Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah, located in the western United States, and is climbing in rank as a popular destination for travelers making their way across the country. The growing city offers a plethora of activities suited for people of all ages, a cultural epicenter that is unique to the region, sporting events, culinary experiences, and world-class outdoor adventures to satisfy even the most skeptical of travelers.
A Guest Post by Rachelle Gordon from The Mormon Adventurista
If you have a day, weekend, or even a week to spend in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area, definitely check out my list of local-approved places to go, things to do, and experiences to have!
Getting Around in Salt Lake City
Ever since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the public transportation system in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County have been rapidly growing. Bus lines, streetcar tracks, and the light rail trains (known as TRAX) spread their routes throughout the city, making it extremely easy to explore the city.
Downtown Salt Lake City is easily walkable, even for the directionally-challenged visitors. The city is conveniently laid out in a grid system, and the addresses for buildings fall into an easy-to-navigate fashion, once you get used to street names that don’t actually name.
Not into walking? Don’t want to try the public transportation system? No worries. Salt Lake City has many Green Bike rental stations around town. Simply pay with a credit card to rent bikes (and even electric scooters!) by the hour, and take off down one of many bike-friendly streets within downtown.
Top Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah
Explore Temple Square
No matter what your religious affiliation (or non-affiliation) may be, a visit to Salt Lake City isn’t complete without a stop at Temple Square and visiting the magnificent Salt Lake Temple or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temple Square has an amazing history, amazing architectural buildings, and a treat for the eyes no matter what time of year you decide to visit. During the winter, every tree and bush is covered in enough Christmas lights to get you in the holiday spirit. Every spring, new flowers are planted and create a wonderful color palate to walk through. There’s really not a “bad” season to visit!
Are you a fan of music? Did you know that you could catch a free performance every week by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, dubbed “American’s Choir” by former President Ronald Reagan? Are you curious about the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)? Have you ever heard about them? Check out the North and South Visitor’s Centers and speak with sister missionaries from all over the world.
If you have a layover at Salt Lake City International Airport for longer than 2 hours, you can take a free shuttle to Temple Square from the airport! Just look around by the baggage claim for the “Temple Square” booth and ask for a ride downtown!
Discover the LDS Genealogy and Family History Library
Do you know where your family comes from? You can get lost for hours amongst your ancestors in the largest family history center in the world! Stop on in and learn how to search for your deceased family members. The Library has 5 floors that are jam-packed with over 2 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records, over 300,000 books and 4,500 periodicals, all of which are lovingly and meticulously preserved.
Don’t know how or where to start? Think your family story is untraceable and complicated? I dare you to try and stump one of the 400+ professional staff members and volunteers!
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Hike Ensign Peak
No matter where your hiking enthusiasm lies on the crazy-hiker-scale, taking the ½ climb to the top of Ensign Peak is a must-do for any visitors. Ensign Peak is a local favorite urban hike that leads to sweeping views of the Salt Lake Valley; from Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake to the west to the Bingham Copper Mine to the south, and the University of Utah to the east.
Entrance to Ensign Peak
View from Ensign Peak
The best part? You drive most of the way to the top, leaving a short distance hike up to the summit and monument. Even if you’re visiting Salt Lake City and don’t have a vehicle, there are tons of Uber and Lyft drivers around that would be happy to drive you to the trailhead entrance.
Eat at the Red Iguana
The Red Iguana serves “killer” Mexican food. It is one of Utah’s most decorated restaurants and our favorite ethnic restaurants in the city. Popular before being featured on Diners Drive-ins, and Dives, The Red Iguana should be on everyone’s itinerary. Whether it’s their addicting chips and salsa, enticing moles, or a straight-up taco, you’d be hard-pressed to find something less-than delectable on the menu.
Tacos Don Ramon from The Red Iguana
The restaurant is located just outside of the downtown district on the Trax line, so accessing the restaurant from basically anywhere is easy – just take the Green Line and exit at the Jackson/Euclid station. Boom! You’re right there and ready to chow down! Might I recommend the Tacos Don Ramon?
