Salt Lake City Travel Guide

Salt Lake City Travel Guide

Welcome to Salt Lake City, the capital and most populous city in Utah! Known as the "Crossroads of the West", Salt Lake City is a vibrant metropolis near the foot of the Wasatch Mountains. With its unique history and culture, outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and excellent dining and entertainment, Salt Lake City has something for everyone.

This travel guide will highlight the best things to do, see, eat, and experience in Salt Lake City. We'll provide information on top attractions, neighborhoods to explore, restaurants to try, events and festivals, and more. Whether you're planning a weekend getaway or an extended vacation, this guide will help you make the most of your time in this dynamic city.

Table
  1. Getting to and Around Salt Lake City
  2. Neighborhoods and Districts
    1. Downtown
    2. The Avenues
    3. Capitol Hill
    4. Sugar House
    5. 9th & 9th
  3. Top Things To Do and See
    1. Temple Square
    2. Great Salt Lake
    3. Park City
    4. City Creek Canyon
    5. Capitol Building
    6. Natural History Museum of Utah
    7. Gateway Mall
    8. Gilgal Sculpture Garden
    9. Liberty Park
    10. Snowbird Resort
  4. Weekend Itinerary
    1. Day 1
    2. Day 2
  5. Top Neighborhood Restaurants and Bars
    1. Downtown
    2. 9th & 9th
    3. Sugar House
    4. The Avenues
    5. Capitol Hill
    6. Park City
  6. Annual Events and Festivals
  7. Outdoor Activities
  8. Family-Friendly Attractions
  9. Free Things To Do
  10. Hidden Gems and Off the Beaten Path
  11. Day Trips from Salt Lake City
    1. Park City
    2. Sundance Mountain Resort
    3. Snowbasin Resort
    4. Antelope Island
    5. Heber Valley
    6. Bear Lake

Getting to and Around Salt Lake City

Transportation to Salt Lake City:

  • By air: Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is located just 7 miles from downtown. It's serviced by major domestic airlines and offers easy connections to destinations across the US.
  • By train: The FrontRunner commuter train connects Salt Lake City to nearby cities like Ogden. Amtrak also operates long-distance trains to Salt Lake City.
  • By bus: Greyhound offers bus service to Salt Lake City from cities across the Western US. There are two bus stations downtown.
  • By car: Salt Lake City is at the intersection of I-15 and I-80. It's conveniently accessed by road trip.

Transportation within the city:

  • Light rail: TRAX light rail has three lines that connect downtown to the university, airport and suburbs. The S-Line streetcar links local attractions.
  • Bus: UTA buses cover the greater metro area. Fares are $2.50 for a single ride.
  • Bike share: Greenbike has bike rental stations around downtown. Biking is a popular way to explore.
  • Ride share: Lyft and Uber operate in Salt Lake City. They're handy for getting around at night.
  • Walking: Downtown and many neighborhoods are very walkable. Use the flat terrain to your advantage.

Neighborhoods and Districts

Salt Lake City has distinct neighborhoods and districts, each with their own character. Here are some of the top areas to explore:

Downtown

This is the bustling urban core with attractions like Temple Square, City Creek Center, and the Salt Palace Convention Center. Stay in a downtown hotel to be central.

The Avenues

Just north of downtown, The Avenues is a historic neighborhood known for charming Victorian homes and tree-lined streets. Grab brunch on 11th or 13th Avenue.

Capitol Hill

Located near the Utah State Capitol building, this area has interesting shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Be sure to visit Memory Grove park.

Sugar House

East of downtown, Sugar House has a main street lined with hip boutiques, coffee shops, and eateries. Don't miss Sugar House Park.

9th & 9th

This hip district near downtown is artsy and LGBTQ-friendly. Stop by the Whole Foods rooftop bar.

Top Things To Do and See

With stunning mountain scenery and Mormon history, Salt Lake City offers diverse attractions and activities. Here are top things to experience:

Temple Square

This 10-acre block in downtown is the spiritual center for the LDS Church. Don't miss the Gothic-style Temple, Tabernacle, and Visitor Center.

Great Salt Lake

Float in the salty buoyant waters of this massive lake just west of the city. Watch birds and sunsets from Antelope Island.

Park City

Ride the gondola up to the slopes or mountain bike down trails in this lively resort town 30 minutes from Salt Lake.

City Creek Canyon

Escape the city heat by hiking, climbing, or fishing along this cool mountain stream within city limits.

Capitol Building

Take a free tour of Utah's grand state capitol building with its dome, gardens, and marble interiors.

Natural History Museum of Utah

Check out interactive exhibits on dinosaurs, gemstones, native cultures, and more at this stunning Rio Tinto museum.

Gateway Mall

Shop, dine, see a concert, or catch a movie at this fun open-air shopping center with fountains and art.

Gilgal Sculpture Garden

This quirky outdoor sculpture park is hidden in a neighborhood and features a giant sphinx with Joseph Smith's face.

