Situated at the base of the magnificent Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City is booming economically and evolving at a rapid rate. While most business travelers limit their activities to the city center, many tourists come for the outstanding outdoor recreation found throughout the Salt Lake Basin. In winter, skiing is the main reason for a visit to this vast area, but when the snow melts, it becomes prime mountain biking and hiking country.
The City Center
The downtown area is a mixture of contrasts with old and new buildings side by side. The stately
Business and tourism are the lifeblood of the city, but between the office buildings lay the cultural and entertainment centers that present numerous diversions at the end of the business or ski day. The
Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City is truly a hill! A walk from downtown up State Street to the
Once the home of the trolleys that were the transportation mainstay of Salt Lake City, the trolley barns of
The University of Utah
The university district and the university itself offer a number of delights. On the campus of the University of Utah are the
Outside the City Center
Like many metropolitan areas, Salt Lake City has sprawled past its designated boundaries into numerous suburbs and outlying areas. North of the city center lie Farmington, Hill Air Force Base and Ogden, home to the
Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847 by a group of approximately 150 Mormon pioneers. Of course, people had been living in the region for centuries. In fact, as the United States was declaring its independence in 1776, Catholic fathers and the explorers Dominguez and Escalante were documenting Utah's geography and people. Ancient indigenous people, the ancestors of the Ute and Navajo tribes, are reported to have been in the area from approximately 1 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Spanish explorers and Mexican traders followed Escalante and Dominguez in the 18th century. Mountain men and trappers arrived to exploit Utah's abundant wildlife during the 1820s.
Mormon pioneers began arriving in 1847, and over the course of that year nearly 2,000 migrated to the Salt Lake Valley in search of religious freedom. The pioneers faced much adversity as they established their community. In 1848 a late frost, drought and a plague of crickets nearly destroyed the settlers' harvest. Flocks of seagulls from the Great Salt Lake consumed the insects and enough crops were saved to ensure the pioneers would survive the harsh Utah winter.
The University of Utah was established in 1850. The famous California Gold Rush of 1849-50 also brought many settlers to the area who, after a harsh crossing through the unforgiving Rockies, were not willing to cross the desert to get all the way to California. In 1853, construction began on Temple Square with granite quarried from nearby canyons and hauled by ox and wagon to the building site. The structure took forty years to complete. By the time the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory Point (approximately 80 miles north of Salt Lake City), Utah, or as the Mormons called it, The State of Deseret, had a population of more than 60,000 Mormons. Thousands of soldiers, miners, ranchers and merchants followed. The completion of the transcontinental railroad also brought many of Utah's first tourists who were determined to see this new "City of Saints." In 1896, Utah became the 45th state admitted to the Union.
The modern character of Salt Lake City began to evolve in the early 1900s. The Utah State Capitol Building and many other extant buildings rose on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. Electric trolleys, operating from what is now Trolley Square, transported people living in the outlying regions of Sugarhouse, Liberty Park and The Avenues. The Eagle Gate that had served to mark the entrance to Brigham Young's estate was reconstructed to allow traffic flow into the city. Parks, sewer systems and street lighting were put in place. It was a prosperous time in Deseret, and its people made the most of it.
Copper, silver, gold, coal and lead mines were opened throughout the state, and silver became king. Many of the city's most graceful mansions were constructed by those early mining tycoons and remain as examples of this opulent time in the state's history. The population of Salt Lake City tripled in the first decades of the 20th century. Although the Great Depression slowed the area's growth, the numerous defense installations and manufacturing concerns that were developed to meet the demands of World War II revitalized the economy. Hill Air Force Base (approximately 30 miles north of Salt Lake City) is still an active and important part of northern Utah's economy. A number of corporate entities that got their start during World War II and in the post-war years, and such organizations as Hercules, Cordant Technologies (formerly Thiokol) and UNISYS have maintained an important presence in Utah. Utah's healthy economy has also attracted a wide variety of national and international companies including Delta Airlines, Intel, American Express and eBay.
As with the rest of the United States, the suburbs around Salt Lake City expanded and developed their own identities in the 1960s and '70s. Today, Sandy, West Valley City, Sugarhouse, Holladay, Murray, Riverton and Draper have become communities unto themselves. The nearby canyon communities and the ski resorts evolved into the world class ski areas good enough to host the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Each ski area, like each section of Salt Lake City itself, has a distinct personality and cachet. For example, Park City is now renowned as the home of the Sundance Film Festival and Deer Valley Resort is one of the world's premier ski resorts. The Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and Alta Ski Area in Little Cottonwood Canyon also rank among the world's top ski areas and, just over the mountain, Brighton Ski Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort remain local favorites with both skiers and snowboarders. Salt Lake City's UTA buses make runs to the Cottonwood Canyons on an almost constant basis during the ski season.
The mountain men and early pioneers would undoubtedly be amazed by what the mountains have become! Because Salt Lake City exists in the shadows of these nearby mountains, it has evolved into a city that is deeply connected to its geography and environment. The downtown skyline continues to grow, but is always dwarfed by the mountains to the east and by the desert and the Great Salt Lake to the west. Its history has been one of contrasts, and its future is certain to highlight those contrasts even further.
The Salt Lake Valley is bursting with exciting eateries in every neighborhood to please all palates and pocketbooks.
City Center & Downtown
The downtown and city center area is certainly the food center of the Salt Lake Valley. Restaurants for every taste and occasion serve the lunch crowds of shoppers, Temple Square sightseers and professionals from local businesses. Dinner options abound to round out an evening of theatre or music, with the New Yorker leading the way as one of Salt Lake's most prestigious dining addresses. The Metropolitan is also an excellent choice for a refined and graceful dining experience. Market Street Grill is a seafood restaurant that offers the absolute freshest fish flown in daily from both coasts.
