48 Hours In Salt Lake City: Things To Do

SALT LAKE CITY | What did I know about Salt Lake City before visiting? Mormons and The Utah Jazz, the Winter Olympics back in 2002, and that’s about it. When talking with my friend about what we wanted to while we were there, I commented “The Mormon stuff and I guess there’s a salt lake that’ll be worth checking out?”

Well yes, there is a salt lake worth checking out (more on that below), plus a whole lot more. Salt Lake City is a place that’s surrounded by spectacular natural beauty, and plenty of vibrant neighbourhoods full of interesting things to see, great food and drink, and more.

Here’s my list of things to do in Salt Lake City, all easily doable in a short break, or spread out over a few more days.

Be Wowed By The Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City derives its name from Utah’s Great Salt Lake. It’s the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere, and the eighth-largest terminal lake in the world.

Water flows down from the snowy mountains into the lake, and because it has nowhere to go after that, it evaporates, leaving behind water that’s dense enough to float in. The size of the lake can change dramatically. In the 1980s it reached a historic high of 8,500 km2. In 2021, water levels fell to a historic low of 2,500 km2.

Great Salt Lake is popular with locals. You can swim and float in the lake, and there are several walking and cycling trails, scenery and wildlife viewing spots. Because the size of the lake can change so dramatically, there’s less visitor infrastructure than you might imagine.

Check Out The World’s First KFC

Indiana-born Harland “Colonel” Sanders created his now world-famous fried chicken recipe in 1939, while running the Sanders Court & Café in Kentucky. He decided to franchise his chicken recipe in 1952, to Pete Harman, a local restaurateur in Salt Lake City. A sign maker at Harman Cafe, Rodney L. Anderson, coined the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken”, Harman and Sanders both loved the name, and the rest is history.

The original building has long gone, but there’s still a KFC on the original site. If you visit, you’ll find all sorts of nods to the site’s history, including a several displays featuring original fittings, cooking equipment, and more, from the first ever KFC.

Enjoy Top Quality Global Cuisine

Salt Lake City is a multicultural city, and this is reflected in the food on offer. Visit Laziz Kitchen for Lebanese meze, dips, and more. For some of the best Mexican in town, you can’t go past street cart Tacos Don Rafa, famed for their authentic taco and open until midnight, seven days a week.

If it’s Cajun food you want, The Bayou is a great option. For breakfast, check out Kahve Cafe, where you’ll find traditional Turkish coffee, tea, and delicious house made sweet and savoury Turkish dishes.

Explore Nature At Red Butte Garden

Located at the University of Utah, Red Butte Garden is one of the largest botanical gardens in the Intermountain West and is the state arboretum of Utah. The garden is known for its plant collections, themed gardens, and over 590,000 springtime blooming bulbs. Visiting is a great way to see and learn about the flora of the region.

Get Active At Utah Olympic Park

Built for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Utah Olympic Park is a nearly 400-acre / 162-hectare venue that’s the place to visit if you’re interested in winter sports. The park houses one of only four sliding tracks in North America, six Nordic ski jumps, a 2002 Winter Games museum, and loads of winter and summer outdoor activities.

You can have a go at things like bobsledding, skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, ziplining, swimming, and more. Whether you’re an experienced winter sports-goer, have a passing interesting in it, or are looking for child-friendly activities, Utah Olympic Park is well worth a visit.

Have A Beer At One Of The City’s Craft Breweries

Despite the Utah’s strict laws around alcohol, Salt Lake City is home to several highly regarded craft breweries. Up until recently, many of these brewery’s best beers weren’t available in the state, but today, beers up to 5.0% ABV can be served on tap, and pours of stronger brews can be poured from bottles.

My favourite breweries to visit in Salt Lake City are Epic Brewing Company, Fisher Brewing Company, and Templin Family Brewing. The latter, with its large outdoor courtyard and exceptional Central European style beers, is especially great.

Hike To The Top Of Grandeur Peak

Located just a 20 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City you’ll find popular recreation area Millcreek Canyon. The canyon is known for its biking, hiking, and ski trails. Grandeur Peak is the closest peak to the city, and also one of the quickest to summit.

The trail is steep, but wide, well-marked, and easy to follow. When you reach the top, you’ll be treated to breath-taking views of Salt Lake City, the wider Salt Lake Valley, and the surrounding mountain peaks.

Visit A Museum

Salt Lake City is home to numerous museums dealing with the city’s natural and cultural history, sports, art, and more. The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is a great place to see contemporary pieces by local and national artists, while the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is the place to discover a diverse collection of visual art spanning over 5,000 years.

The latter is located on the Utah University campus, as is the Natural History Museum of Utah, and the Fort Douglas Military Museum. If sports is your thing, be sure to check out the Utah Sports Hall of Fame Museum, which showcases and celebrates athletes and figures from across a broad spectrum of individual and team sports.

Wander Through Temple Square

Temple Square is a 10-acre /4-hectare complex, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the heart of Salt Lake City. It includes the Salt Lake Temple, Salt Lake Tabernacle, Salt Lake Assembly Hall, and the Seagull Monument, amongst other Mormon sites and buildings.

It’s one of the most popular tourist sites in Salt Lake City, and well worth a visit to either learn more about Mormon history and the religion, or simply admire the architecture and interiors. Wandering through Temple Square is a, let’s just say, unique and surreal experience. What one gets out of that experience really does depend on the individual.



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