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Take a family field trip to Red Butte Garden

SHARE Take a family field trip to Red Butte Garden

My family first discovered Red Butte Garden a few years ago on Arbor Day. Admission to the garden is free on Arbor Day and I love to take advantage of top-notch, free family activities. It was such a good experience that we returned to the garden in the summer and rediscovered Red Butte Garden in a whole new way. We found beauty we had missed the first time, and the change of seasons offered a whole new experience.

Red Butte Garden is affiliated with the University of Utah and is located just south of the campus in Salt Lake City. It has more than 100 acres of gardens and natural areas, with walking paths and hiking trails that make it easy for visitors to enjoy the large variety of regional plants cultivated there.

Red Butte Garden for families

Is there a child on earth who can resist rolling down a grassy hill? That's the first thing visitors see upon entering Red Butte Garden. Less adventurous members of the family can enjoy a view of the lawn and the seasonal flowers that border it from a seat on the patio at the base of the hill.

In the Children's Garden, families can walk behind a waterfall, find their way through a maze and cool off on a hot day on the splash pad. It's a great spot to let kids be kids, and we spent more time here than in any other area of Red Butte Garden. You don't need to be a professional photographer to get great shots of your family here.

Next, walk down the hill and visit the duck pond. There, we discovered a scenic waterfall and were delighted by a family of ducks. The ducklings were adorable and we stayed awhile, admiring the ducklings and admiring our cute kids who were admiring the ducklings. Who doesn't love ducklings?

My favorite memory from one of our visits was a picnic on one of the "treehouse" patios. Red Butte Garden is set in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains and is quite hilly. In this section, the wide paved path moves up the hill in long switchbacks, and small patios with tables and chairs are nestled in the trees that grow up from below. The garden wasn't crowded that day, and we felt as if it was all ours.

Families will appreciate the beauty of the Rose Garden, discover the scents of the Fragrance Garden or Herb Garden, learn in the Medicinal Garden or discover the Secret Garden in the natural area. Any of these experiences could become a part of your cherished family memories.

Before you go

Plan an hour or a whole day in the garden, but three to four hours was about right for us. Red Butte Garden is next door to the new Natural History Museum of Utah, which we also recommend. Between these two attractions, a family could easily spend a full day.

The garden opens at 9 a.m. nearly every day, year-round. Closing time varies depending on the season, with the earliest close time being at 5 p.m. during the winter and on concert days. Visit redbuttegarden.org for details.

Adult admission is $8. Admission for children (ages 3-17) is $6. There are discounts for seniors and military, and University of Utah students get in free.

Get free admission to Red Butte Garden on Pioneer Day (July 24) and Labor Day (Sept. 3) in 2012. Get in free on Arbor Day each April as well. These free days can be crowded, so plan accordingly. There is plenty of room for everyone inside the garden, but expect a fun and festive community vibe instead of peace and quiet on these days.


You may want to put the price of admission toward an annual membership if you enjoy your day and live near enough. For most families, membership will pay for itself within three visits.

Red Butte Garden has one of the best outdoor concert venues in Utah. Garden members not only get a discount on summer concert tickets and other garden programs, such as summer camps, but can purchase concert tickets before the general public as well. This is an important benefit because some popular shows sell out during the members presale.

Most of the acts at Red Butte Garden's Summer Concert Series are folksy/indie types that fit well in the outdoor setting. Some, such as the They Might Be Giants show we attended a few years ago, are also family friendly.

The 2012 concert series has already begun and includes big names such as Melissa Etheridge, Norah Jones, the B-52s, Grace Potter, Al Green, Michael Franti, Steve Martin and more. Some shows have sold out, but tickets to many shows are still available. To purchase tickets or find more information, visit redbuttegarden.org.

Those first experiences at Red Butte Garden have made it one of our favorite family destinations in Salt Lake City. The gardens give our children space to run, play, learn and use their "outdoor" voices, which I'm pretty sure are the only voices my children have. Simultaneously, the gardens have a calming influence on frazzled grown-ups' souls. Come see for yourself.

Allison Laypath is an expert on family travel and author of the family travel blog tipsforfamilytrips.com. With her family, Allison especially enjoys road trips, national parks and local field trips. Email Allison at allison@tipsforfamilytrips.com.