Salt Lake is a city of contrasts: from the 11,000-foot alpine peaks that tower over the skyline to the smooth saline water that makes up the city's namesake inland sea; from the spirit of communal sacrifice that first brought Mormon Pioneers to this austere valley in 1847 to opulent new hotels, posh restaurants, and indulgent spas that opened in preparation for the Olympics; from the soaring vocals of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to a trendy nightclub's pulsing techno vibe; from suburban shopping malls to intimate boutiques; from being part of an ultra-conservative political group to supporting a liberal mayor.
No matter how you look at it, Salt Lake City defies most stereotypes, and any story about Utah's capitol is ultimately a tale of two cities.
The Best of Salt Lake City
The Best of Salt Lake City
There's a striking beauty about much of the western United States, and Salt Lake City's wild environs are no exception. No other major U.S. city boasts mountains so close to a metropolitan center, with striking alpine views at the end of every street and soaring peaks serving as a backdrop to the city skyline.
Indeed, many travelers use Salt Lake as a jumping-off point for outdoor-inspired adventures. In the winter, snow-sport enthusiasts flock to close-by ski slopes to indulge in what many refer to as "the world's greatest snow." Famous resorts including Alta, Deer Valley, Snowbird, and Sundance are within a 45-minute drive of the city center.
Salt Lake's close proximity to world famous national parks brings other outdoor lovers year-round. Ten national parks, including Arches, Canyonlands, Yellowstone, and Zion, are all just a few hours away.
Salt Lake's religious roots are also a draw. Historic Temple Square, Mormondom's symbolic heart and headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, attracts millions of visitors annually to free concerts from the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Adherents of the Church are commonly referred to as Mormons.)
Getting In, Getting Around Salt Lake City
A city without rush hour? Indeed, Salt Lake City is one of the few metropolitan areas that doesn't suffer from major gridlock. Here's our primer on Salt Lake City transportation:
From the Airport
Rental car: Every national rental car company serves the Salt Lake City International Airport (776 N Terminal Dr). Rental car booths are located across the sky bridge from the airport's main terminal. Follow the signs up the escalators from the baggage claim area to get to the rental car booths. Car rental rates can range from $40 per day to $200 per day, depending on the type of car you choose.
Taxi: It's easy to catch a taxi at Salt Lake City International Airport. Taxis line up along the curb in front of the baggage claim areas at both terminals. A taxi ride costs $15 to $20 from the airport into downtown Salt Lake City, but that fare increases if you need to get to ski resorts, which are about 45 minutes away.
Public transportation: The Utah Transit Authority operates a bus service (Route 50) that departs from the airport every half hour beginning at 6:30 am and running through 11:30 pm. The fare is $1.50 per ride, and passengers can transfer to other buses with the same ticket once they get to the city center.
Elite Transportation and Salt Lake City Car Service offer limos and drivers from the airport to the surrounding areas. All Resort Express and Canyon Transportation offer shuttles to the city center as well as to ski resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and Park City. And Express Shuttle provides door-to-door service to the airport from any address in Salt Lake City.
Rush hour: Salt Lake is sometimes promoted as the "Crossroads of the West," in part because of the city's central location between the Pacific Ocean and Mississippi River and between the Canadian and Mexican borders. But it's also given that nickname because Interstate 15 (running from San Diego to Canada) and Interstate 80 (running from Boston to San Francisco) neatly dissect the town.
Downtown exits and other tourism destinations are clearly marked with good freeway signs. In town, Salt Lake is laid out on a grid pattern with street numbers radiating from Temple Square. The ski resorts, a major reason people visit the area, are all in canyons east of the city, with good signs off of major roads.
Because of super-sized streets and a new freeway system built for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Salt Lake City doesn't experience the rush hour gridlock that are common in other metropolitan areas. But the most traffic congestion on major expressways occurs between 7:30 am to 9 am and 4:30 pm to 6 pm. Watch out for a couple of bottleneck areas on Interstate 15 during these hours, especially if you are entering or leaving the Salt Lake Valley.
Rules of the road: To get your bearings, it helps to remember that the larger Wasatch Mountains are east of the city, which means you can almost always figure out the compass points. Most tourism attractions are in the downtown area or near the University of Utah in the northeastern corner of the city.
Major ski resorts are located in canyons east of the population base. Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley Resort, and the Canyons Resort are accessible from Parley's Canyon. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and Alta Ski Area are in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Brighton Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort are located in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Sundance Resort is South of Salt Lake in Provo Canyon, and Snowbasin Resort is north of Salt Lake City near Ogden.
Utah residents generally aren't aggressive drivers and rarely use their horns unless it's to communicate extreme frustration, which is quite unlike many drivers from the East Coast. Utah residents also frequently forget to use the turning signal when changing lanes, and you'll occasionally find the slowest car on the road meandering along in the fast lane on the left side of the highway.
Public transportation: The popular light rail line, known as TRAX, is one of the best ways to get around Salt Lake City. It's free in the city center and costs $1.50 each way for fares outside of the downtown core.
The line stretches 16 miles south of the city to the suburban community of Sandy, and extends east for two miles to the University of Utah. Both the University Line and Sandy Line end in the city center between the new outdoor Gateway Mall and the Delta Center, home of the Utah Jazz NBA basketball team.
A fleet of buses, operated by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), serves Salt Lake City. Schedules and trip planners are available on UTA's Web site.
During the ski season, UTA operates a ski bus service from downtown and suburban hotels to the resorts in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. The Ski Bus has external storage racks for ski, poles, and snowboards and costs $3 each way.
Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Salt Lake has reliable taxi service around the Salt Palace Convention Center and near major hotels. But even in the convention district, it's usually smart to call ahead and schedule a ride. Restaurants and hotels are used to calling cabs for visitors and will happily help you make arrangements.
Salt Lake's center is small and you might assume walking is an option, but the city's high altitude, long blocks, and wide streets can make even a short walk seem like a stretch. Many intersections have buckets of orange flags for pedestrians to use to cross the extra-super-sized streets.
Bikes are a great option, and there are numerous city and mountain biking trails, the most famous being the Bonneville Shoreline Trail that runs along the eastern foothills, overlooking the city and the Great Salt Lake. Bikes, however, aren't a practical way to get to many outlying restaurants and attractions.
It's almost impossible to not incorporate the outdoors into some aspect of your visit to Salt Lake City, no matter what time of year it is. There's plenty to keep you occupied indoors as well, as the next section on special events and attractions will show you.
Salt Lake City Special Events & Attractions
The close mountain peaks surrounding Salt Lake City call out to skiers in winter but also beckon travelers in spring, summer, and fall as well. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or alpine dining are all possible activities here, in addition to riding the slopes. A temperate climate, striking mountain scenery, and lack of humidity make it easy to spend time outside -- even during inclement weather.
