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Even with the colder, sometimes frigid, weather, you can still enjoy fun outdoors with your family. But there are also some great ideas for indoor fun too! Here’s a list of some of our favorite ideas to do in Northern Utah during the winter, from the ice castles at Midway to the symphony to cruising down the hills on a tube.
While many people don’t like winter around here, I happen to love it! I love sitting all cozy inside during a snow storm, building a snowman with my family, and enjoying my days of wearing sweaters and flannel pajamas. Nothing wrong with that, right? It can be harder, though, to find things to do as a family because of the weather. You can’t take a walk in 20 degree temperatures and enjoy it! But there are still a lot things to do in Northern Utah that provide family fun and entertainment when the weather isn’t cooperating. Here’s a list of our favorites, most of which we have tried ourselves. If you have any to add, please leave a comment and I will update the list.
The Ice Castles (Homestead Resort 700 Homestead Drive Midway, UT 84049)
A few years ago, our local community was buzzing with excitement about a new attraction in Midway. The movie “Frozen” had been released just a couple months before and the idea of having a frozen winter wonderland for families was enticing! We bundled our two little guys up and made the 45 minute drive up the canyon. It was breathtaking and a memory my kids still talk about.
The Ice Castles in Midway are an elaborate, acre-sized castle made entirely form ice. It’s one of four Ice Castles in the United States (how lucky are we to have it?). Amazing ice formations include icicle-dripped archways, canyons, caverns, and ice-carved tunnels. The ice castles also include an interactive winter playground with ice slides, thrones, fountains, and maze-like passages for exploring. It’s a Narnia-like wonderland made for exploration and imagination. The ice has a beautiful blue natural tone during the day. At night, ever-changing LED lights embedded in the ice twinkle to music. The frozen castles are built by hand from more than 20,000,000 pounds of ice and are constantly changing with new formations and ideas.
It may seem crazy that I’m recommending this for families because the symphony and opera can be expensive. For us, it was generally a date night out without the kids. But this year, the Utah Symphony and Opera are opening the doors to families. Music and the arts are important for children to enjoy as well which is why they created Family Nights. Family nights offer a family of four (two adults and two children) tickets to the symphony or opera for $30!! Children should be 5-18 and up to six additional youth passes can be purchased for $5 each. That s a huge savings and an opportunity to enjoy an evening out with beautiful classics and world-renowned talent. Visit their website for more information and call the box office to book your family night.
If you love tubing, you have to visit Gorgoza! It is so much fun and they make sledding much easier and less physically exhausting! Gorgoza park allows you to enjoy a ride on seven lighted tubing lanes — including a hill for the littlest of tubers, three beginner lanes and four advanced lanes. And instead of having to climb the hill to get back up to the top again, you can use their lifts that easily take you up as many times as you want to go down! It was easy for my little boys and so much more fun than normal tubing. And because of the lifts, you get to spend more time tubing. They also have mini-snowmobiles and “Fort Frosty”, a winter play area for kids six and younger. So even if you have a little one that can’t tube, they can still play in the snow and enjoy some activities just for them. Be sure to bundle up warm and don’t worry about bringing a tube, they have it there for you too!
Three-stories tall in stature, the Discovery Children’s Museum 58,000-square-foot building is home to nine-themed exhibition halls totaling 26,000 square feet of interactive hands-on core exhibits. The 5,000 square foot Featured Exhibitions Gallery is large enough to accommodate major exhibits from the nation’s leading museums. The new location is a safe, easily accessible, family-oriented and energetic educational destination that offers visitors extraordinary learning experiences and enhanced school, public and extended programs. The mission of Discovery Children’s Museum is to provide a vibrant and engaging experience, through exhibits and programs, where children from economically and culturally diverse backgrounds actively participate in playful learning experiences that ignite a love of lifelong learning.
Most locals in the Salt Lake Valley have memories of taking field trips to what was then the Hansen Planetarium. After moving to the Gateway, it became Clark Planetarium but it sitll embodies all that we loved about the old Hansen Planetarium. This is one of my kids favorite places to visit, in part because they love astronomy just as much as I do! We especially enjoy watching one of their amazing shows on the IMAX screen or in the Hansen Dome Theater. I remember going to their cosmic light shows as an activity before dances in high school-it was always a favorite activity for us and never got old! For more than 50 years, Clark Planetarium has been Salt Lake’s go-to destination for visitors of all ages who want to discover and learn about space and science. They engage audiences inside our walls and across the State of Utah in the creative process that is science through educational outreach, hands-on exhibits, on-site programming and our IMAX and dome theatres. Be sure to check out their website for special parties they do throughout the year.
