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Salt Lake City

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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Utah Salt Lake City



Mormon Temple Spires, Salt Lake City, Utah

Mormon Temple Spires, Salt Lake City, Utah

© All Rights Reserved jengelman

Salt Lake City is the capital and largest city in Utah, with over 2.2 million inhabitants living in the metropolitan area. The city itself has almost 200,000 inhabitants. Internationally, the city was the focus of attention during the 2002 Winter Olympics and has been getting more and more popular since then with foreign visitors as well.




Notable neighborhoods in Salt Lake City include Downtown, the financial core and home to Temple Square (a two-block complex that includes the LDS church headquarters, the Salt Lake Temple, and various other sites related to Mormon history and culture); Central City, a mostly residential area from approximately 400 South to 900 South; Sugar House, a commercial/residential district in the southeastern corner of the city, known for its funky shops; The Avenues, a historical neighborhood with many old buildings, northeast of downtown; University, the area around the sprawling University of Utah campus and the adjacent Research Park, VA Medical Center, and Fort Douglas; Federal Heights, a small, affluent neighborhood in the hills east of The Avenues and north of the University; East Bench or Foothill, a residential neighborhood between 900 South and I-80, bisected by the major arterial road Foothill Boulevard; Capitol Hill, an affluent sloping district north of downtown, topped by the Utah State Capitol building; the Marmalade District, a quirky area immediately west of Capitol Hill with some unusual architecture and decor; Rose Park, a residential neighborhood northwest of downtown, near the airport; and Glendale, a heavily Hispanic residential district and home to the International Peace Gardens, at the southern end of the westside. The benches refer to a handful of residential, upper-class communities along the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the valley, and to a lesser extent on the Traverse Mountains at the southern end of the valley and the Oquirrh Mountains on the western side. The predominant economic divide in the Salt Lake Valley is between the eastern and western halves, with the east side traditionally being more affluent and conservative.

The Wasatch Front is the urban strip located along the western edge of the Wasatch Mountain Range. It comprises everything from approximately Brigham City in the north to Santaquin in the south, anchored by the cities of Ogden in the northern half, Provo-Orem in the south, and the Salt Lake Valley dividing the two. The vast majority of Utah's population lives in this region. Significant suburbs of Salt Lake City include Sandy in the southern Salt Lake Valley, Murray and Midvale in the center of the valley, and South Salt Lake and Millcreek on the southern border of Salt Lake City proper. The western portion of the valley has some very large suburbs such as West Valley City, West Jordan, and South Jordan. Holladay and Cottonwood Heights are smaller towns in the east benches.



Sights and Activities

Temple Square

Located on the north end of downtown, Temple Square is the most visited tourist site in Utah. Among its buildings are the LDS Church headquarters, a Church History Museum, a Family History Library, gardens, and restaurants. Entry to the temple itself requires church membership and a permit called a "temple recommend", but most other areas are open to anyone.

Temple Square is staffed with church missionaries to help show you around the grounds; languages from all over the world are represented. There are two visitor centers – one in the northwest corner and another near the middle of the south edge – both with several exhibits and video presentations introducing outsiders to the Mormon faith. Free tours are conducted from the airport for connecting passengers on at least a two-hour layover, once an hour every afternoon (weather permitting).

Just west of the temple is the Tabernacle, a domed, oval-shaped building currently home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The tabernacle is open to the public for guided tours, organ recitals, Thursday rehearsals, and Sunday "Music and the Spoken Word" choir performances. On the southwest corner of Temple Square is a Gothic Revival building simply called the Assembly Hall. It is open to tourists for self-guided visits and hosts concerts on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm. The LDS Conference Center, across the street on the northern side of the square, is an architectural point of interest with carefully-groomed roof gardens and a series of waterfalls on the exterior of the building. Tours are available. The majority of the Church Office Building is off-limits to tourists (including the 26th floor observation deck overlooking the city as of 2015).

The southeast corner of Temple Square is home to a handful of historic buildings, among them the Beehive House, a former residence of city founder Brigham Young (open for free guided tours 9AM–9PM daily), the Lion House, a restaurant that also at one point was a residence of Brigham Young, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, a former hotel which now holds a number of meeting and dining facilities, a theater showing free church-produced films, and public computers for genealogical research. The 10th floor has two observation areas overlooking the city, which are open to the public.

