Unaffordable Utah: Budget-friendly family summer fun

May 17, 2022, 10:06 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 1:33 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — After two summers of pandemic restrictions, families wanting to travel this summer will face new obstacles: inflation, high gas prices and expensive plane tickets.

“I think you need to expect that costs are going to be higher, that demand is going to be higher, that places are going to fill up,” said Allison Laypath, travel writer and owner of Tips for Family Trips.

The most recent Consumer Price Index showed that airline fares rose sharply in April. The 18.6% increase was the largest one-month increase since the index started tracking airfares in 1963.

“I think you need to expect flight delays,” Laypath said.

Utah families are already battling 40-year-high inflation that’s putting a big question mark over out-of-state travel this summer.

“I think that’s hard when so many of us are so excited to travel,” Laypath said.

Laypath said the bad economic news shouldn’t keep families from making memories this summer.

“Just create those opportunities for your family to be together and go forward with a positive attitude,” she advised.

Laypath said Utahns are lucky to live in a state where budget-friendly getaways and day trips are all around.

“Two of the biggest expenses when a family travels are lodging and transportation,” she said. “So the closer you stay to home, the lower those costs are going to be.”

Anna Loughridge with the Utah Office of Tourism said the options are limitless for locals and that families can cut down on fuel costs by visiting attractions that are huddled together.

“The best way to minimize the pain at the pump is to plan ahead,” she said.

For popular spots, Loughridge recommends visiting in the middle of the week and early in the morning.

“A lot of our state parks offer incredible programming that is free and accessible once you’re within in the park, from dark skies, scorpion hunts,” she said.

Families can opt to skip the hotel and use their home as basecamp for a series of day trips.

Consider using passes to save money. The Salt Lake Connect Attractions Pass includes access to 16 attractions at 13 destinations, including Thanksgiving Point, Hogle Zoo, Tracy Aviary, Clark Planetarium and more.

“When my family did it, we just did one or two activities a month and it lasted us the entire year,” Laypath said.

The Connect Pass is available in one-, two-, three-day or year-round passes.

There’s also the Get Out Pass for Utah. It lasts a year and includes dozens of venues, like Lagoon, Splash Summit, SeaQuest, Provo Beach, bounce houses, arcades and sport activities.

“If you buy the pass, instead of buying all those admissions individually, it can save you hundreds of dollars,” Laypath said.

The Get Out Pass is currently $70 off because of a Memorial Day sale. There is a less expensive option without admission to Lagoon.

If your family has a favorite go-to attraction, Laypath suggests investing in an annual pass or membership.

“If you want to go at least three times this summer or this year, that pass is going to pay for itself,” she said.

Laypath and Loughridge also recommend rediscovering free activities this summer.

“Rediscover the trail that you haven’t been on in ten years or try something new,” Loughridge said.

Options include splash pads, city parks, nature hikes, museums, concerts and movies in the park, and educational spots like Wheeler Farm and the Utah Capitol.

Families with a fourth grader can get into national parks for free with the Every Kid Outdoors Pass. It’s easy to print the pass online.

No matter how families choose to have fun, Laypath cautions to not let eating out ruin the travel budget.

“It’s easy to drop $80 to $100 on a single meal,” she said.

Instead, have a picnic in the park. Even if you’re traveling to a hotel, book a room with a kitchenette and bring as much food as you can from home.

“You’re going to eat whether you’re at home or whether you’re on the road, and so if you plan ahead, you can completely control that expense,” Laypath said.

Laypath said it doesn’t matter if families spend a little or a lot this summer, it’s the togetherness that counts.

“Start with a positive attitude yourself and treat it like it’s something special,” she said.

To help your family plan some summer fun, KSL TV compiled this list of possible activities:

Northern Utah

Clark Planetarium

Take a journey to space for free, seven days a week. Exhibits are free. Tickets for feature films cost $7 to $9.

Free admission


Public Star Party

Gaze at distant stars and galaxies with the Salt Lake Astronomical Society through the telescopes of the Stansbury Park Observatory Complex.

Free admission


Red Butte Garden

One of the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West.

Adults $14, Kids (ages 3-17) $7. Admission is free for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card for up to four guests.

Free admission on Pioneer Day and Labor Day


Weber County RAMP

Summer Saturdays offer free entry into a huge variety of recreational and cultural facilities.