Many of Salt Lake City's most enjoyable attractions include gardens, outdoor concerts, open-air markets, and mountain resorts. Even traditional public buildings have been built with mountain views in mind, including the new city library and Rice-Eccles Stadium, home to Salt Lake's minor league baseball team, the Salt Lake Bees.
Salt Lake City is also home to some unusual events, including the Days of '47 Celebration (300 N Main St), a pioneer-themed founders' day celebration that includes a major rodeo and parade in late July. The event celebrates the arrival of Mormon Pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Salt Lake City
When you get into Salt Lake City, do your best to get out into the open-air attractions and mountainsides. Just a few miles from the downtown area, near the University of Utah, is Red Butte Garden (300 Wakara Way). The garden offers year-round activities including concerts, classes, festivals, and guided hikes across manicured lawns and past flowerbeds, fountains, and bridges. This site also frequently plays host to outdoor exhibits like life-sized dinosaur figurines, gigantic bugs, and African sculptures. Beyond the formal gardens, there are 100 acres of fenced "natural" mountain trails for unspoiled hikes.
Thanksgiving Point (3003 N Thanksgiving Way, Lehi) is the region's newest and largest formal botanical garden, made up of ten distinct garden areas. The Grand Allee is a sweeping lawn bordered by flowering fruit trees. The Monet Garden was inspired by the great impressionist's water lilies, pond, and bridge. The Italian garden recreates the grounds of a 16th-century Italian villa. A fragrance garden, butterfly garden, and parterre garden are also on display. The Gardens at Thanksgiving Point are open March through October and are closed on Sundays.
To really get a taste of Utah's natural beauty, take a drive up one of the close canyons to soak in the rugged scenery. The snow that piles up more than 500 inches deep every winter creates a lush alpine scene in spring, summer, and fall. Verdant spring meadows and impromptu waterfalls give way to waist-high wildflowers by July. Dramatic displays of golden autumn foliage adorn mountain cliffs in fall. A 20-minute drive from downtown gets you to the base of Millcreek Canyon; Big Cottonwood Canyon and Little Cottonwood Canyon are also within easy driving distance of the downtown's core.
Visiting Salt Lake and not seeing Temple Square (the conjunction of Main and North Temple, South Temple and West Temple sts) would be like ignoring the Cathedral of Notre Dame while visiting Paris. The iconic six-spired granite temple edifice is off-limits to anyone but devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Free guided tours are available for the historic Beehive House (67 E South Temple), just one of the many homes owned by Brigham Young, Utah's first territorial governor, Mormon prophet, and famed husband of 29 wives.
Though the church disavowed polygamy more than a century ago, relics of the practice remain in the architecture of the adjacent Lion House (63 E South Temple, 801-363-5466). Brother Brigham designed the unusual house to accommodate multiple wives and their many children. The building is named for the stately stone lion that sits on the house's portico. Free guided tours are available.
Classical arts abound in Salt Lake City, and the area's arts and culture scene has even branched out to include more contemporary offerings. See the next page for tips on how to best experience the arts and culture scene in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Arts & Culture
During their western trek, the Mormon Pioneers kept spirits high by singing and dancing at the end of a long day. And their enthusiasm for music and culture didn't end when they reached their new home. Salt Lake City's populace has always supported the classical arts, and in recent years the city has shown an increasing appreciation for modern and cosmopolitan fine art as well. Dozens of museums and galleries showcase local and regional artists' works, and the city is home to modern dance troupes and other avant-garde performance artists.
In 2002, the most recent addition to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center (138 W 300 South St) opened after a donation from local philanthropist I.J. Wagner. The architecturally stunning facility hosts dance, theater, and music performances throughout the year.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is home to the award-winning Utah Symphony and Utah Opera Company. In a unique partnership, the organizations share a common board. The symphony performs in Maurice Abravanel Concert Hall (123 W South Temple) between the Salt Palace Convention Center and Temple Square (Main and North, South, and West Temple sts). An oversized metallic staircase encased in gold leaf and a towering glass sculpture, from renowned glassmaker Dale Chihuly, dominate the concert hall's lobby.
The Utah Opera Company shares Capitol Theatre (50 W 200 South St) with Ballet West, one of the West's most lauded dance troupes. The renaissance-styled theater was home to vaudeville shows and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (at the Tabernacle on Temple Square) is a 350 voice-strong choir that has performed in the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square since 1929 and has the longest running continual radio broadcast in the country. Free 30-minute concerts, broadcast live nationally, are held every Sunday at 9 am. Audience guests should arrive early because the Tabernacle doors close at 8:45 am.
The choir also holds regular public rehearsals on Thursday nights. The organ that accompanies the famous chorus is comprised of more than 11,000 individual pipes, making it one of the world's most complex musical instruments.
The celebrity-studded Sundance Film Festival is centered in Park City every January, but nearly half of the movies are screened in Salt Lake City and other communities. You can avoid the invasion of "people in black" who descend on the mountain village from Los Angeles by viewing Sundance movies outside of Park City. And much of the festival hype dies down after the first week.
The Salt Lake Gallery Association hosts a gallery stroll on the third Friday of every month, with extended hours and refreshments at participating galleries. If you don't happen to be in Salt Lake on a Gallery Stroll evening, you can always recreate the stroll by visiting the Gallery Association's Web site for a list of participating properties.
Several local theater companies offer nightly performances ranging from serious drama to improvisational comedies. The Salt Lake Acting Company (168 W 500 North) produces contemporary works and irreverent plays about the local culture. Hale Center Theater (333 S Decker Lake Dr) has family-friendly productions in a theater-in-the-round setting. Off Broadway Theater Company (272 S Main) offers comedy and improvisation. And Pioneer Theater Company (300 S 1400 East) is a professional company in residence at the University of Utah.
Perhaps the most celebrated piece of modern art in Utah is Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, situated in an isolated corner of the Great Salt Lake. Smithson completed the project in 1970, and it's now praised as his masterwork and a paragon of the modernistic earthworks that he championed.
The jetty is comprised of black basalt rocks and juts out 1,500 feet into the shallow rose-colored waters, only to curl back on itself creating a primeval spiral. When the lake is low, it's possible to walk the entire 15-foot-wide jetty, but the waters rise and fall frequently and it's sometimes completely submerged.
In addition to its art, Salt Lake City features some stunning architecture and landmarks, both religious and otherwise. Go to the next page to learn about the city's architecture and landmarks.
Salt Lake City Architecture & Landmarks
Justly famous for the religious architecture of Temple Square, Salt Lake City also offers unusual secular architecture in the form of historic neighborhoods and public buildings.