Go Shopping at City Creek Center
Located across the street from Temple Square is the new open-aired, world-class, premier shopping center known colloquially as City Creek. Not only does an actual creek run through the Center, but a retractable glass roof appears during colder or inclement weather, thus enhancing your experience. With over 100 stores and restaurants lining the walkways, you could pop in for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, grab some chocolate-dipped bacon for a sweet/savory snack, window shop at Tiffany’s & Co., while making it in time to catch one of the nightly fountain shows. Even if you’re not a huge shopper, strolling along the creek is worth a visit, especially during the holiday season!
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Play in the ‘Greatest Snow on Earth’
Salt Lake City is a major skiing and snowboarding destination and winter wonderland. With 4 world-class ski resorts within a 20-minute drive from downtown and 9 ski resorts within an hour drive from downtown, Salt Lake City is the perfect hub for all things winter-sport-related. Not a skier or snowboarder? Never fear – Salt Lake City has some amazing snowshoeing trails, snow-tubing runs, and ice skating rinks.
And when it’s cold enough, you can visit the Ice Castles and meet Anna and Elsa from Disney’s Frozen as you play amongst some of the coolest icicles around!
Catch a Sporting Event
Salt Lake City plays home to some amazing sports teams, both collegiate and professional. The University of Utah is located in the northeast corner of Salt Lake City and boasts one of the country’s best gymnastics teams (the Red Rocks) and a mighty Pac 12 football contender, the Utes. Salt Lake City also plays home to the Bees, a Triple-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels! Do you fancy a bit of soccer?
Real Salt Lake Game at Rio Tinto Stadium
You can watch the Real Salt Lake or Utah Royals FC play at Rio Tinto Stadium. Prefer basketball? The Utah Jazz play at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in downtown and love having a full crowd cheer them on!
Walk on the Bonneville Salt Flats
Did you know that you don’t have to travel to Bolivia to witness the wonderment of salt flats? When ancient Lake Bonneville dried up, it left a salt deposit that covered about 30,000 acres, just west of Salt Lake City.
Bonneville Salt Flats after Rain
If you’re into racing, the Utah Salt Flats Racing Association hosts the World of Speed every year, an event put on by racers, for racers.
Visit the Great Salt Lake
Of course, no trip to Salt Lake City is complete without a trip out to the Great Salt Lake itself. Located just northwest of downtown Salt Lake City, the Great Salt Lake is the largest salt water lake in the Western Hemisphere and the 8th largest terminal lake in the world. The Lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville, which was a great ice age lake that existed 30,000 years ago. Several types of algae live in the lake, but the water is too salty to support fish and aquatic marine life.
Other Salt Lake City Attractions
Museums, such as the Leonardo, Museum of Natural History, and Museum of Fine Art, will leave you smarter and more cultured than when you first arrived. Take a stroll down one of the many streets in downtown and discover beautiful street art.
Street Art in Downtown Salt Lake City
If you love street art you may also like to read our post on Comic Street Art in Brussels, Belgium which is based on the comics of Tintin, the popular comic character.
Live like a local in the summer and attend weekly concerts and farmers markets. The sky is the limit!
No matter what your interests are, Salt Lake City is abuzz with things to do, adventures to have, and enough events to fill any visitor’s calendar. Come to be a part of something amazing! Welcome to Utah: Life Elevated!”
Places to Stay in Salt Lake City
With so many great lodging options in and around Salt Lake City, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t fulfill your basic desires. If you’re planning on sticking around for more than a few days, think about checking on AirBnB for some killer options. If you’d prefer to stick to more “traditional” housing options, here are some local-approved options:
Anniversary Inn B&B – perfect romantic, themed rooms with exceptional service, tasty breakfasts, and one of the quirkiest places around.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco – set in a historic bank building with amazing architecture, a 4-star accommodation in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City and many of the city’s popular attractions.
Little America Hotel – known for being Salt Lake City’s most luxurious Four-Diamond hotel, with some of the best dining options around, the largest pool in the area, and valet parking.
The Grand America Hotel – Salt Lake City’s premier lodging experience, boasting an award-winning spa, rooms that feature handcrafted Richelieu furniture, Italian marble bathrooms, with some of the best views of Salt Lake City.
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