7 Fun Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is a jewel in the desert, with the Rocky Mountains providing a dramatic backdrop to this clean and easily navigable little city. Criss-crossed by TRAX streetcars and brimming with scooters, SLC is one of the few cities in the western US where you can easily get around without a car.
Most people might automatically think of the Mormon Church (also known as the Church of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS) when thinking Salt Lake City. Indeed, about 60% of the city identifies as Mormon, an interesting offshoot of mainstream Christianity, and that rate increases in the surrounding counties. While it helps to get to know the culture and personality of any new city you travel to, you certainly do not have to be or even know much about Mormonism to enjoy all that Salt Lake City offers.
A truly great destination offers plenty to do both in the manmade and natural worlds, and SLC delivers on both fronts. Want to have a fun night on the town at a bar or club? Salt Lake has an entertainment district for you. Want to head out to the mountains for hiking or skiing? The mountains are close enough to hit with a rock.
Read on for 7 Fun Things to Do in Salt Lake City, Utah!
1. Temple Square
Salt Lake City is to Mormonism what The Vatican is to Catholicism.
Therefore, to really get a feel for what the inhabitants of SLC are about, you should head on down to Temple Square. If for no other reason than it’s the focal point of the skyline and a pleasant place to walk around.
The three white spires of the temple rise up several hundred feet into the brisk Utah air. On its facade you can make out several star symbols, which in fact make the Big Dipper, highlighted by the North Star. The significance of this constellation is that it’s what the original Mormon pioneers followed when heading out west to Utah.
While gazing up at the temple, you will be approached by pairs of friendly young ladies in dresses. These are the Mormon Sister-Missionaries, and their job is to greet all visitors to the Temple Square grounds and answer any questions they may have. Despite what you may think, their job is NOT to convert you.
COVID Update: Just so you know, as of March 2021, the Temple is undergoing extensive renovations. The scaffolding atop the Temple and the construction going on around its base block any awesome shots right now, either by camera or drone, and unfortunately they aren’t going away any time soon.
2. City Creek Center
Salt Lake City’s premier shopping district, City Creek Center is like a little city within a city. You will find plenty of your favorite stores, and there are a number of coffee shops and restaurants to chill at.
City Creek is also one of the best places in town to do some people watching. I’m a big fan of free things to do and you don’t have to spend hella money at the stores to enjoy City Creek. It’s worth noting that SLC has some very interesting fashion. Those old enough to remember when punk and goth fashion were de rigeur will be interested to see that the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s never really left Salt Lake.
3. Trolley Square
A short Bird scooter ride from City Creek Center is Trolley Square, a more historic shopping and dining center. Many of the buildings date from 1908, and were originally built as enclosures for the city’s streetcars.
It’s here that you’ll find Weller Book Works, one of the most beloved bookstores in town.
4. Liberty Park
Liberty Park is just one of the very many public parks that snake throughout Salt Lake. Go on a beautiful Spring or Summer day and you’ll feel like you’re reliving one of the most idyllic sunny days of your youth. The sprawling park encompasses a river, natural hills, an aviary, and event space. The Rocky mountains seem close enough to reach out and touch, and there’s always something going on.
Pro Tip: Stop at the Park Cafe across the street for a delicious meal!
5. Natural History Museum of Utah
The Natural History Museum of Utah is located on the University of Utah campus, right at the foot of the mountains on the west side of the city. The museum features a number of exhibits on Great Basin geography, biology, and natural history. I feel like it does a great job of featuring hands-on games and exhibits for kids as well as hard information to fascinate adults. The massive hall featuring countless dinosaur skeletons is a highlight.
Their outdoor patio also provides some good shots of Downtown Salt Lake and the mountains beyond, if you have a camera with a good zoom.
Not only that, but literally at the back door of the museum is the Red Butte Garden, a massive park containing walking and biking trails and a beautiful botanical garden.
6. Food & Drink
While Utah’s majority Mormon population eschews alcohol, there are still myriad options for nightlife. Some good places to eat and drink include:
Tavernacle (dueling piano bar)
Bar X (chill, atmospheric bar)
Red Iguana (Mexican food with two locations)
Padeli’s Street Greek (cheap, like the Chipotle of Greek food)
Park Cafe (right across from Liberty Park)
7. Gilgal Sculpture Garden
Down the street from Trolley Square is the Gilgal Sculpture Garden, an–if nothing else–interesting concentration of Mormon-inspired works of art. It’s completely free and worth a visit if you’re in the area.
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