Salt Lake City, known as “The Crossroads of the West,” is not only Utah’s capital and largest city but a city full of group-tour attractions, including some excellent museums. These museums provide glimpses into the city’s intriguing pioneer and religious past and also its modern artistic, scientific and technological side.

Several museum attractions are located in historic Temple Square surrounding Salt Lake Temple (which is not open to the public). Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by Brigham Young, founded Salt Lake City in 1847. The Museum of Church History and Art spotlights church history through permanent and temporary educational exhibits, including Mormon artwork and artifacts from around the world. Guided tours are available by appointment. (801-240-3310, lds.org/churchhistory/museum)

Lion House

Young’s first house, the Beehive House, was built in 1854 and restored in 1960 as a historic house museum with many original furnishings. The beehive atop the house is a Mormon representation of industry. Visitors can also visit the Lion House, Young’s second home, built in 1865, and dine in the Pantry Restaurant there. (801-240-2681 and 801-539-3257, lds.org)

The nearby Salt Lake City Art Center has recently been given a Best of State Award. The art museum displays contemporary art by local and international artists and was recognized as Utah’s Best Museum in 2011. (801-328-4201, slartcenter.org)

Museum of Fine Arts

The University of Utah campus houses the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and Utah Museum of Natural History. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is the state’s principal outlet for the visual arts. Permanent and temporary exhibits can be viewed in over 20 galleries. The Utah Museum of Natural History will reopen in late 2011 at a new location and include exhibits on anthropology, life sciences, minerals, paleontology and dinosaurs. The new expanded Utah Museum of Natural History at the Rio Tinto Center will feature hands-on activities, more displays and an educational facility. (801-581-7332, umfa.utah.edu; 801-581-4303, umnh.utah.edu)

Clark Planetarium

Clark Planetarium includes scientific exhibits, the Hanson Dome Theatre and five-story-high 3D IMAX Theatre. Visitors can explore a Foucault pendulum (used to demonstrate Earth’s rotation), a rotating globe, telescope displays, meteorites and a moon rock from the Apollo 15 mission. The Hanson Dome Theatre features short educational films on topics ranging from black holes to planets. The IMAX Theatre shows current movies and nature and science films. The planetarium also offers cosmic laser light shows. (801-456-7837, clarkplanetarium.com)

A great place for families is Discovery Gateway. The children’s museum has four floors of fun and adventure and features permanent and changing educational exhibits. A second floor exhibit, the Garden, allows kids to play a marimba and has a 30-foot beehive where families can bond. Kid’s Eye View is a kid-sized city where children can deliver mail, work on a family farm, shop at a market and build at a construction site. The third floor holds the Story Factory exhibit where children can put on a play, write a comic strip or make a film. Other exhibits include Media Zone, The Studio and The Terrace. (801-456-5437, ext. 100, discoverygateway.org)

One unique museum located in Salt Lake City is the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers’ Pioneer Memorial Museum. ISDUP, an organization of women descended from original Utah pioneers, commemorate their rich history by conserving historical places and collecting pioneer artifacts. Pioneer Memorial Museum is ISDUP’s headquarters and is one of 86 museums they maintain in Utah. The museum has everything from pioneer clothing and crafts to Brigham Young’s wagon. (801-532-4436, dupinternational.org)

A living history village, Heritage Village, can be explored at “This is the Place” Heritage Park. The village includes over 40 original and replica Utah Pioneer structures from 1847-1898. Visitors can watch period costumed tradesmen demonstrate pioneer trades and crafts. (801-582-1847, thisistheplace.org)

Fort Douglas Military Museum is dedicated to preserving Utah’s and America’s military history. Camp Douglas was established in 1862 to protect a mail route and telegraph lines. Renamed Fort Douglas in 1878, this military post remained active until 1991. The museum is housed in part of the original fort and displays military artifacts, photographs and uniforms. (801-581-1251, fortdouglas.org)

Visitors with a passion for cars should check out the Classic Cars International Auto Museum. The museum has changing collections of antique, classic and special cars on display and for sale (over 100 at a time). Cars exhibited have included a 1906 Cadillac Tulip roadster, 1936 Packard and 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible. (801-322-5509)

One way to learn about life on a farm is by spending time at Wheeler Historic Farm. Visitors can tour the 1898 house, outbuildings, grounds and nature preserve of the 75-acre living history dairy farm and participate in activities such as gathering eggs and milking a cow. The farm is still operated using animal and manual labor and offers wagon rides. (801-264-2241, wheelerfarm.com)

Salt Lake City is home to America’s first Hellenic Cultural Museum. The museum has a famous mining exhibit and displays artifacts belonging to Utah’s first Greek immigrants. (801-359-4163)

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