Thanks to its stunning national parks and its excellent museums, Utah is one of the best states to visit if you're planning a family-friendly vacation. The vibrant red standstone formations of the "Big Five" national parks might be some of the first images to come to mind, but there are plenty of lesser-known attractions as well, including the Timpanogos Cave National Monument and the old-fashioned train rides offered by the Heber Valley Railroad. Some excellent museums can be found at Thanksgiving Point, and animal lovers shouldn't miss the chance to spot elk in the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Area and visit the Living Planet Aquarium. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Arches National Park
Known for its spectacular red sandstone rock formations, Arches National Park is an outdoor wonderland the whole family will love. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore, but popular family-friendly options include the 0.3-mile Balanced Arch trail and the mile-long trail that leads to the formations known as the Windows. If you'd rather enjoy the beauty of the park from your car, there's also an 18-mile road that leads to some of the biggest and most famous arches in the park. Between the beginning of May and the end of September, the park offers ranger-led programs like guided hikes, interactive presentations, and stargazing events.
2.Bryce Canyon National Park
Centered around the canyon that gave it its name, Bryce Canyon National Park boasts the biggest concentration of hoodoo rock formations on the planet. The best-known sight in the park is the incredible Bryce Amphitheater; there are four primary viewpoints, but visitors can also walk along the rim and admire the view as they go. If you have a few hours to spare, you can even take a guided horseback tour into the canyon below. Between mid-April and mid-October, visitors are encouraged to ride the park's complimentary shuttle, which travels between the most popular viewpoints, Visitor Centers, and trailheads.
3.Canyonlands National Park
© TS Schofield/stock.adobe.com
Located not far from the town of Moab, Canyonlands National Park is another park that showcases the dramatic, colorful rock formations of Utah. The park is divided into four districts, but the most accessible and family-friendly is the Island in the Sky, which features a scenic drive with dozens of viewpoint pullouts. There are also plenty of hiking trails, some of which lead along the rim and some of which descend down into the canyon. Guided hikes of the park's more remote regions are offered on summer weekends, and rangers often host stargazing programs in the evenings.
35 Webster School Rd, Grantville, PA 17028, Phone: 435-719-2313
4.Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
© Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
With more than 60,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum is one of the best places in Salt Lake City to spend the day with your kids. The exhibits are designed for hands-on play, and kids can splash around on the Water Play table, play with derby style racing cars, and pretend to be paramedics. During the summer, the museum puts on a seasonal outdoor exhibit known as the SkyCycle, which teaches kids about balance and gravity. There are also exciting events all throughout the year, including craft workshops, storytimes, and a special Breakfast with Santa event during the Christmas season.
444 W 100 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84101, Phone: 801-456-5437
5.Fort Douglas Military Museum
© Fort Douglas Military Museum
An excellent place to learn about the Civil War, the Fort Douglas Military Museum is an official U.S. Army Museum located on the grounds of Fort Douglas, which was originally built in 1862. The exhibits showcase clothing made from wartime parachutes, items used by women during the war, and a variety of other war-related artifacts, and the museum hosts family-friendly activity days and cemetery tours several times a year. The museum is open in the afternoons Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is by donation. Guided tours are available if booked at least a week in advance.
32 Potter St, Salt Lake City, UT 84113, Phone: 801-581-1251
6.Great Basin Museum
© Great Basin Museum
The Great Basin Museum was established to educate visitors and locals about the fascinating history of West Millard County. The museum tells the story of local settlers through a series of artifacts, photos, and historic documents, and there's a fascinating exhibit about a Relocation Center that was built in the area during World War II. If you like geology, you'll also be interested in the display of rocks, gems, and fossils that have been found in the area. Hours vary according to the season, but private tours can often be arranged outside of regular opening hours.
45 W Main St, Delta, UT 84624, Phone: 435-864-5013
7.Hardware Ranch Wildlife Area
Found at the top of Blacksmith Fork Canyon, the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Area is a state-owned property that serves as a home for big game animals like moose, deer, and Rocky Mountain elk. The park is open year-round, and it's a wonderful place to take your kids for a walk or to fish for trout in the rivers and streams. During the winter, elk are fed here to stop them from leaving the area in search of food, and visitors can take horse-drawn sleigh rides that should provide plenty of opportunities to see these majestic animals up close.