Liberty Park

Have a picnic, walk the paths, play tennis, or take kids to the playground in this large central city park.

Snowbird Resort

In summer, ride the tram up this mountain resort for hikes, mountain biking, and views from 11,000 feet.

Weekend Itinerary

Spending a weekend in Salt Lake City? Here's a recommended 2-day itinerary:

Day 1

  • Start your day exploring Temple Square - tour the Temple, see the Tabernacle, and visit the Visitor Center.
  • Next, stroll down Main Street downtown, popping into cute boutiques and cafes.
  • Have lunch on the rooftop deck at the City Creek Center downtown shopping mall.
  • Spend the afternoon browsing the excellent Natural History Museum of Utah.
  • Grab dinner in the fun 9th & 9th neighborhood - try Pago for farm-to-table fare.
  • End the night listening to live music at The State Room.

Day 2

  • Fuel up with coffee and pastries at The Rose Establishment in The Avenues.
  • Drive up to Ensign Peak for panoramic valley views and an easy hike.
  • Head to the massive Red Butte Garden for flowers, trails, concerts, and food.
  • Grab a hearty lunch downtown at the local favorite Red Iguana.
  • Explore the quirky Gilgal Sculpture Garden.
  • Treat yourself to dinner at one of Salt Lake's top restaurants like Log Haven or Copper Onion.

Top Neighborhood Restaurants and Bars

Salt Lake City's dining scene is excellent. Here are top restaurants in popular neighborhoods:

Downtown

  • Lamb's Grill: Old school steakhouse open since 1919, dark wood booths, solid cocktails
  • Copper Onion: Sophisticated seasonal New American cuisine and cocktails in historic charm of Hotel Monaco
  • Red Iguana: Classic mole sauces, interior Mexican courtyard vibes, and potent margaritas

9th & 9th

  • Pago: Farm-to-table comfort food, generous portions, excellent brunch
  • Caffe Molise: Charming Italian cafe open late, serving paninis, pizza, pastries
  • Bar X: Historic bar with large patio, 30+ beers on tap

Sugar House

  • The Dodo: Hip chicken-focused diner open late with arcade games
  • Ruth's Diner: Classic rail car diner with all-day breakfast and pies
  • Sugar House Pub: Laid-back pub with billiards, darts, patio, and comfort food

The Avenues

  • Avenues Proper: Elegant bistro with craft cocktails and locally-sourced American fare
  • Nuch's: Festive taqueria serving potent margaritas and Baja-style tacos
  • Alewife: Hip pub with global beers, duck fat fries, and Mediterranean small plates

Capitol Hill

  • Caputo's Market: Epic deli counter and grocery store stocked with global gourmet goodies
  • Ichiban: Japanese steakhouse with showy teppanyaki chefs and sushi bar
  • The Rest: Cozy cocktail den with comfort fare, fireplace lounge, and back patio

Park City

  • Riverhorse on Main: Sophisticated New American cuisine using indigenous ingredients
  • Handle: Après ski bar with frequent live music, tasty cocktails, and pub grub
  • High West Distillery: Award-winning craft whiskey producer with restaurant and saloon

Annual Events and Festivals

Salt Lake City has many exciting annual events. Here are top festivals and happenings:

  • Sundance Film Festival: January, independent films and Park City parties
  • Snowbird Reggae Festival: April, three days of reggae music in the mountains
  • Krannert Rocket Festival: April, amateur rocket launch spectacle in desert
  • Utah Arts Festival: June, huge juried art fair downtown with music and food
  • Pioneer Day: July 24, fireworks, parades and rodeos celebrating Utah history
  • Greek Festival: September, St. Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church hosts music, dancing and gyros
  • HEAL Utah Farm-to-Fork Festival: September, foodie fest showcasing Utah produce and cuisine
  • Snowbird Oktoberfest: Authentic Bavarian Oktoberfest at the mountain resort
  • Salt Lake City Marathon: November, scenic 26.2 mile course through the valley

Outdoor Activities

With the rugged Wasatch Mountains as its backyard, Salt Lake offers world class outdoor recreation. Top activities include:

  • Hiking: Hundreds of canyon trails like Grandeur Peak, Lake Blanche, Mt Olympus
  • Mountain Biking: Start Canyon, Emigration Canyon, Park City, Deer Valley, trails galore
  • Rock Climbing: Little Cottonwood Canyon is a climbing mecca with classics at Stairs Gulch, Gate Buttress
  • Skiing and Snowboarding: 7 resorts within an hour including Alta, Snowbird, Park City, Solitude, Brighton
  • Paddling: Kayak or SUP on flatwater at Deer Creek, Jordanelle or Flaming Gorge Reservoirs
  • Fishing: Fly fish for trout on the Provo, Weber, and Logan Rivers
  • Golf: Mountain and valley courses like Nibley, Old Mill, St. George, Park City
  • Hot Springs: Soak sore muscles at Crystal, Mystic, Saratoga Springs