The city's founders who built Temple Square envisioned it as the eternal center of the community, but non-Mormons who arrived shortly thereafter wanted a separate city center. For some time there were two competing centers of commerce and trade. One surrounded Temple Square centered on the Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI), the cooperative venture owned by the Mormon Church. The non-Mormon city center was built around Exchange Place located at Main Street and 400 South Street.
Today, Salt Lake City has developed to the point that both the Mormon and non-Mormon centers of commerce are part of the larger city center core, located in the heart of the downtown.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Salt Lake City
When pioneers settled Salt Lake, they saved the relatively flat land in the center of the valley for farming, with large acreages and far-flung home sites. But city planners left the sloping foothills on the north side of town for non-farming homes and tradespeople like blacksmiths and artists. Called The Avenues, the area is one of Salt Lake's most charming, filled with quirky historic architecture and boutique shops.
South Temple Street serves as the official border separating The Avenues from the rest of the city. You should stroll along one of the city's great boulevards, which stretches from the historic Union Pacific Railway Building to the University of Utah.
Once called Brigham Street, the broad boulevard is lined with majestic arching trees, impressive churches from several denominations, and historic homes including Utah's Governor's Mansion (603 E South Temple St), which is the restored home of Thomas Kearns, a wealthy Utah senator in the early 1900s. The Catholic Cathedral of the Madeline (331 E South Temple) and First Presbyterian Church (203 S 200 East) are two impressive places of worship on South Temple Street.
Also on the street is Historic Temple Square (Main and North, South, and West Temple sts). Completed in 1875, the Tabernacle on Temple Square is one of the city's most interesting architectural structures. Built without any metal nails, the oblong roof is constructed like a suspension bridge, without any internal supports. The pews are made of native Utah pine, but the pioneer craftspeople developed a special paint technique to create faux oak out of the plain piney benches and woodwork. The counterfeit marble pillars are also pine but were painted to resemble stone.
Also on Temple Square is the Assembly Hall, a beautiful European-style chapel with handsome stained-glass windows built from residual granite stone from the construction of the Mormon Church's Salt Lake Temple.
The city's finest example of international style can be seen at the First Security Bank Building (405 S Main St). It was Utah's first modern skyscraper and was carefully restored to its 1955 appearance in 2004.
The McCune Mansion (200 N Main St) is one of Salt Lake's most impressive turn-of-the-century homes and is opened to the public as a reception center for weddings and corporate events. A mirrored, gilded ballroom occupies the entire third floor, and the house's original decor includes Nubian marble and Utah Onyx. The roof tiles were all imported in 1900 from the Netherlands.
Constructed with unreinforced brick and sandstone in 1894, Salt Lake's City and County Building (451 S State) is Utah's best example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Gargoyles, towers, and intricately carved details of Utah history are carved into the detailed exterior. The building served as Utah's capitol until 1916 and is still used for city council meetings and the mayor's offices. Resting high on the 256-foot-tall clock tower is a tall statue of Columbia, an early symbol of America before the Statue of Liberty.
Famed Israeli architect Moshe Safdie designed the fabulous Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E 400 South St), which opened across the street in 2003. The multistoried entrance resembles a canyon, with the exterior wall mimicking a collapsing ramp that climbs from the center courtyard,
stretching to the rooftop garden.
Two miles east of the new public library, along a TRAX line, is the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium (451 S 1400 East), home to the 2002 Olympic Cauldron and Hoberman Arch. The architectural Cauldron cradled the Olympic flame during the 17 days of the Salt Lake Games. Now, it's only lit for special occasions and celebrations, like the anniversary of the 2002 Opening Ceremonies, or during other Olympic games.
Large outdoor panels surround the cauldron, each describing the historic events of a specific day during Salt Lake's moment on the world stage. The Hoberman Arch was transported to the university from the city center where it served as the stage for Olympic medal presentations. The spiraling steel semicircle was designed to open and close like the iris in a human eye.
If you'd rather shop than sightsee, Salt Lake City has plenty of interesting stores. See the next section for our suggestions on the valley's best shopping.
Salt Lake City Shopping
Salt Lake is home to several distinct neighborhoods, with unique shops and specialty boutiques offering one-of-a-kind items and locally produced goods. You'll find plenty of high-end national chains in major shopping areas. But scratch beneath the surface to discover fantastic items at unusual shops, each with its own story to tell.
From funky second-hand shops to exquisite jewelry crafted by Salt Lake's preeminent goldsmith OC Tanner (60 E South Temple St), you'll find a wealth of shopping styles, prices, and options. For value lovers, Salt Lake offers the nearby Factory Outlet Mall at Kimball Junction in Park City.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Salt Lake City
Gateway Mall (90 S 400 West) is one of the largest shopping areas in Salt Lake City and part of a larger complex that includes condominiums and office buildings. You'll find such stores as Abercrombie & Fitch, Bebe, J. Crew, Victoria's Secret, and a MegaPlex 12 Theater. Restaurants located throughout the mall include California Pizza Kitchen, Happy Sumo sushi bar, and Fleming's Prime Steak House.
The Mormon Church owns two major downtown malls, Crossroads Plaza (50 S Main St) and Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution Center (Main and South Temple), across the street from Temple Square. But many tenants have left the malls recently in preparation for a promised $1 billion overhaul of the downtown core. The shell of Crossroads Mall still houses Nordstrom and Borders Books, but virtually every other merchant is gone for now.
Utah the home of Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival, the Sundance Ski Resort, and the Sundance Catalog, a mail-order magazine, which offers high-end rustic furniture, jewelry, housewares, and clothing. But you can often find the same mountain-chic merchandise for as much as half off at the Sundance Catalog Outlet Store (2201 South Highland Dr).
On Saturday mornings from June to September, Salt Lake's Pioneer Park (400 West and 300 South) comes alive at one of the biggest farmers markets in the West. Part community festival, part market with dozens of ethnic food stands and farm-fresh produce, the weekly event is a favorite for thousands of locals.
A lively craft market, where local artisans trade their wares completes the picture. The market is a great place to get to know locals and pick up a souvenir, like Swanky Switches, a collection of religious and risque light switch covers from local artist Kim Smith.
Mormon Handicraft at This Is the Place Heritage Park in Old Deseret Village (2601 East Sunnyside Ave) is the premier place to find traditional western handmade gifts and souvenirs. You can find home-bottled jellies, handmade quilts, and other homey collectibles.
Salt Lake City has long been associated with the strict moral codes of the Morman Church, but that doesn't mean there's not a thriving nightlife for those who want to, well, let loose. Take a look at the next page to find the best nightlife and entertainment in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City Nightlife & Entertainment
Utah's much-maligned liquor laws are easy to navigate with just a few tips. Most restaurants serve beer, wine, and hard alcohol just like restaurants in other major American cities. Utah's bars are called private clubs, which implies that they're difficult to get into but they're not. With a $4 temporary, three-week membership (think of it as a long-lasting cover charge), visitors can get into virtually any club. With the membership, you can bring along several friends for free.
