At the foot of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, there are a number of tourist attractions in Salt Lake City with easy access to the Great Outdoors. Dominated by Mormon history and the enormous buildings which make up the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, this city was also a proud host to the Olympic Games in 2002, and is the gateway to some spectacular skiing, hiking and mountain-biking territory.
10. Old Deseret Village
The Old Deseret Village is a living history museum where nineteenth century life in Utah has been recreated for your entertainment and education. It’s built on the spot where the Mormons entered Salt Lake Valley in 1847, having travelled 1,300 miles to find a home where they could practice their faith. 150 actor-guides demonstrate the everyday lives of these pioneers and answer your questions: blacksmiths and barbers, millers and cart-drivers, housewives and teachers – they’re all there to explain the old ways of doing things. The park is located on East Sunnyside Avenue, and adult tickets are $7, $5 for children (open Monday to Saturday, 9 am – 6 pm).
9. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail
Once upon a time, more than half of Utah was under water, and Lake Bonneville extended as far west as Nevada and north to Idaho before receding in the time of the mammoths. Now one hundred miles of free access Shoreline Trail unfolds along the rim of the geological shelf, which is today’s Great Salt Lake. Hovering just above downtown Salt Lake City, it offers spectacular views and great opportunities for hikers, runners and mountain bikers. You can access the trail at many points, principally at City Creek, across from Hogle Zoo, and behind the Natural History Museum. Remember to take plenty of water, as there’s little shade out there.
8. Utah Olympic Park
The 2002 Olympic games put this city on the map for more than religious reasons, and among its legacies was this superb sporting facility located a 45-minute drive from downtown. Among the best things to do in Salt Lake City if you’re visiting with friends is experience the g-forces of the Comet Bobsled as you hit 60 mph, or challenge yourselves with a freestyle ski jump into the swimming pool. On top of all that, there’s one of the worlds most terrifying zip wires and miles and miles of nature trails. If all that’s too exhausting, just wander round and watch elite athlete training, or take a one-hour guided tour of the complex. Tickets cost $10 per adult, $5 per child, and tours get booked up quickly, so arrive in plenty of time.
7. Temple Square
The historic center of Salt Lake City is the tranquil ten-acre Temple Square complex owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Temple Square covers several LDS buildings and monuments- the Salt Lake Assembly hall, LDS Conference Center and Tabernacle are among them – and free tours are run from the North and South Visitors’ Centers. If you have a layover at the airport, shuttle buses even run in and out every thirty minutes. If you’re not a believer, you may prefer touring the many gates to the Square where vocal critics of the Mormon Church hand out their tracts and harangue the thousands of visitors.
6. Ski resorts
With eleven ski resorts within an hour’s drive, why wouldn’t you? A Ski Salt Lake City Super Pass gives you access to four resorts from three to ten days from $237 per adult. If you’d like to mix the snow with celeb spotting, try a weekend at Robert Redford’s Sundance resort, where there are also fancy restaurants and plenty of window-shopping. The romantic drive out there is part of the experience: take the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway south from Salt Lake City and climb up Mount Timpanogos. Stop off at Cascade Springs and stroll along the boardwalk round the mountain springs before heading on. And if you’d rather mix alcohol and skiing, bust the myth that Utah’s a dry state and try America’s only ski-in distillery in the world: Park City’s High West Distillery and Saloon.
5. Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum
If you’ve brought the kids, this will keep them happy for hours, whatever the weather. Located in the downtown Gateway Mall at 444 West 100 South, the Children’s Museum offers 60,000 square feet of interactive fun. Staff members guide children through workshops and activities including a 30-foot beehive where everyone has to work as a team to keep things going, a media zone where children can read the news or report the weather, and a terrace where you can practice being a pilot, a paramedic or a commando. Open Monday to Thursday 10 – 6 and Friday 10 – 7, tickets cost $9.50 and all children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
4. Natural History Museum of Utah
One of the best visiting places in Salt Lake City with older children, the Natural History Museum at 301 Wakara Way walks you through nothing less than the development of the earth, taking in numerous interactive science examples on the way: ancient rocks, dinosaur traces, Native American artifacts and exotic birds are among the more absorbing exhibits. Housed in a cool copper-clad building on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and generally humming with schoolchildren, the museum also offers some of the best views over Salt Lake Valley. It’s open 10 to 5 every day except Wednesday with last admission at 4.30 pm, and 10 to 9 on Wednesdays. Adult tickets cost $13.00.
3. Family History Library
Family History Library is also one of the best-known repositories of genealogical information anywhere in the world. Housed in this massive building at 35 North West Temple Street on Temple Square, it’s open to the public Monday through Saturday, 8 am to 9am. This is your opportunity to trace your family back through several generations, with free advice offered by friendly and expert staff that will walk you through printed and computerized records. Each floor has a different area of the world and is staffed by specialists in that area. Beginners should visit the nearby Family Search Center first, and then move on to the Library itself. Note: if you’re taking your laptop, remember this is a public building and keep it safe.
2. Big Cottonwood Canyon
In the Wasatch Range twelve miles southeast of the city, this spectacular 15-mile-long canyon offers hiking, mountain biking, climbing, camping, fishing and skiing. It is accessed by the Big Cottonwood Canyon Scenic Byway, which runs to Guardsman Pass at the top of the canyon, passable by car only in summer, and a popular snowshoeing destination in winter. The canyon is studded with lakes for summer fishing, and the University of Utah leads botanical field trips to explore its biodiversity and large number of rare plant species. This is one of the best place in Salt Lake City to visit in the months of July and August, when the wildflower meadows burst into bloom. Remember to pack water and insect repellent, and do not approach the moose.
1. Mormon Tabernacle Choir
One of the absolute attractions in Salt Lake City is catch a recital by the world-renowned 350-strong Mormon Tabernacle Choir. If no concert is being staged during your visit, don’t despair: head to the Tabernacle in Temple Square where the choir practices every Thursday night at eight, and records it’s the ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ broadcast every Sunday at 9.30. It’s world-class music for free, as well as a master class in choral direction as you watch the choirmaster get the most from his singers. Make sure you get there early: admission to both is free, but practice and broadcast are both incredibly popular. Children over the age of eight are allowed.
Salt Lake City has a great public transportation system from the International Airport and round the downtown, which makes places to visit in Salt Lake City very convenient; however, it’s more fun to get around by the city’s shareable bikes: there are bike stations throughout the downtown are with simple checkout instructions. Leave the car at home and take the chance to spend an eco-friendly weekend cleansing body and soul in the mountain air.