10 In-Person Things to Do with Your Kids this Summer in THE BLOCKS

The July 4th holiday is in the rearview and the first day of school is still on the distant horizon. In other words, we’re deep in the dog days of summer. If you’re like many parents and are looking for a way to tear your kids away from their screens and just DO something, look no further. Following are a boatload of fun, in-person things to do in THE BLOCKS to help keep your kiddos entertained until the new school year starts at the end of August. 

To call The Gateway (400 W. 200 South, 801.456.0000) a “mall” hardly does this downtown destination justice. There you’ll find colorful murals, comfy lounge seating, fantastic retailers and restaurants, movie theaters and, of course, the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum. The Gateway also hosts a full slate of thoughtful and creative events, including free outdoor classic kids’ movie screenings every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (upcoming showings include The BFG on July 28; Rudy on August 4 and DoLittle on August 11.); free dance classes hosted by Repertory Dance Theatre on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; and the Outdoor Urban Flea Market, held on the second Sunday of every month, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In recent years, a colorful renaissance has occurred in downtown Salt Lake City with the installation of dozens of murals and pieces of street art throughout the metro core.  Have your kids download THE BLOCKS Public Art and Mural Trail app and then start exploring. This self-led immersive experience is a super-fun way to check out SLC’s hidden treasures and is guaranteed to make you see downtown in a new way. Think of it as keys to your own public art gallery.  

There’s no better way to beat the summer heat than by spending an afternoon at the Clark Planetarium (110 S. 400 West, 385.468.7827). There you can explore three floors of expertly executed exhibits exploring the forces that have shaped—and continue to shape—Earth, the moon, our Solar System and beyond. (Visitor numbers within the planetarium are capped and so reservations to tour the planetarium’s free exhibits are strongly recommended.) The planetarium also offers IMAX film screenings in its Northrup Grumman Theatre and film screenings and multi-media laser light and music shows in the Hansen Dome Theatre.  

The children’s section within the Main Branch of the Salt Lake City Library (210 E. 400 South) welcomes kids (and adults!) seven days a week. In addition to access to thousands of books, there children can use the computers; do the Main Library Scavenger Hunt; grab and Take-and-Make art kit; check out a board game, puzzle or coloring books and crayons to use within the library; or grab a free snack from the Kids Café, open Monday through Friday, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Note: Most of the grounds around the Main Library are open, but the rooftop walk and patio are closed until further notice.   

Banish your older kids’ “I’m bored” refrain with a visit to the Mystery Escape Room (130 S. Rio Grande St.). Current themes range from Nancy Drew’s Mystery of the Missing Jewelry and the Book of Houdini to the Secrets of Downton Abby and the Sword of Zorro. To keep everyone safe, appointments are for private groups only—meaning you’ll be paired only with people in your group versus strangers.

If you’ve never experienced the amazing treasure trove of contemporary art—made by both Utah-based and nationally acclaimed contemporary artists—at UMOCA (20 S. West Temple, 801.328.4201), this summer is the time to go. This downtown Salt Lake City gem is celebrating its 90th birthday this summer and has curated a collection of outstanding exhibits befitting its milestone anniversary. One that will resound with the younger set is Jorge Rojas Corn Mandala: Flower of Life. This intricate work is made up of more than 100 pounds of corn. Through this body of work, Rojas examines the importance of corn as a food source and its cultural/ spiritual significance to indigenous peoples in the Americas.   

You are probably already aware that The Leonardo (209 E. 500 South) was created to explore the intersection between art and science. But beyond that heady intellectual mission statement, this unusual museum is simply really cool and fun. There kids can take part in multiple hands-on “maker stations” where they can delve into approachable art, engineering or science projects; climb into an enormous C-131 aircraft or take to the virtual skies in a flight simulator as part of the FLIGHT exhibit; or browse unusual titles at the in-museum Ken Sanders Rare Books boutique location. The Leonardo also offers multiple youth-focused ongoing programs, like the Girls Who Code Club. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.   

Speaking of art, Dreamscapes (111 S. Rip Grande St.) is, hands down, one of the most unique art galleries you’ll ever experience. This 17,000-foot art labyrinth features of magical series of walk-through physical and digital art experiences created by more than 100 local artists and builders with upcycled, recycled or donated materials. In fact, Dreamscapes, a project of the Utah Art Alliance, is Utah’s first environmentally sustainable art attraction. Dreamscapes is open Wednesday through Sunday. 

After a very truncated season in 2020, the annual Urban Food Connections’ Downtown Farmer’s Market and Art & Craft Market (Saturdays, Pioneer Park, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) has returned to its pre-pandemic glory. There, after letting your kids work out their yayas on the playground, you can stock up on produce, breads, cheeses and meat for the week, grab a bite at the food trucks and browse the arts and crafts vendors. When you go, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and bring reusable bags.  

Though it’s slightly outside of the downtown proper, one of Salt Lake City’s best urban-to-nature hikes is along the Memory Grove Freedom Trail, a lovely 1.5 mile, cool and shady dirt path traveling alongside City Creek (where dogs are allowed to take a dip) just north of the beautifully landscaped Memory Grove Park (300 N. Canyon Rd).

Written by Melissa Fields