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Unaffordable Utah: Budget-friendly family summer fun

Estimated read time: 20-21 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — After two summers of pandemic restrictions, families wanting to travel this summer will face new obstacles: inflation, high gas prices and expensive plane tickets.

"I think you need to expect that costs are going to be higher, that demand is going to be higher, that places are going to fill up," said Allison Laypath, travel writer and owner of Tips for Family Trips.

The most recent Consumer Price Index showed that airline fares rose sharply in April. The 18.6% increase was the largest one-month increase since the index started tracking airfares in 1963.

"I think you need to expect flight delays," Laypath said.

Utah families are already battling 40-year-high inflation that's putting a big question mark over out-of-state travel this summer.

"I think that's hard when so many of us are so excited to travel," Laypath said.

Laypath said the bad economic news shouldn't keep families from making memories this summer. "Just create those opportunities for your family to be together and go forward with a positive attitude," she advised.

Utahns are lucky to live in a state where budget-friendly getaways and day trips are all around, Laypath said.

"Two of the biggest expenses when a family travels are lodging and transportation," she said. "So the closer you stay to home, the lower those costs are going to be."

Anna Loughridge, with the Utah Office of Tourism, said the options are limitless for locals and that families can cut down on fuel costs by visiting attractions that are huddled together.

"The best way to minimize the pain at the pump is to plan ahead," she said.

For popular spots, Loughridge recommends visiting in the middle of the week and early in the morning.

"A lot of our state parks offer incredible programming that is free and accessible once you're within in the park, from dark skies, scorpion hunts," she said.

Families can opt to skip the hotel and use their home as basecamp for a series of day trips.

Consider using passes to save money. The Salt Lake Connect Attractions Pass includes access to 16 attractions at 13 destinations, including Thanksgiving Point, Hogle Zoo, Tracy Aviary, Clark Planetarium and more.

"When my family did it, we just did one or two activities a month and it lasted us the entire year," Laypath said.

The pass is available in one-, two-, three-day or year-round passes.

There's also the Get Out Pass for Utah. It lasts a year and includes dozens of venues, like Lagoon, Splash Summit, SeaQuest, Provo Beach, bounce houses, arcades and sport activities.

"If you buy the pass, instead of buying all those admissions individually, it can save you hundreds of dollars," Laypath said.

The Get Out Pass is currently $70 off because of a Memorial Day sale. There is a less expensive option without admission to Lagoon.

If your family has a favorite go-to attraction, Laypath suggests investing in an annual pass or membership.

"If you want to go at least three times this summer or this year, that pass is going to pay for itself," she said.

Laypath and Loughridge also recommend rediscovering free activities this summer.

"Rediscover the trail that you haven't been on in 10 years or try something new," Loughridge said.

Options include splash pads, city parks, nature hikes, museums, concerts and movies in the park, and educational spots like Wheeler Farm and the State Capitol.

Families with a fourth grader can get into national parks for free with the Every Kid Outdoors Pass. It's easy to print the pass online.

Every Kid Outdoors pass allows fourth graders and their families free admission to National Parks.
Every Kid Outdoors pass allows fourth graders and their families free admission to National Parks. (Photo: Screenshot)

No matter how families choose to have fun, Laypath cautions to not let eating out ruin the travel budget.

"It's easy to drop $80 to $100 on a single meal," she said.

Instead, have a picnic in the park. Even if you're traveling to a hotel, book a room with a kitchenette and bring as much food as you can from home.

"You're going to eat whether you're at home or whether you're on the road, and so if you plan ahead, you can completely control that expense," Laypath said, adding that it doesn't matter if families spend a little or a lot this summer, it's the togetherness that counts.

"Start with a positive attitude yourself and treat it like it's something special," she said.

To help your family plan some summer fun, KSL-TV compiled a list of possible activities:

Northern Utah

Clark Planetarium: Take a journey to space for free, seven days a week. Exhibits are free. Tickets for feature films cost $7 to $9.

Public Star Party: Gaze at distant stars and galaxies with the Salt Lake Astronomical Society, through the telescopes of the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex. Free admission.

Red Butte Garden: One of the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West. Adults, $14; Kids age 3-17, $7. Admission is free for SNAP recipients and up to four guests, with an EBT or WIC card. Free admission on Pioneer Day and Labor Day.

