Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, and it manages to balance mountain town friendliness with big city amenities. Whether you’re a budget-conscious tourist or a local seeker of thrifty fun, there are plenty of free things to do in Salt Lake City.
And you can see many of the sights without renting a car, paying to park, or taking cabs or rideshare services. Use TRAX, the city’s light rail, to access downtown Salt Lake attractions for free thanks to the downtown SLC free fare zone, or pay a small fare to reach further off destinations.
When in Salt Lake City, here are some free activities you won’t want to miss.
1. Visit Temple Square
Temple Square is Utah’s most popular attraction and is the site of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Temple and other LDS Church landmarks. The Temple took 40 years to complete and is the center point of Salt Lake City’s gridded street system.
It’s one of the best free things to do in Salt Lake City, and free 45-minute tours of the grounds are offered year-round, but only members are allowed inside the Temple. Come in spring to see blossoming tulips in brilliant colors, or bundle up for the holiday season’s festive light displays. Tours are offered in 20 languages and showcase the gardens, reflecting pool, Temple, and Tabernacle.
2. Go for a Hike
Salt Lake is known for its outdoor recreation, and while some outdoor hobbies like skiing or biking can be expensive, hiking is a completely free way to adventure in the mountains. For beginners or those with small children, take the steep, short hike up Ensign Peak. This 1-mile roundtrip trek showcases views of the Salt Lake Valley and ends at an 18-foot monument to the pioneers. Try the tougher 2.5-mile roundtrip Living Room Trail for views of the University of Utah campus and the valley from a set of rocks fashioned into living room furniture.
3. Visit a Military Museum
two free military museums, Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill Air Force Base and Fort Douglas Military Museum at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, showcase Utah’s rich military history. At Hill Aerospace Museum, more than 90 military aircraft, missiles, and uniforms are displayed. The aircraft housed here ranges from massive transportation planes to tiny fighters and bombers. The planes are spread indoors and outdoors throughout the museum. Open 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. six days a week; closed Sundays. Admission is always free.
Fort Douglas Military Museum is built inside former military barracks and showcases artillery, cannons, helicopters, and armored vehicles outside. The museum displays military uniforms, weapons, and learn about Utah’s participation in wars and conflicts. Open Tuesday – Saturday from noon – 5:00 p.m. Admission is always free.
4. Explore a Garden
Salt Lake’s gardens are full of beautiful plants and sculptures, and two are completely free to visit. Head to the International Peace Garden along the banks of the Jordan River to see tributes to Utah’s diverse residents and cultures built by 28 nation groups. The plots highlight cultural symbols, plants, and architecture in nations like France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, and Denmark.
Salt Lake City’s Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a literal secret garden. It’s tough to find, free to visit, and filled with 12 bizarre sculptures depicting scenes from Mormon history along with stones engraved with quotes and scriptural verses.
5. Tour the Utah State Capitol
The Utah State Capitol is the house of Utah’s government today and built of beautiful local granite and Georgian marble. Open daily for free self-guided tours, you can wander the halls past statues of famous Utah figures, beautiful artwork, and paintings. Then gaze up into the Rotunda dome to see paintings that show 19th century Utah scenes. Step outside to take in views of the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding mountains.
6. Learn about your past at the FamilySearch Center
Access your family history for free at the FamilySearch Center in the downtown Joseph Smith Memorial Building where you can get assistance with searching your records at no cost. Once you’ve mastered your past, wander through the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. This 100+-year-old building originally served as the opulent Hotel Utah. And today it’s still adorned with beautiful chandeliers, architecture, and wooden railings that date back to its heyday.
7. Go to Market
Salt Lake’s Downtown Farmer’s Market is a lively hub of food, art, and culture. Wander and sample artisan cheese, fresh local apples and raspberries, and indulgent handcrafted chocolate while you people watch and listen to live music. Held at Pioneer Park on Saturdays from June to October in downtown SLC. A winter market is held indoors at Rio Grande Depot, across the street from Pioneer Park.
8. Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir
The renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir has performed around the world, for multiple Presidents, and raked in plenty of accolades. You can hear them perform for free every Sunday in the Tabernacle! On Sundays, the Choir performs spiritual, patriotic, and popular songs paired with prose for their radio program, Music & the Spoken Word at 9:30 a.m., and you can catch the whole thing in person. Limited to ages 8 and up.
9. Take a Yoga Class
Lululemon offers free yoga every Saturday at their City Creek Center location from 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Just bring your mat and park for free for two hours in the center’s parking garage. After, linger in this indoor-outdoor shopping space to sit by the creek, enjoy the free fountain show, or enjoy the Christmas candy windows. (During the holiday season.)