Tired from five months of travel across the plains, Brigham Young looked out across the Great Salt Lake (a vast, otherworldly salt flat) and said: “This is the place.” He believed that in this desolate valley his band of Mormon pioneers had finally found a haven where they could practice their religion freely—and, in retrospect, he was right. Temple Square is still the focal point of downtown Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) continues to hold tremendous sway over the city. As the only American city with world-class skiing within 30min. of downtown, Salt Lake City also serves as home base for visitors to the seven surrounding ski meccas and was selected to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. Whether you come seeking salvation or slalom, the city won’t disappoint.
Like most in cities in Utah, Salt Lake City’s streets follow a grid system. Brigham Young designated Temple Square the heart of downtown. Street names increase in increments of 100 and indicate how many blocks east, west, north, or south they lie from Temple Sq.; the “0” points are Main Street (north-south) and South Temple (east-west). State Street, West Temple, and North Temple are 100-level streets. Occasionally, streets are referred to as 13th South or 17th North, which are the same as 1300 South or 1700 North. Local address listings often include two cross streets. For example, a building on 13th South (1300 South) might be listed as 825 E. 1300 South, meaning the address is on 1300 South between 800 East (8th East) and 900 East (9th East). The streets are wide but can become congested during rush hour. Metered parking is available. Garages frequently offer 2hr. free parking.
At the northern end of State St. stands Utah’s beautiful State Capitol. In the hills above the city, the outdoor Arboretum offers 4 mi. of hiking and paved trails with almost guaranteed wildlife encounters. The Arboretum also features the Red Butte Canyon, herb gardens, fragrance gardens, and wildflowers. Meanwhile, City Creek Canyon offers scenic picnicking and recreation close to the city. Antelope Island State Park, in the middle of the lake one and a half miles from the South Shore, is a popular destination. There, you have a fair chance of spotting the island’s namesake species, as well as deer, bobcats, and coyotes.
Explore the mountains, culture, and religion of one of the most unique cities in the United States. Click the links to explore and book tours and local guides.
Famous for teetotaling, the early Mormon theocrats made it illegal to serve alcohol in public places. Hence, all liquor-serving institutions are “private clubs,” serving only members and “sponsored” guests. To get around this law, most bars and clubs charge a “temporary membership fee”—essentially a cover charge. Under this system, Salt Lake City has an active nightlife, centering on S. West Temple and the run-down blocks near the railroad tracks.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.