While not quite as popular of a Christmastime vacation as New York City or Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City spares no expense when it comes to decorating its streets and parks with lights each December. From the millions of lights decorating Temple Square and downtown SLC to the elegant displays constructed in the Ashton Gardens, there's no shortage of Christmas cheer to be found in Salt Lake City this year.
Temple Square and downtown Salt Lake City are lighted with more than a million lights, glowing from the Gateway complex to Temple Square, down Main Street to the Gallivan Center, and along Broadway Boulevard.
Temple Square, the main attraction, is light for the holidays starting around November 20 each year. Temple Square remains lit through New Years Day in the mornings from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. and in the evenings from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. On the nights of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concerts the lights are on until 11 p.m. On New Year's Eve they will be on until 12:30 a.m. at Temple Square and until 1 a.m. at the Church Office Building, Main Street, and Conference Center Plazas.
A variety of local groups including school groups and church choirs perform daily at six different venues in downtown SLC. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert and the LDS Church First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional attract visitors from near and far.
The downtown holiday lights are amazing, but so are the crowds. If you can, go on a weeknight when there isn't a Utah Jazz game happening in town to avoid crowds. Additionally, downtown restaurants will be crowded, so you should try to make a reservation in advance if that's possible.
This year visitors to downtown will have the chance to hop on and hop off the Jingle Bus, a free holiday-themed bus that will run between City Creek Center, the Gateway, Temple Square, City Creek Center, Capitol Theatre, and the Gallivan Plaza, hitting all the holiday lights and storefront decorations along the way.
The bus will run from late November through December from 5 to 10 p.m. every day of the week except Christmas Day.
Take a mile walk through Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah, where you'll see 8,000 programmed luminaries across the hill in the shapes of poinsettias, flying reindeer, and other seasonal symbols.
At the top of the hill, you'll be greeted by a 120-foot Christmas tree aglow with lights. Luminaria is open Monday through Saturday from Late November through Early January each year, with time slots from 5 to 8:30 p.m.; the last admission is at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Point is closed Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day, and you can purchase tickets online or at the gate.
Hogle Zoo's biggest special event of the year, ZooLights, runs daily from the end of November to the end of December each year but will be closed on Christmas Day.
Hogle Zoo began Zoolights in 2006 with more than a million sparkling holiday lights and animated light displays. ZooLights occurs after the zoo's regular hours, so the lights, not the animals, are the main attraction. However, some animals will be on display during ZooLights, and some are more active at night.
Dress warmly. Hours are 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Heritage Village, a re-created pioneer village, is decorated like a Currier and Ives Christmas card each year. Enjoy a visit with Father Christmas and see the live Nativity scene or listen as the Heritage Village Carolers provide an inspiring backdrop to the glitter of lights, the glow of warm fires, and the smells of Christmas.
Join in the fun of making crafts and homemade gifts in one of the decorated historic homes or pioneer cabins. The Gift Shop at the Visitors Center and the ZCMI Mercantile will also be open throughout the season in case you want to pick up a last-minute gift, or you can stop by the Hunstman Hotel to warm up with a hot soup.
Heritage Village will be open on Monday through Saturday evenings starting the first week of December. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.