This was my first time visiting both the state of Utah and Salt Lake City. For those of you who remembers, this city hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics, and my first impression of this city was that of a flat city surrounded by mountains. I took a day break from snowboarding during my visit to explore the city proper since I was staying in downtown f0r the 2nd and 3rd night. One of my first stop was to visit the Gateway shopping complex which is just beside the Hyatt Place Downtown SLC and opposite the EnergySolutions Arena where the Utah Jazz plays at. The draw to this large shopping complex is the outdoor plaza which commemorates the Olympic legacy of the city with a water fountain and the sunny spring weather on a weekend meant there was a lot of people out on the plaza when I visited.
The shopping complex is home to the big retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Barnes & Noble etc. and also houses a cineplex and multiple restaurants and a food court. For families and leisure travellers, this area definitely is one of the places of interest in Salt Lake City. Another reason to visit the area is to explore two monuments to the history of the city, one being the Union Pacific railroad station which has been renovated to be an event space. The magnificent hall still has the wall frescoes and points to the history of the city as a railroad stop between Eastern and Western United States. There is also the splendid Devereaux Mansion located opposite from the Gateway Complex which is a good example of American architecture during the period when the city was founded.
Later in the afternoon, I visited the one landmark not to be missed in the city – the State of Utah Capitol. This government building is a magnificent structure located at the top of a hill. The best way to approach the Capitol is via State Street where visitors could slowly see the building as they ride up the street graced by stately homes on each side.
With a vantage position and a vast lawn for visitors, the State Capitol is a great way to laze the afternoon away looking at the downtown skyscrapers or just admiring the Greek columns and array of monuments and historical buildings around the Capitol. Another reason to drive up to the Capitol is the amount of free parking around the area and after touring the Capitol grounds, visitors could also get a bird’s eye view of the city from the vacant lots around Edgecomb Drive which is reached via East Capitol Boulevard.
On the evening, I made my way back towards downtown Salt Lake City and there was still time to enjoy the vast Temple Square compound in the middle of the city. It is well known that this city was founded by the members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints or commonly known as the Mormons. No wonder then that their church occupies more than one block of the core downtown space. Come dusk, the Salt Lake Temple is beautifully lit up and brightens up the whole area.
Naturally the Temple attractions were closed by then but I did return on the last day to explore the Visitor’s Centre, which provides a decent overview of the Church activities. Do expect a very detailed explanation from the many host volunteers within the Visitor’s Centre. In addition to the exhibits, the Temple organizes some talks and musical performances within the magnificent Tabernacle which seems to be accessible even when no event is held there. With the free admission, visiting the Salt Lake Temple is recommended when touring the city!
Other places of interest in Salt Lake City is the lush green spaces of the University of Utah. Located on the eastern end of town, the University is located on higher elevation and thus provides some good views of downtown Salt Lake City as well. For those keen on more shopping, the renovated Trolley Square is a pleasant mall to while away the afternoon and is home to some big retailers like Pottery Barn and Whole Foods as well. This mall used to be a bunch of old warehouses that have been refurbished into a nice retail space and is along the way towards the University of Utah. And if you are just a city centre kind of visitor, the City Creek Center Mall is one of the nicest mall I have visited with a nice creek within the indoor section though it houses more upscale shops including an Apple Store if you need free wifi.
Based on my one and a half day of exploring Salt Lake City, I found myself enjoying my visit with the perfect weather in early spring as there was sunny skies and sub 20 degree Celcius temperature in the late afternoon. The wide avenues within downtown and numerous free street side parking makes it easy for drivers. While the downtown feels quite sparsely populated, it was quiet and pleasant on a sunny weekend day and definitely makes it easier as a city getaway. In fact I would think that I do not even mind staying in this clean city but then again I am a mountain kind of person so that makes perfect sense!