November 24, 2017

Salt Lake City: Top 3 Family-Friendly Museums


Discovery Gateway

I’m a pushover for anything labeled both fun and educational. I love seeing the gears turn inside my kids’ heads, and I still like learning new things too. Salt Lake City, Utah has a number of museums that do a good job of combining learning with fun, and doing it well. These three museums, all located near downtown Salt Lake City, are among my family’s favorites.

Natural History Museum of Utah: This beautiful museum opened this past November to much acclaim. You and your kids will travel 500 million years back in time and move seamlessly upward through several stories to the present day. This is a great museum for all ages, and it’s the one I would be most inclined to visit without my children.

The museum is filled with fun, interactive exhibits and educational play areas. We had to promise our children time to return to their favorite activities or we might have spent our entire visit in the first two interactive exhibit areas.

Make it a Day: As a bonus, the Natural History Museum of Utah is so close to Red Butte Garden that you could visit both from the same parking space. It’s also just a few blocks from Hogle Zoo and This is the Place Heritage Park.

The Leonardo: This is my new favorite museum in Salt Lake City. Exhibits explore the connections between science, technology, art and design. Before we visited, we worried that our children (ages 8 and 5) might be too young for this museum, but after three hours, we had to drag them out.

My daughter couldn’t get enough of the stop-motion animation exhibit where she created several short films on her own. My son enjoyed building at the bridge exhibit. We all took turns looking silly in the motion capture studio. The kids created a small piece of cardboard art in the lab and then set it in motion with a simple machine we built in the Tinkering Studio.

Make it a Day: The Leonardo shares the block with Salt Lake City’s Main Library. If you like libraries or interesting architecture, it’s worth a visit. There is a TRAX stop in front of the library, making it easy to reach other downtown attractions.

Discovery Gateway: My kids love this children’s museum. Everything is their size and made to be touched and played with. The lower floor is full of imaginative play spaces for aspiring cowboys, grocers, homemakers and construction workers. The upper floor is more fun for older kids who want to conduct a science experiment, put on a play or anchor the evening news. The helicopter out on the terrace is also very popular

There is a special area for babies and toddlers on the first floor. This museum is often crowded, and I remember being grateful for a place where my little ones could play without being trampled. This museum will be most interesting for toddlers and preschoolers, but least interesting for anyone over the age of 12. One of the best things about Discovery Gateway is its convenient location in the Gateway Mall.

Make it a Day: The Gateway Mall is also home to the Clark Planetarium, which has lots of fun, free exhibits for families and a selection of IMAX movies and laser shows. Our family enjoys the splash pad, movie theatres, restaurants, and of course, shopping at the Gateway Mall.

Museums of my childhood were places where everything was meant to be looked at, but not touched. Today, we seek out museums on our family vacations because hands-on exhibits make learning fun. What are some of your favorite museums for children that are both fun and educational? Let me know in the comments section below.

Allison Laypath is a Salt Lake City-based family travel writer at Tips for Family Trips. She and her husband took their first child on a two-week road trip at four-weeks-old and they have been traveling as a family ever since. Allison loves all types of travel, but especially road trips, national parks and travel within her home state of Utah.

Photo Credit: Cameron Lehrman


  1. The article looks great, Erin! Thanks for this opportunity to share some of my favorite museums in Salt Lake City on Kidventurous.

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