Blacksmith Fork Canyon Road, Hyrum, UT 84319, Phone: 435-753-6168
8.Heber Valley Railroad
Based out of Heber City, the Heber Valley Railroad is a heritage railroad that offers old-fashioned train rides through the picturesque valley. There are several scenic rides to choose from, ranging from ninety minutes to three hours in length, and some include mock cowboy train robberies. One Monday nights, families can hop aboard a special 90-minute ride along the shore of Deer Creek Reservoir to sing songs, play games, and purchase snacks. During the Christmas season, there's also a wonder-filled North Pole Express ride, which includes caroling, hot chocolate, and an exciting visit from Santa.
450 S 6th W, Heber City, UT 84032, Phone: 435-654-5601
9.High Country Adventure
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Established in 1989, High Country Rafting is an experienced outdoor adventure company that makes some of Utah's most exciting activities accessible to people of all ages. River rafting and tubing trips are their specialty, and they offer trips down both the Provo and Weber rivers. Some tours include a sunset dinner. If you'd like to do more than raft, there are also a number of combo packages to choose from, which offer everything from beginner's fly-fishing lessons to ziplining through the Wasatch Mountain Canyons. Tours are offered between April and November, and reservations can be made online.
3702 E Provo Canyon Rd, Provo, UT 84604, Phone: 801-224-2500
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Owned and operated by Salt Lake City, the Hogle Zoo is one of the best places in Utah to see exotic animals. The 42-acre property is home to more than 800 animals, including polar bears, endangered Asian cats, and white rhinos, but the most exotic experience is the African Savannah, which visitors can traverse in a train while marveling at lions, zebras, and giraffes. Depending on the season, the zoo also has an excellent variety of daily programs for visitors to watch, including elephant encounters, free-flight bird shows, and giraffe feedings. During the summer, there's also a kids' splash zone.
2600 Sunnyside Ave S, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, Phone: 801-584-1700
11.Monte L Bean Life Science Museum
© Monte L Bean Life Science Museum
Situated on the campus of the Brigham Young University, the Monte L Bean Life Science Museum is a fascinating natural history museum with a collection of more than 3 million specimen. Both children and adults will enjoy most of the exhibits, but if you have toddlers, make sure to visit the welcoming kids' play area that introduces children to natural animal homes. Live animal shows are held on Saturday afternoons and every evening during the week, but if you can't make it during one of the regular shows, you can also schedule a private show free of charge.
MLBM, Provo, UT 84602, Phone: 801-422-5050
12.Museum of Natural Curiosity
© Museum of Natural Curiosity
One of the best museums in the Thanksgiving Point complex, the Museum of Natural Curiosity boasts more than 400 interactive adventures designed to encourage kids to stretch their minds and exercise their creativity. Kids can learn about nature in the Discovery Garden, become a train conductor in the town of Kidopolis, or crawl through ancient ruins in the Rainforest exhibit. If your kids are feeling brave, there's also a 40-foot high ropes course with several exciting challenge areas. The museum is open every day but Monday, and an interactive sing-along is held every Tuesday morning.
3605 Garden Dr, Lehi, UT 84043, Phone: 801-768-2300
13.Natural History Museum of Utah
© Natural History Museum of Utah
Housed inside a magnificent building designed to blend seamlessly into the Utah landscape, the Natural History Museum of Utah is dedicated to connecting people with the area's nature, culture, and history. Each of the ten permanent exhibits features interactive, child-friendly elements, and each one covers a different topic, including geology, dinosaurs, and indigenous culture. There are also temporary exhibits covering various aspects of natural history, and in the summer, the museum hosts summer programs for kids between Kindergarten and Grade 6. The museum is open seven days a week, and it's open late on Wednesdays.
301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108, Phone: 801-581-6927
14.Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum
© Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum
If you're looking for something different than your run-of-the-mill zoo, you should think about visiting the Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum, which boasts an incredible collection of stuffed animals from all over the world. The animals are displayed in lifelike replicas of their natural habitats, and you can see giraffes drinking from the water hole in the African savanna, cougars attacking deer in the North American forest, and leopards lounging on rocks while monkeys play beside them. The museum also features a collection of colorful butterflies and insects, an art gallery full of paintings and sculptures, and a theater that plays educational wildlife videos.
