It’s summer, the kids are out of school, and we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Luckily, we live in a pretty amazing place, and there are still plenty of free things we can get out and do in our city. These things are currently open to the public, too.
Sugar House Park
Sugar House Park is a public, 110-acre park that weaves throughout the gorgeous Sugar House neighborhood. It’s located on the grounds of what was formerly the Sugar House Prison.
Thankfully, it’s a spot for happier times now, with two children’s playgrounds, more than three miles of walking/cycling/jogging trails, and a scenic pond and fountains. The park also has basketball courts, baseball fields, and softball fields, along with picnic sites and small pavilions.
Salt Lake’s Liberty Park is one of Utah’s oldest public parks (established in 1882), and it winds through a hundred acres of the southeastern part of the city. It’s a gorgeous spot to relax any time of the day.
The park has several historic landmarks and is home to the Chase Museum of Utah Folk Arts and the Tracy Aviary. There are also tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts, as well as a walking and cycling path, picnic areas, and courts for horseshoes and bocce ball. The Chase Home Museum of Folk Arts is also on the grounds of the park (though it is currently closed due to the pandemic).
Self-Guided Tour of the City
Preservation Utah offers self-guided tours of our city. It’s a lot of fun to intentionally seek out some of our beautiful city’s landmarks, architecture, and rich history on a walk or in your car.
Just download the Utah Heritage Walks app and pick a tour route. The routes focus on locations and topics—I highly recommend the Marmalade neighborhood tour or the Murray’s Center District tour! You can do a historic government buildings tour or one of several University of Utah tours (amongst many others).
International Peace Garden
The International Peace Garden was intended to be place where people could celebrate friendship and share interests. It was dedicated back in 1952. The botanical garden is currently operated by the Past President’s Council of the Salt Lake Council of Women in partnership with the Parks department.
The garden is 11 acres along the banks of the Jordan River. It symbolizes pace, love, and democracy. Its 26 international gardens showcase diverse cultural and ethnic populations throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. It’s the perfect place for a peaceful, thought-provoking stroll. It’s also home to a variety of international events throughout the summer (though probably not this summer).
Beach at Blackridge Reservoir
It’s kind of surprising that we have some great beaches in the middle of a desert, but we do! If you haven’t been to the gorgeous Blackridge Reservoir’s sandy beach southwest of the city, it’s time to check it out this summer.
Free facilities include a playground, restrooms, and gazebos with tables for eating. There are also concessions stands. You can break out your paddleboard or floating tube and get some exercise or just do some good old-fashioned swimming.
Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve
The Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve is a unique ecosystem of 4,400 acres of wetlands and uplands habitat that includes marshes, pools, mudflats, sloughs, and ponds. These grounds provide a unique feeding spot for millions of migratory birds every year.
See over 250 different types of birds as they migrate—some of the largest wildlife gatherings every recorded here have been from the preserve’s visitors center, where you can enjoy birdwatching and an incredible view of the Great Salt Lake.
Wheeler Farm is a 75-acre park operated by Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, and it’s a wonderful place to take kids to play and learn about a farm.
The playground fort is a family favorite. The 40 acres of the back part of the farm is a natural landscape retreat that really does make you feel like you’re in the wilderness—it runs along Little Cottonwood Creek. You can also visit the animals at the farm and have a picnic. A farmhouse tour, wagon rides, and cow milking are available for small fees.
There are obviously tons of fantastic hikes right in our backyard, but here are a few of my favorites.
Ensign Peak: Quick uphill hike that has gorgeous, panoramic views of the city.
Temple Quarry Trail: Short hiking trail at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon with gorgeous scenery.
Bell Canyon: Two short, easy routes to Lower Bell Canyon Reservoir near the entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon. More strenuous hikes to the waterfalls and Upper Bell Canyon Reservoir.
Cecret Lake: Trail in the Albion Basin that’s both rewarding and beautiful. Enjoy the basin’s famous wildflowers from mid-July to August.
Donut Falls: Popular trail up Big Cottonwood Canyon, which leads to a waterfall where a creek comes through a donut-shaped hole in the rock. The adventurous can explore the cave behind the waterfall.
I hope this gives you some ideas for things you can get out and do for free this summer, with or without your kids. If you have any favorite free things to do in the Salt Lake City area, leave me a comment below!