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Salt Lake City Memories

Salt Lake City, pop. 181,743, elevation 4,330 feet, is dwarfed by the Wasatch Mountains to the east and the desert, Oquirrh Range and Great Salt Lake to the west. The city sits on what once was a prehistoric lake. The eastern and northern portions of the city are terraces (former beaches) known as "the benches." The greater Salt Lake area has 898,387 residents.
Photo by Eric Schramm

by Stephen Kelly, regional editor

As a kid passing through Salt Lake City with my family on a vacation trip from our home in the mountains of Colorado, my most vivid memory was floating in the Great Salt Lake alongside my three sisters. It was shallow and you could walk out hundreds of yards and still not be in over your head. There was a fellow floating in the lake reading a book and smoking a cigarette, i.e., it took no effort whatsoever to float like a cork--Look, Ma, no hands ... or feet!

Temple Square, enclosed by 15-foot walls, is the center of the LDS church and the most visited spot in the city. Its 10 acres include attractive landscaping and historic buildings, including the six-spire granite Salt Lake Mormon Temple (right) with the 22-karat gold leaf statue of the Angel Moroni trumpeting atop its highest spire. Only Mormons may enter the Temple. Here, the church also has its administrative offices, Tabernacle, Assembly Hall, two visitor centers, relief society, museum of church history and art, and two genealogy libraries (Joseph Smith Memorial Bldg.). A convention center was added in 2000 across the street from the north visitor's center. The LDS church purchased the land along Main Street on the east side of the square, closed it to traffic and transformed it into a park, which incorporates a large reflecting pool.
Photo by Eric Schramm

When we emerged from our float and the warm late afternoon air began to dry us, we found our bodies scaled with white, salty deposits and quickly noticed an acute burning sensation within the posterior area of our swimming suits, if you catch the drift.

As for the city itself, I do remember standing in front of the Temple, one of many backdrops that inspired a barrage of family photography. The only other memory on that trip was eating in a restaurant and my parents joking about not being able to get a drink (please see the "Drink to Me Only" sidebar for the low down on alcohol in the city).

The Salt Palace Convention Center reports 365,000 square feet of continuous exhibit space; a 45,000 square foot ballroom with "roughly enough space to hold a banquet for 2,900 ballerinas in tutus and the flexibility to break down into 10 sections, each capable of holding over 400 people theater style"; 52,000 sq. ft. of meeting space (53 possible meeting rooms).
Photo by Eric Schramm

I've passed through Salt Lake several times since on motoring trips from California, but it's been a good stretch since I've seen the city's skyline. The last time I approached the city it was from the western salt flats and my navigator pointed out a large lake on the horizon.

"No," I informed my lookout, "that's a mirage."

"No," she replied, "that's too big."

"It's a BIG mirage," I specified.

"You're crazy," she explained.

"I'm crazy? Who's seeing things that aren't there?" I offered.

The Delta Center is home to the Utah Jazz, the city's NBA team. The arena is at S. Temple and 300 West St., the northern terminal for the Trax light rail system.
Photo By Steve Greenwood

Still seeing the "lake" on the horizon over the next hour of driving, she marveled at how convincing mirages were, though I don't recall an apology about the crazy thing.

Impressions of the City

Mirages aside, and not counting the freak tornado (one set down over the downtown in Aug. 1999, killing one person, injuring about 100 people, and damaging the roofs of the Delta Center and Salt Palace Convention Center and blowing out windows at the Wyndham Hotel), the impression most people get of Salt Lake City is that of a well-ordered downtown, historic buildings and nice, wide streets. The width of the streets, the story goes, was dictated by Brigham Young to allow room for turning a four-oxen wagon team around. Not many oxen on the street these days, due to those new fangled automobiles, but some pedestrians feel challenged at crossing the expansive streets without propulsion assistance. I'm told some pedestrian crossing have (or had) little red flags available for people to carry to help drivers differentiate them from moving vehicles. Perhaps flares would get more attention.

The Mormon Temple with the backdrop of the Oquirrh Range (pronounced "oaker").

