Utah is basically known for two things: Mormons and amazing nature. My experience of the capital, Salt Lake City, up to this year has primarily been snowboarding and hanging out with family (some of whom are Mormon — I’m not). Somehow I’m ending up spending a lot more time here than I originally planned.
It’s been a great opportunity to explore, learn some more about the city, and make new friends. Turns out there are plenty of non-Mormon things to do in Salt Lake City and, despite its serious lack of ocean (I miss you big blue!), it’s actually a pretty cool place to hang out (despite occasionally being scorchingly hot in the summer).
All I can think of is the show “Hell on Wheels”…
Downtown, The Capitol, and Temple Square
The most obvious tourist landmark that’s totally unique to Salt Lake City is Temple Square. Having grown up with a Mormon family, the place isn’t a novelty for me and I went mostly to take pictures and find someone to speak Portuguese with. I’d say that’s the best thing to do at Temple Square because the place is full of female missionaries from all corners of the globe. If you’re looking for a language practice buddy in Mandarin, Italian, Swedish, or whatever language, you’ll probably find them.
The heart of the city, Salt Lake Temple Square
Downtown Salt Lake City also has some other pretty buildings, religious and non-religious. I stopped up at the Capitol and took a peak inside. Take a tour or just wander around by yourself. There’s a small exhibit downstairs with random Utah and SLC stuff — like a thank-you note from James Franco for filming 127 Hours.
The Capitol of Utah
Interior of Utah’s Capitol building, very pretty…
I’ve also spent a lot of time downtown in the evening when all the bars are open. Utah has quite a few craft beers and that was an improvement from South America. Yay! So far I’ve been to Bar-X, the Beer-Hive, Whiskey Street, and some others all spread out around Market St/Main St.
Go For a Bike Ride
The mountain surroundings of Salt Lake City make it a great place for mountain biking (awesome!), but you can also go for a casual ride in the downtown area. There are bike stations in several locations downtown and you can rent a bike for short periods of time to tour the area.
Visit a Museum
I’m totally guilty of being a museum geek so one of the first things I did was find out which ones I wanted to go to in SLC. My first stop was the Contemporary Art Museum downtown. The exhibits are rotating, of course, but the layout of the museum was nice and I enjoyed the unique art on display
The University of Utah is also home to a few museums, including the Natural History Museum and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.
There are also some galleries in the main City Library, but even if you don’t want to see the exhibits you should still check out the building because it’s some of the best architecture in town.
Beautiful foyer of the Salt Lake City Library
The Gateway & Planetarium
If you like space or shopping, head to the Gateway Mall and Clark Planetarium. The planetarium displays are mostly for kids, but there’s also an IMAX theater with some cool programing. It’s a fun place to waste time and learn interesting facts
The Gateway is one of the most well-known malls in SLC and on a hot day you’ll find lots of children running around in the sprinklers by Olympic Legacy Plaza.
Saturday Morning Farmer’s Market in Pioneer Park
A nice way to spend Saturday morning is at the weekly farmer’s market in Pioneer Park. Presumably this is only during the summer months… Utah’s farming bounty seems to be mostly cherries, apricots, berries, sweet corn, and the like. I had some very delicious cherry pie that some lady was just giving away towards the end:) There are also people selling things like homemade hummus, olive oil, and art.
Hit the Hiking Trails
Utah is famous for its amazing hikes. Granted the most epic scenery is probably in the south in Zion National Park and Arches National Park, but there are plenty of hikes accessible from SLC itself. The main hiking trails lie up in the mountains in the canyons (Little Cottonwood Canyon, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Mills Canyon, and Emigration Canyon). I’m still hoping I can get out to Antelope Island some time to visit the buffalo.
View of mountains on Bell’s Canyon Reservoir hike
The short hike to Fifth Water Hot Springs ends with this waterfall
Bell’s Creek was a great hike to a waterfall. I’ve had plenty of fun going on random little hikes up in Emigration around the house as well as trips down towards Spanish Fork for the Fifth Water Hot Springs and Park City.
Twilight Concert Series
The summer is full of cool extra activities, one of them being the Twilight Concert Series in Pioneer Park. It’s an annual event that brings a variety of artists to the park on Thursday evenings. What’s amazing is that it’s only $5 if you buy your ticket in advance ($10 at the door). If you don’t like crowds, this isn’t for you… the place was packed, but I’m still amazed I could see a band like Death Cab for Cutie for $5.
That’s what I’ve been up to so far in the city, but it seems the longer I stay the more stuff I find to do. Don’t hold me to it, but I’m pondering staying here for a few months in hopes that winter is coming — it’s been ages since I’ve been snowboarding!!!