The Heber Valley Railroad is a historic railroad nestled in the beautiful Heber Valley. This would be a great stop before visiting the Ice Castles because it’s just a short drive away! The train goes all year long and they have many different rides to choose from, some shorter than others. They also have themed trains with the Polar Express train at Christmas, a Star Wars train starting up in February, and a Princess and Pirate train. We took the Easter train a couple of years ago and our family will be going back this year for another adventure (probably the Cowboy train!). If you have a train lover in your family, this is a great stop for a family outing.
The Gallivan Center ice rink is an outdoor rink in the heart of Salt Lake City. It’s surrounded by the lights of the city and especially beautiful at Christmas time! While skating indoors is fun, there is something magical about being outdoors on the ice. We have enjoyed our visits there as a family, despite how poorly I skate! It’s fun to sit down and watch the kids glide around the rink. On warmer winter days, it’s beautiful and it feels so good to be outside! The ice rink is open from Mid-November thru mid-February.
My kids adore this place! We go several times a year and finally purchased an annual pass. From the Penguin encounters to the amazing sharks and the fun playground at Tiki’s Island, it’s a dream for any child. The Living Planet Aquarium provides living “classrooms” that immerse people in natural ecosystems, bridging the gaps between education, entertainment, and conservation to help people understand and appreciate their connection to the global system of life. I love that the aquarium is divided up into different regions of the world giving you a glimpse into the different wildlife and ecosystems all over the world, including one specifically for Utah that includes some adorable river otters. And if you need a break to relax or chat with other adult friends, I recommend letting the kids get some wiggles out at Tiki’s Island. It’s a big indoor playground with couches for parents and adults to relax while the kiddos run around!
We haven’t had the chance to visit the Seaquest Aquarium but I have heard nothing but good things about it from family and friends since it opened! It’s definitely on our list of things to do. Located at Layton Hills Mall in beautiful Layton, Utah, SeaQuest takes you on an adventure through rainforests, deserts and the depths of the seas. With exciting exhibits and activities for families and children of all ages, you’ll be able to get wet with the stingrays, feed the toucans, encounter the caimans, marvel at the sharks, take selfies with the snakes and more. This is definitely a fun place to go if you have kids who love to be hands on!!
Yep, you read right! Visiting the zoo in the winter can actually be fun. There are definitely days when it’s too cold to venture outside but there are plenty of times when the weather warms up enough to make it enjoyable. At the zoo, the cool weather animals are out and about like the tigers, polar bears, and lions. In the summertime, when most people take a trip to the zoo, these animals are usually sound asleep, resting lazily in the shade because the heat is too much! It’s also nice because there are no problems with crowds. We’ve been able to see most of the zoo and take time to play on the playground area in one visit (we don’t generally get that much done in the summer).
Funtopia Lehi is a climbing gym and entertainment center – the best place for kids in Salt Lake City area, where they can explore new heights in a social environment. It is a playground providing laughs and funny moments, provokes games and competition that put the kids in a world of adventure specially designed to create a tons of smiles.
We bet you wouldn’t have missed climbing up a dinosaur’s skeleton when you were 6 or 7… heck, you would probably do it right now. Come and try! Funtopia is meant for kids aged 5 or more and in our look everybody is a kid. The rides (link) present easy to high-medium indoor obstacles for people of all ages. All of them are designed with fun in mind and are themed accordingly.
We had the opportunity to visit a couple of years ago and it was fun for all of us! There was plenty to do for the adults. And you can rest easy knowing that the family is safe while having fun!
In college, I had the opportunity to teach about rocks and minerals to fourth graders at the Natural History Museum. I also hosted birthday parties and conducted tours as a part of my volunteer service. I loved it! And ever since, we have visited frequently. They constantly have new exhibits from reptiles to vikings so you can never tire of your visits! The Natural History Museum of Utah opened its doors to the public in the George Thomas Building in 1969. Since then, collections have been transferred from the University’s academic departments and grown through research, acquisition, and contributions to number more than 1.6 million objects. The Museum solidified its position as the state museum of natural history and developed strong programs of exhibits and education, both on-site and statewide. In November 2011, they moved to a new home, the Rio Tinto Center, with entirely new exhibit galleries, engaging programs for the public and state-of-the-art collections care and research facilities. If your kids love dinosaur bones, they can come and watch researches as they clean and piece together real artifacts right in front of you (check the website or call them for more details!).