French Quarter vs. Temple Square--Or, Variety is the Spice of Venue

I suspect this trip to Salt Lake City for the 2005 ASLA Expo will generate a whole new set of memories, albeit a bit different from last year's New Orleans visit. French Quarter vs. Temple Square--quite the cultural clash. Let's just say no one will likely be throwing and catching beads in front of the Temple, nor will you see, as I did on a stroll through St. Louis Cemetery in downtown New Orleans on Halloween afternoon, a nude woman in body paint seated on one of the tombs with her feet planted on a man's chest while a photographer shot the scene from various angles. No, you probably won't see anything bizarre during your visit to Salt Lake City, but you will view some pretty scenery and have the opportunity to enjoy the city and its attractions. It's a shame the EXPO wasn't a month later--we could have schussed down some of the best slopes in the country.

While 70% of the Utah populace is Mormon, Salt Lake City is just under half Mormon. Provo is said to have the strongest church influence, while Park City and Moab the least. Most of the world's religious denominations are represented in Salt Lake, witness this Greek Orthodox church.

Lay of the Land

Just to get you geographically oriented, not that you're lost, Salt Lake City is tucked between two ranges, the Wasatch ("mountains of many rivers" in Ute) to the east and the northeast, and the Oquirrh ("shining mountains" in Goshute). Note to English speakers: English is widely spoken in the city, and the fast food menus around town are not printed in Goshute and Ute. The Wasatch are the western range of the Rockies, elevated mostly between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, with Mount Nebo rising highest of all at 11,877 feet. The Oquirrh Range (say "oaker") runs about 30 miles southward from the bottom end of that big salty lake. Its highest peak is Lewiston at 10,676 feet.

If you fly in to Salt Lake City International Airport, just to the northwest of the city, you're only a 10 minute drive to the convention center downtown. And getting around the city is easy and cheap, thanks to the geometric downtown grid of streets conceived by Brigham Young (see grid map), the free-fare zone (see zone map) and the well-priced all-day transit passes.

Even the most directionally challenged person won't get lost in downtown Salt Lake. Just think "Temple Square." All the streets are laid out in a simple north/south, east/west grid. Temple Square is the hub. Just one block north of Temple Square is North Temple; just west of Temple Square is West Temple; the street south of Temple Square is, you've got it, South Temple; the street east of Temple Square is, fooled you, Main Street! All the streets are name by the compass direction (north, south, east, west) and numbered in increments of 100.

A Li'l' Bit o' History

It's nice to know a little background of any area you visit to understand its underpinnings and appreciate the modern embodiment. The Mormons were late arrivals to the area (1847), just missing the Ute and Navajo tribes by 500 odd years, but running into a few mountain men, trappers and Catholic fathers. The 2,000 souls that migrated that year fought off a late frost, drought and a plague of crickets. It's said that the crickets threatened the crops and very survival of the Mormon colony that first year had not seagulls descended upon the scene and eaten the trespassers. As a consequence, the California gull, Larus californicus, is the state's official bird. Mahonri Mackintosh Young (1877-1957), an American sculptor, painter, etcher and grandson of Salt Lake City founder, Brigham Young, sculpted the Sea Gull Monument in Salt Lake City.

Take a walk from downtown up State Street to the Utah State Capitol. Built between 1912 and 1915 of the local granite and Georgia marble, the Capitol sits atop a hill, part of a landscape 40-acre park. The rotunda has painted murals from the Depression era (part of WPA) and a three ton chandelier. The area has fine homes built by the mining and financial barons at the turn of the 20th century. Just to the west of the Capitol is the Pioneer Memorial Museum, which gives insight into life in the beehive state in the early years.

Salt Lake City was a stopover for the many gold rush adventurers on their way to California in 1849-50; some decided crossing the desert expanse a little too adventurous, and so settled. The Mormons were quick to establish themselves. Irrigation was one of the first considerations, and creating the grid of streets that still comprise the downtown area. The University of Utah was founded in 1850, and an ambitious construction began on Temple Square in 1853; it was completed 40 years later.

The dream of a transcontinental railroad was realized in 1869 when the eastern and western rails joined at Promontory Point, 80 miles north of Salt Lake City. By this time, the area had a population of 60,000 Mormons. In 1896, Utah became the 45th state admitted to the Union.

By the early 1900s, the Utah State Capitol was built, electric trolleys supplied the transportation needs, parks, sewer systems and street lighting were in place, and silver (mining) was king.

The LDS Conference Center houses the Mormon Tabernacle, with underground parking for 1,400 cars. The building's exterior was quarried from the local granite, also used in the 40-year construction of the temple. The four acres of roof over the center includes 300 varieties of wildflowers, meadow grasses, trees (pines, aspens, spruces) and a large fountain that cascades down the south face of the building. You can enjoy free concerts at the Assembly Hall, a Gothic-style building on the southwest corner of Temple Square. International and local artists perform every weekend and some weekdays.

