Salt Lake City is famously the home of the Mormon Church and the 2002 Winter Olympics, but if the city itself (as opposed to the nearby ski areas) is not on your radar as a travel destination, think again. Named by CNN as the least stressed out city, Utah’s capital is full of friendly people, beautiful scenery, delicious food, culture, and history. Here’s the only guide you’ll ever need to Salt Lake City. Enjoy your short trip to the Crossroads of the West!
What to See
Photo by Micah Sheldon CC BY
Temple Square is the center of downtown Salt Lake City and the headquarters of the Mormon Church. Although the inside of the temple itself is not open to visitors, the 35 square acre area around it—not to mention the impressive external architecture—attract millions of visitors each year. Take a guided tour of the grounds and/or the museums and buildings to learn about the church, its history and the history of the city. Or delve into your own background at the FamilySearch Center and Library, the largest collection of genealogical records in the world, where you can access records from Ellis Island, pioneer ancestry, and other nations. If you visit on a Thursday, don’t miss the free public rehearsal of the world famous, century old Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Photo by Photo Dean CC BY
Nestled in the center of a block of residential and commercial buildings, you can find one of the city’s hidden highlights. Gilgal Garden is the life’s work of Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., containing twelve original sculptures and over 70 engraved stones, created over twenty years. Restored and preserved by the Salt Lake Master Gardener Association, the garden is free and open almost every day. Look out for the sphinx with Joseph Smith’s head and oversized grasshoppers.
Photo by Tom Kelly CC BY
The opportunities for outdoor fun in the region around SLC are pretty unlimited, but you can get a taste of nature right in the center of the city as well. Head to Liberty Park to enjoy the day swimming, rollerblading, or playing bocce ball in Utah’s oldest and most famous park, or stay closer to town at the historical Pioneer Park. This modest green city block lights up in the summer during the Twilight Concert Series on Thursdays (one of SLC’s many noteworthy festivals) and the Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The Market, which includes an Art & Craft Market as well, has grown into one of the biggest community markets in the west. If you happen to hit Salt Lake City in the winter, you still have a chance to check it out every other week at the Rio Grande Depot.
What to Do
Photo by Topher CC BY
Salt Lake City is named for its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, the western hemisphere’s largest salt water lake. Swim in it without sinking, fly over it, bike or walk around it, or take any number of water vessels through it. But definitely don’t miss it.
Photo courtesy of Brewvies Facebook
After a day busy day of sightseeing, what better way to kick back than a movie and some local beer? Go to Brewvies, Salt Lake City’s only cinema pub, for some Utah beer on tap, yummy bar food, and the latest movies. Tip: Monday night is Film Buff Night, where you can see different classic movies each week for free!
Where to Eat
Photo courtesy of Ruth’s Diner
The second oldest restaurant in Utah is only about ten minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, and has breakfast as amazing as the view. Ruth’s Diner, creek-side in the historic Emigration Canyon, serves up family-secret comfort food all day long in a cozy, nostalgic setting. Their famous Mile High Biscuit comes with almost every dish.
Photo by Zlatko Unger CC BY
With lines out the door and three locations in the city, it’s no secret that this family-owned, former hole-in-the-wall is more than just your average Mexican restaurant. The family behind Red Iguana has provided the Salt Lake Valley with unique yet traditional Mexican food since 1965. Take your pick between seven different kinds of mole sauce, or enjoy any of the classic favorites with some fresh horchata.
Where to Sleep
Stay in the restored home of 19th Century Salt Lake City mayor at the Armstrong Mansion, or check out our list of the most interesting places in the city to spend the night.
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- 10 Coolest Places To Hang Out With Kids In Salt Lake City