Fun, Free Things To Do in Salt Lake City.. With Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Free Fun in Salt Lake City with KidsAs my boys grow taller and taller, the number of free activities available gets smaller and smaller.  I found it challenging to come up with a respectable list of things to keep the boys busy on our recent trip to Salt Lake City, Utah.  Admission for children to all the popular attractions in the area cost almost as much as adult tickets.  Sheesh, all I can say is thank God my kids still think playgrounds are totally awesome.

Here’s a rundown of the best fun, free things we found to do in Salt Lake City with kids!

Liberty Park. This park is one of the best I’ve seen in the US.  It truly has something for every age group.  The little ones have a large play area suited for their size, big kids can amuse themselves with a gigantic slide, and handicap children can join in with swings built just for them.  Most impressive – super sized musical pipes that require lots of banging and produce a whole lot of noise.  In summer, kids can enjoy a splash pad and fountains.

Liberty Park Rotary Playground

Liberty Park Rotary Playground

Liberty Park - making some noise.

Liberty Park – making some noise.

Liberty Park - water fountains for kids to splash around in and cool off.

Liberty Park – water fountains for kids to splash around in and cool off.

Should you find yourself in the mood to open your wallet, loads of fun paid experiences are possible at Liberty Park.  Tracy Aviary is home to hundreds of birds.  Time your visit to include story time with a feathered friend.  Carnival rides, paddle boat rentals, and a public swimming pool will also invite you to part with (a little) cash.

Liberty Park - Tracy Aviary

Liberty Park – Tracy Aviary

Temple Square & Gardens.  Mormon or not, the temple area is worth seeing.  I was intrigued by the architecture, and my boys just ran around exploring all the fountains, sculptures, and flowers.  You can also take a free one-hour tour of the gardens, May-September.

Temple Square.

Temple Square.

City Creek and Memory Grove Parks. Starting just beyond the Temple Square, City Creek Park includes a paved path running parallel to the stream that leads straight to Memory Grove Park.  Filled with statues and fountains, Memory Grove Park is a great place to rest and eat a snack or even a picnic lunch.  Combine this with a walk around the…

City Creek Park.

City Creek Park.

Utah State Capitol Building Though you’ll be out of breath climbing the San Francisco-style street to get here, the view is worth the effort.  We just walked the grounds, but dropping in to the visitor center or joining a tour won’t cost a thing.  Look for the small paths to the east of the capitol that lead down to Memory Grove Park.  P.s. – I highly recommend choosing a backpack carrier over a stroller if you’re toting little ones.

Utah State Capitol Building.

Utah State Capitol Building.

View from the top.

From the top – I sure do love me some mountain views.

Donut Falls Hiking Trail Our family really loves hiking together, and I thought this would be the perfect anti-jet lag remedy.  Except I forgot that it can – and did – snow in Utah in April.  Oops.  Fortunately, the snow was packed down enough that we could walk a ways in our oh-so-appropriate summer kicks.  Unfortunately, we never did get to see that waterfall.

The snow-covered path to Donut Falls.

The snow-covered path to Donut Falls.

Not exactly the waterfall we were hoping for...

Not exactly the waterfall we were hoping for…

Gilgal Sculpture Garden Even if you can’t force yourself to be interested in art, drag yourself across the street from Trolley Square and prepare to be completely creeped out.  While your kids scramble around the stones, you’ll be scratching your head trying to figure out of this artist mocked or admired Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith as the sphinx...?

Joseph Smith as the sphinx…?

More funky art from Gilgal Sculpture Garden.

More funky art from Gilgal Sculpture Garden.

School of rock.

School of rock.

Jordan Park & International Peace Gardens.  Come for the two playgrounds and picnic area, stay for the hortus & culture.  Twenty eight countries maintain gardens that reflect their land, and in the middle rests a monument promoting peace.  Germany’s area disappointed, but Switzerland and Japan delighted.

A little taste of Europe in the International Peace Gardens.

A little taste of Europe in the International Peace Gardens.

Stepping into Japan.

Stepping into Japan.

Downtown Farmer’s Market.  Okay, you’ll have to pay for the rainbow of nutrients you’re sure to bag, but listening to the music and soaking in the atmosphere won’t cost a thing.

What are your favorite Salt Lake City activities to do with kids? 

Headed to Salt Lake City?  See my review of the Thanksgiving Point Gardens Tulip Festival.Signature-Marigold

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And What About The Jet Lag?

Thrifty Travel Mama - Jet Lag Tips for Families“And what about the jet lag?”  My friends all wanted to know.  How totally and completely screwed up were my boys after traveling across the pond and then back only two short weeks later?

Honestly, not much.

This whole jet lag thing has never really been a problem for me or Doc Sci.  Do our boys cope well by association?  That’d be nice, but I doubt it.  Just because it doesn’t seem to be an issue doesn’t mean no effort is involved.  But don’t be discouraged.  While it might take some effort, I can sum up my ritual in two steps.

Don’t look back, and stick to your routine.

I used to plan trips with a group of pilots who, when planning a route, would always talk about “body clock time.”  As in, “well, if it’s 9am in Vienna, it’s really 3am body clock time.”  I loved working with them, but I don’t think we could be tourists together.  If I know it’s 3am, then all I will think about is sleep.

I totally understand that these are the dudes flying the plane and you don’t want them sleep deprived, but always thinking about what time it is at home is going to do nothing but absolutely mess you up.  For days.

Once you reach your destination (as in the plane touches its wheels down to the runway), listen to those peppy flight attendants and set your watch immediately to local time.  Don’t look back.

The next and equally as important component of this plan is to stick to your routine (as much as possible).  If you arrive at 6am from an overnight flight, get to your hotel, eat breakfast, walk around, eat lunch, then take only one short nap (2 hours can be considered short in this instance).  Any more than that and you’re going to be blowing your budget on a 3am room service breakfast.

But what about with kids?  The same thing goes.  When we traveled to Ireland and T-Rex was only 18 months old, we followed the plan.  Arrive, collect luggage, rent car, drive to hotel, check in, find lunch, take nap, get up and get going.  Bedtime can be early but think 10 year-old early for the adults, and 10 month-old early for the kiddos.

Be flexible with times, but follow the order of the routine.  Breakfast, sightseeing, lunch, nap, sightseeing, dinner, bath, story time, bed.  Bring familiar toys, blankets, pillows, etc., from their bed or a favorite book to make things more “at home.”

I even do this on the airplane.  If the night flight departs late enough, I put the boys in pajamas and do their bedtime routine (sans bath) either before we board or after the meal is served.

Above all, keep your expectations low.  Hiccups do happen.  Both boys woke up, Screech on the first night and T-Rex on the second night, at about 230am wondering where in tarnation am I and is my mama around?  A few hugs and kisses and they were back to snoring (and then I couldn’t sleep!).

This jet lag routine has served me well for over 12 years; it’s just what works for me.  However, I know that other people have more tricks up their sleeves.  So, what works for you when it comes to fighting jet lag?Signature-Marigold