Take a walk from downtown up State Street to the Utah State Capitol. Built between 1912 and 1915 of the local granite and Georgia marble, the Capitol sits atop a hill, part of a landscape 40-acre park. The rotunda has painted murals from the Depression era (part of WPA) and a three ton chandelier. The area has fine homes built by the mining and financial barons at the turn of the 20th century. Just to the west of the Capitol is the Pioneer Memorial Museum, which gives insight into life in the beehive state in the early years.

The city's population tripled in the first decades of the 20th century, lulled during the Depression, and reinvigorated during WWII. Hill Air Force Base, 30 miles west of the city, is still a vital entity.

The suburbs developed in the 1960s and '70s: Sandy, West Valley City, Sugarhouse, Holladay, Murray, Riverton, and Draper.

The ski resorts then evolved: Park City (host to the Sundance Film Festival); Deer Valley; Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort; Alta (Little Cottonwood Canyon); Brighton; and Solitude.

The Mormon Tabernacle seats 6,500 to hear the 352-voice Mormon Tabernacle Choir backed by an organ of 11,623 pipes. The acoustics are so amazing that the guided tour demonstrates the dropping of three pins on the stage, which is heard by the people in the back seats. Two visitors' centers with interactive videos, films, Old and New Testament paintings, and an 11-foot replica of Thorvaldsen's Christus are additional attractions.

Temple Square-- The Quintessential Essence of the City's Founders

Most conventioneers are familiar with four things in Salt Lake City: the airport, their room, the Salt Palace (not a condiment manufacturing facility, but your home away from home during the ASLA EXPO) and Temple Square. Temple Square is, of course, the architectural manifestation of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS), located just a block northeast from the Salt Palace. The centerpiece of the square's 10 acres of attractive landscaping and church buildings is the six-spire granite Salt Lake Mormon Temple. I won't weigh you down with anymore detail, as you will stroll the area yourself and have the opportunity to learn all about the square and its buildings on the tours that run every half hour.

Gardner Village is a restoration of the properties that surrounded Gardner Mill, built by Scottish immigrant Archibald Gardner in 1877. The mill is on the National Historic Register. 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan (12 miles south of downtown; take I-15 south, exit 301, west on 7200 South; left onto Redwood Rd; left again on 7800 South.

Look, Over There, It's ... a Big Building

There is plenty else to see in the city and its environs other than Temple Square, but I won't burden you with those details, either, believing that the photography, captions and sidebars will fill you in, not to mention that most people won't read this article. "Hi" to you have read this far. Also, stop by the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau at the Salt Palace (remember, that's where the EXPO is) for more information. If you can't wean yourself from your computer and brought the laptop, you can also visit the Salt Lake City Visitor's Guide ( and download the "Historic Downtown Walking Tour" of 58 historic buildings and a whole truck load of other information.

Gilgal Park is a central city garden noted for a mixed bag of statuary and a whimsical take on Utah cultural history. The park is open for strolling and viewing from 9 a.m. until dusk.

Until next Halloween, at the Tampa venue, may all your designs be realized.

Drink to Me Only

Mormons do not believe in drinking alcohol, nor caffeine, for that matter. However, half the city is non-Mormon. Jason Mathis of the Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau notes the 2002 Winter Olympics left "an increased vibrancy in Salt Lake's nightlife." Apparently, the party is still going on. With Prohibition over, conventioneers have been known to imbibe an alcoholic drink or two. Let's clear up any misconceptions about indulging in such practices in the beehive state:

  1. You can order (and drink) mixed drinks, wine and beer in restaurants and hotels provided you're buying food.
  2. The state's liquor laws were amended in May 2003, allowing an increase in the size of legal drinks and making it easier to get into the city's "private clubs."
  3. Private clubs (PCs) are basically bars and have membership fees. You can go as a guest of a member or buy a two-week membership ($4-$10). Some PCs even allow smoking. Smoking is not allowed in restaurants.
  4. Grocery and convenience stores sell 3.2% beer, the equivalent of four percent alcohol content by volume, compared to the five percent alcohol by volume of full-strength beer.
  5. There are 16 "conveniently located" state liquor stores in the city environs.
  6. A wine connoisseur? The Utah State Wine Store (255 South 300 East) offers more than 3,000 different varieties of wine and some 30,000 bottles in stock.
  7. Uinta Brewing Company, ne 1993, the state's first production brewery, makes the state's numero uno selling suds, Cutthroat Ale. Other breweries include Squatters, Red Rock Brewing Company (named 2001 "Brewpub of the Year" by trade show types), and Desert Edge (at Trolley Square).

