Having spent a good portion of my life visiting Salt Lake City, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on this western gem. My adequacy in guiding you through a couple of days is met by my stunning inadequacy to describe what continues to bring people to this beautiful city, and so I turn to one of America’s great writers Mark Twain and his initial impressions of the Salt Lake Valley back in the 1860s. Twain wrote,
"At four in the afternoon, we arrived on the summit of Big Mountain, fifteen miles from Salt Lake City, where all the world was glorified with the setting sun, and the most stupendous panorama of mountain peaks yet encountered burst on our sight. We looked out upon this sublime spectacle from under the arch of a brilliant rainbow!"
While I can’t guarantee that a rainbow welcomes you to Salt Lake, and things have changed significantly thanks to some overly ambitious captains of industry, the simple fact remains that Salt Lake is an excellent spot for a weekend getaway, regardless of the time of year. Autumn is awe-inspiring, the winter is wonderful, the spring is sublime, and summer is secretly the best time of year. From warm-weather activities like hiking and mountain biking to the cold ones, skiing and snowshoeing, there does not seem to be an “off-season” for Salt Lake, and you’ll find that there is always something to do.
Here are some items to add to your list, regardless of the time of year.
If you time things just right, your arrival in SLC may be hailed by a massive overhaul to the airport with estimated completion in late 2019. This beautiful new structure allows visitors to take in the Wasatch mountains in their natural glory. If you catch the red-eye, you’ll be rewarded with a sunset that you’ll not soon forget. The jagged peaks cut deep against a purple sky, and the valley lights up as the sun crests.
Start your day out right with breakfast at a local favorite. Campos is a new spot known for two things that should rank near the top of your list: egg sandos and coffee. The freshly roasted beans are second to none, and all you have to do is walk through the doors and take in the rich aromas to know that you are in the right spot.
From Campos, you’d be best served by getting on your feet to take in some of the downtown areas which have a little something for everyone. If shopping is your thing, City Creek is an indoor/outdoor spot that runs through downtown with some fantastic architecture, retail options, and above all natural light. Adjacent to historic Temple Square, you can take a quick stroll over to see the historic Salt Lake City temple which was under construction for 40 years and built from materials sourced mainly from the surrounding valley.
For a quick and hearty lunch, head on over to Lucky 13 burgers and bar which rustles up some mean burgers, fries, and beers. The atmosphere is more bar than a bistro if that’s your thing, and if you are feeling courageous, you should probably take the Lucky 13 challenge. Be warned: it may also ruin the remainder of your stay. They also have some great sandwiches, wraps, and salads if you are looking for a slightly lighter note.
Moving to an early afternoon, squeeze in a visit to the State Capitol. Before you roll your eyes into the back of your head, you should know this is a must see. The Capitol is an incredible building that features some inspiring architecture and artwork. Plus it’s a great way to learn about Utah’s complex history. Walk around the building unincumbered for absolutely free or take a self-guided audio tour. This building continues to function as a government building, but the Insta-worthy rotunda is the spot to get that natural lighted hero shot.
Shift into hiking mode and see the original view that Brigham Young, who famously founded the city in 1847, took in and declared, “This is the place.” Ensign Peak is a quick 1-mile hike that features stunning views of the town below and climbs about 400 feet total in elevation. Starting just behind the base of the Capitol Building, follow the marked signage to a hike that is both straightforward and rewarding. If you choose to do the hike a bit later, the sunset over the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island is stunning.
Looking for a lighter dinner after a big lunch may have you ending up at Takashi, an incredible Tokyo style sushi spot that fills up quickly on pretty much every night of the week. I know what you’re thinking, “Sushi, in a landlocked state?” And the answer is, “Just wait and see.” This place is LEGIT.
Get a good night’s rest because tomorrow is going to be active. Start the day out by making your way to Park City (a 20-minute drive) and hit up a training session with our friends at Beau Collective. They offer classes in the morning every hour from 6:30 am to 9:30 am and their unique combination of weights, cardio and bodyweight moves plus the altitude may just put you over the top in a real way. Tell them Ben sent you and they will be extra tough on you.
From there, head to brunch you won’t soon forget at a local favorite called Tupelo that serves up some fresh, farm-to-table, artisanal eats that will blow your mind. Sure those words get thrown around a lot, but Tupelo stands by every ingredient, using local sources for everything on their menu and providing options for every diet type.
Once you get your fill, head on over to the Deer Valley. If you find yourself at this legendary resort, you’ll want to test your inner daredevil with some skiing in the winter or mountain biking in the spring/summer/fall. For both activities, they offer top tier rental services and instruction, so you can go into either activity ready to rip. Spend the afternoon shredding some of the best trails and snow in North America and then get available to treat yo’self.
Head on over to the spa at the Montage, which is available to non-guests and infuses natural elements from the surrounding areas to create best-in-class spa treatments that are bound to set you up for relaxation, especially after such a tough morning and afternoon. Book a massage or take advantage of the various stress melting activities like a soak in an outdoor hot tub and a toxin cleansing Vichy shower.
Finish the day at Handle, a local spot known for great drinks, better conversation and small plates that pack huge flavor. Using seasonal ingredients at their peak, the chefs at Handle do some incredible things with the local fare. One thing that never changes on the menu is the note written in bold at the very top, “PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A SAMPLE MENU & IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE.” What you can expect is incredibly fresh, flavorful dishes in a cozy atmosphere that will be the perfect bookend to your visit to Utah.