After living in Salt Lake for three years, I feel like we have enough authority to officially title a post “What to do in Salt Lake City.”
Unfortunately for this great city, most of the time we spent in Utah was PRE-BLOG, so we will just be doing one giant post to showcase a sentence or two about many Salt Lake items. Salt Lake City is a great place for lot of different kinds of people! It is a big enough city that you get a real “city” , “downtown” vibe when walking around, but small enough that it is still kept very clean. It is the perfect home for outdoor enthusiasts- living in Salt Lake means you have a lot of culture right outside your door, you are 20 minutes from the most beautiful hiking on earth, 30-45 minutes to about 6 different fantastic ski resorts, there are mountain biking trails everywhere, and you are about 3-5 hours from FIVE different National Parks. You really can’t beat it.
For this post I will just list some of our favorite things to do right around Salt Lake proper.
Want more information on any of these Utah sights? Feel free to ask and I can describe them in more detail!
Visiting the STATE CAPITOL BUILDING
It’s a must. Utah has a beautiful capitol building and I am surprised to learn of how many Utahans haven’t ever been inside! It stands alone on a tall hill in such a regal way you can’t help but go visit, and the inside is all marble and has many displays about Utah history, pop-culture, and areas to visit. We walk our dog around the beautiful capitol grounds probably twice a week, and always show the Capitol off to family. Proof lies in this goofy photo of my sister and I.
Hiking “BEHIND THE U.”
Some of our favorite little half-day hikes were located about 15 minutes from our house in Salt Lake City. This is an area behind the University of Utah which houses Red Butte Trail, Beacon Tower, The Boneville Shoreline, and our favorite: The Living Room. The living room hike ends with a bunch of boulders that have been set up to look like Flinstone-esque couches and recliners. Bonus: This whole hiking area is dog friendly and has any different hiking routes to chose from!
As many people know, Salt Lake City is a religious center for the Latter-Day Saints. My husband and I are not LDS, and neither is our family, but regardless of your religion, Temple Square is a Salt Lake staple. The grounds are meticulously kept- the LDS Church has their own team of people who replace the flowers as they die. If you want to get the history, there are plenty of tour guides and interactive displays to engage with. If you are just there for the sightseeing, the temple itself is gorgeous, the tabernacle is impressive, and the assembly hall building is a beauty. The landscaping itself is enough to make you want to come back time and time again for a beautiful walk. Bonus: If you are visiting in the winter, a HUGE section of downtown Salt Lake goes up in lights in and around this area.
Hiking/Mountain Biking in THE COTTONWOODS
Just outside of Salt Lake sit Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. In the winter, these canyons are hosts to the greatest snow on earth, but in the spring and summer, you better get up there and hike! I couldn’t even begin to name the hundreds of amazing trails within those two canyons! Here’s one snapshot of our family hiking the “Brighton Lakes Trail” which weaves you in and out of three lakes and some spectacular overlooks.
CITY CREEK CENTER.
Ready to do some shopping? The Salt Lake Valley has a ridiculous amount of malls and shopping centers, but this one is our favorite. It is home to some seriously high end stores, but we always go because of its beauty. It is an indoor/outdoor mall (outdoor mostly, with a giant retractable roof for winter) with TONS of feature fountains and a river running through the entire mall. It’s even dog friendly! You and your dog can shop together, even inside most of the shops! If you are visiting in the summer, they usually have live bands playing all around the mall Thursday-Saturday. Brad, Millie (our dog), and I are frequent City Creek visitors in the summer. We head to the food court, grab a smoothie, and watch the bands play in the beautiful summer air. Bonus: The information booth gives out dog treats. Millie knows this and always runs over to them and jumps onto the counter.
SALT LAKE MAIN LIBRARY
This building is a work of art. I may be biased because I am slightly book-obsessed, but really. Google it. This one photo can’t do it justice. It’s a magnificent, five-story tall, all glass wonder. There are stacked fireplaces on every level, shops, cafes, and an art gallery all inside the library. Have kids? There are some adorable kids reading rooms downstairs- they are actual ice castles and “attic” forts. There is even an outdoor cave and waterfall complete with petroglyphs in the cave for the kids to learn about. This library is perfection.
Brad was an excellent snowboarder before moving here, but I was unfamiliar with heavy snow in general! Utah is home to some of the world’s best ski/snowboard resorts so I had to learn! There are tons of resorts to choose from ranging in difficultly. Since I am a beginner, Brighton has been a perfect fit for us. The easy and intermediate runs at Brighton offer middle portions that are wide for beginners like me, and portions on the sides that are full of moggles, trees, and small jumps- so it’s a great mix for both Brad and I on one run!
Park City is about a 30 minute drive from Salt Lake. We have spent tons of time up there! Of course there are resorts, mountain biking, and excellent hiking, but we go for the dining and shopping! Stepping onto Main Street is like stepping into a tiny, quaint mountain town you never want to leave. There are an abundance of souvenir shops, restaurants, art galleries, and museums, but be warned, it is a pricey area. Well worth a visit, though!
RED BUTTE GARDEN.
Right near the University of Utah, Red Butte Garden is a beautiful botanical garden. It houses rose gardens, waterfalls, herb gardens, and an oak tunnel, and it changes greatly from season to season. Perfect half day activity if you want to get outside but aren’t up for a long hike!
Right next to the Capitol Building is a set of stairs down into the canyon. Take that path and you end up in a doggie and human wonderland. I think the reason I love this area so much, is it reminds me of our home in Virginia. There are many little monuments and buildings that look historic and colonial, but all and all it is just a cute park that leads you up into City Creek Canyon.
A note about FOOD! I’m not gonna lie to you guys… Salt Lake is not the best foodie city. They have some great local joints, but in comparison to a lot of other cities, their food is only so-so. Brad and I have two favorites- a breakfast joint and a dinner spot. For Breakfast, we love “The Park Cafe.” They have a “pancake sandwich” there that is beyond words. It’s two of the largest, fluffiest pancakes known to man and in between them sits two eggs and two perfect strips of bacon. It is amazing, and you will probably only eat half of it. For dinner, our favorite has been “The Cooper Onion.” They are a local place right in the center of downtown and have high-end cuisine with moderate prices. It is a small little place but it feels so homey and delightful and the food is fabulous.
Dont forget to check out ANTELOPE ISLAND, located in the Great Salt Lake!
See my detailed post about Antelope Island under the “Utah” page on the blog!