Salt Lake City has long been a destination for skiers and indie movie buffs alike (Sundance is just 40 minutes up the canyon!), but the ever-growing area now boasts something for every type of traveler, all against a breath-taking mountain backdrop. Best of all, Salt Lake City boasts unique treasures any time of year, often for free if you’re simply looking to enjoy the incredible surroundings.
Where should we stay?
The adjective in the name is well-deserved. This taste of European luxury rises up from the heart of downtown, boasting perfectly-manicured gardens, a spa and pool, and numerous restaurants and shops, including a Parisian-style bakery. The afternoon tea is excellent, and you can still attend even if you are not a guest of the hotel—just make sure to make a reservation a month or so in advance. An added bonus: if you come during a home weekend for the Utah Jazz, you may catch a glimpse of the opposing team who stay at the hotel!
Across the street from the Grand America is her sister property, the Little America. But don’t let the diminutive name fool you; this property holds Salt Lake City’s largest indoor/outdoor pool, as well as a garden pool that’s open during warm weather. The location is prime, with the best of downtown within walking distance, or a short TRAX ride away.
Though not technically in Salt Lake, the Cliff Lodge offers stunning views in summer and winter alike of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Whether you are planning on skiing, enjoying the annual Oktoberfest, or just looking for a mountain getaway which is still easily accessible from the city, the Cliff is the place to be.
Where should we eat?
Located in the up-and-coming 9th and 9th neighborhood, this isn’t your typical burger joint. Offerings include chorizo fries, sloppy lamb (or “sloppy ’shrooms,” if you prefer), a local draft beer and drink list, and mid-century decor reminiscent of Mad Men. If weather permits, the patio and fire pit provide the ideal casual dining spot.
Nestled in historic Emigration Canyon, this streetcar-turned-diner has been featured on “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” for good reason. The breakfast menu serves up all your diner favorites, set off by the beautiful backdrop of the Wasatch mountains.
Currently operating locations in Utah, Los Angeles, Portland, and Minneapolis, this chain is adored by locals and visitors alike. Those who have visited Europe will instantly salivate upon hearing the words "doner kebab"—and those who think a kebab is just a stick of grilled meat and veggies are in for a delicious surprise. With a cool atmosphere and affordable, quality fast casual, this can't be beat for a quick bite.
An eclectic menu of reasonably-priced dishes for lunch, dinner, and brunch in the heart of downtown, the Copper Onion has something for everyone. If you are headed down from the mountains or staying south of the city, try their sister location, Copper Kitchen, in Holladay.
On a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning, brunch is the thing to do, and Publik is the place to do it. The coffee is excellent (more on that below), and the food is simple but superb, with many veggie options that won’t make you miss the meat at all.
An establishment with a storied past and a fresh look, Fisher is probably the most cited favorite of locals who enjoy a local microbrew. Follow them on Instagram (or check their website) for the latest beer offerings, which rotate frequently, and food truck schedule. Behind the building is a heated patio with a roof, enjoyable all year long. If you are looking to explore the more established side of the burgeoning brewery scene, Wasatch Brewery and Red Rock Brewing offer a large selection of beer and food alike.
One of the many sweet shops that dot the strip malls of Salt Lake, Crumbl, with its iconic pink box, has made a distinct name for itself. An oft-heard refrain inside the shop is "I don’t even like cookies that much, but these are amazing!" With rotating flavors each week (in addition to the perennial favorites of chocolate chip and iced sugar), Crumbl does cookies (and dessert) best.
Which coffeehouses are the best and why?
This expansive coffee shop is full to bursting each weekend. The premier SLC coffee roaster, Publik's brewed coffee is as delicious as their special seasonal offerings. Though it occupies a large space, Publik provides an intimate atmosphere that is just as ideal for an afternoon date as it is for getting some work done.
Cozy and inviting, the ambiance at the Rose Establishment can’t be beat. In addition to coffee, the sunny Rose Establishment offers brunch, lunch, and an adult drinks menu.
In the middle of the young and vibrant neighborhood of Sugar House, you’ll find this special spot that describes itself as a “gathering space where everyone is safe to share their story.” In addition to some fabulous signature drinks, this hip coffee house offers events many nights of the week, including live jazz, open mic, art shows, and book club.
What sites should we see?
The Great Outdoors
Utah’s outdoor offerings are too many to name, but here are just a few that keep locals coming back again and again. Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon is a three-mile-round-trip favorite that is perfect to hike or snowshoe. The Living Room hike, above the campus of the University of Utah downtown, offers hikers a place to sit after their moderately strenuous uphill hike that comes in at a little over a mile. Further south, outside of American Fork is Fifth Water Hot Springs. These naturally occurring hot springs are about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City and a three-mile-round-trip hike to access, but the electric blue water and gorgeous surroundings are more than worth the trip. For more hiking and outdoor opportunities, try utah.com or AllTrails.com!
The epicenter of the LDS church can’t be missed if you find yourself downtown. Whether you’re a member of the church or not, the impressive and extensive grounds are well worth a visit.
Downtown Farmers’ Market
The outdoor market in Pioneer Park runs from June through October, and moves indoors during the winter at the Rio Grande Depot. In addition to produce, local makers sell their wares, ranging from jewelry to olive oil, kombucha to artisanal dog treats.
Located at Snowbird Resort, this festival that runs from August to October (just before the snow) allows guests to enjoy high-point beer on tap (a Utah rarity), German cuisine, music and dancing, and a relaxing time in the sunshine.
In recent years, several Utah boutiques have popped up that offer high-quality clothing appropriate for any occasion. Try Piper & Scoot in Draper (about 20 miles south of SLC), Soel on 900 S, and Roolee, located in the indoor/outdoor City Creek Mall downtown.
A mere thirty-minute drive from Salt Lake, Park City has everything you can expect from an old-mining town, and then some: premiere ski resorts, boutique shopping, and world-class cuisine. Just walking up and down Main Street makes for a lovely afternoon. Be sure to check out Atticus, a bookstore cum coffee shop, and if you’re in the mood to splurge, the bar at the St. Regis at Deer Valley makes a divine Bloody Mary.
Bonus: East High School
The iconic building from High School Musical sits right downtown, and is a must-see for all those for whom the Disney Channel was an indispensable part of their childhood. The school even holds tours where you can catch a glimpse of Sharpay’s pink locker. Breaking into song and dance is optional but highly encouraged.