Free admission


Real Monarchs

How about catching a professional soccer game in beautiful Rio Tinto Stadium? Cheer on Real Salt Lake’s farm team, the Real Monarchs.

Adults and Kids, $5


Orem Concerts in the Park

The Orem Arts Council hosts summer concerts featuring a variety of bands – rock, soul, pop, country, folk – on Monday nights in July and August at 7 p.m.

Free admission


Children’s Entrepreneur Market 

25 farmers markets up and down the Wasatch Front with booths run entirely by kids ages 5 through 16.

Free admission, shopping encouraged.


Park Silly Sunday Market

Every Sunday from June 5 to Sept. 25 (except Aug. 7, 14, and 21), local vendors, artists and entertainment swarm Park City’s Main Street for a street festival and farmers market.

Free admission


Provo Summer Concerts in the Park

The Utah Premiere Brass performs every Sunday in North Park in June. They’re considered Utah’s only British-style brass band, playing a variety of music.

Free admission


Mountain Town Music Concert Series

MTM puts on countless free concerts by talented artists in all types of music at several venues in and around Park City

Free admission


Dejoria Center Summer Concert Series

Located at the High Star Ranch in Kamas, the Dejoria Center hosts a free summer concert every Thursday night at 6:30 in June and July.

Free admission.


Gallivan Center Big Band Dance Night

Live jazz music on Tuesday evenings with big band and swing sound, dance lessons and more.

Free admission.


Wasatch Wildflower Festival

A four-day event hosted at the four Cottonwood Canyons ski areas to celebrate the beauty and diversity of wildflowers in the Wasatch Mountains.

Free admission, but registration is required.


Gardner Village Historic Scavenger Hunt

Get a group together and find ten items that’ll help you discover Gardner Village’s pioneer history. Find them all and get a piece of saltwater taffy from the Chocolate Covered Wagon. Its taffy puller has been pulling taffy for nearly 150 years.

Free admission


South Weber Model Railroad Club

We’re not talking model trains for the basement; these model trains are built to 1/8th scale and can hold up to 900 pounds. Every third Saturday of each month, club members invite the public to ride their trains.

Free admission


Utah Museum of Fine Arts

Explore UMFA’s exhibits for free on the first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month. Also on third Saturdays, families are invited to create their own art. And check out a free family backpack for an even more hands-on experience.

Free admission.


Tracy Aviary

Considered America’s oldest aviary, Tracy Aviary boasts extensive exhibits featuring more than 130 different species of birds.

Bonus: Admission drops down to $5 after 5pm on Monday evenings from June to August

Adults $14, Kids (ages 3-12) $8.95. Admission is free for SNAP recipients with an EBT card for up to four guests.


Natural History Museum of Utah

Kids and their families can explore over 5,000 artifacts emphasizing on Utah and Intermountain West.

Adults $19.95, Young Adults (ages 13-24), Kids (ages 3-12) $14.95

Free admission for all active military ID holders for up to five guests from May 21 through Labor Day.

$2 admission for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card for up to six guests.


Redwood Drive-in Theatre

Boasting four screens, digital projectors and crisp stereo sound through its powerful FM system, the Redwood Drive-In offers affordable blockbuster entertainment.

Adults $10, Kids (ages 5-9) $1


Hill Aerospace Museum

Extensive displays of more than 70 historic aircraft – everything from a SR-71 Blackbird to the B-17 Flying fortress – and thousand of artifacts from the history of aviation.

Free admission. Donations appreciated.


George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park

Scores of life-sized dinosaur sculptures fill this interactive park, and exhibits include everything from 500-million-year-old stromatolites to a 9-thousand-year-old wooly mammoth skeleton and everything in-between, including many fossils unearthed in Utah.

Adults $7, Students (ages 13-17) $6, Kids (ages 2-12) $5.


Zootah at Willow Park

Zootah is a relatively small zoo but big on experience. It even includes its own petting zoo open from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Buy a bag of duck food for $1.25, so kids (and you) can feed the ducks.

Adults $7, Kids (ages 2-11) $5


Logan Aquatic Center

800,000 gallons of water in three separate pools and boasts the Speed Slide and the Circular Slide. Summer seasons starts the first Saturday in June, and then open seven days a week through Labor Day.

