Whether you drive or fly to Salt Lake City, you'll understand on first glance why people love the area. The rugged and dramatic Wasatch Mountains - packed with ski areas and miles of trails - jut into the sky. Reaching heights of nearly 12,000 feet, this range towers more than 1.5 vertical miles above the valley floor. Doused in sunshine, the city below pulsates with life, offering residents and visitors multiple lifetimes’ worth of culinary, cultural and entertainment opportunities.
So, on your first trip, the task of selecting the city’s best offerings might seem daunting. But regardless of whether you’re in town for a day or a week, this itinerary will steer you towards the city’s greatest hits.
As the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City has a rich, unique and somewhat bizarre story to tell. All visitors, Mormon or not, should make a point of checking out the legacy of that church. Located downtown, Temple Square should be the first stop of anyone curious about the LDS church. This heart of the Mormon religion is totally free to enter, and contains many worthy points of interest.
Those with time should take a free, guided tour of the square’s grounds, and plan to see a free rehearsal or concert given by the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Anyone interested in genealogy should visit the Family History Library, which contains genealogical records spanning the globe and dating back to the 1500s.
Beyond Temple Square, folks spending time downtown should check out the city’s all-new City Creek Center. Filled with shops and restaurants, this brand-new, outdoor center is the pride of downtown SLC. If City Creek merely whets your appetite for shopping, visit the city’s other top-notch outdoor mall, The Gateway. Located just west of downtown, this first-rate center is populated with shops of all possible varieties, a cinema, restaurants and Salt Lake’s only children’s museum.
To the northeast, at the edge of the University of Utah campus, stands the Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. In any season, this expansive facility serves as a peaceful environment in which to enjoy fresh air and gorgeous plant life. During summer nights, this is the site of many hugely popular concerts - buy tickets in advance if you’re able to make a show!
Departing from the garden and arboretum, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail network reaches high into the foothills above Salt Lake City. An extremely accessible and easy-to-navigate spiderweb of trails, this is an immensely popular recreation spot among walkers, hikers, runners and bikers.
If you’re looking to leave the city, make a voyage to Big or Little Cottonwood canyons. If it’s skiing season, you’ll find Brighton and Solitude resorts crowning Big Cottonwood Canyon, and Alta and Snowbird sitting at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. If your visit falls during summertime, don’t despair! All of these resorts are fully open to foot and cycle exploration, offering hundreds of aggregate trail miles among them.