The busiest times at Temple Square are the first weekend of April and the first weekend of October, when thousands of visitors from all over the world attend the church's General Conference meetings. December is also a popular time to visit for the extravagant Christmas light set-up that covers the square every year.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Utah State Capitol, 350 N State St (just north of downtown), ☎ +1 801-538-3074. M–F 7:00am–8:00pm, Sa Su 8:00am–6:00pm. The grand state capitol building is prominently displayed on the mountainside, in a lovely park overlooking Downtown. The grounds include a reflecting pond and several memorials. Inside are large open areas and monumental architecture. On weekdays, guided tours are available at no charge on the hour. All publicly accessible areas are free.
  • Salt Lake City and County Building, 451 S State St, ☎ +1 801-533-0858. Seat of the city government since the 1890s, and in times past was also the seat of county government and even the state capitol building for 20 years. The halls are lined with onyx on each of four lavishly decorated floors. A clock tower rises 78 metres above ground level in the middle of the building and is topped by a statue of Columbia. Portraits of former mayors line the third floor corridor between the mayor's office in the south wing and the city council chamber in the north wing. On the fourth floor is an exhibit dedicated to the 2002 Winter Olympics



Events and Festivals




Salt Lake City has a moderately continental climate with relatively dry conditions throughout the year. Summers last from June to early September with especially July and August seeing high average daytime temperatures of more than 30 °C. May/June and September/early October are much better and equally good given the fact that it's almost completely dry during these months and there is a lot of sunshine. Average precipitation is just over 400 mm and snow is possible from November to April, with most of it falling from December to mid-March. Temperatures during winter are slightly above zero during the day and below zero at night, though higher up the mountains temperatures drop significantly and snowfall is much higher.

Avg Max2.4 °C6.4 °C11.2 °C16.3 °C22.2 °C28.2 °C33.4 °C31.9 °C26.2 °C18.9 °C10.4 °C3.2 °C
Avg Min-7.1 °C-4.1 °C-0.3 °C3.3 °C7.6 °C13 °C17.6 °C16.6 °C10.6 °C4.6 °C-0.6 °C-5.8 °C
Rainfall28.2 mm31.2 mm48.5 mm53.8 mm45.7 mm23.6 mm20.6 mm21.8 mm32.5 mm36.6 mm32.8 mm35.6 mm
Rain Days6.46.387.86.63.933.74.14.766.8



Getting There

By Plane

Salt Lake City International Airport (IATA: SLC, ICAO: KSLC, FAA LID: SLC) is the major airport in Utah and is located several miles west of downtown Salt Lake City. It handles over 20 million passengers a year, mainly by domestic flights though there are still quite a few international connections.

By Train

The California Zephyr, operated by Amtrak, travels between Chicago and Emeryville (San Francisco), stopping en route in Salt Lake City.

By Car

Salt Lake City lies at the crossroads of two main Interstates. Interstate 15 runs north-south from Idaho all across cental Utah down to Las Vegas, while Interstate 8- runs east-west from southern Wyoming across northern Utah to northern Nevada and further towards California.

By Bus

Greyhound has buses throughout Utah and further away.



Getting Around

By Car

Most of the Salt Lake Valley uses a consistent street grid radiating out from the southeast corner of Temple Square, downtown. Major streets run precisely east-to-west or north-to-south. Addresses are coordinates within the grid, and streets represent intervals of 100 in each direction. For example, the street five blocks east of the grid's center is called 500 East (commonly called '5th East' in spoken conversation) and 19 blocks south is 1900 South (or 19th South). This means that the cardinal directions mentioned in street names do not represent a direction you can drive on that street, and if the direction designation is the only difference between two street names, they are two completely different streets, unlike the common street naming system where North Main and South Main would be two halves of a contiguous road. Some streets will have both a name and a number designation; 300 South and Broadway are equally valid names for the same street, and the major thoroughfare of State Street is technically also 100 East. 100 North and 100 West are better known as North Temple and West Temple, as they border the northern and western edges of Temple Square. The only streets without number designations are the two streets that divide the quadrants of the grid: South Temple splits the northern and southern halves of the grid, while east and west addresses are measured from Main Street (formerly East Temple). Building addresses are numbered based on their position between the 100-interval streets at either end of the block: 629 South 1500 West would be between 6th South and 7th South on 15th West.

Streets are an eighth of a mile apart downtown, but become more irregularly spaced as you move farther from the city center. Suburbs outside of the Salt Lake Valley often have their own grid systems modeled after Salt Lake's, but don't expect them to be well integrated with neighboring towns – a road may change numbers without warning as you cross an invisible local boundary. The Avenues neighborhood in the northeast corner of Salt Lake City also has its own street grid independent of the rest of the valley. This grid consists of east/west avenues numbered 1 though 18 (1st Avenue is the farthest south) and north/south streets lettered A through U (A Street is the farthest west).