Weber County R.A.M.P.: Summer Saturdays offer free entry into a huge variety of recreational and cultural facilities.

Real Monarchs: How about catching a professional soccer game at the Rio Tinto Stadium? Cheer on Real Salt Lake's farm team, the Real Monarchs. Adults and kids, $5 tickets.

Orem Concerts in the Park: The Orem Arts Council hosts summer concerts featuring a variety of bands – rock, soul, pop, country, folk – on Monday nights through July and August at 7 p.m. Free admission.

Children's Entrepreneur Market: Twenty-five farmers' markets up and down the Wasatch Front with booths run entirely by kids ages 5 through 16. Free admission, shopping encouraged.

Park Silly Sunday Market: Every Sunday from June 5 to Sept. 25 (except Aug. 7, 14, and 21), local vendors, artists and entertainment swarm Park City's Main Street for a street festival and farmers market. Free admission.

Provo Summer Concerts in the Park: The Utah Premiere Brass performs every Sunday at North Park in June. They're considered Utah's only British-style brass band, playing a variety of music. Free admission.

Mountain Town Music Concert Series: Countless free concerts by talented artists and all types of music at several venues in and around Park City. Free admission.

Dejoria Center Summer Concert Series: Located at the High Star Ranch in Kamas, the Dejoria Center hosts a free summer concert every Thursday night at 6:30 in June and July.

Gallivan Center Big Band Dance Night: Live jazz music on Tuesday evenings with big band and swing sound, dance lessons and more. Free admission.

Wasatch Wildflower Festival: A four-day event hosted at the four Cottonwood Canyons ski areas to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wildflowers in the Wasatch Mountains. Free admission, but registration is required.

Gardner Village Historic Scavenger Hunt: Get a group together and find 10 items that'll help you discover Gardner Village's pioneer history. Find them all and get a piece of saltwater taffy from the Chocolate Covered Wagon — where the taffy-puller has been pulling taffy for nearly 150 years. Free admission.

South Weber Model Railroad Club: We're not talking model trains for the basement — these model trains are built to 1/8th scale and can hold up to 900 pounds. Every third Saturday of each month, club members invite the public to ride their trains. Free admission.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts: Explore UMFA's exhibits for free on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month. Also on third Saturdays, families are invited to create their own art. And check out a free family backpack for an even more hands-on experience. Free admission.

Tracy Aviary: Considered America's oldest aviary, Tracy Aviary boasts extensive exhibits featuring more than 130 different species of birds. Admission drops down to $5 after 5pm on Monday evenings from June to August. Adults, $14; kids ages 3-12, $8.95. Admission is free for SNAP recipients with an EBT card for up to four guests.

Natural History Museum of Utah: Kids and their families can explore over 5,000 artifacts emphasizing on Utah and Intermountain West. Adults, $19.95; young adults ages 13-24, $17.95; and kids ages 3-12, $14.95. Free admission for all active military ID holders for up to five guests from May 21 through Labor Day. SNAP recipients get $2 admission, with an EBT or WIC card for up to six guests.

Redwood Drive-in Theatre: Boasting four screens, digital projectors and crisp stereo sound through its powerful FM system, the Redwood Drive-In offers affordable blockbuster entertainment. Adults, $10; kids ages 5-9, $1.

Hill Aerospace Museum: Extensive displays of more than 70 historic aircraft – everything from a SR-71 Blackbird to the B-17 Flying fortress – and thousand of artifacts from the history of aviation. Free admission. Donations appreciated.

George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park: Scores of life-sized dinosaur sculptures fill this interactive park, and exhibits include everything from 500-million-year-old stromatolites to a 9-thousand-year-old wooly mammoth skeleton and everything in-between, including many fossils unearthed in Utah. Adults $7; students ages 13-17, $6; kids ages 2-12, $5.

Zootah at Willow Park: Zootah is a relatively small zoo but big on experience. It even includes its own petting zoo open from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Buy a bag of duck food for $1.25, so kids (and you) can feed the ducks.Adults $7; kids ages 2-11, $5.