Antelope Island, five miles wide by 15 miles long, is the largest of the Great Salt Lake's 10 islands. The lake is the remnant of Lake Bonneville, an ancient body of water that covered what is now most of western Utah and parts of Idaho and Nevada. You can reach its shores by boat or 7.5 mile causeway that reopened in 1992 after being underwater for a decade. Antelope were reintroduced to the island in 1993. Bison have been on the island since 1893. The herd numbers some 600. Elk, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and birds and waterfowl, and a small herd of elk are also denizens. Sailing, biking, hiking and camping are popular. Antelope Island State Park (4528 West 1700 South, Syracuse) is seven miles west of I-15 exit #335 near Layton. The entrance fee is $8 per vehicle. For camping reservations, call 322-3770.

Public Transportation

All-day passes ($2.70) are good for unlimited local bus and Trax, a light-rail that runs a few blocks east from the Delta Center to Main St., then 15 miles to the south to the Sandy Civic Center in the suburb of Sandy. The free fare zone (see map) in the downtown area is from 400 South to North Temple and continuing up Main Street to 500 North (includes the Capitol).

Taxes and Gratuities

Salt Lake City sales tax is 6.6%; restaurant taxes are 7.6%; lodging taxes are 11.2%. Customary tipping in restaurants and bars is generally 15-20% of the tab; taxi drivers get 15%; bellmen, porters, and skycaps, $1 per bag.

Local Publications

The two major dailies are the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News (the Mormon publication; deseret means honeybee). Salt Lake City Magazine is the slick pub on current happenings.


Safety belts are required by law. Warning label: A blood alcohol content as low as 0.08% makes one eligible for a DUI. The city's 4,300 feet elevation increases the effects of alcohol.

The Neighborhoods

Downtown: Temple Square, the administrative center of the LDS Church, dominates. There are hotels, restaurants, stores, two shopping centers, the Salt Palace Convention Center, the Abravanel Concert Hall and the Capitol Theatre, all within a few blocks.

Capitol Hill is a few blocks north and one block east of Temple Square.

Marmalade District is the area west of Capitol Hill to Quince Street. If you're on a street named after a nut or fruit, you are in the Marmalade District.

Avenues District is east of Capitol Hill. This is the college residential area. The large homes here were built during the silver mining boom days.

The University District, four blocks east of Temple Square, encompasses the University of Utah, the Utah Museum of Natural History, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts; the newly remodeled Kingsbury Hall, a venue for concerts and performances; the Huntsman Center (sports center); and Red Butte Gardens and Arboretum.

The City's Outskirts: North of the city is Farmington and Hill Air Force Base, and Ogden, home to the Hill Aerospace Museum, Eccles Dinosaur Park, and Lagoon Amusement Park. To the west of the city is the airport and much of the area's rapidly expanding industry. To the east and north is the Wasatch Range and the great ski resorts of Park City and Snowbird.

Big Cottonwood Canyon, 25 miles east of Salt Lake City, is a great area to bike, hike and fish. A scenic 3.1 mile trail begins at Mill B South Fork and leads to lakes Blanche, Florence and Lillian. An easier trail is at Brighton Ski Resort. To reach Big Cottonwood Canyon from Salt Lake City, take I-215 to the 6200 South "Canyons" exit and then continue east on U-152, following signs to Solitude and Brighton. The 15-mile scenic canyon road is about a one hour round trip.

Time zone

Mountain Time

Visitor Information Centers

The Salt Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau operates several information centers, one inside the Salt Palace Convention Center. Brochures and literature are available.

Also, pick up the Salt Lake Passport, a free coupon book.

Salt Lake Weather

Oct. high: 65.9 low: 40.1 rain:1.29 in.
Nov. high: 49.9 low 29.7 rain:1.5 in.


The area code is 801for Salt Lake City, the Wasatch Valley, Provo and Ogden; elsewhere in the state it's 435.