Those who aren't into the bar scene can find hours of fun and entertainment at movie theaters, comedy clubs, or the Utah Fun Dome (4998 S 360 W Murray), home to bowling, roller skating, arcades, miniature golf, and rides.
Although Salt Lake City doesn't have a specific entertainment district, there are dozens of clubs, restaurants, theaters, and other nightlife options throughout the convention district and city center if you know where to look.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Salt Lake City
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake has dozens of outstanding restaurants. The city is also home to a very comprehensive wine shop, run by the state, called, The Utah Wine Store (255 S 300 East), with more than 3,000 varieties and 30,000 bottles in stock. There are also dozens of other liquor stores that sell beer, wine, and harder stuff, and most grocers and convenience stores stock beer.
If you want a larger pour in a private club, order a "side car," a one-ounce shot that can be added to any drink. Many of Salt Lake's local brews are national champions and include labels from Wasatch, Uintah, and Squatters Brewing. Sample a local ale for an unorthodox taste of Salt Lake City.
Two Sunday brunch options stand out. The Mobil Four-Star Grand America, (555 S Main St) pulls out all the stops with sushi, seafood, and an almost overwhelming assortment of other brunch choices served in a glistening marble-and-crystal-filled dining space.
The best way to experience the legendary Mobil Three-Star La Caille Restaurant (9565 Wasatch Blvd) is in the foothills near Little Cottonwood Canyons. The faux French chateau is justly more famous for its scenery than its food. But brunch is a delightful way to experience all the benefits of the stunning grounds, at a lower cost than the steep dinner prices.
For a truly memorable evening, book early and plan to stay late at Solitude's Yurt (12000 Big Cottonwood Canyon). Open only during the ski season, the Mongolian tent hidden deep in the Wasatch Forrest is approachable only on cross-country skis and snowshoes. Diners boot up and then enjoy a five-course gourmet dinner cooked on a wood-burning stove.
Prominent microbrew pubs in the downtown area include Mobil One-Star Squatters (147 W 300 South St) and Red Rock Brewing Company (254 S 200 West St). And true beer lovers will find "beervana" at The Bayou (645 S State St) with more than 200 varieties of bottled beer available to complement the New Orleans-inspired music and food.
Salt Lake is home to several movie theaters, including the colossal Megaplex 12 (165 S Rio Grande St) and Century 16 (125 E 3300 South St). Wise Guys Comedy Club is located in West Valley City (3500 S 2200 West St) and is the area's premier place to find national comics and local talent.
If you'd rather enjoy the outdoors than a hopping nightlife, Salt Lake City is the perfect place for you. There are dozens of ways to relax and unwind in Salt Lake City, many of which involve the valley's beautiful natural surroundings. Learn about some of the best options on the next page.
Relaxing & Unwinding Salt Lake City
There are few places that are better for relaxing and unwinding than Salt Lake City. Get into the mountains, exhale, take a deep breath of sage and pine, and feel your worries flow away. When confronted with a landscape of massive stone cliffs, towering hundreds of feet into the air, it's easy to put life's worries into perspective, unwind, and slow down.
Salt Lake offers outdoor enthusiasts plenty of ways to unwind, strolling through public gardens, people-watching in public parks, skiing some of the world's most famous slopes, or absorbing the serene muted scenery of the Great Salt Lake. For those who enjoy the great indoors, there are spas and yoga studios scattered throughout the community.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Salt Lake City
Even if you don't have a car, it's easy to get into Salt Lake's close mountain canyons. City Creek Canyon runs into downtown through Memory Grove, just east and north of Temple Square. Six miles of paved road wind up this gentle canyon, where you may spot porcupines, deer, and eagles. Joggers, picnic goers, hikers, and bikers are serenaded by chirping birds and pass the swift flowing creek that tumbles down the canyon.
Sugarhouse Park (1300 East and 2100 South) and Liberty Park (700 East and 900 South) are excellent places to relax, exercise, or just people-watch. Liberty is home to several attractions, including the Chase Home Museum, and Tracy Aviary, but the park is also full of trees, tennis courts, fountains, playgrounds, and jogging paths. Sugarhouse is more open, with a meandering creek, rolling grassy hills, soccer fields, and a pond full of waterfowl.
Golf enthusiasts will enjoy Salt Lake's abundant public courses, most with striking scenery. Bonneville Golf Course (954 Connor St), which opened in 1929, is one of the most mature and is famous for its hilly terrain and mountain views.
The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (located at the northern tip of the Great Salt Lake) is one of the West's best spots for bird-watching. A new wildlife education center opened in April 2006 with interactive displays that talk about western birds and their habitats. The refuge includes some 74,000 acres, but a 10-mile driving loop is easily accessible to the public.
The Hogle Zoological Garden (2600 E Sunnyside Ave) is a great place for a stroll as you admire wildlife exhibits. The newest exhibit features an Amur tiger, snow leopards, and a lynx in natural environments that surround a replicated Asian village. The tiger enclosure includes a waterfall pond exhibit where patrons can watch the huge feline catch fish underwater.
The Red Butte Garden (300 Wakara Way) features more than 9,000 trees on 150 acres. You can spend hours strolling on a self-guided tour and admiring the natural beauty.
If you want to explore Salt Lake City on a guided tour rather than on your own, the next section offers information on how to do so.
Salt Lake City Organized Tours Overview
It's as if Salt Lake City was built for guided tours. Local Folklore says that Brigham Young designed the super-sized streets in Salt Lake so that a team of oxen could do a U-turn without getting stuck.
True or not, the streets offer plenty for room for horse-drawn carriages that fill the downtown streets on weekends and holidays. A carriage ride is a perfect way to see this city -- and there are plenty of opportunities to take one. Carriage for Hire offers a wide range of tours with the main carriage stop at the South Gate of Temple Square.
Of course, there are other types of tours to be taken. Grayline gives Salt Lake tours, including the Great Salt Lake and Olympic venues.
Salt Island Adventures has sightseeing tours and nightly dinner cruises on the Great Salt Lake, departing on the Island Serenade from the Salt Lake Marina.
Most of the hotels in Salt Lake City are on the newer side -- constructed or updated in anticipation of the 2002 Olympic Games. On the next page, we'll tell you about some of the most appealing options, including the luxuriouis Mobil Four-Star Grand American.
Salt Lake City Hotels Guide
Salt Lake is well represented with most major hotel chains, but there are a few local offerings that add texture to the usual suspects. Most major Salt Lake hotels are new or went through considerable overhauls in the months leading up to the Olympics in 2002.
