Salt Lake City, the capital of the American state of Utah, is a super-clean and convenient metropolis sited next to glorious mountains and outstanding natural beauty. An urban city and a skiing holiday all in one? I’m in! Salt Lake City is a one-of-kind destination with a surprising amount of history and a liberal culture. It’s the perfect place to combine the great outdoors with all the comforts and attractions of a big city.
How cool is Salt Lake City? The evidence is mountain!
Salt Lake City (or “SLC”) was founded in 1847 by Mormon Pioneers seeking religious and political freedom. When Brigham Young, the leader of the Mormons, arrived in SLC he famously declared “This is the right place”. Within a few days, plans were prepared for “Great Salt Lake City”, named after the saltwater lake which dominates the desert west of town. Nowadays the city is around 50% Mormon but also attracts a wide diversity of other religions and traditions that make the metropolis a model melting-pot of cultures. Of course, the snow-capped mountains also play a part in luring visitors.
Located on the western edge of the city, Salt Lake City International Airport provides direct flights from major European locations including London, Amsterdam and Paris. A taxi for the 12-minute ride downtown should cost around $25 (£18). TRAX light rail is the greenest and most affordable way to travel to central SLC with the journey taking 20 minutes at a cost of only $2.50 (£1.80). Quick and simple, trains depart every 15 minutes. Once in the city, ride-shares are widely available.
Here’s a pro-tip: If you plan on skiing and road-tripping outside the city during your stay, then renting a car is a great way to move around. The city has an efficient grid system in place and is well served by freeways.
It can be hard to narrow down which sites to visit in SLC, but here are my favourites:
- Pioneer Memorial Museum – Housing an impressive collection of the objects that the Mormon pioneers carried to SLC, this museum holds the largest set of artefacts devoted exclusively to the subject. The archive contains such items as clothing, instruments, daggers, and even Buddhist sutra scrolls.
- Temple Square – Owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the ‘Mormons’), Temple Square comprises 5 city blocks of historic landmarks, monuments, and gardens. You can stroll around the grounds on your own or join one of the free walking tours.
Tackling the Tabernacle at Temple Square!
- Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square– While you are exploring Temple Square you may also wish to catch a rehearsal or concert from one of the world’s most revered musical groups, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Catch the live performance of ‘Music & the Spoken Word’ on any Sunday morning. Guests are welcome to attend this 30-minute session of choral music and inspirational words.
- Skiing– Drive one hour from the city and you are in fantastic ski fields. Two of the best in the USA, Park City and Powder Mountain, are accessible for a day of skiing before returning to SLC, or you can stay at excellent resort hotels and enjoy après ski.
- Great Salt Lake – The largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere provides guests with an array of water activities, lakeside walks, mountain biking and photography opportunities. Visit the Great Salt Lake State Park Marina if you want to hire a kayak or float highly buoyant salt water. For wildlife watching, horseback riding and hiking, head to Antelope Island State Park.
Reflect on the beauty of the Bonneville Salt Flats!
- Bonneville Salt Flats– Arguably one of the most unusual landscapes in the world, these salt flats consist of hard, white salt crust as far as the eye can see! It is so flat that it has been used for decades to set land-speed records with the world’s fastest vehicles.
- Utah Olympic Park– Built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, the Utah Olympic Park operates year-round. Try your hand at bobsledding, luge, ski jumping, extreme tubing, ropes courses, rock climbing or zip-lining.
- Fisher Brewing Company – One of the earliest breweries in town was founded by a German immigrant named Albert Fisher in 1884. Now owned by Fisher’s great-great-grandson, Tom Riemondy, this is a unique place to hang out and sip beers you can only buy on site. You can also buy food from local food trucks and join in with community events held at the brewery.
- Social Axe Throwing – I love this activity! Grab your plaid shirt and let off some steam where you can throw real axes at bullseye targets.
- iFLY Utah– Have you ever wanted to skydive but just can’t convince yourself to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft? This 12-foot wind tunnel has speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and gives you the real feel without the height disadvantage!
- Bruges Belgian Bistro – What started as a food cart quickly gained popularity due to Pierre Vandamme’s sweet and savoury waffles and other tasty treats. He now has two bistros and two trucks so you have no excuse to try their curiously delicious waffle sandwiches.
Belgian? More like bulging!
- Red Iguana– Open since 1985, this family-run restaurant offers creative and flavourful Mexican food. Sample their extensive menu and old family recipes in a vibrant atmosphere.
- Bombay House – This multi-award-winning restaurant serves authentic Indian food in a cosy setting. The menu features an array of chicken, lamb, and seafood dishes plus lots of vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Salt Lake City offers an abundance of craft beer and cocktail bars, speakeasies, and fun activities. Here are my recommendations:
- Redwood Drive-In Movie Theatre– Open since 1948, this iconic venue offers the ultimate vintage experience for film buffs. Local residents love to spend time here during summer and at just $10 per carload, you can afford to treat your friends.
- Bar X– This speakeasy-style lounge flung open its doors the moment prohibition ended in 1933. Dimly lit and stylish, this venue mixes some of the best cocktails in the city.
- Westerner Club–Grab your cowboy boots, it’s time to go line dancing! This dance hall features live music, line and swing dancing lessons, and a mechanical bull.
You’ll want somewhere cosy to rest after exploring SLC. Here’s where to stay in town:
- Grand America Hotel– This huge hotel is equipped with both an indoor and outdoor pool, gym, and my personal favourite; a full-service spa! Located downtown yet only 5 minutes from the airport, it’s perfectly situated for exploring.
- The Peery Salt Lake City Downtown, Tapestry Collection by Hilton– Although part of the Hilton chain, this elegant hotel with its historic vibe should not be overlooked. Enjoy a free coffee in the grand lobby by the fireplace and you’ll feel right at home.
- Grand Summit Hotel, Park City – Canyons Village– If you’re primarily visiting the city for winter sports then this ski-in/ski-out hotel in Park City is perfect for you. This luxury hotel offers an outdoor heated pool, ski equipment rentals and stunning mountain views.
Miss Park City? You-re a-skiing for trouble!
So much more than a ski town, Salt Lake City has so much to offer visitors interested in culture and natural beauty. I never run out of fun activities to do in SLC, regardless of the time of year!