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Best free things to do in Utah

By Robert J. DeBry | Posted - Mar 26th, 2019 @ 8:00am



It's no surprise that Utah tops the nation in household size with 3.19 persons compared to a national average of 2.65, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah. But as a recent Deseret News article notes, Utah (and Utah County specifically) still has many families with six or more children.

As parents and grandparents of those large families can attest, entertaining a big family gets expensive. And with the last day of winter out of the way, and warmer weather on the doorstep, it's nice to get the children out of the house to do something fun.

Fortunately, Utah has an abundance of free activities available. That's great news for parents used to handing out $100 bills every time they want to do something together as a family.

Here are some of the best free things to do in Utah:

Parks

Utah offers numerous amazing parks that can provide many hours of free fun and entertainment. Here are some worth noting.

Liberty Park — Located at 1400 South 700 East in Salt Lake City, this is probably the best-known park in Utah. At 80 acres, it features playgrounds, a pond, various sports courts, a water feature, and Tracy Aviary, which charges an admission fee.

All Together Playground Part of Orem's City Center Park, this park has two ziplines and a vast array of playground features. UtahsAdventureFamily.com lists it as one of their favorites.

Wardle Fields Regional Park 14148 South 2700 West in Bluffdale, this park's highlight is an amazing splash pad with a man-made waterfall and a river for wading. There are also two ziplines, impressive climbing/bouldering walls and a 25-foot watchtower in the playground area.

Neptune Park — The centerpiece of this park at 452 West 400 North in Saratoga Springs is a giant pyramid/spiderweb feature for kids to climb. There are also plenty of other playground features to entertain children of varying ages and abilities.

Thunder Junction This St. George park has everything from dinosaurs kids can climb on, to a volcano and a train. There are also ziplines, climbing walls and a red rock splash pad with waterfalls. Located at 1851 South Dixie Drive, the park is accessible to wheelchairs.

Hiking

When living in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with some of the most diverse terrain, one is privy to some incredible hikes.

While Utah is home to five national parks, these can often be crowded and expensive.

One need not go far to find beautiful sites for free. Trip Advisor suggests several highly rated hikes as free alternatives to expensive national parks. Whether it be going up Big or Little Cottonwood Canyons, Corona Arch in central Utah, or Provo Canyon in Utah County, there are hundreds of hikes available for free, all with Utah’s splendor on full display.

Cove Fort

If you’re in the mood for a short road trip that will land you in between Fillmore and Beaver, Cove Fort is a fascinating piece of history. Operating as a way station and boarding house for travelers until the railroad came in 1882, Cove Fort was frequently used by as many as 75 people at a time looking for a place to rest and recuperate along their journey.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides visitors with an immersive restoration of what life on the frontier was like. Restored to its 1870s appearance, with original lava rock and limestone construction intact, visitors can explore the fort along with a reconstructed barn, corral, ice house, blacksmith shop, and bunkhouse to see what life was like for those early travelers that helped shape the west into what it is today.

Hill Aerospace Museum

A short drive north brings an incredible display of military history and power, all contained within the 30 acres of the Hill Aerospace Museum.

With more than 265,000 visitors in 2018, Hill Aerospace Museum is a popular Utah attraction, especially with free admission. Nearly 100 aircraft dot the landscape and the galleries, making this an experience adults and children will love. Additionally, there are thousands of historical aviation artifacts showcasing Utah, Hill Air Force base, and the United States Air Force.

Temple Square

For those who haven’t toured Temple Square recently, it’s time to pay a visit to any and all of the 13 different free attractions that bring more than 3 million people each year.

Replete with historical buildings, a well of Utah history, informative and interesting tours, frequent musical performances, incredible arrays of spring flowers, fountains, and other beautiful surroundings, Temple Square is an experience that both members and non-members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can appreciate and learn from.

Ghost towns

As the weather gets warmer, it's fun to explore some of Utah's forgotten and abandoned towns. Many of Utah’s ghost towns began as booming and even well-populated mining towns, often with short-lived success. Today, many of these towns remain abandoned. Despite suffering some vandalism over the years, it is still fascinating to get a peek at what once were bustling towns, rife with opportunity.

GhostTowns.com cites dozens of ghost towns scattered throughout Utah. Some of the most popular, according to Utah.com, are Kelton, Park Valley, Ophir, Silver City, Mammoth, Kimberley, Bullion City, Gold Hill, Coal City, Grafton, Silver Reef and Paria.

Scenic byways and drives

One of the best ways to see Utah and experience the beauty of spring is to go for a drive and explore. With scenic byways to spare, chances are you are only a short drive away from a road less traveled and vistas to be discovered.

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Trip Advisor recommends the following scenic byways as some of the best free drives in Utah: Scenic Byway Route 12, Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, Scenic Byway of Highway 128, the drive to Muley Point Overlook, Moki Dugway, Valley of the Gods, and Guardsman Pass Scenic Byway.

While some of these drives are seasonally closed and can require four-wheel drive, some are easily driven in any vehicle.

Museums

If you’re looking for something free and educational check out the area museums. With more than a dozen free museums along the Wasatch Front, the learning experiences are plentiful.

Trip Savvy recommends starting downtown by visiting the Clarke Planetarium, Fort Douglas Military Museum, Church History Museum, Natural History Museum of Utah, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Pioneer Memorial Museum, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Wheeler Historic Farm, Chase Museum of Folk Arts, and the Gilgal Sculpture Garden.

In Utah County check out the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, the Museum of Paleontology at BYU, the Museum of People and Cultures or the BYU Museum of Art.

These museums and exhibits are free to the public but be aware that many have additional attractions or experiences that require a fee or small cost.

The best thing about this list of free activities is that it's incomplete. Whether your family wants to mountain bike, to hike, to see dinosaur tracks or to dig geodes in the West Desert, Utah has an extensive list of activities for individuals or families and you won't even need your wallet!

Robert J. DeBry

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