Mobil Three-Star Little America, (500 S Main St) is the older, plainer, and more sensible sister of the luxurious Mobil Four-Star Grand America. It sits just across the street from the Grand Dame Hotel. Prices are significantly lower, and while the exterior isn't as flashy as Grand America, the rooms are giant and well appointed, with many of the same amenities.
The always-entertaining Kimpton Group opened the Salt Lake Mobil Three-Star Hotel Monaco (15 W 200 South St) in 1999, and it stands out as Salt Lake's hippest lodging choice. For slightly less money, you can enjoy all the benefits of boutique-style lodging at the Mobil Two-Star Peery Hotel.
In summer, mountain resort rooms that can go for $300 plus per night.
Of course, it's not enough simply to have a place to stay during your visit to Salt Lake City. You'll need to eat, too. While sushi is all the rave in Salt Lake City right now, visitors will find plenty of other dining options to please their palate. See the restaurants guide on the next page for some suggestions.
Salt Lake City Restaurants Guide
The 2002 Olympics helped to refine Salt Lake City's collective palate, and there are more great dining options now than there have ever been.
A wave of raw fish has washed over the city recently, with sushi joints popping up all over town. But the king of the crowd is Takashi Gibo with his new venture Takashi (18 W Market St). His silvery aji sashimi (Spanish mackerel) dances on the tongue, but everything that comes from this talented chef's kitchen is fresh and satisfying.
Fine dining in Salt Lake City is also starting to move from beyond the city center and mountain resorts to include several sophisticated neighborhood spots along the east bench. Greg Neville's Pine Restaurant (4760 S 900 East) and Franck Peissel's new Cafe Franck's (6263 S Holladay Blvd) are setting the standards for what restaurants should be and are worth a trip off the beaten path. At Pine, try the bourbon-cured house-smoked salmon, and Franck's ginger carrot soup will linger in your memory for days.
The Bayou (654 S State St) is the place to go for hefty portions of Cajun cuisine like jambalaya, deep-fried catfish, and other Southern delights. You can wash it all down with one of the more than 150 beers from around the world on the menu.
Al Forno's (239 S 500 East) serves prime Italian food, and you won't go wrong ordering the Veal Linguine or Fettucine Picante. It's located in a strip mall, but the casual flair and cozy booths make this a perfect dining spot for two or quiet conversation.
Christopher's Seafood and Steakhouse (3 South and West Temple) have seafood flown in daily and create dishes with the highest grade of choice and prime beef. The medallions of tenderloin petite cuts with demi-glaze or herb-seasoned pork chops are tops, and the New England fish and chips in a special beer-batter have been called the best in the city by some.
The Market Street Grill Cottonwood (2985 E Cottonwood Pkwy) is a good place to savor seafood from around the world. Order from the oyster bar, or try the fresh blackened salmon or snowcrab and avocado sandwich.
Cedars of Lebanon (152 E 200 South) specializes in vegetarian dishes, such as falafel or rice-stuffed grape leaves. If you prefer a meat dish, the chicken, lamb, and beef shish kebabs are popular. Visit on weekends and you'll be entertained by bellydancers.
Q4U Hickory Smoked Barbeque Restaurant (4655 S 4800 West Valley Ct) is the place to visit for ribs, boneless smoked chicken breasts, old-fashioned Southern fried chicken, or luscious homemade cheesecake. Don't visit if you need to count calories.
Remember it's important to tip for good service. An appropriate tip in Salt Lake is 15 percent of the gross bill for mediocre service, 18 percent for good service, and 20 percent for outstanding service. Many restaurants will add a gratuity of 18 percent for parties larger than six people.
Now that you've learned about the variety of things to see and do in Salt Lake City, you may want to pare down your options and come up with a plan. The next page offers suggested itineraries to help you do just that.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Salt Lake City
Most visitors to Salt Lake City know to head right for Temple Square to explore this architectural and historical highlight. But there are a plethora of other notable things to do in Salt Lake City. Whether your interests lean toward arts and culture, relaxation, architecture, or something else, Salt Lake City can deliver. The following itineraries will help you plan your visit.
Special Events & Attractions in Salt Lake City
Special Events & Attractions in Salt Lake City
Whether you have enough time in the area to take a road trip to Park City or need to stay more local, there are a variety of special events and attractions for Salt Lake City visitors. Here are some suggested itineraries that will ensure that you don't miss any of the must-see attractions in Salt Lake City:
1 day: Take the free half-hour tour of the Temple Square block (Main and North, South, and West Temple sts), then spend the rest of your day exploring other attractions that highlight the city's peculiar history.
Take a tour of the historic Beehive House (67 E South Temple), just one of the many homes owned by Brigham Young, Utah's first territorial governor. Then visit the adjacent Lion House (63 E South Temple, 801-363-5466), and The Lion House Pantry for some "Mormon comfort food." Make sure to try the decadently sweet orange rolls, made fresh every day.
Then stop by Old Deseret Village (2601 E Sunnyside Ave) to watch volunteer docents recreate pioneer life in the 1800s. Near the University of Utah, this modern recreation of a 1800s pioneer town is an engrossing way to experience Utah's pioneer history.
The village is open year-round, but volunteer docents recreate pioneer life for visitors between Memorial Day to Labor Day. The village includes shops, homes, and businesses that would have been typical of a pioneer town, including a printing press, barbershop, and saloon that serves ice cream.
Finish the day at the Mobil Two-Star Market Street Broiler (260 S 1300 East St), a restored 1930s firehouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places that has been lovingly turned into a fine seafood restaurant near the University of Utah campus. The Broiler is famous for their clam chowder and grilled seafood, flown in fresh daily.
2 days: Start your day at one of Salt Lake's most memorable breakfast spots, Ruth's Diner (2100 Emigration Canyon Rd) in Emigration Canyon. Since 1949, the trolley car diner has offered Salt Lake City's populace a laid-back canyon hideaway. Try the banana walnut French toast or the "Rutherino," an indulgent omelet made with pasta, mushrooms, sour cream, Monterey Jack, and hollandaise sauce, named for the diner's original feisty owner.
Continue up Emigration Canyon until it merges with Parley's Canyon, then head east on Interstate 80 to Park City. The mining-hub-turned-ghost-town-turned-trendy-ski-village is home of the Sundance Film Festival, the largest and most prestigious film festival in North America.
The festival's 10-day events are held in mid-January throughout the city. All the Hollywood glamour has fostered dozens of swanky restaurants and high-priced galleries. Walk off the Rutherino by spending the rest of the morning browsing the shops and boutiques that line historic Main Street.
Near the base of Main Street, you'll find Zoom (660 Main St), Robert Redford's year-round outpost in Park City. The gourmet macaroni and cheese has been a staple side dish since this eclectic diner opened.
