While some snow birds choose to flock to warmer destinations once the temperatures dip below 50 degrees, other people choose instead to embrace the weather, setting their sights on a classic winter destination. And what’s more classic winter than Salt Lake City? Surrounded by pristine mountains perfect for skiing or snowboarding, it’s no wonder the city is on the exclusive list of past winter Olympic hosts. But even if strapping on some skis and sliding down a hill is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of spots in Salt Lake that cater to every sort of traveler—from the kid-friendly to those looking to unwind.
Traveling to Salt Lake with kids and not planning to hit up some snowy activities? No fret, there are plenty of destinations in and around the city to amuse your little ones—and keep them much warmer than a romp in the snow ever would.
The first stop should be the Natural History Museum of Utah, where you can sneak in a little education on vacation. Permanent exhibitions at the museum include one on the Great Salt Lake, a spectacular display of gems and minerals and an educational look at the state’s First Peoples. Young archaeologists will enjoy the display of massive dinosaur bones and little ones can run around the Our Backyard area. Th rough January 1, the Natural History Museum will also host a special exhibition on Vikings that contains more than 400 artifacts from the ancient seafarers.
To burn off some excess energy, Kangaroo Zoo has three locations in the greater Salt Lake City area. Each one contains multiple blowup bounce houses, slides and plenty of room to run and play. Kids (and adults) can also enter the “Blast Zone” for an additional cost, where they use a special cannon to launch soft balls at friends and foes.
The last stop for any family should be the Museum of Natural Curiosity, Salt Lake’s hands-on children’s museum. Located south of Salt Lake in the Th anksgiving Point complex, the building boasts more than 400 different interactive experiences that will satisfy any age, from a magic shop to a 40-foot high ropes course. The museum also hosts weekly events that engage children in reading, music and design.
After a day exploring, head to one of the many kid-friendly restaurants in Salt Lake City. Family-run Shivers offers burgers, fries and sandwiches, as well as their famous milkshakes. Kids can eat in the converted train car in the restaurant, aptly named the “Zooland Express.”
For the Spa Lover
If the cold weather of winter is making you retreat into some more cozy corners, Salt Lake City and the surrounding resort towns have plenty of luxurious spas to escape to.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, The Grand Spa in the opulent The Grand America Hotel has luxurious amenities in the only AAA Five Diamond hotel in the city. Taking up four stories of the European-style hotel, the Grand Spa offers a salon, indoor and outdoor pool, and fitness center to help you make a day of pampering. Every service, from a custom infusion massage to an anti-aging facial, includes access to the Grand Spa lounge, equipped with a sauna and steam rooms. For the truly indulgent, the Grand Spa Suite allows for in-room service and includes a $125 spa credit for each night.
A little further from town is the Spa Montage Deer Valley, an alpine retreat tucked into the mountains close to Park City. Its 35,000-square foot spa includes a mosaic indoor pool, steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools and a wellness center with group fitness classes. Spa services include massages, reflexology and thalassotherapy, among many others, with special couple rooms available.
After a day of pampering, treat your taste buds to a high-class meal at Cucina Toscana in downtown Salt Lake City. Listed as one of the top restaurants in town by Zagat, the bistro offers Italian fair including homemade potato gnocchi, rosemary and fennel duck breast and pork tenderloin medallions.
For the Snow Bunny
Utah is known as one of America’s premiere skiing destinations, and for good reason. Located just a short drive from Salt Lake City, many resorts see fresh powder throughout the winter ski season. They also provide plenty of restaurants and spas for those not in the mood to ski.
Voted one of the “best overall terrain” ski resorts in Utah by the Powderhounds website, Snowbasin Resort is a quick drive north of the city. With 3,000 skiable acres and an advanced lift system, the ski area offers trails for all levels, from green to double black diamond. It averages 300 inches of snowfall a year and has multiple terrain parks scattered throughout its lands. Guests can even ski in the same paths of Olympic greats, as the resort hosted both the Downhill and Super G events for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
South of Salt Lake is Snowbird Ski Area, which Powderhounds has recognized for its expert and extreme terrain. To reach the tip of the mountain, guests take the Aerial Tram, a 1.6- mile cable ride that ascends almost 3,000 feet in 10 minutes. From there a variety of double black diamond, black diamond and blue trails snake their way down the mountain. If sitting in a warm lodge is more your style, guests can stay on top at The Summit, a restaurant with views of the Salt Lake Valley. A lift pass to Snowbird also gives you access to Alta Ski Area, which joins the area at Sugarloaf Pass.
Once you’re done burning off all those calories, it’s time to treat yourself to some carbs and beer. The Red Iguana, which boasts “Killer Mexican Food” right on its sign, is well worth the long wait that usually occurs at night. With a huge menu that ranges from Tex-Mex to traditional Mexican food, The Red Iguana is bound to satisfy any craving for tacos, burritos, fajitas or more. The restaurant is known for its mole sauces, with six different varieties on the menu. Handcrafted margaritas and craft beer round out the après ski experience.
So ski, museum hop or relax in your winter retreat of Salt Lake City. Whatever your vacationing needs, the city and its beautiful surrounding mountains has it in troves.