Salt Lake City Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Known for its beautiful mountains and friendly people, Salt Lake City is a multifaceted city that draws in visitors for many different reasons. Some might know it best as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while others might flock to SLC as a jumping-off point for a world-class ski trip or hiking expedition in a nearby national park. Whatever draws you to this mountainous city, you're in for a treat.

 Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Salt Lake City depends on why you’re visiting. If you want to ski your heart out, come during the winter months (November - March). If you want to hike through the canyons, visit nearby national parks, or otherwise get outdoors, spring and early fall are best (April, May, June or September, October).
  • Language: English
  • Currency: U.S. dollar
  • Getting around: Renting a car is best if you intend to get out and explore nearby canyons, national parks, or other places outside of the city. If you’re staying in town, the UTA buses, TRAX, and FrontRunner may be enough to get you around, especially if you’re sticking to the downtown core as there’s a fare-free zone there.
  • Travel tip: Among other things, Salt Lake City is known for the amazing natural beauty that surrounds it, from canyons to national parks. When you visit, you’re missing out if you don’t experience at least one of these. Utah’s natural spaces are absolutely stunning.

Things to Do

Salt Lake City (and Utah, as a whole) is known for its amazing outdoor adventures. You don’t have to go far from the heart of the city to ski or hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon, or Emigration Canyon—but the town itself is also a lot of fun to explore, too, whether you take a tour of Temple Square or kick back at a restaurant in the trendy Sugar House neighborhood.

  • Visit Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City, which is filled with restaurants, breweries, museums, and more to see and do.  
  • Get out into at least one nearby canyon for a hike. Popular options nearby include Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon and Cecret Lake up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Or if visiting in the winter, head to one of the area's ski resorts which receive around 500 inches of snow each year.
  • Enjoy the city’s excellent parks. Two that are especially awesome include Liberty Park near downtown, which has a great playground, lots of open green space, walking trails lined with giant trees, an aviary, and more. Parley’s Canyon and Tanner Park located in the Mill Creek neighborhood are also great fun to visit—Parley’s Canyon is a ravine with trails through it that’s an excellent place for a family hike or to walk the dog (or kids!). Sugar House Park is another large park and has playgrounds, a duck pond, and wide-open mountain views.

Explore more things to do and places to go, including the best things to do with kids.

What to Eat and Drink

You'll find a bit of everything in Salt Lake City, from upscale dining (though, you won't find a lot of extremely high-end restaurants) to plenty of places for casual eats to ethnic food. Look for regional items on menus, including fry sauce, which is ubiquitous and tasty, to try if you enjoy a side of French fries. There is a surprisingly large Greek population in Salt Lake City, so you'll find several Greek or Greek-influenced restaurants.

While Salt Lake City isn't known for being a city of frequent drinkers, the fact is the city has a thriving craft brewery scene, including the state's oldest brewpub, Wasatch Brewery. Yes, the state does have some rules about alcohol percentages, but those have been relaxed in recent years, and you can enjoy a wide range of beers and drinks at brewpubs, bars, and restaurants alike. However, Utah laws deem it illegal to get drunk and drinks ordered at restaurants have to be paired with food.

Where to Stay

Downtown Salt Lake City has plenty of hotels within walking distance of things to do and places to eat. Downtown is also an easy place to stay if you want to use public transportation and have a choice between a variety of hotels and vacation rentals. If you prefer a more laid-back part of town, Sugar House has a few hotels to choose from and a cozier vibe than downtown. Of course, if you’d like to stay close to the airport, there is a big range of hotels and motels to choose from on the perimeter of the airport, and it’s not too far from the heart of town.

Explore our recommendations for the top hotels in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake City's best neighborhoods.

Getting There

The Salt Lake City International Airport is very conveniently located just a few minutes from downtown and is easily accessible via I-80. The airport is large enough to handle international flights (and an annual passenger volume of 26 million people), but not so large that it’s tough to navigate. The airport is a hub for Delta, but also gets plenty of flights from other airlines, including Alaska and Southwest, which offer affordable flights from lots of US cities. Flying into town is probably the best option for many. Even skiers can catch shuttles and the Ski Bus to get to many of the nearby ski resorts in the winter. The airport has plenty of car rental companies based within its bounds if you want to get a car, and there are public transportation options as well that can take you from the airport to many parts of town.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Salt Lake City museums have free days—and a select few are free at all times.
  • Stay outside of the downtown core and you’ll find cheaper hotels and free parking. Salt Lake City is an easy city to drive around so if you have a car, this can be an easy way to save money.
  • If you’re going to be in town for at least five days and are planning to use public transportation, you can buy a pack of five day passes for a little over $30. These passes allow you to ride the bus and TRAX an unlimited amount of times each day.
  • If you want to visit several of Salt Lake City’s attractions, the Connect Pass offers discounts to 16 popular attractions and has options for one-day, two-day, three-day, and even a 365-day pass that's good for an entire year.
  • If you want to go skiing, but don’t want to pay for a rental car, look to the UTA ski bus service. Buses leave from pick-up locations around Salt Lake City and can take you out to nearby resorts, including Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, and Sundance Mountain Resort.

If you want to save money, check out the many free things to do in Salt Lake City.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Visit Salt Lake. "Facts & Info."

  2. Utah Department of Public Safety. "Alcohol Enforcement: Frequently Asked Questions."

  3. Salt Lake City International Airport. "Summary Statistics for 2019." 2019.

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