Utah – known for its great skiing, red rocks, and its most prominent religion, the LDS church. It’s also a great place to visit with your kids. Salt Lake City is BUILT for families with children. Utah has the highest birth rate per capita, and it shows in kid-friendliness. Everything is kid-friendly, so getting around is easy, and kid-friendly activities are numerous. We had so much visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers!
My husband and I actually lived in the Salt Lake area for a while pre-kids, so we are pretty familiar with the area. But it’s a totally different feeling to take our kids there and be able to experience the city with them.
Probably one of the highlights of this area for our family is Thanksgiving Point. It’s technically located in Lehi, just south of Salt Lake City, and it’s basically five huge attractions all in one. It includes the Ashton Gardens, Farm Country, Butterfly Biosphere, and Museums of Natural Curiosity and Ancient Life. Plan to stay the whole day, and then get an Explorer Pass, so you can save money while visiting all five venues.
The Ashton Gardens are really for people of all ages. It is 55 acres of perfectly manicured flowers, trees, and open fields, and even includes the largest man-made waterfall in the western hemisphere. The gardens are beautiful at any time of year, but the Tulip Festival in the spring is absolute perfection. Most of the gardens are stroller friendly, and I’d bring one for toddlers and preschoolers because there is a LOT of walking to be done.
The Butterfly Biosphere is the newest attraction at Thanksgiving Point and includes a discovery zone for kids to learn about all types of insects- not just butterflies, and a play area with a GIANT slide and the butterfly conservatory. The conservatory has tons of colorful flowers, beautiful butterflies as well as beetles, spiders, and other insects. It’s a great spot to get your young children to slow down a bit and notice all the little things. And you’ll want to focus on slowing down since the butterflies are super delicate and you don’t want your child to be the one accidentally stomping on them.
The Museum of Ancient Life, aka the Dinosaur Museum, is tons of fun for the dinosaur lovers, like my kids. The museum isn’t huge, and my boys ran through it fairly quickly, even though they did enjoy seeing the GIANT dinosaur bones. The real highlight for my 3-year-olds was the erosion table. Water and sand, and toy dinosaurs- oh my!
The Museum of Natural Curiosity is AMAZING. We visited almost 5 months ago, and my kids haven’t stopped talking about it. It’s a completely separate building from the rest of the Thanksgiving Point attractions and its HUGE. They claim there are 400 interactive experiences, but it feels unlimited. Kids can climb through the rainforest, use tubes to make rivers, play with trains, make music. I’d have to say it’s the best children’s museum we’ve ever visited, and we’ve visited quite a lot. And it’s not just for small children, there truly are activities for all ages. Older children can even do an indoor ropes course (for an additional fee). Set aside plenty of time for the Museum of Natural Curiosity- you’ll want it! Also, maybe bring a change of clothes for your toddlers- plenty of young kids end up SOAKED after playing in the water room.
2. Hogle Zoo
The Hogle Zoo is another great place for young children. My kids are animal lovers so zoos are always on our list. This zoo features over 800 animals and is a constant work in progress, with exhibits being updated and made more comfortable for the animals every year. Our favorites include the polar bears, every kind of monkey, and the lions. The amazing trainers have some great animal feedings or encounters of different types that your kids will love. We particularly love the elephant encounter and giraffe feeding because both of those gentle giants are just such amazing creatures. You’ll definitely want to check out the event calendar when you arrive so you’ll be able to catch one or two of these great, free events.
You can also take a fun little train ride around the zoo. Or take a ride on the beautiful carousel. You can choose from one of the 4 great little restaurants right at the zoo. Or, if you prefer, pack your family a lunch and enjoy one of the many picnic areas around the zoo.
Temperatures in the summer can get quite high in Salt Lake City. So for your comfort, and to see the animals when they are the most active, I recommend arriving right at opening and hit the African Exhibit first. The zoo is quite stroller friendly, and I’d plan to bring one for younger children since quite a lot of walking is required to see everything.
3. The Living Planet Aquarium
The Living Planet Aquarium was has been in the works for a LONG time, and they’ve finally been able to move to a new, larger location. We love this aquarium because it has tons of awesome fish and sea animals, as well as some other animals, such as large birds, penguins, and even butterflies seasonally. Additionally, kids can pretend to drive a ship, and climb inside a sharks mouth. My kids love all aquariums, so of course, this one was a huge hit. But this aquarium does get QUITE crowded on weekend afternoons, so while it is stroller friendly, it might be difficult to navigate with a stroller. Try to visit off-peak hours for the best experience.
Lagoon includes a huge area with a ton of rides for children (and adults) of all ages from the fearful to the fearless. And, for water lovers, Lagoon-a-beach features pools, water rides, and more. If you are traveling with mixed-age children, you’ll love that there are real roller coasters for older kids who love them, fun things for kids who aren’t roller coaster lovers, and even great rides for younger kids. When visiting with younger children, you’ll want to check out Kiddieland. Many rides have no height restrictions at all, and many more allow children 36” and taller to ride, so toddlers and preschoolers have plenty to do here, whether they are fearful or fearless.
While Lagoon has tons of great options for meals, picky eaters or parents wanting to save a few dollars can pack a lunch and will find plenty of nice areas to picnic. Lagoon is great for your older kids as well. The view of the sunset from Cannibal is rumored to be phenomenal, but I can’t confirm this since I always have my little guys.
5. Tracy Aviary
The Tracy Aviary is awesome because it’s outside, and it just doesn’t get as crowded as other big attractions such as the aquarium or zoo. This allowed us to give our kids a bit more freedom, which was relaxing for me AND the kids and is easy to navigate with a stroller. The aviary offers some really special experiences for littles. My kids LOVED feeding the ducks and feeding the tropical birds during the Amazon Adventure. The owls and other large birds were other favorites for my kids, and I loved the colorful tropical birds.
Visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers a wonderful experience! What do you think? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you! Also, check out our other Utah posts on riding UTVs at Sand Hollow, near St. George.