Salt Lake City is the religious center of the Mormons (Latter-day Saints) and the capital of the state of Utah. It is located in a high valley of the Jordan River, once an inhospitable stretch of land between the rocky peaks of the Wasatch Range, the Great Salt Lake to the northwest and the Great Salt Lake Desert to the west. History
Salt Lake City was founded on July 24, 1847, by Mormons led by Brigham Young, who reached this desert valley after an eighteen-month journey from Illinois. The settlers soon began irrigating the land and building a town. Starting at today’s Temple Square, they drew up an ambitious grid plan that still determines the layout of the city. The area, then under Mexican sovereignty, was ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The Mormons took advantage of this change to establish their own state based on their religious ideas. The capital of this Deseret (“honey bee”) state was Salt Lake City.
The young city demanded similar status for the Utah territory, founded in 1850, whose first governor was Brigham Young. The gold rush in the West and the completion of the transcontinental railroad brought more and more people to the city, which now reached a modest degree of prosperity. After the Mormons officially renounced polygamy, Utah was admitted to the Union as the 45th state. During the 20th century the city developed rapidly, tripling its population between 1900 and 1930, and then quickly grew into a major modern city.
1 Temple Square
Temple Square is the holy place of the Mormons. This 10-acre plaza, with trees and flower beds, is home to the Mormon Temple, the Mormon Tabernacle, the Temple Annex, the Assembly Hall, several monuments and information centers that provide information on the doctrines and history of the Mormon faith.
Official site: https://www.templesquare.com/
2 Mormon Temple
The Mormon temple, in the so-called “Mormon style”, was built between 1853 and 1893. At each end of this enormous granite structure are three towers, the tallest at the eastern end bearing a 13ft high gilded figure of the angel Moroni. The temple can only be entered by Mormons.
Address: 50 West North Temple Street, Salt Lake City
Official site: https://www.lds.org/church/temples/salt-lake?lang=eng
3 State Capitol
At the north end of State Street, on Capitol Hill, which rises to a height of nearly 1,000 feet above the city, is the Utah State Capitol. This neoclassical domed building houses the Utah House of Representatives, Senate, and Supreme Court. It has a particularly beautiful interior, with its marble rotunda, the Golden Room (the governor’s reception room) and a small gallery with changing exhibitions. Capitol Hill is located northeast of Temple Square at the end of State Street. Many of the city’s attractions are located here, including the historic Marmalade district.
Official site: https://utahstatecapitol.utah.gov/
4 Mormon Tabernacle
The Tabernacle is a massive oval building with a dome on 44 sandstone piers. The sober interior, with room for more than 6,500 people, is known for its fine acoustics. At the west end is the gallery for the celebrated Tabernacle Choir, and above it is the great organ.
Address: Temple Square, Salt Lake City
Official site: https://www.lds.org/locations/temple-square-salt-lake-city-tabernacle?lang=eng&_r=1
5 This is the Place Heritage Park
When Brigham Young emerged from Emigration Canyon after the 1,300-mile Mormon trek and saw the valley of his visions, he exclaimed, “This is the place!” This Is The Place Monument was erected in 1947 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Mormon arrival in Salt Lake Valley. The state park of the same name also includes Old Deseret Village, a living history museum built to resemble a typical mid-19th century Mormon community.
Address: 2601 East Sunnyside Avenue, Salt Lake City
Official site: https://www.thisistheplace.org/
6 Joseph Smith Memorial Building
The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is located on Temple Square. It was built in 1911 and originally known as the Hotel Utah, but renamed in honor of the first president of the Mormon Church. Some of the decorative features include marble columns, art glass and a grand staircase. Onsite are the Legacy Theater, conference rooms, the FamilySearch Center and restaurants.
Address: 52 North Main Street
Official site: https://www.lds.org/locations/temple-square-joseph-smith-memorial-building
7 Liberty Park
At over 80 acres, Liberty Park is Salt Lake City’s largest public park and offers a variety of recreational activities. This green space is a beautiful nature reserve, with mature trees, a pond, a swimming pool and sports areas. The park is also home to the Tracy Aviary.
Address: 600 E 900 S, Salt Lake City
Official site: https://www.slcgov.com/cityparks/parks-liberty-park
8 Tracy Aviary
At the south end of Liberty Park is the Tracy Aviary, home to a huge variety of birds from North America and other parts of the world. One of the world’s oldest aviaries, it was founded in 1938 by a local banker.
Address: 589 E 1300 S, Salt Lake City
Official site: https://tracyaviary.org/
9 Beehive house
The Beehive House (1854) was the residence of Brigham Young as governor of Utah and leader of the Mormons and the home of his large family of 19 wives and 56 children. On the turret of the house there is a beehive, the symbol of the activity of the Mormons, which also appears in the coat of arms of the state.
Official site: https://www.lds.org/locations/historic-beehive-house
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City for Sightseeing
Most of Salt Lake City’s attractions are located downtown, including Temple Square, the Mormon Temple, and the State Capitol. The trendy western downtown area is home to many of the city’s best restaurants. If you’re in town for sightseeing and entertainment, this is the best place to base yourself. If your main goal is to hit the nearby ski hills, access to the interstate is very easy and the trip to most resorts takes less than 45 minutes. Below is a list of highly rated hotels in good locations:
- Luxury hotels: Featuring elegantly appointed rooms with balconies, the towering Grand America Hotel enjoys a prime location in downtown Salt Lake City, just a short walk from Temple Square and local dining options. Ideal for event or trade fair visitors, the nearby Hotel Monaco offers well-appointed rooms and is pet-friendly. The Marriott City Center in Salt Lake City is a luxury option just steps from the vibrant City Center Mall with its many shopping and dining options.
- Mid-range hotels: In the center of the action and near several popular restaurants is the newly renovated Hilton Garden Inn, featuring large rooms, a 24-hour pool, and free airport shuttle. The University Guest House is located a few kilometers east of the center and close to the Natural History Museum. It offers comfortable rooms and a free shuttle service to area attractions. Fifteen minutes east and convenient for those heading to the ski hills is the new Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel. This hotel features rooms with good city views, a saltwater pool and a hot tub.
- Budget Hotels: The following hotels are within walking distance of Temple Square and a variety of fine restaurants. The Comfort Inn is a good choice in the budget category, with spacious rooms, an outdoor hot tub with a fireplace, and free snacks and drinks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Nearby are the Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites, with an indoor pool, and the Metropolitan Inn, with a seasonal outdoor pool. All of these hotels are pet-friendly and offer free breakfast.