Salt Lake City is the capital city of the state of Utah and has a population of about 186,000. About half the population is now Mormon as opposed to almost 100% in the past. It has become very popular for otdoor winter sports and in 2002 the Winter Olympics were held here.
We spent two days in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. I have read a few books recently about the Mormon people and so was quite interested to see the city itself so we decided to start our road trip in Salt Lake City as there were flights to the city. Just in case you were unaware Salt Lake City was founded by Brigham Young way back on July 24th in 1847 with a colony of his followers as they were escaping persecution because of their religious beliefs.
Salt Lake City airport is quite small and very quiet so we were quickly out of the airport and heading for the car rental office. Another half hour here and we were on our way with our trusty Tom Tom to guide us we were in the hotel another fifteen minutes later.
As we were driving in we were quite surprised at the fact that the city has no high rise buildings to speak of. Most of the city is very low and the streets are the usual wide multi laned jobs but they were pretty quiet. It was most unusual not to be in two or three lanes of packed traffic. I wouldn’t describe the city as attractive as we came in there was the usual light industry and rather unattractive buildings of car sales, machine sales and similar. Around our hotel was the same, the Hilton was nearby and a Starbucks but other than that the buildings could have been for anything at all. This was not the sort of city that you could pop out from the hotel and wander around looking at night life at all.
The main area of any interest is the central Temple Square area. This is what most people come to see who are visiting the city. The fact that all the buildings are within three city blocks makes it a very easily accessible on foot for most people. Within this main area you can visit two visitor centres, the Tabernacle, the Salt Lake Temple, The family History Library and the Museum of Church History and Art, the Conference Centre, the Assembly Hall, the Church Administrative Building, the Joseph Smith memorial building, The Bee Hive House and the Lion House both of which were homes of Brigham Young, the founder of the city. There are also parks and a large number of statues and of course the beautiful gardens around the plaza area of the Square.
One fantastic thing about visiting any of these places is that they are all free. You can also have a guided tour also free these are optional in some areas but you have to be shown around in both the Bee Hive House and the Conference Centre building if you want to go up to the roof gardens which were unfortunately closed because of the rain on the day we went. Everywhere you go within the Temple Square area you are welcome to take photos and all the local guides are very friendly, so happy and wanting to chat to you, obviously trying to encourage you into their beliefs but they also chat about where they are from and other things too so you can politely avoid being converted.
I plan to write in more detail about the places in Temple Square as they are so fascinating so I have only touched on them in this general review of Salt Lake City.
Apart from the Mormon places of interest what else is there to do in Salt Lake City? Well it is mainly a winter tourist destination as there are many ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains surrounding the city. The mountains and the canyon areas in the immediate area are quite beautiful and while we were there they were still snow capped but probably not snowy enough for skiing though. We drove up beside then through the mountains all the way through to Idaho until Montpelier where we stopped for the night.
Salt Lake City is indeed built very close to the shores of the Great Salt Lake. This lake is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi and because it has no outlet its only method of losing water is through evaporation it is very high in salinity so not much lives in the lake apart from tiny brine shrimp. Water flows into the lake from four main rivers which carry about 2.2 million tons of minerals into the lake each year. The lake salinity varies from 4% to 28% depending on the minerals brought in by the rivers; the ocean in comparison is 3% salinity so this is a very salty lake.
The lake is a remnant of the once huge Lake Bonneville which covered 20,000 square miles during the Ice age. The Great Salt Lake today covers an area of 1,700 square miles and it is 75 mies long and 28 miles wide. The deepest part of the lake is 33 feet so it isn’t a very deep lake at all but it does vary depending on rainfall and the season.
The lake is used as a beach by the local people of the city and there is also a large Island called Antelope Island which is reached by a seven mile long causeway and is a State national park used for camping and recreation by the people of the area too. We did visit this island and I will be writing a separate review about the island at some stage.
While in Salt Lake City you can have a drink of the locally brewed ‘Polygamy Porter’ with the tagline ‘Why just have one?’ as a tongue in cheek comment on the now illegal practice of polygamy carried out by the Mormons in past times. This Park City Wasatch Brewery also have a root beer called Brigham’s brew which tasted much the same as other root beer but it is nice to try the local stuff.
Within the city there are several nice looking parks but as it was pouring with rain we didn’t feel inclined to explore these much. There are supposed to be a number of shopping centres but as we were walking around they were not immediately obvious but we were not specifically looking for them either. The city was having a major facelift in the centre and as a result several roads were blocked off and parts of the city were also covered in scaffolding and not accessible.
Utah was previously a state with very strict liquor laws. They have now eliminated the law that allowed you to only drink in private clubs but you still have to be over 21 and show ID if you look near that age but they are not the only state with this law. This means that you can have a drink in a bar and you can buy liquor from a liquor store provided you are over 21.
I am sure there are other places of interest if you are staying in the area but this is not somewhere I would necessarily say you must visit. I was interested to see the city built by these pioneering people in the late 1800s and a couple of days fitted the bill for me. We found the city easy to get around and the people delightfully friendly and wanting to held in any way possible. There are certainly more attractive and more interesting cities in the USA but if you are the area I do think it is worth a visit simply to be mind blown by the Temple these people built with very basic tools in the middle of nowhere at that time. It is also a fascinating experience to learn more about the beliefs of the Mormon followers.