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Top Utah attractions for your perfect summer 'Staycation'

When one says vacation, most minds wander to tropical beaches, exotic landscapes and foreign languages. Many don’t think quiet, developing Salt Lake City. But although the city doesn't have a reputation as a tourism hotspot, Salt Lake has a thriving family-oriented entertainment scene with many venues that are frequented by locals as much as by tourists. If you’re looking for a staycation this summer, here are some of the top options for Utah families.

Salt Lake City Connect Pass

The Salt Lake City Connect Pass has been around for over a decade, and it is a great way to see some of the area's most popular attractions. According to the Visit Salt Lake office, the top three most-redeemed are the Hogle Zoo, Clark Planetarium and the Lion House Pantry. A full list of included attractions can be viewed here.

The Connect Pass is offered in one-, two-, three- or 365-day options. Shawn Stinson of the Visit Salt Lake office said that while the pass was initially designed for out-of-state visitors, officials added the 365-day pass so locals could use the pass to host visitors and to entertain their families.

The 365-day pass is $90 for adults, $85 for seniors and $80 for a child, and it is valid at attractions with the combined value of $192 for adults. The pass is activated the first day you use it and is valid for the duration of the designated period. Passes can be shared simply by clicking the “Share Pass” link on the mobile site and entering your guest’s email and mobile phone number.

Although the pass has some clear popularity winners, it doesn't mean you should skip the lesser-known and lesser-visited. Here are a few attractions on the Salt Lake City Connect Pass deserving of your attention:

Red Butte Garden

Red Butte Garden is the biggest garden in the Intermountain West, according to visitsaltlake.com, and it specializes in showing off local plants and flowers. The gorgeous grounds include a herb garden, a fragrance garden, a children’s garden and a water pavilion. All in all, Red Butte has 21 acres of gardens with another 5 miles of hiking trails for the dedicated explorer. For an additional cost, the gardens also offer educational courses in gardening and art for adults and kids, and offer “Adventure Tours” in the summer for kids in the Children’s Garden. On May 20, Red Butte is also opening a new Water Conservation Garden. More information on the Water Conservation Garden and Red Butte, in general, can be found at www.redbuttegarden.org.

Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort

In the summer, the Connect Pass offers one ride on the Scenic Foot Passenger Tram. The ride takes passengers 1.6 miles and 2,900 vertical feet up Hidden Peak, according to visitsaltlake.com. Snowbird Resort offers some of the best scenic views in the Salt Lake area, and by taking the tram ride, big and small legs alike won’t have to scale the mountain to see them. Go to www.snowbird.com for more information.

Utah Olympic Park

One free Adventure Course activity at the Utah Olympic Park is included on the Connect Pass, but since it is located in Park City, many locals skip it to avoid the drive. However, the Olympic Park has some of the best rushes for adrenaline seekers in the state and should not be overlooked. The included Adventure Courses are described on visitsaltlake.com as “alpine obstacle courses featuring traverses, swinging, and problem-solving,” and are great for a fun day of physical activity. But obstacle courses aren’t the only adventures the park has to offer. While visiting, consider purchasing an additional pass for the zip-line or tube rides down the ski-jump landing hills. Opening May 26, activities at the park range from $15-$75 per person. Taking a guided tour or simply exploring the facilities is a great way to learn about Utah’s Olympic legacy. For more information, check out www.utaholympiclegacy.org.

Pass of All Passes

Similar to the Connect Pass, the Pass of All Passes covers attractions from Salt Lake City to Provo. Although largely associated with the Seven Peaks Fun Centers, the Pass of all Passes also includes a variety of athletic events from BYU to the Utah Grizzlies. The pass costs $24.99 for a new pass or $99.99 for a pass to share with a friend or guest. Pass buyers can also purchase add-ons such as an annual Seven Peaks parking pass for $19.99 or a buddy pass for $49.99.

Afternoon Tea at the Grand America

Though not included in any of the passes, the Grand America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City offers afternoon tea from 1-3 p.m. daily, at $28 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Traditional English tea is served in the Lobby Lounge with tea and desserts provided by Chef Fernando Soberanis. Con your children into their best clothes for a fancy afternoon to spice up the summer doldrums. The treats will make up for the uncomfortable clothing. For more information, go to www.grandamerica.com.

Spiral Jetty

Artist Robert Smithson installed the Spiral Jetty in 1970. Created out of mud, basalt rocks and salt crystal, the earthwork sculpture extends 1,500 feet into the northeastern edge of the Great Salt Lake. Spiral Jetty was named Utah’s official State Work of Art in 2016, and it is a great place to explore with kids. The bumpy drive down a dirt road will bring a sense of adventure to your family's summer outing. Although Utah has experienced significant rainfall this year, years of drought have ensured that the Spiral is still clearly visible. Get driving directions here.

Homestead Crater

Located in Heber Valley, The Crater is a geothermal hot spring hidden under a limestone hill near the Homestead Resort. The Crater's website said it is the only warm water scuba diving location in the continental U.S., but you don’t need to be scuba certified to enjoy a swim. For just over $20 a guest, The Crater provides the snorkeling gear and life jackets needed to enjoy a swim in this amazing natural beauty hidden among Utah’s small towns. However, if scuba certification sounds like a skill to add to your repertoire, The Crater offers scuba certification courses through a variety of scuba schools, including A-1 Scuba & Travel and Scuba Utah. Go to www.homesteadresort.com for more information.

Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park

The Eccles Dinosaur Park provides an opportunity for kids to interact with prehistoric creatures. Full of realistic animatronic dinosaurs, this Ogden park will be adding the “World’s Largest Carnivorous Dinosaur Ever Found” this summer for kids to meet. For slightly higher prices, the park also offers day camps and birthday party packages for particularly dinosaur-interested kids. Find more information at www.dinosaurpark.org

These are just a few of the wonderful attractions available in our wonderful state. Do you have a favorite place to visit with your family in Utah? Let us know your top stops in the comments.