Salt Lake City with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Kirsten Sparks, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 28th 2010 12:47 PM

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Salt Lake City with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Salt Lake City, Utah, is full of places to discover for everyone. But, it can be difficult to find great adventures with young children. Here is our suggested itinerary of fun and exciting travel destinations that you and your kids will love to explore in Salt Lake City.


Morning


After eating a hearty breakfast somewhere convenient, start your family vacation day at This is the Place Heritage Park (2601 East Sunnyside Ave.; 801-582-1847). Nestled in beautiful Emigration Canyon, this interactive historic park will take you back in time to the earliest settlers and the Native Americans who called Utah home. Walking through the village -- which contains period buildings as well as Indian tepees and hogans to create a completely authentic experience -- you can watch a blacksmith at his trade, learn how to make pine wood furniture, or watch a spinner card and spin wool into yarn. Talk to Native American interpreters from Utah's five native tribes to learn about the Indians who call Utah home. Don't forget to ride the train, visit the petting zoo, and let the kiddies take pony rides.

Little ones will be fascinated by the animals, while older children will be intrigued by the displays and activities. Everyone can enjoy the fun of a train ride tour and craft demonstrations. Hours are 9AM - 5PM Monday - Saturday; 11AM - 4PM Sunday. Admission: $9 for adults, $7 for children and seniors. Additional charges may apply for some activities. (Note: There are no activities or demonstrations on Sundays.)

This is the Place Heritage Park is also an ideal location to take photos of the family. In addition to the scenic buildings and villages, the park has stunning views of the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding mountains. Plus, you can get photos with Native Americans in costume, your children on horseback, or put the entire family on a real wagon.

Insider tip: Since the park is situated high on the eastern foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, it is in full sun and can get hot in the spring, summer, and fall. For that reason, the cooler morning hours are the ideal time to visit the park. Also, be prepared for heat and sun with plenty of water, hats, and sunscreen.

For lunch, head to the Old Spaghetti Factory (602 South 500 East; 801-521-0424). Located in historic Trolley Square -- a real Trolley station converted into a mall -- The Old Spaghetti Factory in Salt Lake City, Utah has an environment your kids will love, starting with a real trolley car right in the middle of the restaurant! Surrounding the trolley car are antique dark-wood, high-backed booths and multicolored chandeliers. Small groups may even be seated on the trolley car. Kids love this fun and fancy restaurant.

The Old Spaghetti Factory has a budget friendly menu making it a great place to feed the whole family. Its kids menu has enough selections to please any child. Plus, the kids meal comes with a drink in a souvenir drink cup and a dessert choice of vanilla ice cream or spumoni. Kids also love coloring on their complementary placemat while waiting for their food.


Afternoon


Bellies full, you're ready for your next adventure on this family vacation day in Salt Lake City with kids -- at Discovery Gateway children's museum (444 West 100 South, Gateway Mall; 801-456-5437). Pilot a medical helicopter. Become a paramedic to help save lives. Step in front of a camera to report the news. Grow your own garden. Work in a beehive. Or drive a real car. These are just some of the fun, interactive, and educational workshops your children can participate in at the museum.

Discovery Gateway is a great place to spend an afternoon with children. Its interactive areas provide something for everyone to play and explore. Also, the exhibits are geared for adults too, so you can play along with the kids. Hours are 10AM - 6PM Monday-Thursday; 10AM - 8PM Friday - Saturday; noon - 6PM Sunday. General admission is $8.50.

Next, have the kids don their swimwear to cool off in the nearby Olympic Fountain. Built to host the 2002 Winter Olympic games, this fountain is in the shape of the games' signature snowflake. Watch a finely choreographed water show set to the Olympics theme song as your kids race to catch the water. Parents, don't worry: Getting wet is allowed -- and expected -- in this fountain. The Gateway Mall also houses many shops and restaurants for a cooling break or quick snack.

Insider tip: With summer temperatures in Salt Lake City frequently reaching as high as 100 degrees in the summer, it is ideal to visit the fountain in the heat of the day.


Evening


Finish off your day with a meal at The Mayan (9400 South State St., Sandy; 801-304-4600). Step into an ancient Mayan temple, and find yourself inside a tropical rain forest. Dine in an elaborate treehouse, complete with hanging lanterns, thatched roofs, and rope rails in front of a four-story waterfall. Your kids will love the animals singing and dancing the night away on the ancient cliff. Watch as cliff divers dive, spinning in the air, from the waterfall to the pool below. Diners beware: The front-row seats will get wet. Also, watch for entertainers wandering amongst the diners, including a gorilla and a clown who makes balloon animals.

The Mayan is known for its prompt food service. You will order your meal before entering the dining area; the food usually arrives at your table the same time you do. The Mayan has a very budget-friendly menu of Mexican food with selections that will please the whole family.

After dinner, explore the restaurant. Climb to the highest treehouse level, discover ancient ruins, and follow caves right behind the waterfall. Kids never get enough of exploring the night away.

Insider tip: The idea time to visit The Mayan is in the evenings or on the weekends, as these times usually feature a more entertaining and action-packed show. Because The Mayan does not increase its prices for dinner, there is no need to avoid the evenings.

Now, sated and satisfied from your perfect vacation day with kids in Salt Lake City, you're ready to head back to your hotel for a well-earned night's sleep.

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