On one of the shorelines of ancient Lake Bonneville, the University of Utah is the state's largest higher-education institution and the oldest university west of the Mississippi. It is home to museums, the football stadium that was the site of the opening and closing ceremonies during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and a 15,000-seat indoor arena that played host to the 1979 NCAA basketball championship game, in which Larry Bird faced off against Magic Johnson. The University Medical Center and its neighbor, the Primary Children's Medical Center, east of the campus, are active in medical training and research. Research Park, south of the campus, houses scores of private companies and portions of 30 academic departments in a cooperative enterprise to combine research and technology to produce marketable products.

As you leave the downtown and university area, there are opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Hiking trails lead across the foothills above the university. Red Butte Garden and Arboretum is a treat for the eye and a great place to learn about plants that thrive in dry climates such as Utah's. Since relocating to these foothills in 2011, the gleaming copper-colored Natural History Museum of Utah has become a must-visit destination. For living history, wander the boardwalks in This Is the Place Heritage Park, where volunteers dress in 19th-century costume.