Is Utah on your to-see or bucket list? Because if you’re wondering what parts of Utah you need to see with your family, there are so many wonderful sights that you truly have to see to believe. So why should you visit Utah with your family?
Utah has an astounding 13 National Park Service units (including 5 National Parks) and then 3 more that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) operates. Only California and Alaska have more parks than we do! Beyond that, there are unique museums, historical sites, and sights you won’t see anywhere else.
And, because it is Utah, almost everything here is 100% parenting, kid, and family friendly. So the next time you come visit Utah, be sure to stay here a while. Because you’re going to want to experience at least some of these 15 breathtaking things to do in Utah with your kids.
Outdoor things to do in Utah with your kids including National Parks
Like I said before, Utah has an amazing number of national parks – there are 13 National Park Service units (including 5 National Parks) and then 3 more that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) operates. In fact, only California and Alaska have more parks than we do!
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1. If you’ve ever seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then you’ve visited Zion National Park. Massive sandstone cliffs, slot canyons, critters and plant life everywhere, and suddenly you’re the star of your own Western movie. While the views are spectacular on film, they will take your breath away in person. There are plenty of hiking trails, camping accommodations, and outdoor adventure for all ages.
My advice: Just please be careful taking pictures on cliffs, y’all. Falls happen far too often when people are trying to get that perfect picture!
2. Not too far from Zion’s is Moab – and two more national parks. The red sandstone arches at Arches National Park are bigger than life – and the hike to get there can be enjoyed by kids of all ages. A word of advice, though. You may want to bring a hiking backpack or the best baby carrier ever invented for children under two. Their feet do get tired – whereas the older kids will love the slot canyon hikes.
Advice: slot canyons are dangerous during and after rains due to flash flooding concerns, so please keep an eye on the weather!
3. Want to see where the dinosaurs lived, walked, and died? Then take your dinosaur-enthusiasts to Dinosaur National Monument. Technically, it spans both Utah and Colorado. But you can only see the actual dinosaur fossils while in Utah. And if your budding paleontologists want to see rub shoulders with the real dinosaur scientists at work, be sure to check out the Dinosaur Quarry area.
My advice: take lots of water. The desert is draining no matter what time of year you visit.
4. Ready for some beach time? Head over to Bear Lake – a glacial lake in the mountains that’s so blue it’s turquoise. The only thing that’ll make you realize that you aren’t in the Caribbean is that cool mountain breeze and the cold water! Waterski in the summer or ice fish in the winter. Just make sure you add getting a local raspberry milkshake to your to-do list.
My advice: Get there early – especially during the busy season and weekends! The beach does fill to capacity quickly and they will stop admitting visitors.
5. Need more unique things to do in Utah with your kids? If you’ve got a racing enthusiast, you’re going to want to visit the Bonneville Salt Flats. The ground here is so flat and empty (and white!) that it’s almost an alien landscape. It’s the perfect place for racing – and the Bonneville Speedway. No matter how many times you see it, it’s always hard to believe that it’s salt – and not bright white snow.
Advice: take lots of water and enjoy the unique view.
6. Want another taste of the wild west? Go camping with all sorts of flora and fauna – including bison – at Antelope Island. That’s right – bison range free on this island in the Great Salt Lake. Camping here is a little rougher, but my kids love seeing the “big cows,” even if they didn’t much care for the smell.
Advice: keep one of the many fences between you and the bison. Wildlife is prettier and safer from a distance. Extreme wildlife selfies with kids is just a recipe for disaster.
7. Ready for some four-wheeling? Why not head out to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The sand is pink – and kids of all ages love the warm pink sand. Some like to dig in it – while others go off-roading. Either way, it’s a gorgeous, unique view that’s only in Utah.
Advice: digging in sand is fun but keep it shallow. There’s a reason we don’t use sand in general construction – it collapses! Please don’t try to build a tunnel.
8. Remember how Utah has the best snow on Earth? Well, we’ve got the ski and snowboarding slopes to prove it. Ski, snowboard, snowmobile, cross-country ski, or snowshoe to your heart’s delight in the mountains. One of the resorts, Powder Mountain, has over 7,000 skiable acres – and not a single fake snowflake.
Advice: Every local has a favorite skiing or snowboarding spot. You may want to try out a couple of the resorts to see which is your favorite – so plan multiple visits!
More fun things to do in Utah with your kids – without the camping
Okay, now before you think that all we do in Utah is go camping, we’ve got plenty of other breathtaking and fun activities for you and your kids.
9. Want some culture with your visit to Utah? Then be sure to tour Historic Salt Lake City and go see Temple Square. The architecture is amazing, the dining is exquisite, and the new shopping centers are phenomenal. And if you’re big into genealogy or family history, be sure to visit the Family History Center. They’ve got some amazing exhibits that my kids love to see any time we’re there.
