The Utah Museum of Natural History (1390 East President’s Circle, University of Utah Campus; 801-581-4303) now occupies one of Salt Lake Valley’s newest and best structures, the Rio Tinto Center. Officially opening on November 18, 2011, this this brand new building contains numerous collections and exhibits illustrating the biology, anthropology, and earth sciences centered around the Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin. Situated in the far northeastern portion of town, and on the highest part of the U of U campus, this museum shares its neighborhood with the Red Butte Garden and the Bonneville Shoreline Trail System –so can easily be visited in combination with either of these nature-centric attractions. Visit the museum’s website to learn about the building’s design and its surrounding trails.
Utah Museum of Fine Arts (410 South Campus Drive, University of Utah; 801-581-7332) is also located on the U of U campus, but is nestled more deeply in its center. A community and university staple since the early 20th Century, this museum today holds a permanent collection of more than 18,000 works. In its nearly 75,000 square feet of space, its numerous galleries showcase an ever-changing set of paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures. Check online for a listing of free admission days and specific instructions for ticket-free parking.
Discovery Gateway (inside the Gateway Center, 840 North 300 West; 801-322-5286), formerly the Children’s Museum of Utah, is precisely that: Utah’s best kid-friendly museum. Filled with bright colors and wild shapes, this museum features exhibits designed specifically to fascinate kids. These include The Terrace, where kids can practice being a helicopter paramedic, the Media Zone, which illustrates how news and weather studios function and allows kids to practice being a television personality, and The Studio where kids can dabble in science, art, and engineering. An extremely high-quality museum, this is enjoyed equally as much by parents as by their offspring.
Museum of Utah Art and History (125 South Main Street; 801-355-5554) focuses specifically on the state of Utah itself. While the Utah Museum of Fine Arts often imports art from around the nation and world, this museum showcases that created by Utah artists, as well as that whose subject is the region itself. Aiming to provide Utah and its visitors with a sense of its own history and art, this includes exhibits on Native American tribes, Mormon pioneers, frontiersmen, miners, and railway workers.
The Church History Museum (45 North West Temple Street; 801-240-4615) sits at Temple Square and is a cost-free way to enrich your understanding of the rather short history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Whether or not you are Mormon, the story behind this unique religion is as fascinating as it is short. So if you find yourself at Temple Square, stop in to experience an enriched and detailed debriefing of the church’s background.