9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the religious center of the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and capital of the state of Utah. It is located in a high valley of the Jordan River, once an inhospitable tract of country between the rocky summits of the Wasatch Range, the Great Salt Lake to the northwest, and the Great Salt Lake Desert to the west.
Salt Lake City was founded on July 24th, 1847 by Mormons led by Brigham Young who had reached this desert valley after an eighteen-month trek from Illinois. The settlers soon began to irrigate the land and build up a town. Starting from present-day Temple Square, they laid out an ambitious grid plan which still determines the layout of the city. The area, then under Mexican sovereignty, was ceded to the United States under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Mormons took advantage of this change to establish a state of their own based on their religious ideas. The capital of this state of Deseret ("honey-bee") was Salt Lake City.
The young city claimed a similar status for the territory of Utah, established in 1850, whose first Governor was Brigham Young. The gold rush in the West and the completion of the transcontinental railroad brought increasing numbers of people to the city, which now achieved a modest degree of prosperity. After the Mormons officially renounced polygamy, Utah was admitted to the Union as the 45th state. During the 20th century the city developed at a great pace, tripling its population between 1900 and 1930, and thereafter it grew rapidly into a large modern city.
See also: Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
1 Temple Square
Temple Square is the holy place of the Mormons. On this 10 acres square, with trees and flowerbeds, are the Mormon Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple Annex, the Assembly Hall, several monuments, and information centers which supply information on the doctrines and the history of the Mormon faith.
2 Mormon Temple
The Mormon Temple, in the so-called "Mormon style", was built between 1853 and 1893. At each end of this huge granite structure are three towers, the highest of which, at the east end, bears a 13 ft high gilded figure of the angel Moroni. The temple may be entered only by Mormons.
Address: 50 West North Temple Street, Salt Lake City
3 State Capitol
At the north end of State Street, on Capitol Hill, which rises to a height of almost 300 ft above the city, is the Utah State Capitol. This Neo-Classical domed building houses the House of Representatives, Senate, and Supreme Court of Utah. It has a particularly fine interior, with its marble rotunda, the Golden Room (the Governor's reception room) and a small gallery with changing exhibits. Capitol Hill is located northeast of Temple Square at the end of State Street. Many of the city's attractions are located here, including the Marmalade Historic District.
4 Mormon Tabernacle
The Tabernacle is a massive oval building with a dome perched on 44 sandstone piers. The sober interior, with seating for over 6500 people, is noted for its fine acoustics. At the west end is the gallery for the celebrated Tabernacle Choir, and above it is the great organ.
Address: Temple Square, Salt Lake City
5 This is the Place Heritage Park
When, after the Mormons' 1,300 mile long trek, Brigham Young emerged from Emigration Canyon and saw the valley of his visions he exclaimed "This is the place!". This Is The Place Monument was created in 1947 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Mormons' arrival in Salt Lake Valley. The State Park of the same name also includes Old Deseret Village, a living history museum built to resemble a typical mid-19th century Mormon community.
Address: 2601 East Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City
6 Joseph Smith Memorial Building
The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is located in Temple Square. It was built in 1911 and originally known as the Hotel Utah, but renamed in honor of the first president of the Mormon Church. Some of the decorative features include marble columns, art glass and a grand staircase. On site are the Legacy Theater, conference rooms, the FamilySearch Center, and restaurants.
Address: 52 North Main Street
7 Liberty Park
With more than 80 acres, Liberty Park is Salt Lake City's largest public park and features a variety of recreational activities. This green space is a lovely nature retreat, with mature trees, a pond, a pool, and sports areas. The park is also home to the Tracy Aviary.
Address: 600 E 900 S, Salt Lake City
8 Tracy Aviary
On the south side of Liberty Park is the Tracy Aviary, with huge variety of birds from North America and other parts of the world. One of the world's oldest aviaries, it was established in 1938 by a local banker.
Address: 589 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City
9 Beehive House
The Beehive House (1854) was Brigham Young's residence as Governor of Utah and leader of the Mormons and the home of his large family of 19 wives and 56 children. On the turret of the house is a beehive, the symbol of the industriousness of the Mormons, which also appears in the state's coat of arms.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City for Sightseeing
Most of Salt Lake City's attractions are in the downtown core, including Temple Square, the Mormon Temple, and the State Capitol. The trendy west downtown area is where many of the city's best restaurants are located. If you are in the city for sightseeing and entertainment, this is the best place to base yourself. If your main purpose is to hit the nearby ski hills, access to the Interstate is very easy, and the trip to most resorts takes less than 45 minutes. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in good locations:
- Luxury Hotels: The towering Grand America Hotel, with elegantly furnished rooms with balconies, occupies a prime spot in downtown Salt Lake City, just a short walk from Temple Square and local eateries. Ideal for event or trade show attendees, the nearby Hotel Monaco features well-appointed rooms and is pet-friendly. The Salt Lake City Marriott City Center is a luxury option just steps away from the lively City Center Mall with its many shopping and dining options.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the center of the action and near several popular restaurants is the recently renovated Hilton Garden Inn, with large rooms, a 24-hour pool, and a free airport shuttle. A couple of miles to the east of downtown and near the Museum of Natural History is the University Guest House, with comfortable rooms and a free shuttle to area attractions. Fifteen minutes to the east and convenient for those heading to the ski hills is the new Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel. This hotel features rooms with good views of the city along with a saltwater pool and hot tub.
- Budget Hotels: The following hotels are within walking distance of Temple Square and a variety of good restaurants. The Comfort Inn is a good choice in the budget category, with spacious rooms, an outdoor hot tub with fireplace, and complimentary appetizers and beverages Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Nearby are the Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites, with an indoor pool, and the Metropolitan Inn, with a seasonal outdoor pool. All of these hotels are pet friendly and provide a complimentary breakfast.
- Temple Square - official site
- Mormon Temple - official site
- State Capitol - official site
- Mormon Tabernacle - official site
- This is the Place Heritage Park - official site
- Joseph Smith Memorial Building - official site
- Liberty Park - official site
- Tracy Aviary - official site
- Beehive House - official site