Advice: Temple Square does an amazing Christmas light display every year. That’s one of the best times to visit! The second best is in late spring – when they have all of the flowers in bloom and you can take a tour up to the top of the Conference Center to see out across the whole Salt Lake Valley.
10. Rise and shout – the Cougars are out! Not real cougars – the BYU Cougars. They’re in Provo and the campus is gorgeous. In fact, the whole town has undergone a renovation and it’s worth seeing – and exploring. So if you’ve got a young sports enthusiast, make sure you go say “hey” to Steve Young’s old stomping grounds.
My advice: BYU is amazing – and if you call ahead, you can schedule a guided tour. Some of the guides could even be aspiring tour guides for the Disney Jungle Cruise – they’re that funny! Speaking of funny, see if you can snag tickets to catch a taping of the hilarious sketch comedy group, Studio C! If you haven’t seen their work, check it out on YouTube.
11. Ready for some thrill rides? You don’t have to travel far – just head to Davis County (just north of Salt Lake City) and you’ll see that Utah has its own amusement park. Lagoon is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets – and it’s got some of the best roller coasters found in the nation. One of our favorites, Cannibal, has a 116 degree beyond vertical free-fall that shoots you into a 140-foot tall inverted loop at 70 miles per hour. If that’s a little too thrilling for you, don’t worry. This is Utah – and Lagoon has rides for all ages, heights, and types.
Advice: Catch Lagoon mid-week to avoid most of the crowds. Of course, even on its busiest days it’s nowhere near as busy as Disney parks. Which is awesome, because that means a whole lot less waiting in line and lots more ride time.
12. Want to see some dinosaurs – but not leave the city limits? Go check out Ogden’s George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park. My kids love seeing all of the dinosaur statues, the functional paleontology lab, the exhibits, and the dinosaur-themed playground. And, if you keep reading, I’ll share a hint that’ll save you a ridiculous amount of money on entrance fees.
My tip: Pack a lunch and plan on eating it while your kids play at the playground. Seriously – this place is an all-day wear-out-the-kids adventure place. It makes all kinds of science seem cool, too.
13. I have to admit that the last time we took my kids to the Tracy Aviary, the youngest ones were a little terrified of all of the birds! But every time we go back, the kids fall in love a little more with the exhibits, the birds, and trying to guess which birdcall comes from which bird. We’re still pretty awful at the last one, actually.
Tip: Take a wagon or a stroller. My kids still get scared of the birds at times, so having a covered stroller is a great way for them to retreat when things get overwhelming.
14. Want to see more exotic animals? Utah’s Hogle Zoo may not be able to compete with some of the ridiculously large zoos, but this zoo is perfect for kids. My kids love seeing the animals – and they’ll even do extra chores to earn the $2 they need to ride the train that takes them through the African savannah exhibits. I don’t mind it because there are still gates between them and the lions.
Advice: if you have a large family, it may be cheaper to buy a zoo membership than pay for regular admission fees. Or if you’re already a zoo member, see if your zoo is part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums – you may have a reciprocal admission policy that gets you in for a discount or for free! Follow that last link to see if your zoo or aquarium is on that reciprocal list.
15. Finally, one of the best things to do in Utah with your kids is the Ogden Nature Center. My kids love the short hike into the visitor’s center – right past the birdhouse contest winners – and then on into the preserve. There, they can hike, run, jump, climb a treehouse, and see all sorts of native wildlife while not ever leaving Ogden city limits. Oh – and the yearly membership to the Nature Center is an amazing deal – it gets you access to both the Nature Center and the aviary and the Odgen dinosaur park. #yourewelcome
Advice: Get the Ogden Nature Center membership. It’s $45 for a family – and it gets you into the Ogden Dinosaur Park and the Aviary, too!
More Fun Things to do in Utah with Kids:
- Want to check out more fun things to do in Utah? Here are the Top 20 Places to Take Kids in and around Salt Lake City by Kids Out and About.
- Want to plan a visit? Be sure to check out the Visit Utah site and read Traveling with Children in Utah!
- Want more of my best places to visit? You’ll have to check out these additional 10 Kid-Friendly Places in Utah to Visit over on the blog 3 Boys and a Dog.
- Carry those cute kiddos without killing your back with the best baby carrier ever made (and the only one I use)
- Seriously – go get an Ogden Nature Center Membership. Totally worth the $45 family membership fee as it gets you into so many other nature centers nationwide – as well as the Eccles Dinosaur Park, the Tracy Aviary, and Union Station museums! They aren’t paying me to tell you about this – it’s just that good of a deal.
- Need a good laugh about planning a vacation? Here’s Why I Never Plan a Family Vacation – or at least what I’m thinking when I’m trying to plan one!
- Or do you need something to keep your blood pressure and anxiety under control? Be sure to read this post on timing: Enjoy Your Season in Life: the Parable of the Pear Tree.