Maybe you just have a day or two to spend in Salt Lake City, or maybe you're new in town and want to get the feel of the place as soon as possible. Here's a quick list of things to do, see and experience if you really want to get the flavor of Salt Lake City, and find out what makes it unique.
Temple Square is Salt Lake City's most popular tourist attraction, and the Salt Lake Temple is an iconic symbol of the city. You can spend as little as 30 minutes or as much as a couple of days seeing the sights at Temple Square and the surrounding area. Everything at Temple Square is free.
City Creek Center is a gorgeous, eye-popping 700,000-square-foot shopping and dining destination. Some of the center's notable architectural features are a retractable skylight roof, a sky bridge over Main Street connecting the east and west sides of the center, two waterfalls, a 1200-foot creek, and three electronically controlled fountains. The center is located between South Temple and 100 South, and between West Temple and State Street, with Main Street running down the center. City Creek Center features Nordstrom, Macy’s and more than 90 stores and restaurants.
Dining options at the City Creek Center include many of the usual national chains, but also a few locally owned favorites:
- Bocata - artisan sandwiches
- Kneader's Bakery - sandwiches, salads, pastries, and desserts
- Core Life Eatery - healthy foods for an active lifestyle
- Taste of Red Iguana - quick service version of Salt Lake City's favorite Mexican restaurant
The Gateway shopping and entertainment center was completed at the time of Salt Lake City's 2002 Winter Olympic Games and have been a major component of the revitalization of Salt Lake's west downtown. It's located along 400 West, between 200 South and South Temple. The Gateway offers stores, restaurants and movie theaters, but also two of Salt Lake City's best museums, Discovery Gateway and Clark Planetarium. It also houses The Depot, a popular live music venue that pays homage to the area's history as a rail transportation center. The Gateway's Olympic Snowflake Fountain is a popular place for kids to play in the summer.
Library Square and Washington Square
The Library Square and Washington Square area of Salt Lake City includes two of the city's iconic buildings: the Salt Lake City Library and the Salt Lake City and County Building, and one of the city's favorite museums: The Leonardo. The Washington Square/Library Square area is between 400 and 500 South, and between State Street and 200 East.
The Salt Lake City Public Library, designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Moshe Safdie, embodies the idea that a library is more than a repository of books and computers; it reflects and engages the city's imagination and aspirations. The curving building features ample daylight, spiral fireplaces, art displays, an auditorium, children's play areas, and shops on the ground level.
The Salt Lake City and County Building was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, considered one of the greatest architects of his time. As one of the most representative examples of the Richardson Romanesque style, the Salt Lake City, and County Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Utah Heritage Foundation provides free tours of the City & County Building on Mondays at noon and 1 PM from June through August. For a modest charge, the organization will provide tours on days other than Monday.
The Leonardo is one of Salt Lake City's newest museums, with a unique mission that connects art, creativity, science, and technology. It's a fun way to spend a couple of hours, with exhibits that appeal to adults, teens, and children.
Liberty Park, located between 900 and 1300 South and between 500 and 700 East in Salt Lake City, is the oldest and most prominent park in Utah. Since its beginning in 1882, Liberty Park has been a favorite open space retreat for thousands of people who have enjoyed its beautiful trees, paths, playgrounds, fountains, ponds, sports facilities, swimming pool, amusement rides and more. The park also houses Tracy Aviary, which has been in operation since 1938 and has been extensively renovated between 2005 and 2013.
The Natural History Museum of Utah is located at 301 Wakara Way, east of the University of Utah. The museum rests on a series of terraces that follow the contours of the Wasatch foothills. The stunning building is wrapped with 42,000 square feet of standing seam copper. The copper is installed in horizontal bands of various heights to represent the layered rock formations seen throughout Utah. Exhibits focus on the history and evolution of Utah's land, plants, animals, and people.
The Natural History Museum of Utah is part of the Foothill Cultural District, along with Red Butte Garden, This Is the Place Heritage Park, Hogle Zoo, the Fort Douglas Museum, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the Olympic Cauldron Park. Visit the Foothill Cultural District website for coupons to save money on admission to these attractions.
With more than 100 acres including display gardens, walking paths and natural areas with hiking trails, Red Butte Garden is the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West that tests, displays, and interprets regional horticulture. Red Butte Garden is adjacent to the Natural History Museum of Utah, in the foothills east of the University of Utah at 300 Wakara Way.
This is the Place Heritage Park is a living history attraction that allows visitors to experience daily life as it was lived by 19th-century pioneers. It's located at 2601 Sunnyside Avenue, at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, just south of Hogle Zoo. The park includes more than 40 restored homes and other buildings, a historic train, petting corral, and Native American village. You can also visit a grist mill and pan for real gold in a small creek.
Hogle Zoo was founded in 1912 with five kinds of birds, two foxes, two squirrels and a pair of monkeys. Its first location was in Liberty Park. Today, the zoo is located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon at 2600 E Sunnyside Avenue. The zoo is home to several hundred animals from all over the world. Three of the zoo's newest and most interesting exhibits are the Elephant Encounter, completed in 2004, Asian Highlands, completed in 2006, Rocky Shores, completed in 2012, and the African Savanna exhibit which opened in 2014.
One of the greatest things about life in Salt Lake City is easy access to the area's beautiful canyons. You're never more than a few minutes away from the chance to take a nature break. Here are some of the canyons nearest to Salt Lake City:
- Big Cottonwood Canyon
- City Creek Canyon
- Emigration Canyon
- Little Cottonwood Canyon
- Mill Creek Canyon
- Red Butte Canyon
Salt Lakers are lucky to have eight world-famous ski resorts within an hour's drive. Each of the Salt Lake area's ski resorts has its own personality, pros, and cons, and most Salt Lake skiers have a favorite. Don't forget the ski resorts during the summer - they all have summer activities including mountain biking, ziplines, hiking, dining, concerts, and a lot more.
The Utah Olympic Park is a winter sports venue built for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and is located in Park City, just off the I-80 Kimball Junction exit. During the 2002 games, the park hosted bobsleigh, skeleton, luge, Nordic ski jumping, and Nordic combined events. The park is open year-round with seasonal activities for visitors. Guided tours are available daily. The free Alf Engen Ski Museum and George Eccles 2002 Winter Olympic Games Museum are open year-round.
In summer, guests can take a ride on the Comet Bobsled with a bobsled pilot, ride the Xtreme Zipline (the steepest zipline in the world), take a ride on the Quicksilver Alpine Slide, watch athlete training of all levels, and try freestyle ski jumping into the summer splash pool.
In winter, guests can take the ride of their life down the Olympic track in a winter Comet Bobsled with a pilot. Riders reach speeds of 80 mph with 5 Gs of force. Visitors can also try the sport of skeleton on the Rocket Skeleton ride, or try Nordic ski jumping, moguls, or terrain park.
Thanksgiving Point, at the Point of the Mountain between the Salt Lake and Utah Valleys, includes 55 acres of spectacular gardens, a working farm (Farm Country), a huge dinosaur museum (Museum of Ancient Life), a Megaplex movie theater complex, a fine dining restaurant (Harvest), a cafe and ice cream shop, gift shop, nursery, and golf course.
Thanksgiving Point hosts hundreds of events every year, including a tulip festival, rose festival, huge drive-through animated Christmas light display, summer concert series, cooking classes, gardening classes, kids' summer camps and a lot more.