1835 S Convention Center Dr, St. George, UT 84790, Phone: 435-656-0033
© The Leonardo
Named after the famous Leonardo da Vinci, the Leonardo is a world-class art museum dedicated to exploring how science, art, and technology intersect and blend together. The exhibits offer all sorts of hands-on activities, and they explore fascinating topics like the history of human flight, the science of the brain and body, and the way our senses take in information about the world. There are also several hands-on spaces where visitors can exercise their creativity, including an art studio, a workshop full of problem-solving puzzles, and a computer lab designed for learning about coding and robotics.
209 E 500 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, Phone: 801-531-9800
16.The Living Planet Aquarium
© The Living Planet Aquarium
Home to more than 4,000 marine animals representing approximately 550 species from all over the globe, the Living Planet Aquarium is a great place to learn about the fascinating world of marine biology. There are four exhibits designed to showcase different habitats from around the world: South America, Antarctica, Asia, and the museum's homeland of Utah. Another highlight is the 40-foot underwater tunnel that leads through the shark exhibit, which allows visitors to get an up-close look at stingrays, turtles, and seven species of shark. On certain days, visitors can also purchase animal encounter tickets to interact with sharks, penguins, and stingrays.
12033 Lone Peak Pkwy, Draper, UT 84020, Phone: 801-355-3474
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17.The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point
© The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point
Dedicated to educating visitors about prehistoric life, the Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point is the perfect family-friendly destination for a day of learning. The galleries display over sixty complete dinosaur skeletons, and visitors can also stop by the paleontology lab to watch experts at work unearthing fossils and dinosaur bones. The museum doesn't disappoint when it comes to hands-on activities either; visitors can dig for fossils, cast fossils in the Junior Paleo Lab, and play with toy dinos. If your child is on the autism spectrum, you can check out a sensory backpack from the front desk to make your visit more enjoyable.
2929 N Thanksgiving Way, Lehi, UT 84043, Phone: 801-768-2300
18.Timpanogos Cave National Monument
© NPS Photo
Nestled in the Wasatch Mountains, the Timpanogos Cave National Monument protects a limestone cave system with three caverns open to the public. Visitors are only permitted to enter the caves as part of a guided tour, which are led by experienced park rangers. You can expect to spend just under an hour in the cave, but the entire experience lasts approximately three hours as you must also hike a 1.5-mile trail to get to the cave and back. Tours are only offered during the summer, with the exact dates depending on the weather, and Junior Ranger programs are held between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
2038 Alpine Loop Rd, American Fork, UT 84003, Phone: 801-756-5239
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Set on eight acres in Salt Lake City's beautiful Liberty Park, the Tracy Aviary is the oldest free-standing aviary in the United States. It's home to hundreds of birds from over 130 different species, and visitors can stroll around the peaceful wooded property while spotting everything from endangered New Zealand keas to colorful Southern ground hornbills. For an additional fee, visitors can also have a one-on-one encounter with a pelican or a raptor, shadow a zookeeper or trainer for the day, or watch as the aviary's macaw Picasso paints a unique masterpiece to bring home.
589 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84105, Phone: 801-596-8500
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20.Treehouse Children’s Museum
© Treehouse Children’s Museum
A fun museum with a focus on reading and storytelling, the Treehouse Children’s Museum is full of hands-on exhibits that encourage kids to "Step into a Story". There are approximately 30,000 square feet of exhibits to explore, and the centerpiece of the museum is a 30-foot handmade tree with a spiral staircase that leads up to the museum's second floor. Many of the exhibits feature dress-up props and costumes for kids to use, and kids can pretend to visit Grandma's house, dress up as princesses and knights, and even put on their own theater presentation.
