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.