Adults and Kids (ages 4-17) $7, $3.25 for active military ID holders.


Utah Fire Museum

An adventure for families who love to see all things firefighters. Dozens of firetrucks and equipment dating back to as early as the 1890s.

Free admission. Donations appreciated.


Deseret Peak Aquatic Center

It claims to have the largest pool in Utah – 750,000 gallons of water to be explored. Water features, diving boards, water slides, wading area and a deep end that sinks to 12 feet below the surface.

Adults and Kids, $4


Wheeler Farm

A working 19th century farm where the public can check out the farm animals, playground, and hiking trails

Free admission. Historic farmhouse tours – Adults $4, Kids (ages 3-12) $2. Wagon rides – $3.


Bean Life Science Museum

Filled with collection of over 2.8 million specimens, live animal shows, and hands-on activities for kids.

Free admission.


Butterfly Biosphere

Billed as Utah’s only butterfly conservatory and insectarium, the biosphere holds over a thousand live butterflies and hundreds of live insects from around the world.

Adults $24, Youth (ages 13-24) $19, Kids (ages 3-12) $17

$3 admission for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card up to six guests. Book in advance.


Museum of Natural Curiosity

More than 400 hands-on exhibits plus hidden treasures and secret passageways for curious minds.

Adults $24, Youth (ages 13-24) $19, Kids (ages 3-12) $17

$3 admission for SNAP recipients with an EBT or WIC card up to six guests. Book in advance.


Minnetonka Cave

Technically, not a Utah thing but very close to Bear Lake. Take a cave tour through a half-mile of stalactites, stalagmites, and travertine in nine rooms that at a brisk 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Adults $12, Kids (ages 6-15).


Uintah Basin

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum

Chock full of dinosaurs and fossils for dino lovers, complete with interactive games, puzzles and more.

Adults $8, Kids (ages 6-12) $4.


McConkie Ranch Petroglyphs

Impressive ancient artwork near Vernal covering 200 feet of cliff face dating from 100 – 1200 C.E.

$5 donation per car.


Central Utah

Moab’s Backyard Theater

Family-friendly comedy, music and magic magically appears Friday and Saturday evenings. 2022 summer schedule is to be determined.

Adults $10, Kids (ages 4-17) $5.


Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center

Beat the heat in two outdoor pools and an indoor pool with slide and play structures.

Adults $10, Kids (ages 4-17) $5.


Price City Desert Wave Pool

Cool off and ride the waves in ten minute intervals and master the indoor aqua climbing wall.

Adults $12, Kids (ages 4-11) $3.


Scipio Petting Zoo

On your way down to Southern Utah or up to Northern Utah?  Gas up in Scipio and check out this petting zoo with some unusual residents that is officially recognized as a zoo by the USDA.

Free admission.


Southern Utah

Thunder Junction All Abilities Park

An awesome wheelchair accessible play space with an erupting volcano, ziplines, splash pad and a 1/4 C.P. Huntington train on a 2,700-foot track.

Free admission.


St. George Children’s Museum

Explores twelve exhibit rooms designed for minds both young and old to play and interact.

Adults and Kids, $5.


St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site

Unearthed in 2000, these very well-preserved footprints left by dinosaurs millions of years ago can be explored by families. It includes an interactive area, a Dino Park and a Walk-through Time exhibit.

Adults $8, Kids (ages 4-17) $4.


Hurricane Concerts in the Park

Free live music twice a month from May through September at Hurricane City’s Pioneer Park.

Free admission. Bring your own chairs/blankets.


The Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Greenshow

Held on the lawn in front of the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre on the Southern Utah University campus, the nightly Greenshow celebrates the Elizabethan era through song and dance.

Free admission. Bring your own chairs/blankets.


Lake at the Hills

Hit the beach at Cedar City’s man-made Lake at the Hills. It’s open for fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, canoeing, swimming, and picnicking on the beach. Who doesn’t love building sandcastles?

Free admission.


Brian Head Ski Resort Life Ride

Ride to the top of Brian Head Peak and check out the views stretching across Utah and into Arizona and Nevada.

Adults $15, Kids (ages 4-12) $10.