Emergency: 911

Transit Info: 511

Eating Out in Salt Lake City

Baci Trattoria (northern Italian)
Contemporary dining in modern decor. Lasagna is said to be good. Wide selection of pizzas baked in wood-burning ovens; pasta, chicken, veal, steaks and seafood.
134 W. Pierpont Ave.; 328-1500

Bambara (American Bistro cuisine)
Lively new restaurant with contemporary interior (brass, marble and glass) and central exhibition kitchen. Bambara occupies the historic Continental Bank Lobby, built in 1924. Melds American regional influences and ingredients with Italian, French and Asian techniques.
202 South Main St. adjacent to the Hotel Monaco; 363-5454

Cafe Pierpont (Mexican)
Lively American-styled Mexican food served in generous proportions in a cantina decorated with the Mexican colors. Coconut-dipped jumbo Mexican white shrimp are a favorite appetizer.
122 W. Pierpont Ave.; 364-1222

Crown Burgers (good fast food)
Best burgers in town (charbroiled). The one on Highland Dr. looks like a hunting lodge, including a stone fireplace, but you still order at the counter. Crown's specialty is a cheeseburger with pastrami piled on.
377 E. 200 South
118 N. 300 West
3190 S. Highland Dr.

Diamond Lil's Steakhouse
Diamond Lil's has been Utah's favorite destination for great steakhouse cuisine for over 30 years. Also features fresh seafood and gourmet sandwiches. Notable selections include Indian stew, prime rib, chicken fried steak, Diamond Lil's shrimp pasta, prime rib sandwich, and the Big Bad John Sandwich.
1528 W North Temple; 533-0547

Market Street Broiler (mesquite grilled fresh seafood, steaks, pasta).
The Broiler's lobby is a fresh-fish market. More casual that Market Street Grill and better priced.
260 S. 1300 East; 583-8808

Market Street Grill (seafood, steak)
A bit more upscale (expensive, more formal) than the Market Street Broiler (and owned by the same company). Some think it's the best seafood restaurant in the state.
48 Market St.; 322-4668

Metropolitan Restaurant (creative new American cuisine)
The Metro offers casual meals in the bistro, or more sophisticated dining in the restaurant. The Metro is in a renovated downtown warehouse.
173 W Broadway; 364-3472

The New Yorker (American)
An elegant restaurant with excellent food and top service. This is a private club. The $4 membership is said to be worth it. Angus beef, rack of lamb and Gulf shrimp are among its specialties. Less formal and lighter dining is available in the cafe.
60 W. Market St.; 363-0166

Spencer's For Steaks and Chops
Spencer's is a private club with a British atmosphere of dark woods, fabrics and booth seating. USDA prime beef, grilled salmon, Alaskan king crab. House salad and hot bread accompany main courses.
Hilton SLC Center,
255 S. West Temple; 238-4748

Tuscany (northern Italian)
Top food and wine in a lodge setting at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. Grilled double-cut pork chops with scallion mashed potatoes, balsamic roasted onions, and gnocchi Bolognese is one treat. Home-made desserts are a treat.
2832 E. 6200 South; 277-9919

Red Rock Brewing Company
A busy brewpub in a warehouse-like setting (high ceiling and brick walls, wood tables and chairs). Popular with local business people. Pizza cooked in wood-fired ovens, Italian grinders, French-onion steak sandwiches, fish and chips, chicken Parmesan and vegetarian lasagna are among the great variety of fare.
254 S. 200 West; 521-7466

Scenic Vistas around the State

(direction/distance from Salt Lake City)

Antelope Island State Park--
Island in the Great Salt Lake accessed via a 7.2-mile causeway.
33 miles north

Arches National Park
231 miles southeast

Bryce Canyon National Park
272 miles south

Canyonlands National Park
247 miles south

Capitol Reef National Park
224 miles south

Cedar Breaks National Monument
277 miles south

Dinosaur National Monument
193 miles east

Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
175 miles east

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
299 miles southeast

Golden Spike National Historic Site
88 miles northwest

Grand Canyon National Park - North Rim
392 miles south

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
300 miles south

Grand Teton National Park
325 miles northeast

Great Basin National Park, Nev.
234 miles west

Hovenweep National Monument
348 miles southeast

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
389 miles southeast

Natural Bridges National Monument
343 miles southeast

Rainbow Bridge National Monument
349 miles southeast

Timpanogos Cave National Monument
37 miles south

Wasatch Cache National Forest
Wasatch Metro (east and north of the city)

Yellowstone National Park
335 miles northeast

Zion National Park
314 miles south

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June 27, 2019, 2:07 am PDT

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