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Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and a getaway to outdoors. Located in the heart of the Wasatch Front, it also offers access to some of the most most popular national parks in America.
But Salt Lake City is so much more than just a pit stop on your national parks’ itinerary!
While Salt Lake City used to be a hidden gem, the word is out and now many travelers coming to discover what was once one of the most underrated destinations in the American West.
The city offers cultural activities, recreation opportunities, and historic landmarks. Just east of downtown Salt Lake are famous mountain towns Park City and Bear Lake.
Some of the most popular activities in Salt Lake City are visiting Temple Square, skiing at one of the many close ski resorts, or attending events like the Sundance Film Festival or Utah Jazz games – this city has something for everyone!
In this article, we will look at the top reasons why you should visit Salt Lake City!
Why should I visit Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City is a charming city with quick access to the outdoors, diverse restaurants, and friendly locals. While the city is becoming a hub for tech companies, it’s still more affordable than major destinations like Denver, San Francisco or Seattle.
Salt Lake City is a convenient starting point, if you’re interested in a road trip through the Western United States. Popular road trips from Salt Lake include Yellowstone and the Tetons, and the national parks in Southern Utah near Moab.
Salt Lake City and the surrounding area are known for their outdoor adventures which include skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, and camping.
The Wasatch Mountain Range boasts some of the best ski slopes in the United States for all levels, and the nearby Park City is an outdoor paradise that hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002.
You can access many hiking trails on foot from downtown Salt Lake City. For example, Ensign Peak is just behind the state capital building. This mile-long hike is considered moderate and fairly popular because of its proximity to SLC.
Best road trips from Salt Lake City
A few other popular trails in the area are the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Avenues Twin Peaks, City Creek Canyon Trail, Terrance Hills Trail, and the Tomahawk Natural Area.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Salt Lake City in fall, there are great places to see stunning fall foliage. The Sundance and Park City areas have beautiful scenic drives where you can see the fall colors from late September through mid-October.
Salt Lake City is home to some of the most unique street art in the United States. Many of the city’s downtown areas are adorned with colorful murals, sculptures, and other artistic displays. These pieces often reflect the city’s history, culture, and landscape.
The Salt Lake Arts Festival in June is a fun annual event that showcases local and national artists through interactive displays, live music, and more. It takes place every in Library Square and is a good way to learn the city’s creative side.
Salt Lake City is compact, and you don’t need a car to explore downtown. If you want to check out the city on foot, you can start around Temple Square or the Gateway Center Shopping Mall and make your way around downtown Salt Lake City.
Don’t forget to visit Salt Lake City Planetarium – one of my favorite places in Salt Lake City!
The East Central District of Salt Lake City is the most walkable part of town, but you can also use the SLC public transportation, which is fairly reliable.
The Salt Lake trolley tour is a fun way to see the highlights of the city without a car. The tour is a great opportunity to learn more about the history of Salt Lake City with some fun stops along the way.
Renting a car in Salt Lake City
However, if you want to see more of the surrounding area and spend time outside, you should rent a car in Salt Lake City.
You can find a good rental car at the airport, but there are some other options around the city if you don’t get a rental after your flight. I recommend renting a car with DiscoverCars, my favorite platform for car rentals where you can find dozens of vehicles at super affordable rates.
Unlike many other car rental platforms DiscoverCars have no hidden fees and surcharges and you pay exactly what you see online.
Access to Utah National Parks
Salt Lake City is close to many of the most popular and beautiful national parks. These parks include Yellowstone, and the mighty five – Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands. The Salt Lake City International Airport (code: SLC) offers domestic and international connections which makes it a convenient starting point.
If you plan on visiting some of the best national parks near Salt Lake City, it’s best to rent a car at Salt Lake City Airport, after you arrive.
The locals in SLC are mostly friendly and are happy to help if you need any recommendations or directions. Everyone is willing to chat and lend a hand if you ever need anything on your travels through the state.
Salt Lake City is one of the best budget destinations in the United States. Although prices here are higher than in most places in Utah, you are not going to pay a fortune for parking, accommodations, or activities as you will in many other major cities.
There are also lots of free things to do in Salt Lake City like Utah State Capitol Building, Historic Temple Square, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (which is free on select days) and the downtown city library.
If you are worried about finding food opinions that are delicious or specific to your diet, don’t. Salt Lake City has an array of great food options for vegans, vegetarians, or foodies looking for gourmet meals.
Some of the best high-end restaurants in Salt Lake City are Spitz, Bambara Salt Lake City, Honest Eatery, and Eva. During the weekends or popular travel times, it is good to make a reservation to avoid long wait times.
Ski Resorts near Salt Lake
Salt Lake City is a top destination for skiing, with some of the best ski resorts in the country within driving distance. Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort are the closest ski resorts to Salt Lake City, just over 30 miles away.
Both of them offer a variety of slopes ranging from beginner to expert.
The Snowbird and Brighton Resort is also a popular ski resort within driving distance from Salt Lake City. This resort offers some of the best skiing in Utah with its steep terrain, deep powder, and long runs. It also has an aerial tramway that can take you up to 11,000 feet for an incredible view.
In 2023 these resorts had over 800 inches of snow!
Salt Lake City is a great destination for those looking to experience some nightlife. The capital of Utah has something for everyone, from classic pubs and breweries to more casual bars and restaurants.
For those looking to experience some traditional pub culture, the Red Door in Salt Lake City’s downtown area is a great option. With an extensive selection of beers, ales, and ciders on tap, live music, and friendly service.
Best Things to Do in Salt Lake City
1. Visit the State Capitol
The Utah State Capitol is a heroic landmark that you can reach on foot from downtown Salt Lake City. You can take a tour to learn more about the state’s history and government.