Logan Aquatic Center: Over 800,000 gallons of water in three separate pools and boasts the Speed Slide and the Circular Slide. Summer seasons starts the first Saturday in June, and then open seven days a week through Labor Day. Adults and kids ages 4-17, $7; $3.25 for active military ID holders.

Utah Fire Museum: An adventure for families who love to see all things firefighters. Dozens of fire trucks and equipment dating back to as early as the 1890s. Free admission. Donations appreciated.

Deseret Peak Aquatic Center: It claims to have the largest pool in Utah – 750,000 gallons of water to be explored. Water features, diving boards, water slides, wading area and a deep end that sinks to 12 feet below the surface. Adults and kids, $4.

Wheeler Farm: A working 19th century farm where the public can check out the farm animals, playground, and hiking trails. Free admission. Historic farmhouse tours – Adults $4; kids ages 3-12, $2. Wagon rides – $3.

Bean Life Science Museum: Filled with collection of over 2.8 million specimens, live animal shows, and hands-on activities for kids. Free admission.

Butterfly Biosphere: Billed as Utah's only butterfly conservatory and insectarium, the biosphere holds over a thousand live butterflies and hundreds of live insects from around the world. Adults, $24; youth ages 13-24, $19; kids ages 3-12, $17; $3 admission for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card up to six guests. Book in advance.

Museum of Natural Curiosity: More than 400 hands-on exhibits plus hidden treasures and secret passageways for curious minds. Adults, $24; youth ages 13-24, $19; kids ages 3-12, $17; $3 admission for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card up to six guests. Book in advance.

Minnetonka Cave: Technically, not a Utah thing, but very close to Bear Lake. Take a cave tour through a half-mile of stalactites, stalagmites and travertine in nine rooms that at a brisk 40 degrees. Adults, $12; youth ages 5-18, $9; kids 2-5, free; families, $48.

Uintah Basin

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum: Chock full of dinosaurs and fossils for dino lovers, complete with interactive games, puzzles and more. Adults $8; kids ages 6-12, $4.

McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs: Impressive ancient artwork near Vernal covering 200 feet of cliff face dating from 100 to 1200 C.E. $5 donation per car.

Central Utah

Moab's Backyard Theater: Family-friendly comedy, music and magic magically appears Friday and Saturday evenings. 2022 summer schedule is to be determined. Adults, $10; kids ages 4-17, $5.

Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center: Beat the heat in two outdoor pools and an indoor pool with slide and play structures. Adults, $10; kids ages 4-17, $5.

Price City Desert Wave Pool: Cool off and ride the waves in ten minute intervals and master the indoor aqua climbing wall. Adults $12; kids ages 4-11, $3.

Scipio Petting Zoo: Gas up at the Conoco in Scipio and check out the adjacent petting zoo — with some unusual residents — that is officially recognized as a zoo by the USDA. Free admission. Donations accepted.

Southern Utah

Thunder Junction All Abilities Park: An awesome wheelchair accessible play space with an erupting volcano, ziplines, splash pad and a 1/4 C.P. Huntington train on a 2,700-foot track. Free admission.

St. George Children's Museum: Explores twelve exhibit rooms designed for minds both young and old to play and interact. Adults and kids, $5.

St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site: Unearthed in 2000, these very well-preserved footprints left by dinosaurs millions of years ago can be explored by families. It includes an interactive area, a Dino Park and a Walk-through Time exhibit. Adults, $8; kids ages 4-17, $4.

Hurricane Concerts in the Park: Free live music twice a month from May through September at Hurricane City's Pioneer Park.

Free admission. Bring your own chairs/blankets.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival Greenshow: Held on the lawn in front of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, at the Southern Utah University campus, the nightly Greenshow celebrates the Elizabethan era through song and dance. Free admission. Bring your own chairs/blankets.

Lake at the Hills: Hit the beach at Cedar City's man-made Lake at the Hills. It's open for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, swimming, and picnicking on the beach. Free admission.

Brian Head Ski Resort Life Ride: Ride to the top of Brian Head Peak and check out the views stretching across Utah and into Arizona and Nevada. Adults, $15; kids ages 4-12, $10.

Star Gazing at the Ashcroft Observatory: On Monday nights, the public is invited to learn about the star constellations and view distant parts of the galaxy from the Ashcroft Observatory on the SUU campus. Free admission. Subject to weather conditions.

