Provo is Utah County’s county seat and the second-largest metro area in the State after Salt Lake City.
The Timpanogos first settled in Provo, and the city was originally named Timpanogas, a word by the Ute tribe that means “rock river.”
In 1847, Mormon pioneers first began to settle in Salt Lake Valley, and by 1849, they built the settlement Fort Utah, which triggered conflicts with the Utes and prompted the Provo War and Walker War.
Fort Utah was changed to Provo in 1850 after Étienne Provost, a French-Canadian fur trader who came to the area in 1825.
Today, Provo distinguishes itself as a hub for advancement in technology, healthcare, and education, the entryway for Provo Canyon's attractions, and a plethora of free activities everyone can enjoy.
Here are the best free things to do in Provo, Utah:
Enjoy a Campus Tour at Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University (BYU), informally known as The Y, is a private university in Provo.
Brigham Young, a religious leader, founded it in 1875, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints funds the university.
It’s one of the largest private institutions in the nation, with around 35,000 students and a campus spanning about 600 acres.
Famous BYU alumni include American actor Aaron Eckhart and the "Twilight" Series author Stephenie Meyer.
The University Relations office offers public tours where an expert tour guide will drive visitors around campus on a tour cart as they learn about the university's rich history and educational philosophy.
To request a tour time, please call or visit the BYU Public Affairs & Guest Relations web portal; tours take place every hour from Monday through Friday.
Discover Archaeological Artifacts at the Brigham Young University Museum of People and Cultures
The Brigham Young University Museum of Peoples and Cultures is the archaeology and ethnology museum of BYU.
Over a million objects from around the world are housed in the museum’s diverse collections, with the majority of the artifacts hailing from the American Southwest, Central America, Mesoamerica, South America, Polynesia, and the Great Basin.
The archaeology department at BYU was founded in 1946, and as a result of the department's creation and the ensuing fieldwork, a separate archaeology museum had to be built.
In its early years, the Eyring Science Center's lower floor housed the archaeological museum.
It was first relocated to the ground floor of the Maeser Building in 1961, then to Allen Hall in 1981, where it received its current name, before being transferred to its present location on Canyon Road in 2015.
Feel free to drop by and visit the museum at your own leisure, as the exhibits are designed for self-exploration.
Learn about Natural Science at the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum
The Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, or the Bean Life Science Museum, is based at Brigham Young University.
Officially opened in 1978, the museum was granted accreditation by the American Association of Museums and continues to be a member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance.
The Bean Life Science Museum will inspire children and adults with various interesting exhibits like Our Living Planet, Protect Your Planet, Understanding the Principles of Evolution, Life Submerged, Boyd K. Packer Gallery, and Fred and Sue Morris Bird Gallery.
The Discovery Reading, Family Home Evenings, and the Y Life Science Podcast are among the public programs available.
In addition to its exhibits and educational programs, the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum houses several research collections to benefit the BYU faculty and the greater academic community, such as educators and research scientists.
Appreciate Art at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art
Opened in 1993, the Brigham Young University Museum of Art (MOA) is a four-story, cutting-edge building with a floor area of over 102,000 square feet.
Also located on the Brigham Young University campus, the museum is home to 10 exhibit galleries, a small theater, an auditorium, a print study room, classrooms, a gift shop, a cafe, and administrative and security offices.
Renowned architect James Langenheim from Los Angeles designed the BYU Museum of Art to create an art museum that exhibits art and is a work of art itself.
Numerous artists from their permanent collection include Carl Bloch, Minerva Teichert, Maynard Dixon, Norman Rockwell, and Rembrandt.
The museum is a crucial component of the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications that offers students opportunities to study and research the permanent collection's artworks and learn and teach in galleries and classrooms.
Feed the Ducks at the BYU Botany Pond
The BYU Botany Pond, located on the southern part of the campus, is where landscape and science merge at BYU.
The park features a small pond with ducks and turtles, a boardwalk, grassy lawns, and benches underneath a towering tree canopy.