347 22nd St, Ogden, UT 84401, Phone: 801-394-9663
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21.Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
© Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
The exposed rock around the city of Vernal shows geological evidence of almost the entire Earth's history, and the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum was constructed right at the center of this area to provide a fascinating window into the Earth's past. The Visitor Center boasts real dinosaur bones, fossilized plants, and interactive exhibits about the area's history and geology, and there's a replica dig site where visitors can hunt for fossils. Another big attraction for kids is the outdoor Dinosaur Garden, which features more than a dozen full-size dinosaur replicas surrounded by prehistoric plants.
496 E Main St, Vernal, UT 84078, Phone: 435-789-3799
22.Utah State Railroad Museum
© Utah State Railroad Museum
Housed in the historic Ogden Union Station, the Utah State Railroad Museum serves as a monument to Utah's rich railroad history. There is an excellent collection of locomotives on display, including two of the biggest locomotives ever made, and the collection is enhanced by historic train timetables, conductor logs, and personal letters. Visitors are also welcome to browse the two art galleries in the station, one of which features a rotating selection of local artists. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, and the station's wonderful restaurant serves lunch and dinner on these days as well.
Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave, Ogden, UT 84401, Phone: 801-629-8680
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23.Western Mining and Railroad Museum
© Western Mining and Railroad Museum
Coal mining was one of the most important industries in Utah during the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the Western Mining and Railroad Museum tells the fascinating story of the immigrants who flocked here to work in the underground mines. The museum is located inside the Old Helper Hotel building, which is a piece of historic architecture in its own right, and it also features exhibits about trains both new and old. The museum is open year-round, although hours vary according to the season, and guided tours are available by request. Admission is by donation.
294 S Main St, Helper, UT 84526, Phone: 435-472-3009
Formerly known as the Willow Park Zoo, Zootah is a small, family-friendly zoo. Most of the animals that live at the zoo are birds, but there are also turtles, deer, porcupines, and a few other species. If you'd like to feed the birds, bird food can be purchased from the front desk for a small fee. The zoo is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, and as it sometimes closes due to weather, visitors are advised to call in advance on rainy days. Outside of opening hours, the space can be booked for birthday parties and other special events.
419 W 700 S, Logan, UT 84323, Phone: 435-750-9894
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25.Zion National Park
© Dudarev Mikhail/stock.adobe.com
Zion National Park is the oldest and most-visited national park in the state, and once you've seen it, it's not hard to understand why people flock here year after year. The red sandstone cliffs provide a scenic backdrop in almost every part of the park, but the landscape also boasts dramatic canyons, stunning rivers, and unique rock formations. There are plenty of hiking trails for all ages and abilities, but if you'd like to see as much of the park as possible in a single day, the best thing to do is take a trip along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
25 Fun Things to Do in Utah with Kids of All Ages
- Arches National Park, Photo: Alex/stock.adobe.com
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Photo: lucky-photo/stock.adobe.com
- Canyonlands National Park, Photo: TS Schofield/stock.adobe.com
- Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum, Photo: Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
- Fort Douglas Military Museum, Photo: Fort Douglas Military Museum
- Great Basin Museum, Photo: Great Basin Museum
- Hardware Ranch Wildlife Area, Photo: Jami/stock.adobe.com
- Heber Valley Railroad, Photo: Johnny/stock.adobe.com
- High Country Adventure, Photo: Max Topchii/stock.adobe.com
- Hogle Zoo, Photo: st_matty/stock.adobe.com
- Monte L Bean Life Science Museum, Photo: Monte L Bean Life Science Museum
- Museum of Natural Curiosity, Photo: Museum of Natural Curiosity
- Natural History Museum of Utah, Photo: Natural History Museum of Utah
- Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum, Photo: Rosenbruch Wildlife Museum
- The Leonardo, Photo: The Leonardo
- The Living Planet Aquarium, Photo: The Living Planet Aquarium
- The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point, Photo: The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point
- Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Photo: NPS Photo
- Tracy Aviary, Photo: Graham/stock.adobe.com
- Treehouse Children’s Museum, Photo: Treehouse Children’s Museum
- Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, Photo: Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum
- Utah State Railroad Museum, Photo: Utah State Railroad Museum
- Western Mining and Railroad Museum, Photo: Western Mining and Railroad Museum
- Zootah, Photo: MNStudio/stock.adobe.com
- Zion National Park, Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Jeffrey Banke/stock.adobe.com