The grounds for the Utah State Capitol are decorated with murals showing moments from the different periods of Utah history. Since the building sits on the hill, you can also enjoy great views of the downtown Salt Lake City and surrounding areas.
Check out Salt Lake City Connect Pass to learn about the best activities in the city.
2. Take a trip to Bonneville Salt Flats
The Bonneville Salt Flats is a unique and stunning landscape just west of Salt Lake City. Rent a car and take a drive out to experience the vast expanse of salt flats.
The salt flats are about 1 hour and 45 minutes west of downtown Salt Lake City, so it does take some time to get there. You will need to have your vehicle or a rental car to get there.
3. Explore Temple Square
Salt Lake City is home to headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church.
The 10-acre area features many buildings and monuments related to the religion, many gardens, and sculptures. It offers a good introduction to Utah, as the state has a strong Mormon influences which can be seen in its culture and politics.
You can walk around Temple Square by yourself or you can take a guided tour with a volunteer there. Also, be sure to check the schedule for their choir, the Choir at Tabernacle Square. The practices take place throughout the week, as well as their performances, and are open to the public.
4. Climb Ensign Peak
Ensign Peak is a fun place to go for a hike, with a moderate 30 to 40-minute trail in SLC. You will get an amazing view of Salt Lake City and its surroundings from the peak. This is a popular trail and would be a good change of pace when in the area.
5. Explore Utah’s Natural History Museum
The Utah Museum of Natural History is an excellent way to learn about the unique and diverse history of the state. The museum features interactive exhibits and gardens which make a good educational experience for all ages.
6. Visit Red Butte Garden
Red Butte Garden is the place to visit if you want to see neat landscaping and flowers. The garden is filled with a variety of plants and flowers. It also has a small pond waterfall, and other features. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic or just relaxing in the sun and is open year-round.
7. Shop and Dine at The Gateway Shopping Center
The Gateway Shopping Center is a great place to shop and dine in Salt Lake City. The center features shops, restaurants, events, and art exhibits. It’s the perfect spot to spend an afternoon exploring the city.
9. Salt Lake City Trolley Tour
Take a trolley tour of Salt Lake City to experience the sights and sounds of the city. The open-air trolley is great for sightseeing as it passes by many attractions and points of interest in the area. You can hop on and off at several stops throughout your journey.
10. Take a day Trip to Park City
Park City is a great place to visit for anyone looking for an exciting day trip. The city offers a wide variety of activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and sightseeing. It also has plenty of restaurants and local boutique shops that you can explore while you’re there.
If you are visiting during the summer, it is a great place to visit for great hiking trails.
What to Know Before Visiting Salt Lake City
There are a few things you may find useful before visiting SLC or while you are planning your trip to Salt Lake City.
- Downtown SLC is home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many visitors come here to visit the famous Temple Square and the surrounding area.
- Salt Lake City is home to the Utah Jazz, professional basketball team making it a great place to see the game.
- Many businesses and activities are closed on Sunday so check your plans to avoid surprises
- Salt Lake City is a year-round destination with great winter and summer activities. It’s not yet as popular as Denver or Seattle, making it a perfect place if you want to avoid big crowds.
- Many West Coast road trips start in Salt Lake City because it is close to many national parks. These trips include but are not limited to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.
- Yellowstone is 320 miles from SLC and is about a 5-hour drive. From Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons are about 130 miles away.
- Moab is the most popular place to visit in Utah, and many travelers drive from Salt Lake City To Moab. The drive from Salt Lake City to Moab takes about 4 hours, 40 minutes.
Park City is a beautiful and must-see nearby city for winter or summer activities. Renting a car is the best way to explore unless staying downtown and don’t plan to venture too far. The weather can be unpredictable, with snow possible in the city into late April.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
- The Grand America Hotel (Luxury)
The Grand America is a beautiful hotel for those looking to stay in luxury. The hotel offers stunning views of the city and a central location that puts you within walking distance of Temple Square and other attractions. You can treat yourself to relaxing spa treatments or dine in at their tasty in-house restaurant.
- Salt Lake Plaza Hotel (Mid-Range)
The Salt Lake Plaza Hotel is a great mid-range option for those looking to stay close to downtown. It’s conveniently located near attractions like Temple Square and the Gateway Shopping Center, plus you can enjoy comfortable amenities like an indoor pool and hot tub. The hotel is a fully non-smoking hotel and is a collection from Best Western.
- Quality Inn Downtown (Budget)
The Quality Inn Downtown offers a complimentary hot breakfast every morning and is close to the city’s public transportation. The hotel is close to the Hogel Zoo, Family History Library, and the Clark Planetarium. The comfortable and clean rooms will fit any family or budget, no matter your adventure.
Is Salt Lake City Worth a Visit: FAQ
What is Salt Lake City known for?
What is Salt Lake City Known For?
Salt Lake City is known for the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Great Salt Lake and the annual Sundance Festival.
Is Salt Lake City Safe?
Salt Lake City is generally considered a safe place to visit. However, visitors should always take normal safety precautions and be aware of their surroundings when in a big city.
Is Salt Lake City Boring?
Salt Lake City is anything but boring! It’s is a unique city with a great culture and outdoor scene, that has plenty of restaurants and hosts major cultural and sports events throughout the year.
So, is Salt Lake City Worth a Visit: Final Word
Salt Lake City is definitely worth a visit. It does not matter if you are just passing through to visit the national parks or looking for some outdoor adventure close to the city; everyone should spend some time getting to know this unique and beautiful place.
While often thought of as a very family-friendly area for those traveling in smaller groups or looking for excitement, Salt Lake City has plenty for everyone to see and do.