On the University of Utah’s campus is the Natural History Museum of Utah. The focus of the museum is entirely on Utah’s geography, climate, and living beings from the time of single celled organisms up until the Ute people lived in the area.
The museum’s current location is in a building completed in 2011, relatively new by museum standards. The exhibits are largely well put together and maintained; the dinosaur portion of the museum is particularly impressive.
It seems to have been put together with a deliberately broad appeal with interactive exhibits and puzzles for kids, basic biology you probably learned as a teenager (a refresher never hurts), as well as more in-depth exhibits for adults.
Personally I went to this museum because it was my last day in Salt Lake City, and I wanted something to do where I wouldn’t have to carry my stuff around all day (the museum has lockers.) I figured the dinosaur exhibit would be the most interesting part. And while it was, their comprehensive exhibit on the adaptation and evolution of life quickly became my favorite exhibit.
They also have an interactive earthquake exhibit that I think was aimed at kids, but since nobody else was around I had it all to myself. I have to admit it’s very entertaining. The gist of it is you build a one or two story building on a special table, then hit a button on a computer screen to simulate one of several historical earthquakes and see how your building stands up — or doesn’t.
My recommendation: It’s not the largest museum of its kind, but there’s a little something for anyone interested in Utah’s natural history (including dinosaurs.) The location is pretty far from downtown though it’s a short walk from a number of popular hiking trails. Worth considering if you’re in that part of town.