Continue your mini-road trip on Interstate 40 through the pastoral Heber Valley and through Provo Canyon to Sundance Resort (two miles up scenic Route 92 from Provo Canyon). Take in the views of stunning Mount Timpanogos at this "rustic-chic" alpine destination.
Depending on the season, you can enjoy mountain activities like horseback riding, mountain biking, or skiing. Throw back a cold one in the Sundance Owl Bar located in the center of the resort, which is a historic watering hole that was a favorite of Butch Cassidy's Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
3 days: Take a walk on the wild side by visiting the oldest public aviary in North America, Tracy Aviary (589 E 1300 South). Then visit one of the state's newest attractions, Asian Highlands at the Hogle Zoological Garden (2600 E Sunnyside Ave).
Tracy Aviary, located on 7.5 acres in Liberty Park in the heart of Salt Lake City, is home to more than 135 bird species. A new exhibit opened in 2005, focusing on South American birds, and renovation is currently underway on the Chase Mill, Utah's oldest industrial building. For the best scenic view, it's best to enter the park from 600 East and 900 South and drive on the one-way road to the southwest corner of the park.
The new Asian Highlands Exhibit at the Hogle Zoological Garden opened in July 2006 and highlights big cats from the Orient. The exhibit features an Amur tiger, snow leopards, and a lynx in natural environments that surround a replicated Asian village. The tiger enclosure includes a waterfall pond exhibit where patrons can watch the huge feline catch fish underwater.
Finish the day at the Mobil One-Star Rio Grand Cafe (270 S Rio Grande St) with an order of Santa Fe Enchiladas -- blue corn tortillas layered with beans and meat and smothered in a tomatillo cream sauce. Look out for "The Purple Lady," a ghost that's rumored to haunt the women's restroom at this historic restaurant in Salt Lake's original Rio Grande Depot.
Arts & Culture in Salt Lake City
Arts & Culture in Salt Lake City
There's so much to do in terms of arts and culture in Salt Lake City that you may be overwhelmed by all the options. See the itineraries below to help narrow down the field.
1 day: Explore the Utah Museum of Art and History (125 S Main), which focuses on western and Utah art. The small museum is housed in an old bank building, with a glass ceiling and ornate molding work.
Near Temple Square is the Church Museum of Art and History (45 N West Temple St). The first floor is devoted to the history of the Mormon Pioneers' trek to Utah and their subsequent settlement throughout the western United States. The second floor focuses on work from Mormon artists from around the world.
The Utah Museum of Fine Arts (1530 E South Campus Drive) on the campus of the University of Utah (201 Presidents Drive) is a fine way to spend an afternoon. The museum has one of the West's most comprehensive collections, with works ranging from ancient Egypt and Greece to post-modern works from contemporary artists.
Enjoy the alpine ambiance of Millcreek Canyon for dinner at Mobil Three-Star Log Haven (6541 E Millcreek Canyon Rd), one of Salt Lake's most romantic restaurants. The seasonal menu changes regularly, but highlights always include wild game like Utah buffalo tenderloin, venison, or grilled quail. The quality food is matched by a spectacular setting that includes hulking pine trees, waterfalls, and aspen, all surrounding a log mansion built by a local steel baron in 1920.
2 days: Spend a day visiting the most celebrated piece of modern art in Utah -- Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, located in an isolated corner of the Great Salt Lake, about two hours north of Salt Lake City. Access the Spiral Jetty from the Golden Spike National Historic Site (32 miles west of Brigham City via Highways 13 and 83), which has an interpretive display that commemorates the completion of the transcontinental railroad.
Since much of the final route to the Spiral Jetty is only accessible on dirt roads, it's best to get to the site in a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and note that it's best not to attempt the trip after heavy snow or rainfall.
Afterward, you'll be ready for dinner at a Utah institution, the Mobil One-Star Maddox Ranch House (1900 S Hwy 89) in Brigham City. Usually jam-packed with locals from farming towns in northern Utah, it's famous for chicken-fried buffalo steak and homemade rolls with raspberry butter. You can expect very unpretentious service and big portions of farm-styled cooking.
3 days: Spend the day focusing on Utah's amateur folk art tradition. Start at Gilgal Garden (749 E 500 South), a mile east of the city's core. Tucked behind houses and businesses in the center of a city block, Gilgal was a relatively unknown cultural treasure for several decades until Salt Lake City took over the garden from its private owner, turning it into a public park. The sculpture garden was created by devout Mormon Bishop Charles Child and includes a massive stone sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion. The garden includes several other sculptures and stones with religious texts and poems.
Enjoy lunch at a Salt Lake classic. Hires Drive-In (425 S 700 East) is an original "car-hop" burger joint near Gilgal Garden that has been in business at the same location since 1959. Turn your headlights on to signal for car-side service. Then order the signature Big H Burger, fresh fries (cut daily), and Hire's special fry-dipping sauce, which is such a local favorite that an official Olympic pin was designed to honor it in 2002. Hires may not offer the fine art of nouveau cuisine, but its folksy, classic burger is a distinct celebration of local culture.
After lunch, visit the Chase Home Museum of Folk Art, housed in the historic Isaac Chase pioneer home in the center of mammoth Liberty Park (1300 South St). The museum showcases traditional non-professional Utah folk art.
Architecture & Landmarks in Salt Lake City
Architecture & Landmarks in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City offers a mix of architecture and landmarks, from rustic Wheeler Historic Farm to the refined Avenues District. Here are ways to fit everything into your trip:
1 day: Mix modern and new architecture by viewing Richardsonian Romanesque architecture of Salt Lake's City and County Building (451 S State St) and, across the street, the architecturally stunning new Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E 400 South St).
Enjoy a quick cup of liquid energy at the Salt Lake Roasting Company, the library's in-house caffeine pusher. The library also is home to The Shops at Library Square, which includes a comic book supplier, boutique florist, information center, library store, and office for KCPW, one of Salt Lake's National Public Radio stations.
Wheeler Historic Farm (6351 S 900 East St) is located a few miles south of the downtown area, but it feels like a different planet. Unattached farm buildings, sheds, barns, and a farmhouse were relocated to this pastoral site from around the state. Wheeler Farm is maintained by Salt Lake County, so admission is free. City slickers can spend the afternoon with horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chicken, turkeys, and geese.
After a visit to the farm, enjoy a night of warm Italian sophistication at Cucina Toscana (307 W Pierpont Ave) hosted by local food celebrity Valter Nassi, the restaurant's manager and Salt Lake's impresario of culinary pleasure. A native of Tuscany, Nassi has transformed an aging tire warehouse into a bastion of la dolce vita, with antiques, original art potted ferns, and thoughtful service.
