from the east or west, via Interstate 80. If you are driving to other parts of Utah, Interstate 15 continues on southwards to Provo, Beaver, Cedar City, and St. George.
The best travel site for Utah we found was, billed as "Utah's Largest Travel Site."

Things To See And Do In Salt Lake City And Vicinity

Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, as well as its cultural and political center. You'll find plenty to keep you busy in this area, from tours and sightseeing to shopping and recreational activities. Don't miss Temple Square, the number one tourist attraction in Utah. Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, it is free. Guided tours are available, or you can wander around yourself and visit the Tabernacle, Assembly Hall, and Visitors Center. The Tabernacle is where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir holds its rehearsals, which are open to the public every Thursday evening from 8 p.m. The grounds themselves are lovely, and you'll enjoy many statues depicting pioneer life in the area as well as beautiful flowers and shrubs. Looking to cool off at a water park? There are several to choose from, including Lagoon and Cherry Hill Water and Fun Park. There are several city parks to visit, including Red Butte Garden with its 150-plus acres of walking paths, hiking trails; and home to concerts, children's programs, and festivals. There are free museums to visit, including the Church Museum of History and Art, Utah Museum of Fine Art, Fort Douglas Military Museum and the LDS Family History Library; and others which you can visit for a small fee, such as the Children's Museum or the Utah Museum of Natural History. If you're a skier, Salt Lake is within 45 minutes of 7 major ski resorts, including Alta, Solitude, Snowbird, and Brighton. Want to visit state parks? There are several in the area, too.

Recreation Activities

No matter what part of the state you're in, you'll find plenty of outdoor recreational activities to suit your taste. Anything from ATV trips and balloon trips to white-water rafting, skiing and snowmobiling, can be done in Utah. Here's a sampling of what Utah has to offer in the way of recreational activities.

  • Water Adventures
    Enjoy any number of boating, canoing, kayaking, rafting, or tubing adventures throughout the state. Choose from one-day to 7 day adventures on the water from a variety of river tour operators. Rivers include the Colorado, Yampa and Green rivers, with any number of companies offering tours and trips.
  • Biking
    Plenty of biking paths for your enjoyment. With five national parks in the state, you have your pick of places to ride.
  • Skiing
    Home to the 2002 Winter Olympics, you'll enjoy some pretty great ski resorts in Utah. As mentioned earlier, four major ski resorts are within 45 minutes of Salt Lake City, while others are situated in both the northern and southern areas of Utah. Ski Brian Head ski resort in southern Utah has ski runs for every level of skier. Sundance is the only ski resort in the Provo area, and is owned by Robert Redford. Solitude Mountain Resort is 12 miles up the Cottonwood Canyon.
  • Hiking
    With more than 400 hiking trails in Utah, you'll find a trail to suit you. From easy to difficult; under two miles to more than ten, and in all the national and state parks in the area, if hiking is your favorite pasttime, you won't be disappointed.

National Parks, Recreation Areas and Monuments

Utah is home to five national parks, several national monuments, and two national recreation areas. Here's information on a few of them.

  • Arches National Park
    Located near Moab, Utah, this park is home to more than 2,000 sandstone arches, the largest collection of them in the world. Enjoy a great scenic drive through this park, or any number of good, short hikes through these rock formations
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
    Enjoy scenic drives through this spectacular park, as well as hiking trails and even horseback tours. Located in Southwestern Utah, the closest town of any size is Panguitch, about 23 miles to the northwest.
  • Zion National Park
    This is Utah's most popular and well-known national parks, with close to 3 million visitors each year. It's about 300 miles south of Salt Lake City, and 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It features many miles of hiking trails and scenic drives.
  • Dinosaur National Monument
    This area straddles the Utah/Colorado border in the nortwest corner of Colorado. Most of the canyon country itself lies in Colorado, while 25% of the dinosaur quarry lies in Utah. This area was established as a monument to protect this area which was the largest source of dinosaur bones in the world. Enjoy great scenery as well as hiking and white river rafting activities here.
  • Flaming Gorge Recreation Area
    Flaming Gorge is located on the Utah/Wyoming border near the northeast corner of Utah. This area extends about 60 miles north to Green River, Wyoming, but most of the activity and scenic areas are located in Utah. Enjoy boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and white river rafting, or just enjoy the scenery.
  • Glen Canyon Recreation Area
    Located in south-central Utah, this recreation area includes Lake Powell, which was formed with the creation of the Glen Canyon dam. You can rent a houseboat on Lake Powell, or enjoy swimming, boating and water skiing. There are some rugged hiking trails in the area, too.

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