Play The Hits: Exploring Salt Lake City's Iconic Sights
First time to Salt Lake City? This is SLC 101.
You’re a curious traveler, right? You like to understand the places you go. Well, have we got a story for you. Utah has one of the most unique histories in the United States. Unlike most of its neighbors — which were mainly founded by pioneers chasing mining booms, or timber and ranching opportunities — Utah was settled in 1847 by the Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormons). Church leader Brigham Young led more than 20,000 pioneer families on a harrowing trek to the Salt Lake Valley seeking a place where they could practice their religion in peace. It’s a true and uniquely American story that combines a struggle for freedom of conscience with an epic frontier journey and its legacy can be seen everywhere in Salt Lake City.
For the curious traveler, no trip is complete without a dive into this singular history and, of course, there is more to Utah than its founding story. There are rich tales of native peoples and earlier explorers — trappers and Catholic missionaries — to be understood. The Salt Lake Valley itself is a geologic treasure where you can literally see the high-water marks of an ancient lake called Bonneville. (We call it the “bathtub ring.”) And as Utah joined the United States, more settlers of all colors and creeds came with the railroad adding stories to this diverse tapestry.
Let this itinerary be your guide to an enlightening three-day tour of the highlights of Utah’s cultural, natural and historical landscapes. Salt Lake City is easy to explore on foot, by car, light rail, bus or with our easy-to-use GREENbike bike share system. (The Utah Transit Authority uses the Transit app to plan your trip and GoRide to pay for fares with your smartphone.)
However you chose to explore, you’ll experience this great western city from its early beginnings to its modern-day state.
Play The Hits
Salt Lake City’s grid system was laid shortly after the Mormon’s arrival. Thus, all roads lead to LDS Temple Square. Start here and witness the early industry of the settlers. Venturing uphill to the Utah State Capitol building, you’ll enjoy views of the city below (you can see the grid!) and then drop down into the protected natural area, City Creek Canyon, where you’ll walk along its bubbling creek in the undeveloped foothills.
Foodie pick: The Roof Restaurant atop the Joseph Smith Building offers commanding views of LDS Temple Square.
Art And Architecture
At the turn of the 19th Century, a silver boom created the Silver Barons. The mining magnates built beautiful mansions along South Temple, one of which, the Kearns Mansion, serves as Utah’s gubernatorial residence. On West Temple, you’ll find the center of Utah’s modern art scene, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA). Venture further to visit what some consider to be the city’s secular heart, the beautiful Salt Lake City Library, designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie.
Foodie pick: Stoneground Kitchen, just to the north of Library Square, offers modern Italian fare and an excellent wine list.
Head For the Hills
Salt Lake's eastern bench (aka "the foothills") was created by prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Discover this rich natural history (and dinosaurs!) at the Natural Museum of Utah. Visit Red Butte Garden and amphitheater, home to a popular summer concert series. Nearby, the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where the Mormon pioneers entered the valley in 1847, marks the spot where LDS leader Brigham Young famously proclaimed, “This is the Place.” Learn more at This is the Place Heritage Park.
Foodie pick: Ruth’s Diner, located up Emigration Canyon, is a classic diner on the banks of Emigration Creek. Don’t pass up the “mile-high” biscuits.
11 Family-Friendly Activities Near SLC
Find fun family activities in Salt Lake City with this guide from the Utah Office of Tourism. From roller coasters to ski slopes, SLC has it all. Plan your trip now!
A Night Out at the Rabbithole
Jazz means more than basketball in Utah. Jazz means music. The Rabbithole is just one example of Utah’s flourishing music scene.
'Bad' Brad: A Story of Blues, Blood and Legendary Jazz
Meet Utah’s legendary DJ and blues musician, “Bad” Brad Wheeler. Take a peek into the history of Salt Lake City’s music scene through the memories of Bad Brad.
Craft Chocolate Capital of America: Utah's Culture of Cacao
The craft chocolate scene in Utah is a wonder within itself. Join one of Matt Caputo’s chocolate classes to increase your appreciation and chocolate knowledge.
