This post was most recently updated on February 11th, 2016
Utah is well-known for its outdoor activities such as skiing, camping, hiking, boating, and fishing. With many state and national parks, Utah is an outdoorsman’s paradise. But what if you’d like to enjoy some indoor attractions? Not just any old museum or mall, but something outstanding.
On a recent trip to Utah, I decided to look for new or unique indoor attractions to enjoy with my family, and I found two that really stand out:
1. Loveland Living Planet Aquarium
My husband and I arrived with our daughter and two grandchildren at about 10:00 am on a weekday. The minute we walked in, my 3-yr old granddaughter was hooked! Suspended from the ceiling two stories up is a huge whale, while a nearly life-size ship is part of the backdrop on the main floor.
(click on any photo to enlarge)
The aquarium is much more than a holding tank for fish and sea animals. It is divided into different “zones”: Ocean Explorer, Antarctic Adventure, Journey to South America, and Discover Utah. Each explores unique and interesting plant & animal life within its boundaries. In every “zone”, there are exhibits that adults and children can enjoy. There are “touch me” tanks, climb-on animal statues, displays with knobs and buttons for children to interact with, and colorful plaques for more information. Exhibits are realistic and each “zone” makes you feel you have traveled to another area.
In the Ocean Explorer exhibit, you can touch stingrays and see beautiful fish displays.
The most amazing part of this zone was the 40′ Shark Tunnel. When we arrived, there were two divers in the tank cleaning the windows. What a pleasant surprise when one of them followed my granddaughter, swimming along the window and waving to her from inside the tank. She was delighted!
The Antarctic Adventure zone has penguins! Oh my gosh, they are so cute!
I love how everything is set up to look like an arctic research post! There were also some fun interactive play areas for young kids here.
In the Discover Utah zone, we especially enjoyed the otters. They were so playful, and all of the children were gathered here to point and giggle at the otters’ antics.
As this was one of the most popular places to hang out, I guess it should have been no surprise that we ran into my niece and her children! How fun! It’s a small world in Utah…
Journey to South America was another favorite; they had a scheduled piranha feeding, a jungle atmosphere with a rope bridge and parrots, and even poison dart frogs!
While my 9-month old grandson slept a good portion of his visit, my 3-yr old granddaughter was constantly engaged and entertained by all that the aquarium had to offer for several hours. As a matter of fact, so was I! This is a place you could definitely visit more than once. With a party venue, a cafe, a gift shop, and a new exhibit opening this year (Expedition Asia), the Living Planet Aquarium is an outstanding indoor attraction! It is located only 17 miles from downtown Salt Lake City in Draper, Utah. If you’d like information about admission, hours, and special events, check out their website here and watch the aquarium’s featured video at this link.
2. The Museum of Natural Curiosity
When we arrived at the Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point, Utah, it was frigid outside. A sharp wind was blowing, and just the walk from the parking lot to the entrance left me chilled. However, the warmth and fun began immediately as we entered the doors. While this museum looks like it’s just for children, it makes everyone feel like a kid! I have to agree with my daughter when she said she’d like to come back some time ‘sans children’ for a fun date with her husband.
The museum is divided into several adventures. You could easily spend all of your time in just one of them each time you visit! Our first stop was “Kidopolis” — a kid-sized city with fun activities within miniature buildings and “businesses”. I was accompanied by my husband, daughter, 3-yr old granddaughter, and 9-month old son. I assure you, we were all well entertained! While we explored a laundromat, theatre, magic store, train station, bank, music store, dance studio, puppet stage, and more, we found interactive activities within each one. You could take dance lessons in the studio, control a band of drum sets, play a harp with a wave of your hand through light sensors, care for animals at the vet, make bank deposits, put on costumes and perform, or make giant-sized bubbles at the laundrymat.
The Innovation Gallery was full of hands-on exhibits that taught fun scientific principles to kids and adults alike.
The Discovery Garden was a nice place for parents to sit and rest while their children played with interactive displays especially designed for children under five. A shopping store and garden were well-populated with toddlers!
Next was the Rainforest…
While this adventure was a hit with older kids (think rock climbing, rope bridges, a life-sized airplane, interactive video games, tests of strength, and even a ropes course for an additional fee), the most popular adventure by far is the Water Works. It didn’t even matter that it was 32 degrees outside. Because in this climate-controlled environment, getting wet and manipulating water is great fun!
The Museum of Natural Curiosity also includes an outdoor playground, gardens, a stage, and more. We didn’t get to enjoy those this time because of snow, but doesn’t this Noah’s Ark water exhibit look like fun?
The museum also has classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gift store. Why not make it a date night? Or a really fun family event that will be another outstanding indoor activity, whether in the middle of the winter or the heat of summer! For hours and admission fees, please see the museum website. Thanksgiving Point is only 26 miles south of Salt Lake City.
If you’re headed to Utah, I highly recommend you check out the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium and the Museum of Natural Curiosity!
Disclaimer: While I did receive complimentary admission to the aquarium and the museum, my opinions are my own and this post reflects my actual experiences during my visit.