But the charms don't end with Cucina Toscana's gracious ambiance. Nassi beguiles diners with paper-thin pastas, creamy risottos, and authentic Tuscan fare in this unlikely trattoria. Nassi's gnocchi provinciale are surpassed only by his warmth and heartfelt enthusiasm for bringing happiness to each patron in his bustling dining rooms.
2 days: Rekindle your own Olympic flame by visiting two of the most tangible legacies of the Winter Games that Salt Lake hosted in 2002. Start your day at the Olympic Cauldron Park (500 South and University St) at the University of Utah's Rice Eccles Stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies during the Games. The 2002 Olympic Cauldron and Hoberman Arch are the highlights here.
A visitor center and museum host a display of Olympic images from the games. The park and museum are free, but there's a small charge to enter the Salt Lake 2002 Theater, where a 180-degree multimedia presentation helps visitors relive the magic of the Olympics.
Continue your gold medal tour at the Utah Olympic Park (3000 Bear Hollow Drive, Park City). The park hosted ski jumping and sliding sports during the Games, including bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton. It now operates as a year-round training facility for hopeful Olympians and is a major tourism destination with clinics, competitions, and ski-jumping shows.
During the summer, aerial jumpers from the U.S. team practice flips and other tricks off of special ski jumps before landing in a 20,000-gallon splash pool. The park allows the athletes to train year-round, while giving visitors an up-close look at future Olympians.
Cafe Terrigo (424 Main St, Park City) is a relaxing way to ease out of your Olympic-inspired adrenaline rush. Don't miss the herb-breaded Utah trout.
3 days: Spend the day strolling Salt Lake's historic and lovely Avenues District. Fine Georgian mansions are interspersed with Queen-Anne cottages, classic Arts and Craft bungalows, adobe pioneer homes, and Victorian gingerbread houses. Part of the pleasure today is simply walking up and down the long streets that wind their way up the mountainside.
Venture into the historic high-rent Federal Heights neighborhood by crossing Virginia Street on the eastern edge of The Avenues. Here the palatial homes seem to get more opulent the deeper you delve into this exclusive enclave.
Stop by The Avenues Bakery (481 E South Temple) to refuel on a freshly made pastry or Tourte Milanese, an Italian-inspired quiche with red peppers and fontina cheese wrapped in a puff pastry.
Another good option to keep your energy level high for strolling the neighborhood is the lovely Cucina Deli (1026 E 2nd Ave). In good weather sit out on Cucina's patio and order a Tuscan tuna and white bean salad.
While in The Avenues, stop in at the E Street Gallery (82 East St) for handcrafted jewelry, furniture, or glass art. And Q Street Fine Crafts (88 Q St) is a treasure trove of metal artwork, ceramics, and fine gifts.
End your day at the Kura Door Holistic Japanese Spa (1136 E 3rd Ave) to soothe tired muscles in an Ofuro bath with essential oils, sea salts, and herbs. You deserve it after spending your day trekking the hills of the historic Avenues neighborhood.
Shopping in Salt Lake City
Shoppers won't be at a loss for things to buy in Salt Lake City. Use the following itineraries to help you find the best stores around.
1 day: Any description of Salt Lake's shopping scene must begin at Gateway Mall (90 S 400 West, Rio Grande St between North Temple St and 200 South), the glitzy new outdoor shopping promenade, just west of the Delta Center and Temple Square. Gateway surrounds the Historic Union Pacific Railway Depot.
Take a few minutes to wander through the restored grand old train station and visit such local merchants as the Black Chandelier, where Utah designer Jared Gold showcases his designs.
Consider skipping the national chains that make up most of Gateway to check out specialty retailers on the fringes of the open-air mall, including Mechanized (511 W 200 South, Suite 140), a mecca for techno and breakbeat music lovers.
Then head to the quirky and fun Ninth and Ninth District (900 East and 900 South). You'll find specialty stores like the Children's Hour Bookstore (914 E 900 South) with up-market children's clothes, books, and toys. Don't miss Hip and Humble (1043 E 900 South), a chic consignment store with housewares and gifts. Chameleon Artwear (1065 E 900 South) and Gypsy Moon Emporium (1011 E 900 South) both offer jewelry, baubles, and fanciful gifts.
Finish the day at Trolley Square (700 E 600 South), an enclosed block of mission-styled trolley car barns turned into an upscale mall. One highlight here is Tabula Rasa, a beautiful social stationery shop that offers photo albums, leather-bound journals, and picture frames.
Just upstairs from Tabula Rasa, you'll find the Desert Edge Brewery and Pub. Don't miss the popular French onion soup, with thick toast and stringy cheese. The menu has a revolving pasta salad of the day and above-average pub fare, including a grilled salmon sandwich and rare roast beef sandwich with sweet mustard.
2 days: You can easily spend an entire day shopping in the Sugarhouse District (approximately 12 blocks bordered by 1300 East, 900 East, 1900 South, and 2200 South). Once the site of a sugar beet processing factory and the Utah Territorial Penitentiary, the neighborhood has emerged during the last two decades to become one of Salt Lake's hottest shopping destinations.
For consignment antiques and second-hand bargains, go to Home Again (2100 S 1019 East). The comfortable store is stocked floor to ceiling with gently used high-quality items. The Green Ant ( 2011 S 1100 East) stocks vintage and modern furnishings, while the Feng Shui Shop (2030 S 900 East) will get your chi headed in the right direction.
The 15th and 15th Neighborhood (1500 East and 1500 South) is a great place to wind down after your Sugarhouse shopping spree. The Kings English Booksellers (1511 S 1500 East) is one of Salt Lake's most beloved stores for tomes and offers a wonderful local interest collection with knowledgeable staffers who can guide you with your selection.
Hidden behind the King's English is the charming Mobil Three-Star Fresco Italian Cafe (1513 S 1500 East), housed in a cozy clapboard residence. In warm weather sit out on Fresco's patio and enjoy the modern Italian fare. The polenta is always a hit, served with roasted tomatoes and mushrooms.
3 days: Head south to Gardener Village (1100 W 7800 South) for dozens of boutiques that surround a 19th-century gristmill. Prominent pioneer and polygamist Archibald Gardner built the mill to support his 11 wives and families. Today the village is full of meandering paths that lead to shops like Elsa Belle, featuring shabby chic items for babies and toddlers. The Rooster House is a kitchen specialty shop, and Posh Frippery sells fanciful gift-wrapping.
It's easy to find a bargain at The Factory Stores at Park City (6699 N Landmark Dr). With an emphasis on name brands, the stores located at Kimball Junction include 60 prime factory stores like Bose, Harry & David, Banana Republic, Fossil, and Borders Books.