Star Gazing at the Ashcroft Observatory

On Monday nights, the public is invited to learn about the star constellations and view distant parts of the galaxy from the Ashcroft Observatory on the SUU campus.

Free admission. Subject to weather conditions.


Sand Island Petroglyphs

Explore ancient rock art spanning over a hundred yards and several Native American eras ranging from 800 to 2,500 years ago.

Free admission.


Canyon Country Discovery Center

Leaners young and not-as-young can explore interactive exhibits related to science, nature and the local geology and culture and includes an observatory for dark sky discoveries.

Adults $10, Students $8, Kids (ages 1-11) $6.


Free Splash Pads

Box Elder County

John Adams Park

Cache County

Meadow View Park

333 East 2700 North, North Logan


Alma Leonhardt Park

310 West 250 North, Providence


Central Park Splash Pad

100 North 25 West, Smithfield


Millville South Park

510 East 300 South, Millville


Blacksmith Fork Park

176 South 1300 East, Hyrum


Salt Hollow Park

350 West 100 North, Hyrum


Davis County

Creekside Park

600 East Mill Street, Bountiful


Ellison Park

700 North 2200 West, Layton


Legacy Park

1140 West 1100 North, North Salt Lake


Heritage Park

250 North Fairfield Road, Kaysville


Centennial Park

1800 South 2000 West, Syracuse


Shuman Park

200 North Tremont St., Tremonton


Emery County

Huntington City Park

1-99 E Center St, Huntington


Salt Lake County

New Town Center

3601 South 2700 West, West Valley City


Wardle Fields Regional Park

14148 South 2700 West, Bluffdale


Knudsen Park

6293 Holladay Boulevard E, Holladay


Old Farm Park

3250 West 13680 South, Riverton


Riverton City Park

1452 West 12600 South, Riverton


Western Springs Park

4570 South Goshute Drive, Riverton


Sandy Splash Pad

1245 East 9400 South, Sandy


Oquirrh Shadows Park and Splash Pad

4000 West South Jordan Parkway, South Jordan


Ron Wood Regional Park

6000 West New Bingham Highway, West Jordan


Umbria Estates Park

12790 Brundisi Way, Herriman


J. Lynn Crane Park

5373 West Main Street, Herriman


Olympic Legacy Plaza Snowflake Fountain

10 North Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City


Draper Splash Park

150 East 13400 South, Draper


Willow Pond Park

6059 South Murray Parkway Avenue, Murray


Vintage Park

14180 South Loumis Parkway, Bluffdale


Independence Park

15245 South Noell Nelson Drive, Bluffdale

Utah County

Palisade Park

1313 East 800 North, Orem


Wride Memorial Park

5806 North Pony Express Parkway, Eagle Mountain


Nolen Park

7862 North Tinamous Road, Eagle Mountain


Shops at Riverwoods Splash Pad

4801 North University Avenue, Provo


Pioneer Park

1417 South 350 East, Provo


Adventure Heights

1321 East Canyon Road, Spanish Fork


Grove Park Splash Pad

350 North 100 East, Vineyard


Ivory Ridge Splash Pad

3200 North 560 West, Lehi


Springville Splash Pad

50 South Main Street, Springville


Town Center Splash Pad

5400 West Civic Center Drive, Highland


Summit County

The Basin Recreation Fieldhouse

1388 Center Drive, Park City


Washington County

St. George Town Square Park

50 South Main Street, St. George


Hidden Valley Park

3505 South Barcelona Drive, St. George


Thunder Junction All Abilities Park

1851 South Dixie Drive, St. George


The Fields at Little Valley

2995 South 2350 East, St. George


Unity Park

200 West 400 South, Ivins


Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park

965 South Washington Fields Drive, Washington City


Pine View Park

2050 South Alveo Drive, Washington City


Sienna Hills Park

500 North Redstone Road, Washington City


Green Spring Park

1760 North Vista Park Way, Washington City


Archie H. Gubler Park

2375 Rachel Drive, Santa Clara


Community Center and Splash Pad

63 South 100 West, Hurricane


Weber County

Nature Park

575 South 1175 East, Ogden


Burch Creek Park

4300 Madison Avenue, South Ogden


George E. Whalen Park

4200 South 2175 West


Community Movies / Movies in the Park

These are free or low-cost, outdoor showings under the stars throughout Utah.

