Utah is a beautiful and majestic state with wide variances in topography, climate and the State Capitol, Salt Lake City, is no exception. In this guide we provide ideas on what to do on a family vacation in Salt Lake City.
The CBoardingGroup tends to focus a bit more on the life of the frequent business traveler (check out 147 Business Travel Tips!), but hey, we love to travel for recreational purposes too – especially to Utah and Salt Lake City where we have family and we love to write about these adventures.
Heard of the term Bleisure? It’s when you combine business with pleasure and frequent business travelers have a unique opportunity to bring their families with them on some of their business trips with part of your travel covered by the company (your travel..not the fam’s).
Our family recently returned from a short, but jam packed family vacation to the great state of Utah. As Southern California natives Utah is within driving distance (a long drive) and we often make the trek to visit family. There’s no shortage of interesting things to do in Salt Lake City and this guide will hopefully help you plan a Salt Lake City vacation.
We live in Southern California in between the Ontario and San Diego Airports. Flying to Salt Lake is certainly the most convenient option with a Socal flight time taking roughly 2 hours or so. But Salt Lake City is also within driving distance if you like the open road and/or don’t want to drop the cash (or points) on tickets. We probably split our trips to Utah evenly between flying and driving. This trip, however, we drove.
The trip from Socal is roughly a 9 to 11 hour drive depending on a variety of factors including your starting point, the traffic (good lord…), how fast you travel, and how often you stop.
For our trip we picked a day of the week (never Friday) to make our California escape (Friday’s are notorious for horrible traffic in Socal). However, we hit major road work compounded with an accident as we approached Barstow. Complete dead standstill. We decided to call an audible and took an exit that had a dirt road…and we went 4x4ng (sort of). The road was a dirt road but had been somewhat maintained.
I had a general idea of where we were going directionally, but wasn’t sure if the road connected to a paved road. Our Suburban, however, performed admirably, and the kids laughed and giggled over every bump. We made it safely and the lesson is that sometimes, on a family vacation especially, you gotta take the road less traveled. It ended up being the highlight of our drive (Crazy Dad taking the dirt road of doom!).
The best way to get to Salt Lake via Socal is on Interstate 15 which takes you directly to Salt Lake City (via Las Vegas). Before you get to Vegas, however, is Baker, CA which is home to pretty much scorching temps, the worlds largest thermometer and a pretty cool beef jerky store.
Speaking of Vegas, we are not fans of Las Vegas, but it is a nice stopping point to grab food, fuel and hit the bathrooms. If casino’s are you deal…they have those too. We made our obligatory In-n-Out stop and got back on the road. Next stop St. George, Utah which is a great place to stop if you are looking to travel a little slower.
Perhaps we will write about St. George in a separate article, but it’s a hot and beautiful area with majestic red rocks and easy access to Zion National Park – definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
After St. George and aside from a brief stop at Cedar City it’s nothing but wide open freeway between you and Salt Lake City. As you get closer to Salt Lake the mountains become more and more majestic (and green) and the vastness of Utah is on full display.
Did you know Cedar City is home to one of the world’s most popular Shakespeare Festivals? Yup, with a full blown replica Globe Theatre, the summer play series is world renowned. Get your Tix here.
The first meaningful town you arrive in as you approach the outskirts of Salt Lake is Provo which usually provides a great respite for your likely full bladders. After a quick stretch and Gatorade or two we were back on the road and in the home stretch.
After a lengthy drive (longer than it needed to be due to a combination of traffic and my bladder) we made it Salt Lake City! Let the festivities begin!
If you do choose to fly, CheapAir.com often has great prices on tickets where you can save big bucks. Give them a peek.
What to do on a Family Vacation in Salt Lake City
When on a family vacation in Salt Lake City there is no shortage of awesome things to do. If you are an outdoors sort of person, you will not be disapointed. Indoors? No problem, there’s lots to see, too!
Here are a list of things to do on a family vacation in Salt Lake City!
Quick Trip to Park City (Ski / Mountain Bike)
The Wasatch Mountain Range is both striking distance and within striking distance of pretty much anywhere you stay in the Salt Lake Area. And during the non-winter months the mountain biking is off the hook. With over 800 miles of trails you will not be disappointed.
