AOL PICK from our Editors
Consider your visit to the city a chance to dabble in the best things to do in Salt Lake City, ranging from religion to nature. Start by spending some time understanding the Mormon religion, the reason Salt Lake City came to be, then branch out from there to explore the flora and fauna of the desert and a vibrant farmer’s market. Then head to the hills to understand the intimate relationship between the city’s residents and the outdoors (some of the best things to do in Salt Lake City are outside).
Neighborhood: Park City
Get a taste for the Winter Olympics at this athlete training center and shrine to winter sports. Visitors are encouraged to feel the Gs by riding in a four-person bobsled (behind a trained pilot) at 70 miles-per-hour. Still holding on to some adrenaline? Let it roll during a speedy snow-rafting ride or simply by watching your feet dangle from the chairlift to the top of the highest-altitude ski jump in the world, at 7,130 feet. From June through September, you can ride a zipline or alpine slide. Don’t miss the Alf Engen Ski Museum, which is open year-round, and if you’re lucky you’ll be there to watch a competition or athletes in training. Whether you like to be a part of the action, or just prefer to observe it, the Utah Olympic Park is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City.
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The architecturally-significant Abravanel Hall houses the Utah Symphony, considered one of the best orchestras in the West and therefore one of the top things to do in Salt Lake City. Plan to spend some time before a performance in the four-story lobby, with its rounded panels of gold leaf and a 30-foot glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. It’s a great place for people-watching, and yes, you’ll even see a few tuxes and floor-length evening gowns stroll through the door.
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The complex covering 10 downtown acres serves as the international center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Friendly female missionaries (no male missionaries work onsite) from around the world will greet you once you step onto the grounds, and while non-practicing visitors aren’t allowed to enter the white-spired temple itself, they can step into two visitor’s centers that have films and exhibits that explain one of the world’s fastest-growing religions. The grounds are most beautiful at night during Christmastime, when thousands of colored lights drape the trees. If you’re lucky, you’ll be onsite for a performance by the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir; secure your tickets early for an event that is considered to be one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City.
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You probably think we’re crazy putting a library as one of the top things to do in Salt Lake City, but just wait. If you think visiting a library means putting on your reading cap and being quiet, this downtown city library will shut your stereotypes for good. Controversial when it opened due to its OK-to-talk policy (you won’t hear librarians shushing anyone), the library offers some quiet reading areas, fireplaces and access to a cafe and shops. The modern building pays homage to the outdoors; roof-to-ground glass offers views of the Wasatch Mountain Range and the plaza’s garden. Head to the rooftop patio for the best look at the snowy peaks. Yeah, it’s actually fun to come here.
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Come here and gawk at nearly 400 of our fine-feathered friends at the Tracy Aviary, located on eight acres inside Liberty Park. Rotating exhibits feature everything from migrating Argentinean songbirds to Southern Ground Hornbills, but mainstay birds represent about 135 species, including peacocks, parrots, vultures and flamingos. This is one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City if you’re traveling with kids. They’ll love feeding times and other organized activities, and most likely they’ll catch a glimpse of nearby rides, so don’t be surprised if some Ferris wheel time gets tacked on to the visit.
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Neighborhood: Little Cottonwood Canyon
The Tram remains Snowbird’s crown jewel, and sometimes, long lines reflect its popularity. But there’s no better way to get a feel for the steep slopes of the Wasatch Mountains than riding the tram, which is open year-round and runs along a 1.6-mile cable that stretches between the peak and the base of the resort. The 10-minute ride ascends 2,900 vertical feet and it’s virtually straight up. In the winter, you’ll pack in tight next to skiers and snowboarders, but in the summer you’ll rub shoulders with hikers and picnickers. Stay as long as you like at the top, and, in the summer, consider taking the long hike down the mountain instead of the easy ride.
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Located in the heart of downtown, this performing arts center sustains many of Utah’s best performance groups, including the Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, Repertory Dance Theater, Plan-B Theatre Company, Pygmalion Theatre Company and Wasatch Theatre Company. Because the space is so multi-functional, chances are you’ll find something happening here during any given time of the year. If performances aren’t modern dance or theater, you might find musicians competing in the Gina Bachauer Internationals Piano Foundation or showings of Sundance films. We recommend you include the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center as one of your top things to do in Salt Lake City.
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At Red Butte Garden, you can wander a series of seemingly endless trails in a garden. It’s great for nature lovers or those seeking a little solitude. Trails and pathways link small waterfalls and ponds, benches and plantings of native plants, all of which overlooks the valley and the distant Great Salt Lake. In addition to the garden, the complex has become an arts center, with outdoor concerts, symphony appearances, Greek theater and a holiday art show.
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The elegant and spacious Marcia and John Price Museum Building houses Salt Lake’s best art collection. Located on the University of Utah campus, the museum holds more than 20 individual galleries that showcase nearly 15,000 pieces of art from around the world. Rotating exhibits range from Chinese landscapes to oil portraits by one of Utah’s most prominent artists. Plan to spend at least two hours perusing the rotating exhibits and permanent collection, with a stop in the onsite cafe for sustenance.
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Head to this sprawling outdoor market at Pioneer Square Park every Saturday between June and October. Between entrepreneurial banjo players and fiddlers, you’ll find farmers selling their goods, which can range from pumpkins to hot peppers, cilantro and other salsa fixings. Be prepared to brave the crowds, which usually come with dogs-on-leash and strollers, and bring your appetite: samples and pastries are delicious, making the Farmer's Market one of the best things to do in Salt Lake City.
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