Family-Friendly Attractions

Salt Lake City offers many fun and interactive attractions for families. Top kid-approved activities include:

  • Discovery Gateway Children's Museum: Downtown hands-on science exhibits
  • Hogle Zoo: Big zoo near downtown with elephants, giraffes, lions and more
  • Natural History Museum: Dinosaurs, space, and gems - what's not to love?
  • Loveland Living Planet Aquarium: 10,000 aquatic animals and interactive exhibits
  • This is the Place Heritage Park: Pioneer village with train ride, pony rides, petting zoo
  • Tracy Aviary: Feed tropical birds by hand at this 8-acre bird park
  • Park City Mountain Resort: Family friendly summer activities like Alpine Slide, zipline, and tubing
  • Salt Lake Bees Baseball: Affordable minor league baseball games all summer.
AttractionDescription
Discovery Gateway Children's MuseumHands-on science exhibits downtown
Hogle ZooBig zoo near downtown with elephants, giraffes, lions and more
Natural History MuseumDinosaurs, space, and gems - what's not to love?
Loveland Living Planet Aquarium10,000 aquatic animals and interactive exhibits
This is the Place Heritage ParkPioneer village with train ride, pony rides, petting zoo
Tracy AviaryFeed tropical birds by hand at this 8-acre bird park
Park City Mountain ResortFamily friendly summer activities like Alpine Slide, zipline, and tubing
Salt Lake Bees BaseballAffordable minor league baseball games all summer

Free Things To Do

The good news if you're on a budget - there are plenty of fantastic free activities to enjoy in Salt Lake City:

  • Take in the views and get some exercise hiking Ensign Peak or City Creek Canyon.
  • Enjoy abundant public art at venues like The Gateway, Library Square and throughout downtown.
  • Explore pioneer history at This is the Place Heritage Park.
  • Wander around vibrant Temple Square to see the striking architecture.
  • Check out the FamilySearch Center to discover your genealogy.
  • Visit the lobby of the elegant Hotel Monaco.
  • Tour the State Capitol building and see the gardens and rotunda.
  • Connect with nature at beautiful Red Butte Garden and Liberty Park.
  • Browse the eclectic galleries at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • See exotic birds up-close for free at the Tracy Aviary every Wednesday.
  • Catch free music and movies at venues like Gallivan Plaza downtown.

Hidden Gems and Off the Beaten Path

In addition to the major attractions, Salt Lake City has some real hidden gems. Here are a few local favorites:

  • Gilgal Sculpture Garden: Quirky sculptures including Sphinx with Joseph Smith's face
  • Mt Olympus Trail: Hike up the steepest trail in Salt Lake for Big Cottonwood views
  • City Creek Canyon: Jog, bike or stroll this canyon stream within the city
  • Wheeler Historic Farm: Pioneer farmstead with farm animals to feed and pet
  • Field of Remembrance: Beautiful display of U.S. flags on the Capitol lawn
  • Ruth's Diner: Dine in a cool vintage rail car in Sugar House
  • Neff's Canyon Trail: Less crowded canyon hike to a small waterfall
  • Antelope Island: Hike with pronghorn and bison on this state park island in the Great Salt Lake
  • Gilgal Sculpture Garden: This quirky outdoor sculpture park features mythological characters and Mormon symbolism.
  • Ensign Peak: Hike to the summit of this small peak for panoramic valley views.
  • Memory Grove: Historic park with walking paths, fountains and monuments near the State Capitol.

Day Trips from Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City makes a great base for exploring surrounding mountain towns. Here are top day trips:

Park City

This historic mining town turned resort has an appealing Main Street lined with cafes, shops, galleries and restaurants. Ride the Alpine Coaster, hike or mountain bike the trails, and visit the Alf Engen Ski Museum.

Sundance Mountain Resort

The home base of Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival is nestled in Mt Timpanogos canyon. Go horseback riding, ziplining, or take the lift up for the views.

Snowbasin Resort

Just 45 minutes from downtown, Snowbasin has scenic gondola rides, mountain biking, hiking trails, and a luxe day spa. Grab lunch on the outdoor patio.

Antelope Island

Drive out across the Great Salt Lake causeway to hike alongside free-ranging bison and pronghorn, swim, or camp on this 64,000 acre island.

Heber Valley

Explore charming Swiss-inspired towns like Heber City and Midway. Ride the historic Heber Creeper steam train or try fresh dairy at an Alpine cheese factory.

Bear Lake

This turquoise alpine lake on the Utah-Idaho border is perfect for swimming, boating, fishing, hiking and camping. Check out the famous raspberry shakes.

I hope this travel guide provides helpful information to plan your own Salt Lake City adventure and experience the best this vibrant city has to offer. Let me know if you need any other Utah travel tips!

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