Dinner tonight should be planned at Trio (680 S 900 East), Salt Lake's ultimate hip and sophisticated neighborhood cafe. If it's not raining or snowing, ask to sit outside on the lively patio and order the rosemary flatbread with warm goat cheese, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions.
Nightlife & Entertainment in Salt Lake City
Nightlife & Entertainment in Salt Lake City
From independent films and nightcaps to quick bites at trendy bars, you'll find a variety of nightlife and entertainment in Salt Lake City. See these suggested itineraries for some ideas:
1 day: Start out at the Mobil Two-Star Market Street Grill (48 W Market St between 300 and 400 South), a Salt Lake City breakfast institution. Owned by Gastronomy Inc., the restaurant sits on the bottom floor of the old New York Hotel. Though the Market Street Grill and adjoining Oyster Bar specialize in seafood, breakfasts here include traditional items. Go with the Market Street Omelet that includes a cheese-stuffed chili pepper and the market street potatoes.
Two arthouse theaters, the Broadway Theater (111 E 300 South) and The Tower (876 E 900 South), show independent movies during the Sundance Film Festival and continuing throughout the year. And the Salt Lake Film Center (210 E 400 South) premieres provocative independent films in the Salt Lake City Public Library auditorium on a regular basis.
Consider a matinee at Brewvies Cinema Pub (677 S 200 West), where second-run flicks combine with upscale brewpub fare. For lunch, try the angler pizza featuring a tasty combination of smoked trout, pine nuts, basil, onion, and feta.
Spend your night at Mobil Three-Star Metropolitan (173 W 300 South), Salt Lake City's temple to cuisine with a provocative menu that's always changing. Arrive early for a drink in the chic bar and enjoy a wild mushroom tower before taking your seat in the dining room. The easiest choice is letting a professional chef drive, so order the stimulating tasting menu and then sit back and enjoy the ride.
2 days: Salt Lake's premier amusement park is Lagoon (17 miles north of Salt Lake City on Interstate 15), a collection of hair-raising roller coasters and traditional amusement park rides. Lagoon is also home to Utah's most popular water park, Lagoona Beach, with towering water slides and pools.
The Mobil Three-Star Bambara (202 S Main St) is one of Salt Lake's most popular restaurants, housed in the Boutique Mobil Three-Star Hotel Monaco. Enjoy drinks, with blue cheese house-cut potato chips, and a great spot for people-watching at the stylish bar.
After dinner, create your own mini club crawl. The revolutionary themed Red Door (57 W 200 South) is just steps away. Try the commandant, a citrus vodka concoction that packs quite a wallop. Head down the street to The Hotel Bar and Nightclub (155 W 200 South), Salt Lake's newest hip watering hole.
3 days: Take it easy today with a game of pool at Fats Pub and Pool (2182 Highland Dr) in Sugarhouse. It's free to play if you purchase an entree from Fat's reasonably priced menu. Wash it down with a pitcher of brew (aiming fluid), and watch your game improve.
Share tapas for dinner at one of Salt Lake's excellent small-plate restaurants. Martine (22 E 100 South) is a charming and sophisticated choice with reasonably priced wines and delectable dishes, housed in an historic brownstone. The Moroccan Beef with couscous is a standing favorite.
The new Zola (145 W 300 South) opened in July of 2006, above Squatters brewpub. Cosmopolitan and light, its small plates are pricey but worth every penny. The thinly sliced herb fries with aioli are a hedonistic combination of sophisticated pleasures.
Post dinner, you'll need to work off three days' worth of calories. Call ahead to Salt Lake's new live music venue The Depot (400 W South Temple). If there's a band in the house, plan to spend the rest of the night on the dance floor. Otherwise, enjoy the happening bar scene at The Butterfly Restaurant on The Depot's first floor.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Salt Lake City
Just being amidst Salt Lake City's scenic surroundings will be relaxing enough for many visitors, but if you want some specific things to do that are peaceful and tranquil, look at the following suggestions:
1 day: Spend the day in the close mountains to rejuvenate both physically and emotionally. Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort (Highway 201, Little Cottonwood Canyon) is the most comprehensive, with year-round mountain attractions tram rides, and the Cliff Spa. In the summer, Snowbird's activities expand to include horseback riding, mountain biking, guided hikes, a zip line, and alpine slide. In the winter, snow lovers enjoy skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing at this world-renowned resort.
During summer at the Albion Basin above Alta's base area, visitors can enjoy one of the West's greatest wildflower experiences, culminating in the Wasatch Wildflower Festival in late July. Continue your alpine rejuvenation with a visit to Snowbird's award-winning Cliff Spa for a "mind, body, and soul" treatment based on yoga principles.
Snowbird is home to several eateries, but the apex of dining at this mountain resort is the Aerie Restaurant on the top of the Mobil Two-Star Cliff Lodge. The crusted Ahi tuna roll is a perennial favorite and takes full advantage of the talents of Snowbird's resident sushi chef who mans the in-house bar.
2 days: The best way to experience the Great Salt Lake is from an island. So order ahead and pick up a picnic lunch from Tony Caputo's Deli (314 W 300 South) in Salt Lake's Italian District. The Caputo, a mouthwatering combination of prociutto, mortadella, salami, and provolone, is the most popular choice. Then head north on Interstate 15 to the Antelope Island causeway for a beautiful view as you enjoy your food.
Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. A modernist visitor's center highlights the park's attractions, including a 600-head herd of buffalo, white sandy beaches, hiking trails, and the Fielding Garr Ranch House. In warmer months, visitors frequently wade through the heavy water until the lakebed gets deep enough to allow them to float. Try as you might, it's virtually impossible to sink in the heavy, mineral-packed water.
Take in some major bird-watching at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge (located at the northern tip of the Great Salt Lake). The millions of feathered guests that congregate at this refuge during migration will eventually spread out over the hemisphere.
3 days: Stand quietly in a cool river and watch the sun make dappled patterns on the waters surface, as it streaks through leafy branches overhead. Catch-and-release fishing is as much about absorbing the experience than actually catching a fish. The Provo River is ranked as one of the West's best fly-fishing streams, and there are dozens of guides who can show you the ropes. Big Cottonwood Canyon is another popular spot to enjoy the Zen-like art of casting, waiting, and releasing.
Salt Lake City will probably always have a strong connection with Mormons, especially since the religious group's Temple Square headquarters is such a focal point in the city. But today's Salt Lake City has a variety of attractions to entice all kinds of visitors -- a list that includes topnotch museums, fine dining, nearby world-class ski resorts, and much more.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jason Mathis is a lifelong resident of Salt Lake City. He spent more than a decade promoting Salt Lake as the director of communications for the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Jason now divides his time between health care marketing and travel writing. He lives with his wife and son in the historic Marmalade Hill District of Salt Lake.