Grab your blankets, chairs and anything that makes movie watching more comfortable.


Cache County

Hyde Park Hometown Days

It’s all about Cars on Friday, July 15th with a car show, a kids cardboard car show and the movie, “Cars.”


Davis County

Free Film Series

Friday night films at Layton’s Kenley Amphitheater from June 3 through August 26.


Kaysville Movies in the Park

Kaysville will host three family-friendly movies this summer at Heritage Park and Barnes Park.


Centerville Movies in the Park

From June through August at Smith Park, 2022 season to be determined.


Salt Lake County

Movies on the Plaza at The Gateway

Wednesday nights from July 7 through August 11.


Cottonwood Heights Movies at the Park

Friday nights from June 24 into August.


Draper Days Movie Night

Watch “Encanto” on a giant outdoor screen at the Draper Amphitheater, July 14.


Herriman Movies in the Park

The dates of the 2022 Summer Series to be determined.


Taylorsville Dayzz Movie Night

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife”, 9:30 at Valley Regional Park


Friday Night Flicks at Kearns Oquirrh Park

Fridays from June 4 through August 13 at Chomper’s Cove or the Park’s Pavilion.


Midvale Venture Out! Movie Nights

Every Friday night in July, spread out amongst five different parks.


Magna Music and Movies in the Park

A concert and a movie at Magna’s Pleasant Green Park, most Friday nights from mid-June into August. 2022 season to be determined.


Sundance Institute Presents

The Sundance Institute presents an array of films from the 2022 Sundance Festival on July 14 and July 21 at Red Butte Garden.


Sandy Movies in the Park

Friday night family film fun at various Sandy City venues from June 10 through July 29.


Murray Movies in the Park

Movies on Fridays from June 3 through August 5. You’ll need to pre-register.


South Jordan Movies in the Moonlight

At various parks. 2022 Summer season to be determined.


Sanpete County

Manti Movies in the Park

Tons of pre-movie activities to enjoy at Manti City Park before the movies get rolling from June 17 through August 5.


Summit County

Basin Recreation Movies in the Park

Three family-friendly movies throughout the summer at Park City parks


Coalville Kid’s Summer Cinema

Bring your own drinks, they’ll supply the popcorn for Friday afternoon screenings throughout the summer


Uintah County

Vernal Free Family Movie Friday

2022’s lineup includes four films at the Uintah Community Center grounds from June into August.


Utah County

Provo Movies in the Park

Provo is switching it up this summer, going from showing movies in the park to a drive-in screenings. 2022 season is to be determined


SCERA Movies Under the Stars

Movies at the SCERA Shell Outdoor Theatre in Orem with on a big screen with big sound.

Adults $4, Kids (ages 3-11) $3.


Lehi Outdoor Movie

Catch the Goofy Movie at Lehi’s Vets Park on June 22


Lindon Movies in the Park

Lindon hosts four free films from June through September at City Center Park and Pioneer Park.


Santaquin Movies in the Park

2022 season to be determined.


Springville Movies in the Park

Free family movies at Spring Acres Arts Park’s outdoor amphitheater. 2022 season to be determined.


Weber County

Ogden Monday Night Movies

From June into August, 2022 season to be determined.


RAMP Summer Movie Saturdays

Cool off by catching a couple of movies playing inside Peery’s Egyptian Theater in Ogden on June 25 and July 9.


Weber Library Cinema Saturdays

Free films every Saturday at the Weber Library’s branches.


Washington County

St. George Sunset on the Square

Friday night flicks every 2nd and 4th Friday of each month this summer at St. George’s Town Square


Santa Clara Family Camping in the City

Spend the night of August 5, camping in Santa Clara’s Central Park. Among many other activities, campers will get to watch the Pixar film, “Up.”


Summer Movie Ticket Deals

Kid-approved movies up on the big screen with tickets at a big discount.


Cinemark Movie Clubhouse

$1.50 per ticket / June 15 – August 3


Megaplex Kids Summer Movies

$1.50 per ticket, or buy a digital pass for 10 movies for 10 weeks at 10 a.m. for $10 / June 1 – August 11


Regal Summer Move Express

2022 season pricing and schedule to be determined

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Unaffordable Utah: Budget-friendly family summer fun