If you have a dinosaur fan in your family, this is a great place to go! And not only do they have amazing exhibits daily but they also have unique events throughout the year like February’s “Mummy’s Curse” day. All members of our family enjoyed this museum, including my husband who normally can’t wait to get out of museums! He loved all the exhibits and spent half the time taking pictures because he wanted to remember it all.
Roam among the dinosaurs, explore a Carboniferous Forest, and dive deep into a Cretaceous Ocean at the Museum of Ancient Life. Come visit one of the world’s largest displays of mounted dinosaurs with 60 complete dinosaur skeletons in our galleries, along with more than 50 hands-on exhibits. This is the destination to enjoy learning about our pre-historic animals, playing with toy dinosaurs in the Erosion Table, and digging for fossils in the quarry dig.
Also, be sure to check out the working paleontology lab where workers are unearthing real dinosaur bones. Right now, the lab is working on a 150-million-year-old long neck dinosaur called a Barosaurus. You can even pretend to be a paleontologist yourself in the Junior Paleo Lab by casting your own fossil and drilling a real fish fossil to take home.
Be sure to plan on plenty of time to explore the wonders in the museum!
Also at Thanksgiving Point, the Museum of Natural Curiosity has been a family favorite and a location for school field trips since it opened. In fact, it was so popular when it opened that it was nearly impossible to get inside for a time! My boys loved the climbing areas, playing with water features, and exploring the mini city set up just for kids. There are so many things to do here, over 400 interactive experiences! There is enough to do that you can choose a new adventure each time you visit the Museum of Natural Curiosity. In Rainforest, explore the ancient ruins and chambers, crawl inside the 45-foot-tall monkey head, and pretend to fly the Piper Cub. At Water Works, explore science with water, wind, sun, and earth, or go to the Discovery Garden to learn about nature and the six simple machines in the Archimedes Playground. You can even explore the town of Kidopolis, where you’ll discover secret passageways and perform tricks at the magic shop. For more educational opportunities, visit the exhibit in the Innovation Gallery or take a class in one of the Dickson Academy classrooms. The options are endless for all curious minds at the Museum of Natural Curiosity.
I admit that this is one place that we have not ventured to just yet. It’s been our list though because we continue to hear from friends, family, and neighbors about how much their family enjoyed it!
The mission of Treehouse is to be the magical place where children, ages 1 to 12, “Step into a Story”® through interactive exhibits and programs. Treehouse Children’s Museum opened its doors in 1992 and has been providing unique educational exhibits and programs to more than 175,000 visitors each year. Originally, the Museum was located in the Ogden City Mall, then on 23rd Street while it’s permanent home, the signature Treehouse building on 22nd Street, was being built. The Elizabeth Stewart Treehouse Museum building opened its doors in 2006. At the center of the Museum is the amazing, 30-foot tall tree, built by Treehouse staff.
We visited the Storybrook Cafe when my kids were younger and they loved it. They could play and I didn’t have to worry about them getting hurt! If you go with girlfriends, you can have some girl time while your kiddos play and if you’re flying solo, bring a book to enjoy. There are also great photo opps so if you have a camera, don’t forget it!
Storybrook is Salt Lake’s first play cafe. They have a beautiful, clean space for toddlers and babies to play while their parents relax, work, shop in our boutique or catch up with friends. The space is designed for kids 6 months-6 years old. Older kids are welcome but they don’t like rough play since most of the kids are little. Be sure to bring socks for the kids because they are a must. No reservation is required and adults are free! They don’t allow outside food or drinks, but have a delicious little cafe and free wifi! Click here for hours and pricing!
The Utah Children’s Theater is located in South Salt Lake, UT. They have fun shows all year long that are perfect for kids of all ages to enjoy (they recommend 4 years older and up so no toddlers or babies). Kids aren’t generally allowed to attend theater and it can be expensive so this is a great way to get them exposed to the arts! Tickets are around $10-$20 per person, much less expensive than a regular theater. Some shows may be more appropriate for older children, while other’s for younger. You can check each shows recommendations for ages. They also have magic shows which is what my boys are looking forward to this year. We will attending our first magic show next month and they cannot wait! To see the lineup of shows and to purchase tickets, visit their website.