If you stroll around, you might see interesting rocks such as the supposed 1,000-year-old rock with petroglyphs and a pioneer rock with the date 1909 carved into it.
The BYU Grounds Department makes a lot of effort to keep the campus inspiring and thought-provoking for visitors and students alike.
Visitors are free to explore Botany Pond and the Demonstration Gardens located northeast of the pond.
See Fossils at the Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology
The Brigham Young University Museum of Paleontology, built in 1976, houses the dinosaur and rock fossils that Dr. James A. Jensen and his team collected over decades spent on fieldwork from sites in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.
Originally named the BYU Earth Science Museum, most of its collection was kept in storage below the LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The 5,000-square-foot extension was revealed during the museum’s official inauguration in 2009, with the new name and the entirety of the collection on display.
The Museum of Paleontology provides students with lab experiences and hands-on learning opportunities as part of the university’s educational system.
Roughly 25,000 people come to the museum annually to learn about paleontology, witness how dinosaur fossils are prepared, and touch actual fossils.
The BYU Museum of Paleontology on North Canyon Road primarily serves to facilitate research but is accessible to the general public.
Take a Nature Walk at Bicentennial Park
Bicentennial Park, also known as the Rotary Club Bicentennial Park, sponsored by the Rotary Club, was built in 1976, the year of America's bicentennial.
This 30-acre park features a duck pond with wetland areas, a natural spring, and a charming boardwalk.
Bicentennial Park on East 1440 South is a popular spot for disc golfers, sporting a 48-par and a seven-hole disc golf course, opened in 1999.
Take a peaceful nature walk across a wetlands preserve on their special boardwalk trail.
A cattail marsh in the park is fed by Nuttall Spring, one among the hundreds of springs on the Wasatch Fault Zone; compared to others, this spring offers a consistent stream of water all year round.
Visiting this park is one of the simplest and most effective ways to bask in the beauty of nature.
Hike to the Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning 607-foot tall double cascade waterfall at the southern end of Utah’s Provo Canyon, near US Route 189.
The falls is accessible by a trail that ties to the parking lot, which is open all year; however, accessibility may be restricted in the winter because of snow.
The Bridal Veil Falls aerial tramway service, hailed as the steepest aerial tramway in the world, was damaged by an avalanche in 1996 and is now permanently closed.
Hikers can either enjoy Bridal Veil Falls from a distance, as many families do, or head closer to the base, which may take about 10 minutes from the parking lot.
If you're more daring, hike further toward the first level of the falls, which can take an extra 10 minutes.
Within the Bridal Veil Falls park are tables and grassy areas for picnics, barbecue grills, and plenty of parking spaces.
Drive by the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway
The Provo Canyon Scenic Byway on Provo Canyon Road is one of the best drives to see soaring peaks, rivers, reservoirs, canyon walls, and forests in the state.
Provo Canyon Scenic Byway is a breathtaking 26-mile stretch of US Route 189 that runs between the communities of Provo and Heber.
A trip along the Provo Canyon Scenic Byway may take about 35 minutes without stops for recreation.
The Bridal Veil Falls is a highly recommended stop along this magnificent byway.
Provo Canyon Scenic Byway features beautiful views of Uinta National Forest, Mt. Timpanogos, the Provo River, and the Deer Creek Reservoir.
If you have more time, take a detour to the Alpine Scenic Loop (Utah State Route 92) to visit the Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Sundance Resort, and more.
Explore the Streets of Downtown Provo
Take a leisurely afternoon stroll through the lovely tree-lined sidewalks of Downtown Provo, whether you want to eat, shop, or merely explore!
Since Provo is renowned for its close proximity to the outdoors, some people tend to ignore the city's vibrant downtown, which offers a wide range of businesses and activities.
Everybody can find something to their liking here, as it's home to art galleries, retail boutiques, bookstores, antique shops, and more.
Visit Downtown Provo to see the vibrant walls, old buildings, and antique shops, and watch the free Rooftop Concert Series held every first Friday from July through September!