Popular trails include the following:
Here’s a great video of the Bobsled trail from YouTube:
While you are in the Wasatch Mountains…visit Midway, UT
Midway Utah is a quaint town with a distinctively Swiss vibe to it. Chalets and Swiss architeture abound and it has a small town feel. Great fishing, of course as the Provo River cuts through the town, but there’s several great parks, neat shops and resteraunts and if you are there during the winter season be sure to check out their ice castles!
You can stay at the Zermatt Resort for mountain top views!
The Fishing is Off the Hook (er…ON the hook)
This is our favorite activity when visiting the Salt Lake City area (aside from visiting family). We usually sneak up into the Wasatch Mountains to get in some good stream/river fishing. The Provo River has some of the best Fly Fishing in the Country and it never disappoints. The rivers were high and the lakes flooded so we tried some new spots this time – including a secret spot feeding into Echo Lake. We found a doozy of a hole catching numerous bass, some trout and a monster carp (yuck…but they are fun to catch).
Later, we took the cousins out to a local lake / pond north of Salt Lake and did some less serious fishing with the kiddos. They both caught some Bluefill and had a blast. Plus I got a pretty sweet pic of the boys fishing off the dock.
Holmes Reservoir – north of Salt Lake. Good for kids!
Tour the Mormon Temple
We are not Mormon, but Salt Lake City is home to the headquarters of the Mormon religion and the Temple is an architectural masterpiece. You don’t have to be Mormon to visit (although some parts are reserved for members).
Visit the Lagoon Amusement Park
For some wild roller coasters take your family to the Lagoon Amusement Park. Located a tad north of Salt Lake City this park is not Disneyland, but it still boasts several amazing roller coasters. The only downside? They appear to think they are Disneyland…at least with their prices. Gulp!
Visit the Lagoon Amusement Park Website here.
Take Family Friendly Dip at Cherry Hill Water Park
The very family friendly Cherry Hill water park is just the kind of low key fun your family might need during their Salt Lake Vacation. Cherry Hills is a small, but well run (although it does show it’s age a bit) water park and mini-golf facility north of Salt Lake.
It’s very low key and very affordable and your family will enjoy a dip in the lazy river or the wild rapids. This is the perfect relaxing, non-crazy expensive, non crazy crowds kinda of event a family vacation to Salt Lake might need!
Tea Party at The Grand America Hotel
The Grand America Hotel is located in downtime Salt Lake City and while it is certainly a lovely place to stay, it also has a unique event that you will be sure to love. The Grand America Tea Room is a throwback in time. Get your fancy hat and throw on a nice dress because the tea is about to be poured.
My 7 year old daughter, her cousin, and all of the ladies in our family have done the Afternoon Tea session before and they rave about it.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
We usually stay with family and save the lodging expense, but there are many great places to stay in Salt Lake City and most are usually reasonably priced. Here are a few suggestions:
Grand America Hotel – Downtown Salt Lake City
555 S Main St, Salt Lake City, UT, 84111
This luxury hotel is a popular wedding destination, conference center and launching point for a Salt Lake City vacation.
The St. Regis Deer Valley, Park City
2300 Deer Valley Dr E, Park City, UT, 84060
You can ski in and ski out of this resort located in the beautiful mountains above Salt Lake. If making a winter trip to Salt Lake City you will be hard pressed to find a nicer home base for a winter in Salt Lake.
Waldorf Astoria Park City, Park City
2100 W Frostwood Drive, Park City, UT, 84098
The Waldorf Astoria Park City is located up on the Wasatch Mountains, but this stunning property could be the perfect base for a Salt Lake City vacation.
Marriott City Center, Salt Lake City
220 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT, 84111
The Marriott City Center is located in downtown Salt Lake City and boasts 359 hotel rooms – each appointed in quality Marriott fashion. This hotel likely be a little cheaper than a Waldorf, but the kids will enjoy jumping on the bed all the same.
Final Thoughts on a Salt Lake City Vacation
Sometimes you just gotta get away! Salt Lake City is the perfect location for a great family vacation! No matter how you get there, once you do, you will definitely enjoy your time. You and your loved ones are guaranteed to have a great time! Enjoy…and send pics!
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Very impressive and detailed blog. I also visit the salt lake last year with family and we enjoyed a lot especially Provo River.
Provo River is a stunning place to visit in salt lake. I suggest you to visit Waskesiu Lake, it is also a beautiful place to visit with family and folks. For more info and details visit: https://waskesiuwildernessregion.com/