Sand Island Petroglyphs: Explore ancient rock art spanning over a hundred yards and several Native American eras ranging from 800 to 2,500 years ago. Free admission.

Canyon Country Discovery Center: Learners young and not-as-young can explore interactive exhibits related to science, nature and the local geology and culture and includes an observatory for dark sky discoveries. Adults $10; students, $8; kids ages 1-11, $6.

Free Splash Pads

Splash pads are often a source of free entertainment for kids.
Splash pads are often a source of free entertainment for kids. (Photo: KSL-TV)

Box Elder County

John Adams Park

Cache County

Meadow View Park: 333 East 2700 North, North Logan

Alma Leonhardt Park: 310 West 250 North, Providence

Central Park Splash Pad: 100 North 25 West, Smithfield

Millville South Park: 510 East 300 South, Millville

Blacksmith Fork Park: 176 South 1300 East, Hyrum

Salt Hollow Park: 350 West 100 North, Hyrum

Davis County

Creekside Park: 600 East Mill Street, Bountiful

Ellison Park: 700 North 2200 West, Layton

Legacy Park: 1140 West 1100 North, North Salt Lake

Heritage Park: 250 North Fairfield Road, Kaysville

Centennial Park: 1800 South 2000 West, Syracuse

Shuman Park: 200 North Tremont St., Tremonton

Emery County

Huntington City Park: 1-99 E Center St, Huntington

Salt Lake County

New Town Center: 3601 South 2700 West, West Valley City

Wardle Fields Regional Park: 14148 South 2700 West, Bluffdale

Knudsen Park: 6293 Holladay Boulevard E, Holladay

Old Farm Park: 3250 West 13680 South, Riverton

Riverton City Park: 1452 West 12600 South, Riverton

Western Springs Park: 4570 South Goshute Drive, Riverton

Sandy Splash Pad: 1245 East 9400 South, Sandy

Oquirrh Shadows Park and Splash Pad: 4000 West South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan

Ron Wood Regional Park: 6000 West New Bingham Highway, West Jordan

Umbria Estates Park: 12790 Brundisi Way, Herriman

J. Lynn Crane Park: 5373 West Main Street, Herriman

Olympic Legacy Plaza Snowflake Fountain: 10 North Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City

Draper Splash Park: 150 East 13400 South, Draper

Willow Pond Park: 6059 South Murray Parkway Avenue, Murray

Vintage Park: 14180 South Loumis Parkway, Bluffdale

Independence Park: 15245 South Noell Nelson Drive, Bluffdale

Utah County

Palisade Park: 1313 East 800 North, Orem

Wride Memorial Park: 5806 North Pony Express Parkway, Eagle Mountain

Nolen Park: 7862 North Tinamous Road, Eagle Mountain

Shops at Riverwoods Splash Pad: 4801 North University Avenue, Provo

Pioneer Park: 1417 South 350 East, Provo

Adventure Heights: 1321 East Canyon Road, Spanish Fork

Grove Park Splash Pad: 350 North 100 East, Vineyard

Ivory Ridge Splash Pad: 3200 North 560 West, Lehi

Springville Splash Pad: 50 South Main Street, Springville

Town Center Splash Pad: 5400 West Civic Center Drive, Highland

Summit County

The Basin Recreation Fieldhouse: 1388 Center Drive, Park City

Washington County

St. George Town Square Park: 50 South Main Street, St. George

Hidden Valley Park: 3505 South Barcelona Drive, St. George

Thunder Junction All Abilities Park: 1851 South Dixie Drive, St. George

The Fields at Little Valley: 2995 South 2350 East, St. George

Unity Park: 200 West 400 South, Ivins

Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park: 965 South Washington Fields Drive, Washington

Pine View Park: 2050 South Alveo Drive, Washington

Sienna Hills Park: 500 North Redstone Road, Washington

Green Spring Park: 1760 North Vista Park Way, Washington

Archie H. Gubler Park: 2375 Rachel Drive, Santa Clara

Community Center and Splash Pad: 63 South 100 West, Hurricane

Weber County

Nature Park: 575 South 1175 East, Ogden

Burch Creek Park: 4300 Madison Avenue, South Ogden

George E. Whalen Park: 4200 South 2175 West

Community Movies / Movies in the Park

These are free or low-cost, outdoor showings under the stars throughout Utah. Grab your blankets, chairs and anything that makes movie watching more comfortable.

