Salt Lake City Historic Attractions for Local Culture and Sightseeing

Many come to Salt Lake City for outdoor adventures and affordable fall vacations, but this city has a history that helped it grow into one of the top destinations in Utah. In fact, it has seen natural disasters, prosperous farmers and is home to the first KFC in the U.S. — and that’s not all. For more fun facts and sightseeing, visit these Salt Lake City historic attractions.

Salt Lake City Historic Attractions to Visit During Vacation

salt lake city historic attractions

Temple Square

Situated on 35 acres, Temple Square offers history, architecture, gardens and special events. The attraction dates to 1847, when a group of pioneers settled in the area, so they could freely practice religion. Over the years, they built structures in the square including a log cabin and homes, religious temples, restaurants, and shopping center. Today, Temple Square ranks as the No. 1 attraction in Salt Lake City.

To sample a little of everything, take a guided or self-guided tour of Temple Square. Local guides enjoy taking visitors on trolley, walking or biking tours, so they see the entire area. Or book a free 45-minute tour at North Visitors Center. Other guided options include daily organ recitals, conference center tours and seasonal garden tours.

Families have kid-approved attractions such as museums, Creek Center splash pad, interactive exhibits, and live shows. While touring Temple Square, look for art, visit the genealogical library, and learn about the area. Most attractions in Temple Square are free and open to the public.

Joseph Smith Memorial Building

Joseph Smith Memorial Building sits in the middle of Temple Square and serves as the welcome center. For over 100 years, this site has welcomed celebrities, local residents and travelers from all over the world.

The building features a concrete and steel structure covered in white-glazed terra-cotta and brick. The grand lobby also provides a perfect place for photos. In addition, Joseph Smith Memorial Building has two restaurants, a cafe, banquet rooms and Legacy Theater.

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The Tabernacle

One of the square’s major draws is The Tabernacle, a.k.a. The Mormon Tabernacle. This structure has provided church members a place to worship since 1867. Today, The Tabernacle houses a famous choir, over 11,000 piece pip organ and orchestra. Guests are welcome to visit for free during regular hours of operation.

Salt Lake Temple

Also located in Temple Square is Salt Lake Temple, an active temple serving Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 10-acre site was dedicated in 1853, and has since welcomed people to reflect, pray and worship.

Due to renovations, the temple’s interior may not be accessible to the public. Visitors are welcome to take photos outside and explore the grounds. However, everyone should remember this is a place of worship and please respect guests and temple workers. Many are happy to assist guests with religious education, faith, best practices and history.

salt lake city history sites

Utah State Capitol

For over 100 years, Utah State Capitol has ranked among the most popular Salt Lake City historic attractions. And there’s more than a building here – it’s an entire complex dedicated to Utah’s history and home for local governments.

The Capitol building serves two active legislative chambers and working state officials. In addition, visitors enjoy browsing artwork, exhibits, historical buildings, manicured grounds and statues honoring important people. Examples include Chief Massasoit of Wampanogas tribe, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon – the first woman state senator – and Utah’s law enforcement and Mormon pioneer volunteers. View Utah State Capitol tours.

Beehive House

While there are dozens of buildings to see in downtown, Beehive House ranks among popular Salt Lake City historic attractions. The home was built in 1854 for city founder Brigham Young and his family.

Visitors are welcome to tour the home, which displays the family’s objects. Beehive House also showcases 19th-century architecture and period pieces such as furniture, linens, rugs, an observatory, and a cupola topped with a beehive. Tours are free and last about 20 minutes, with no reservations required.

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Golden Spike National Historic Site

Interested in trains? Head to Golden Spike Natural Historic Site, a top among the best Salt Lake City historic attractions for locomotives, reenactments and tours.

This attraction is located north of Great Salt Lake, about a 1.5-hour drive from downtown Salt Lake City. Once at the park, see replicas of locomotives, take driving tours, hike and watch live reenactments. In addition, the park cares for two working steam locomotives, which travel to the Engine Room. All activities and events tell the story of the first transcontinental railroad in the U.S., and its technological significance in history.

This Is the Place Heritage Park

Find interactive fun at This Is the Place Heritage Park, located only 15 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. The park has dozens of historical sites, interactive activities, live demonstrations and entertainment for all ages.

On the grounds, tour a Native American Village, trains, petting zoo and splash park. Historical buildings include a blacksmith shop, cabins, farmhouses, quilt museum, chapel and saving parlor. Families also have age-appropriate youth activities, horseback riding trails and daily fun. For example, visitors enjoy traveling back in time and learning about different cultures.

Want more family-friendly spots? Check out the top Salt Lake City kids attractions. Then browse rental homes in Salt Lake City.