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The Mormon pioneers who founded Salt Lake City in 1847 thought they'd found heaven on earth. Though the city's population is less than half Mormon today, Temple Square is still headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it's still the main attraction in town for many visitors. Others prefer the action just outside of the city limits in the nearby mountains, where the ski slopes offer Olympic-caliber skiing during the winter and hiking in the summer. There's still more outdoor activity at the Great Salt Lake, which gave the city its name. And despite its conservative-leaning history, SLC isn't "dry," and there's plenty of nightlife to keep you busy once you get back from the slopes.
Reasons to Visit Salt Lake City
Explore Utah's Mormon Heritage: The Mormons welcome Salt Lake City hotel guests to their headquarters in Temple Square. While the Temple itself isn't open to the public, you can visit the Tabernacle to catch an organ concert or hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse. Touring the Conference Center's rooftop garden, which is full of native desert plants, is like escaping to the desert. Other visitor centers and museums around the square provide insight into church beliefs. This Is The Place Heritage Park, a few miles away, marks the spot where Brigham Young declared the Mormons had reached their destination; it has dozens of buildings and activities that demonstrate the pioneer way of life. The Native American Village in the park is a reminder that the Mormons were not the first people to settle this land.
Explore Your Own Family's Heritage: Salt Lake City is known as the Genealogy Capital of the World; the Mormon Church has collected more than two million records documenting billions of people, the largest source of genealogical information on the planet. Their material originates across the globe, including Canada, Britain, Europe, Asia and Africa. The library staff offers free assistance, or you can start your research at the FamilySearch Center, where there's help with your search, plus activities for children.
Ski, Skate or Just Walk in Olympian Footsteps: Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002, leaving a legacy of world-class athletic venues just outside the city. At Utah Olympic Park, activities include bobsled runs on the official track in both summer and winter; feel the exhilaration of sliding down the ski jump (a harness means you don't need to worry about sticking your landing). During summer weekend shows, top athletes demonstrate aerial style acrobatics that land them in the pool. The cross-country Olympic events took place at Soldier Hollow; visitors here can combine shooting with skiing or mountain biking to experience the biathlon in any season. The Olympic Oval offers sports on ice year-round, including skating and curling.
Hit the Slopes: Winter sports action in Salt Lake isn't limited to the Olympic venues; there are eight ski resorts within 50 miles, and four of them—Snowbird, Alta, Brighton and Solitude—are just 30 minutes away by public transportation from downtown. There's an annual average of 500 inches of soft, dry powder waiting to be cut by skis. During the summer, you can climb up the mountains or bike down.
Off The Beaten Path: Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake, only about 20 minutes from the city, has turquoise blue waters and white beaches perfect for swimming and sunbathing. You can also rent a sailboat or kayak or simply float in the water, where you’re made buoyant by more saltiness than the ocean.
When to Visit Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City appeals during all seasons. Ski season extends from late fall through early spring, sometimes even reaching into summer. January's high temperature averages near 30°, while summer's high is about 77°. If you're not timing your Salt Lake City Country Inns & Suites hotel visit for the snow, visit near Pioneer Day on July 24, when weeklong festivities include parades, a rodeo and fireworks.
Salt Lake City Travel Tip
You can't get lost in SLC once you understand its layout. The city is built around a grid centered on Temple Square, with Main Street as the north-south axis and South Temple Street running east-west. Addresses are coordinates on the grid. When you travel away from the center, look for odd numbers on the left; higher numbers are further from the axis.