Cache County

Hyde Park Hometown Days: It's all about Cars on Friday, July 15th with a car show, a kids cardboard car show and the movie, "Cars."

Davis County

Free Film Series: Friday night films at Layton's Kenley Amphitheater from June 3 through August 26.

Kaysville Movies in the Park: Kaysville will host three family friendly movies this summer at Heritage Park and Barnes Park.

Centerville Movies in the Park: From June through August at Smith Park, 2022 season to be determined.

Salt Lake County

Movies on the Plaza at The Gateway: Wednesday nights from July 7 through August 11.

Cottonwood Heights Movies at the Park: Friday nights from June 24 into August.

Draper Days Movie Night: Watch "Encanto" on a giant outdoor screen at the Draper Amphitheater, July 14.

Herriman Movies in the Park: The dates of the 2022 Summer Series to be determined.

Taylorsville Dayzz Movie Night: "Ghostbusters: Afterlife", 9:30 at Valley Regional Park

Friday Night Flicks at Kearns Oquirrh Park: Fridays from June 4 through August 13 at Chomper's Cove or the Park's Pavilion.

Midvale Venture Out! Movie Nights: Every Friday night in July, spread out amongst five different parks.

Magna Music and Movies in the Park: A concert and a movie at Magna's Pleasant Green Park, most Friday nights from mid-June, into August. 2022 season to be determined.

Sundance Institute Presents: The Sundance Institute presents an array of films from the 2022 Sundance Festival on July 14 and July 21 at Red Butte Garden.

Sandy Movies in the Park: Friday night family film fun at various Sandy City venues from June 10 through July 29.

Murray Movies in the Park: Movies on Fridays from June 3 through Aug. 5. You'll need to pre-register.

South Jordan Movies in the Moonlight: At various parks. 2022 Summer season to be determined.

Sanpete County

Manti Movies in the Park: Tons of pre-movie activities to enjoy at Manti City Park before the movies get rolling from June 17 through August 5.

Summit County

Basin Recreation Movies in the Park: Three family-friendly movies throughout the summer at Park City parks.

Coalville Kid's Summer Cinema: Bring your own drinks, they'll supply the popcorn for Friday afternoon screenings throughout the summer.

Uintah County

Vernal Free Family Movie Friday: 2022's lineup includes four films at the Uintah Community Center grounds from June into August.

Utah County

Provo Movies in the Park: Provo is switching it up this summer, going from showing movies in the park to a drive-in screenings.

SCERA Movies Under the Stars: Movies at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in Orem with on a big screen with big sound. Adults $4; kids ages 3-11, $3.

Lehi Outdoor Movie: Catch the Goofy Movie at Lehi's Vets Park on June 22.

Lindon Movies in the Park: Lindon hosts four free films from June through September at City Center Park and Pioneer Park.

Santaquin Movies in the Park: 2022 season to be determined.

Springville Movies in the Park: Free family movies at Spring Acres Arts Park's outdoor amphitheater.

Weber County

Ogden Monday Night Movies: From June into August, 2022 season to be determined.

RAMP Summer Movie Saturdays: Cool off by catching a couple of movies playing inside Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden on June 25 and July 9.

Weber Library Cinema Saturdays: Free films every Saturday at the Weber Library's branches.

Washington County

St. George Sunset on the Square: Friday night flicks every 2nd and 4th Friday of each month this summer at St. George's Town Square.

Santa Clara Family Camping in the City: Spend the night of August 5, camping in Santa Clara's Central Park. Among many other activities, campers will get to watch the Pixar film, "Up."

Summer Movie Ticket Deals

Kid-approved movies up on the big screen with tickets at a big discount.

Cinemark Movie Clubhouse: $1.50 per ticket; June 15 to Aug. 3.

Megaplex Kids Summer Movies: $1.50 per ticket, or buy a digital pass for 10 movies for 10 weeks at 10 a.m.; June 1 – Aug.11.

Regal Summer Movie Express: 2022 season pricing and schedule to be determined.

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