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), +1 801-743-3882, operates an extensive network of bus lines that collectively reach the entire Wasatch Front, with especially comprehensive service in and around Salt Lake City. Almost all light rail stations in the valley are connected to bus routes. Only a select handful of important routes operate at night or on Sundays and holidays, and even nighttime routes usually end service around midnight or 1AM. Extra bus lines run during the winter, serving four ski resorts in the canyons east of the city, in the Wasatch Mountains. One-way fares are $2.50, or a day pass, valid on both buses and light rail, is $6.25.

UTA's light rail system, TRAX, connects many of Salt Lake City's most popular tourist destinations, including Temple Square, Downtown, the University of Utah, and the airport. There are three lines, designated by the colors blue, red, and green. The Blue Line begins in Downtown at the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub (the bus and train station) and serves Vivint Smart Home Arena and Temple Square before turning onto Main Street, where it heads south through the City Creek shopping center, past the Gallivan Plaza, and eventually toward Murray, Sandy, and Draper. The Green Line begins at the airport, heads east down North Temple Street and meets up with the Blue Line at the Arena, then runs alongside the Blue Line until South Salt Lake, where it splits off and heads into West Valley City. The Red Line serves the University of Utah campus on the east bench, then heads west to Downtown where it shares a few transfer stations with both the Blue and Green lines. The Red Line shares track with the Blue Line as far south as Murray, then splits southwest into West Jordan and terminates in the Daybreak neighborhood of South Jordan. There is also a streetcar line, the S-Line, which connects the Central Pointe light rail station in South Salt Lake to the Sugar House neighborhood. Fares for TRAX are the same as for buses: $2.50 one-way, $5 round-trip, $6.25 for the intermodal day pass.

Most of downtown is in a free fare zone where you can use buses and light rail without a pass. (Full fare applies if you ride even one stop past the zone.)

By Foot

Much of Downtown and its immediate areas can be explored on foot, though expect to take the occassional bus or light rail.

By Bike

Salt Lake City has routes and trails through and around the city for cyclists of any age. Riding on the sidewalk is legal everywhere but the central blocks of downtown; sidewalks are wide and pedestrians are sparse enough to navigate around. State law mandates that cyclists signal audibly when overtaking a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Quite a few of the city's major attractions are accessible via bicycle, and it is quick and easy to get out to the university or the zoo on a bike.

Many major streets have bicycle lanes and signs reminding motorists to share the road, but a lot of streets had these bike lanes added without widening the roadway, and thus leave cyclists without much buffer space between them and car traffic. It may be easiest to use residential side streets if one is available a block or two away. The wide streets in the city center don't help cyclists, as the extra lanes are all for cars and just make it trickier to cross the street on a bike.

There are a handful of off-road paths and mountain biking trails. The path following the banks of the Jordan River south of I-80 is well developed, but a bit desolate in some parts. City Creek Canyon is open to cyclists on select days.

Bicycles are allowed on UTA buses and trains, including both TRAX and FrontRunner. All bus lines have bike racks except para-transit and ski routes, and bike lockers can be rented from UTA at several FrontRunner stations. The Intermodal Hub downtown includes a Bike Transit Center with rental bicycles and a repair shop.

GREENbike has a bike sharing program with stations throughout downtown, for $5/24 hours.




While not known as a hotbed of culinary innovation, there is one delicacy that originates from Utah: fry sauce, a condiment made by mixing ketchup and mayonnaise, sometimes with seasonings depending on the recipe, and eaten on French fries, onion rings, etc. Fry sauce was created decades ago by the local fast food chain Arctic Circle and can now be found in burger joints throughout Utah and in portions of neighboring states. Even national chain restaurants usually have fry sauce at their Utah locations, and many give it out as the default condiment at the drive-thru if you don't ask for something specific.




The state of Utah has a reputation for unusual and frustrating laws regulating the sale of alcoholic beverages. This reputation was well earned as recently as the late 2000s, but the state has made a series of reforms since then and the situation isn't as bad as you may have heard: you no longer have to sign up for a club membership just to enter a bar, for example.





View our map of accommodation in Salt Lake City or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Utah has traditionally had a low unemployment rate compared to the nation as a whole; unfortunately, wages are also below average and have not kept up well with the rising cost of living.

As in the rest of the United States, an assortment of national, state, and local anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing employees based on factors like race, nationality, and religion. Protection on the basis of sexual orientation varies between municipalities, but discrimination of this type is no more common in Salt Lake County than anywhere else in the country.




Keep Connected


There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.


See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.


The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 40.771592
  • Longitude: -111.888189

Accommodation in Salt Lake City

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