Destination Ski City: Culture Élevé
After a day of skiing, soak up Salt Lake City’s culture and nightlife: Enjoy a live performance and explore delicious dining options and great bars. Check it out!
Discover the Breweries of the Wasatch Front
Over the past two decades, Salt Lake’s breweries have grown into a culture all their own. Here’s what you need to start planning a pub crawl with this collection of Salt Lake’s most popular breweries.
Discover the Shape of Utah's Coffee Community
See coffee shops in Salt Lake City on this short video tour of some of the best coffee shops in Utah.
Family and Budget Guide to the One and Only Ski City: Salt Lake
With 11 family-friendly resorts nearby, Salt Lake City skiing, dining and entertainment options make Utah one of the best ski destinations in the western U.S.
From Big Air to Big Ales: Utah’s Best Local Craft Brew Picks
Here's the thing about the craft brewing scene in Utah: it's thriving.
Meet the Women Leading Utah's Food and Beverage Renaissance
When it comes to food and beverage in Utah, there are key influencers who have been the proponents of change, growth, and the role of women in Utah’s food scene.
Rediscovering A. Fisher Brewing Company
One brewery where you can find both a rich history and a fresh perspective is the newly reopened A. Fisher Brewing Company (also referred to simply as Fisher Brewing). After more than fifty years this Utah classic is back to stay, providing a wide variety brews to enjoy.
Salt Lake City’s Must-See Street Art
Salt Lake City, Utah has more than 80 murals and art installations to discover. Come and see how these urban street artists showcase their own flavor and perspective.
Salt Lake City’s Rainbow Colors Fly Year Round
Take a trip to Salt Lake City, an LGBTQIA+ friendly city, which over the past two decades has become a destination for those who enjoy both a hip urban atmosphere and easy access to the great outdoors.
Short List: Local Salt Lake City Nightlife Picks
Make the most of winter's shortened daylight by extending your Utah ski trip into the night. Sure, some resorts offer incredible night skiing — so, okay, after that — but then the night really gets going in downtown Ski City.
Sundance, Full Circle
When visiting the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, movies are only part of the experience.
Temple Square: The Geographical and Musical Heart of Salt Lake
Learn more about Temple Square: The Geographical and Musical Heart of Salt Lake City and home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and their weekly performances.
The Salt of Sound: Live Music in Salt Lake City
Check out the live music scene while visiting Utah. Salt Lake City’s numerous music venues offer something for every music lover. Watch Salt of Sound for a taste.
Urban and RYE: An Intimate Mixture of Music and Local Eats
Come in and experience the unique fare from the RYE Diner, one of the best restaurants in Salt Lake City. Then enjoy the hot beats at the Urban Lounge.
Urban Vibe and Funeral Potatoes
For fun places to eat in Salt Lake City find the Garage on Beck. Check out the vintage artifacts, the fresh food (funeral potatoes) and the fine live music.
Utah’s Women Make History
Walk in the footsteps of Utah’s earliest women’s suffrage leaders at sites throughout downtown Salt Lake City. Along the way, view public art installations commemorating voting rights and stop at trail-adjacent local women-owned businesses.
Utah's Rum Underdogs
Utah distilleries are becoming very popular. Distillery 36 is rising to the top of the list. Drink in their story and then let’s toast with Brigham agricole rum!
V Is for Variety
Gary Vlasic, Salt Lake City’s premier event designer, creates spellbinding experiential design in a city that offers unparalleled freedom and space.
Where to See Women's Art in Utah
There’s no shortage of art galleries in Salt Lake City and across Utah's Wasatch Front. Beyond the major metropolitan areas, there are also small artist communities across the state where artists seeking a slower pace have flocked for decades. Here are a few recommendations for where you can experience art in Utah.
Where to taste, tour and take home Utah's world-renowned chocolate
The Utah chocolate world is expanding deliciously. Visit some of the world's premier chocolate stores and producers for true moments of chocolate bliss.
Where’s the Meat?
Taking the blue highways, finding a local diner or picking up fresh fruit from a family-run farm store gets us that much more in touch with the flow of seasons and feeling grounded in our sense of place as we travel. And shrinking the circle of our food sourcing has become a priority for many people even, and especially, while on the road.