If you have money to spend, check out the delectable foreign cuisines and delight in fun entertainment options, including karaoke, live comedy, and theater.
Downtown Provo, influenced by nearby institutions Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University, is where families and business employees unwind and spend their free time.
Tour Galleries with the Downtown Provo Art Stroll
Ignite your curiosity and spark your creativity with the Downtown Provo Gallery Stroll.
Provo is home to a vibrant art scene with a wide variety of stunning galleries.
Exhibits include works by local and international artists in various media, including egg designs, classic paintings, and sculptures.
Downtown Provo's art galleries are open until 9:00 p.m. every first Friday and are open to the public; they usually include live music and refreshments.
Start the tour at any participating galleries and get directions toward other galleries Downtown.
View Utah Valley from Kyhv Peak
Kyhv Peak, formerly known as the Squaw Peak Overlook, lies in the center of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah.
Because of its scenic trails and vistas, Kyhv Peak is a popular location for hiking and camping.
Kyhv Peak is a fantastic place to view and admire Utah Valley and enjoy the fall foliage.
However, this mountain is more than just a location for outdoor recreation; the peak's name provides information about the region's past.
In an event known as the Battle of Provo River, the outnumbered Ute warriors fled from the colonists, carrying their wives and children across the treacherous Rock Canyon trails.
Some people believe it to be a myth, but the Chief Old Elk's wife is said to have fallen from the canyon's rocky cliffs during the retreat, so the mountain was then known as Squaw Peak by locals.
Squaw Peak was renamed Kyhv Peak in 2022 as a result of widespread campaigns nationwide to ban the use of the term "squaw," a slur frequently used to degrade Native American women; Kyhv is a word that means "mountain" in the Ute language.
Spend Family Time at Rock Canyon Park
Rock Canyon Park is Provo’s largest park which covers about 63 acres above the Provo LDS temple and at the foot of the mountains.
One of the city's most stunning parks, Rock Canyon Park is ideal for large gatherings and family reunions.
A wide-open bowl area is available for use, which can host multiple activities simultaneously.
Rock Canyon Park offers a range of facilities, including a sprawling green space with playgrounds, a trail, a sledding hill, soccer fields, a volleyball court, disc golf, horseshoes, and pavilions.
Thousands of people visit Rock Canyon Park annually for inspiration, refreshment, and recreation.
It’s one of the few “urban forests” that still remain in the country and is available and free for public use.
Join the Historic Provo Buildings Walking Tour
Take the self-guided Historic Provo Buildings Walking Tour to learn more about Provo's history and architecture.
This self-tour includes 22 pioneer structures that date as far back as 1849, when Mormon settlers first arrived in the area from Salt Lake City.
A visit to some of the early structures still standing will help you better understand their pioneering spirit.
Some of these structures are in use and can only be seen from the outside, but others let you explore the inside—note that homes are not open to the public.
Some of the historical buildings you’ll find along the tour are the Utah County Courthouse, the Provo City Center Temple, and the Provo Town Square.
To begin your tour and learn about these historic homes, churches, museums, government structures, and other sites, you may download the Historic Provo Walking Tour brochure and map online.
Beat the Heat at Pioneer Park
Pioneer Park, located on West Center Street, has added more family-friendly attractions after its renovation in 2013.
One of the best features of this 4.5-acre park is the splash pad, where locals flock to escape the summer heat!
This park hosts the Provo Farmers Market every year from June through October.
Pioneer Park aims to create a lovely, historic neighborhood where kids may play, and friendships are formed as neighbors help one another out.
The park has a playground and a pavilion, great for families and groups who want to spend a morning or afternoon together.
As you can tell, Provo’s tourism is heavily influenced by Brigham Young University and the region’s natural wonders.
Both locals and visitors can see and marvel at the many fascinating collections across a wide range of fields, such as art, archaeology, natural science, paleontology, and stunning outdoor vistas, all for free!
Come experience the best free things in Provo, Utah, while sharing it with your family and friends!