More Than the Slopes: A Visitor’s Guide to Salt Lake City in Winter

by | Dec 16, 2023 | Destinations, Family Adventures, Rocky Mountain, USA

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I’ll always remember Utah as the first place that I saw true mountains – nothing like the flat landscape of Ohio where I grew up. I caught my first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks from the airplane window.

Unlike destinations that shut down in the winter season, Salt Lake City is abustle with fun for the whole family. Winter is the best time to visit places like the Ice Castles or hit the slopes, but that isn’t all Salt Lake City offers. 

You won’t be able to take a dip in the Great Salt Lake – but there are plenty of other activities! Dive in to plan an adventure-packed trip for the whole family! 

 

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Experience Everything Snow-Related Utah Has to Offer

You may have heard that Utah has “the greatest snow on earth” because its white, powdery snowfalls are perfect for everything snow-related. Make snow angels, have a snowball fight, go snow tubing or cross-country skiing at one of Utah’s many ski resorts, like Deer Valley Resort or Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, just south of Midway and a 45-minute drive from Salt Lake City. 

Olympic Park also has numerous ski slopes. This home to the 2002 Winter Olympics is the best place to hit the slopes, Utah-style. Visitors can also check out the nearby museum dedicated to the Olympic Winter Games or go ice skating at the Utah Olympic Oval

 

Child snow tubing - Salt Lake City in winter

Salt Lake City is a slippery slope to unforgettable memories this winter!
Photo by Kostiantyn Li on Unsplash

 

Take In The City’s Culture At Gallivan Center

Visitors can find the Gallivan Center in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. From a public ice skating rink to plenty of outdoor activities, there is much to keep guests entertained. The Gallivan Center puts on fun events for a taste of Salt Lake City culture, including art exhibits, free concerts, and Food Truck Thursdays! 

 

two kids ice skating with mom - Salt Lake City in winter

Make some memories ice skating (or trying to) at the Gallivan Center.
Photo by Maxim Shklyaev on Unsplash

 

Visit All The Animals At The 42-acre Hogle Zoo

Families might think animals retire to their caves for the winter months once cooler temps set in. However, certain animals (like the big cats and wolves) are more active in the cold. Plus, one of the best things about winter visits is that guests miss out on the big crowds at this popular attraction. 

As a zoo that’s open year-round, many of the animals that are sensitive to the cold are moved to indoor exhibits where you can still visit them. The exceptions, according to Hogle Zoo’s website, are the giraffes and rhinos. Many exhibits are also closed during the winter, except the seal and sea lion show – which we highly recommend!

 

Two wolves - Salt Lake City in winter

The giraffes might be hiding, but animals like wolves and big cats are very active in the cooler temps!
Photo by MARIOLA GROBELSKA on Unsplash

 

Take a Drive to See the Ice Castles

The Ice Castles in Midway, Utah, are about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City. This attraction is well worth the drive. 

Visitors will find adventure exploring the crawl tunnels, ice slides, archways, and caverns that make up the spectacular Ice Castle – and don’t miss out on the spectacular ice sculptures! You can even book a sleigh ride for winter magic – and don’t forget the hot chocolate!

 

DON’T MISS! Let it Snow: 7 Top Family Resorts for a Winter to Remember

 

Another can’t-miss part of the Ice Castles is the Homestead Crater. This geothermal hot spring is full of mineral-rich water as warm as a hot tub – even surrounded by the winter wonderland that is Utah in winter. 

 

Ice Castles in Midway - Salt Lake City in winter

Capture once-in-a-lifetime photos (and memories!) at the Ice Castles in Midway.
Photo by Jacob Campbell on Unsplash

 

 

Go On A Snowshoeing Adventure

Snowshoeing is the perfect way to get across the dry-packed snow Utah is known for as visitors explore Utah’s many national parks. Utah has no shortage of national parks, including destinations like Big Cottonwood Canyon, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park. Families could also take a three-day tour of them all! Big Cottonwood Canyon is only a 30-minute drive from the city! 

Keep in mind temperatures are significantly colder when exploring the mountains compared to Salt Lake Valley and downtown Salt Lake City in winter, about 10-15 degrees cooler. When exploring Utah, dress in layers!

 

Family snowshoeing through the mountains - Salt Lake City in winter

Hear the crunch of snow underfoot while you take in the snowy peaks!
Photo by Taylor Brandon on Unsplash

 

Keep in mind temperatures are significantly colder when exploring the mountains compared to Salt Lake Valley and downtown Salt Lake City in winter, about 10-15 degrees cooler.

 

Explore the History of Utah at Temple Square

Temple Square is another can’t-miss attraction for visitors looking to take in the history of Utah. Here, guests will find the global headquarters for the Church of Latter-Day Saints. In addition to spectacular architecture and stained glass at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, eat delicious food at one of the many restaurants in Temple Square, learn at the Church History Museum, or see a free movie at the Legacy Theatre

 

Temple Square Mormon church in Utah - Salt Lake City in winter

The tall towers of Temple Square really stand out from its surroundings!
Photo by Michael Hart on Unsplash

 

DON’T MISS! Things to do in Moab: Utah with Kids in Spring

 

Visit the Natural History Museum of Utah

While Temple Square focuses on Mormon history, the Natural History Museum of Utah has a variety of exhibits. Guests can learn about archaeology, paleontology, biology, and so much more. The museum has craft workshops and special exhibits that change through the year to keep things exciting. Plus, this fun and educational stop is nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains, which look beautiful during the winter season!

 

exhibit at a museum - Salt Lake City in winter

You never know what curiosities you’ll find at Utah’s Natural History Museum!
Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

 

When You Go

 

 

Getting There from Los Angeles

Travelers can fly directly into Salt Lake City International Airport from LAX. Many airlines offer direct flights that take around 2 hours without layovers, including United, American, JetBlue, Spirit, and Southwest.

An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!

If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.

For families traveling from Los Angeles by car, the trip is a little under 10 hours. When using I-15N, this road trip across the western United States takes you through Las Vegas. Vegas is a fun stop for a night or two for travelers without kids. 

 

To get discounts on tours in the area, we recommend Get Your Guide or Viator (which offers 51% off last-minute tours!).

 

Where to Stay in Salt Lake City

For our family, the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel was the perfect place. This budget option checks all the boxes for our family, including a free breakfast buffet and an indoor pool and hot tub. It’s also close to the airport for families flying in!

With stunning views from the skyrise terrace and a roof-top pool to soak away the day’s adventures, your family will love their stay at the moderately priced Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City. Recently built, this Hyatt offers all of the modern amenities in a pristine setting close to everything downtown. Next door to the convention center and walking distance to ice skating and museums.

Finally, for guests looking for a luxury experience, consider staying at one of Salt Lake City’s many ski resorts. The Snow Pine Lodge is full of amenities, including a day spa. While it’s a little outside of the Salt Lake City area, it’s ideal for visitors interested in Utah’s slopes! 

 

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Samantha Davis is a mom to two rambunctious boys, two pitties, a cat, and a bearded dragon. When she isn’t writing and juggling her crazy life, Samantha loves traveling with her sons, husband, and sometimes the dogs, too!