International food choices are also available. The Blue Iguana is known for its tasty and unusual Mexican fare and P.F. Chang's China Bistro is one of Salt Lake's most popular Chinese restaurants. Deli choices include Tony Caputo's Market & Deli and Granato's. For a family-friendly Italian restaurant check out Romano's Macaroni Grill.
University of Utah
The University of Utah area the place to go to for cheaper eats. For fresh Mexican food head to Barbacoa Mexican Grill. The casual ambiance and great pizza at the Pie Pizzaria can't be beat. Cucina is deli known for its homemade soup. If you are willing to spend a little more the Market Street Broiler has the freshest fish around.
Outside the City
If you head out of the city there are several great moderately priced restaurants. Amici's della Cucina offers Italian cuisine in a romantic atmoshpere. Another romantic location is Grapevine Restaurant where the dishes are seasonal. If you want a unique experience, the Tree Room At Sundance is built around a tree and is decorated with Native American Art. For authentic Vietnamese food the Ly Ly Vietnamese Restaurant has delicious spring rolls.
The best restaurants tend to be close to ski resorts. Although you'll end up paying more, the convenience of a hot meal after a day on the slopes will make it worth your while. Little Cottonwood Canyon, further south in the Salt Lake Valley, leads to two more popular ski resorts, Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort try The Aerie, The Lodge Bistro or The Steak Pit to name a few. Alta Ski Area offers Shallow Shaft Restaurant for a casual but hearty meal and Alta Lodge for formal dining with fantastic views.
Since the city's beginnings, various avenues of entertainment have multiplied in Salt Lake City as fast as the inhabitants of the valley. Whether you are in Salt Lake City for a day, week, month or years, rest assured there is entertainment just around every corner.
The Greatest Snow On Earth!
With nearly a dozen ski resorts within an hour of downtown, you are never far from the swish. If you want to stay near the city, try Alta Ski Area, Brighton Ski Resort, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort or Solitude Mountain Resort. If a smaller town setting is what you desire, Park City lies minutes east of Salt Lake, nestled in a gorgeous mountain valley. Park City is home to world-class resorts such as the The Canyons, Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Sundance Ski Area. Whether your interest lies in downhill, cross-country, night skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing or any other snow sport, you will find it here.
Even the greatest snow on earth is only here for six months a year. When you put the skis and sleds away, break out the hiking boots, picnic baskets and rock climbing gear. The numerous canyons that surround the Salt Lake valley are filled with hiking trails without number. There are five National Parks just a few hours south of Salt Lake. If you enjoy red rock vistas, enormous canyons, rock arches, bluffs, petrified sand dunes, towering plateaus or just plain breathtaking scenery, do not miss Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef or Zion National Parks.
Stage and Screen
Looking for live entertainment? Consider the Capitol Theatre, home to the Utah Opera Company and Ballet West. Capitol Theatre also hosts traveling Broadway shows. Kingsbury Hall, on the campus of the University of Utah, is also a good bet for live entertainment, concerts, traveling plays and student productions.
If you prefer the two-dimensional screen to the live stage, stadium seating, wall-to-wall screens, digital surround sound, plush seating, hot popcorn and all the extras, then you are in luck. With theatres like Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons, The Century 16, The Hollywood Connection, Tinsletown, Loews Cinaplex and Cinemark at Jordon Landing, to name just a few, there is always a theatre nearby. The independent film fan should plan on visiting Salt Lake in late January and early February for the world famous Sundance Film Festival, offering a chance to rub elbows with the Hollywood crowd.
For those who wish to be educated as well as entertained, the Clark Planetarium offers star shows presented in a dome shaped theatre. At night the same theatre entertains with a vengeance as it lights up with a 3D-laser light show synchronized to popular music.
The biggest ticket in town is basketball, and for those who love the game, Salt Lake City has a double bonus. The Energy Solutions Arena in downtown is home to the basketball's Utah Jazz. Less than three miles east, the Huntsman Center is home to the University of Utah Utes. Franklin Covey Field is one of the most inviting baseball parks in the country.
Salt Lake City is also lined from top to bottom with golf courses that are competitive and diverse. The surrounding natural beauty makes the courses works of art in their own right.
Water & Amusement Parks
There are a few places to enjoy the water as well, although surfboards will have to be traded for floating tubes, the sand for mats and the beach for a water park. Raging Waters has much to offer including a wave pool and the world's only H2O roller coaster.
Fifteen minutes north of downtown Salt Lake, perched on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, you will find Lagoon, Utah's only amusement park, and a thrill seeker's delight. It boasts several thrill-seeking opportunities including an old wooden roller screamer and Colossus, a high-speed coaster with a double loop. Other intense rides include "The Rocket" a 217-foot tower that pushes you to the top and then lets you free fall back to the ground.
July 24th is a state holiday in Utah, Pioneer Day, and the day is set aside to remember the first colonists that set their sights on the West. It is the day to remember the overwhelming feat of wrestling a desert valley atop the mountains into a prosperous city and state. The festivities officially begin in the morning with one of the largest parades in the country, and continue until nighttime when several locations offer Independence Day-style firework displays. Travelers to the state are welcome to join the celebration, although it is wise to make plans and reservations early as hotels fill up fast. Be warned that outer and inner-city travel is a mess the morning of the parade.