Friday, December 27, 2019

Exploring Downtown Salt Lake City

salt lake city temple

I was pleasantly surprised to find out how walkable downtown Salt Lake City is on my first visit a couple of years ago. I had planned on hitting some of the cool Utah hiking trails. Unfortunately, it rained most of my trip, so I didn't get to do any hiking. Instead, I decided to explore downtown Salt Lake City whenever there were breaks in the rain. Since I was staying in Sandy, I took the TRAX train from the Historic Sandy Station to the South Temple Square Station, From there, I began my journey exploring downtown Salt Lake City on foot.

Salt Lake City History

I always like to begin these blog posts with a bit of history to provide a better background. Salt Lake City was founded in the late 1840s by pioneers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brigham Young was their leader. When the pioneers arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley, there was absolutely nothing of value in the area. For example, there weren't fields ready to be plowed and turned into lucrative farmland like in the Midwest. Instead, they were greeted with an arid desert. Therefore, the new settlers had to build irrigation systems to turn the baron land into farmland. Brigham Young turned out to be a brilliant leader who methodically platted new towns in a way to make them thrive. He directed the construction of wide streets that were laid out in a grid pattern. Salt Lake City is now a thriving city with a strong tech-driven economy. Many of the biggest tech companies have a presence in the region, which has led the the nickname of Silicon Slopes.

Temple Square

temple square downtown salt lake city

I'll begin with Temple Square because that's kind of where everything started in Salt Lake City. This place was like nothing that I have ever seen or experienced before. I'll do my best to describe it, but understand that the photo doesn't do it justice. First, I didn't realize how much their was to see and do at Temple Square:
  • Beautiful Grounds
  • Salt Lake City Temple
  • Church History Museum
  • Genealogy Research Library
  • Tabernacle Choir
  • Joseph Smith Memorial Building Rooftop Observation Deck 
The first thing that I noticed upon entering Temple Square were the beautiful grounds that look like a park. Since I visited in the spring, there were lots of beautiful flowers and a lush landscape. I saw lots of visitors strolling the beautiful grounds, as well as wedding parties posing for pictures. The volunteers and missionaries are all very friendly and welcoming.

The Salt Lake City Temple is the crown jewel of Temple Square. The Temple is very busy during the "wedding season" - especially in June.

As a history buff, I especially enjoyed visiting the Church History Museum. The museum features hundreds of fascinating exhibits that detail the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as the life of Joseph Smith.

In addition to hiking and history, I also love genealogy. Therefore, I found the Genealogy Research Library to be a fun place to explore my family tree. I was able to go as far back as my 4x great-grandparents.

tabernacle choir temple square

The Tabernacle Choir has been performing at historic Temple Square since the 1920s. Each Sunday Morning the Tabernacle Choir performs Music and the Spoken Word. For many years this was a radio broadcasts. However, now, it can be watched live on BYUtv at 9:30 am Mountain Time. In addition to Music and the Spoken Word, the Tabernacle Choir puts on several concerts throughout the year at Temple Square. My personal favorite is the Messiah performance around Easter.

If you are interested in beautiful views of the cityscape and surrounding mountains, then you need check out the rooftop observation deck on the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and rainy when I visited, so I didn't get very good pictures.


Utah State Capitol

utah state capitol building

Downtown Salt Lake City is home to the Utah capitol building. I know that many would consider Temple Square to be the crown jewel of downtown, but I think the Utah capitol is impressive in its own right. After seeing this stunning view at night, I decided to return during the day for a self-guided tour. 

Utah became a state in 1896. However, its capitol wasn't completed until 1916. The building is absolutely magnificent in every way. If you are a history buff, you will enjoy the murals that tell the story of Utah's history. I loved the elegant room in the front that showcased beautiful Victorian-era furnishings and fine china. My favorite thing about the capitol building is the cool rotunda. 

utah capitol rotunda

The interior of the capitol is filled with tall marble pillars that remind me of Greek and Roman architecture. There are several historical placards as well. All in all this was a fun place to visit. Therefore, if you enjoy history and great architecture, you need to check out the Utah state capitol building.

City Creek Center

City Creek Center is a world-class shopping and dining destination in downtown Salt Lake City, just across the street from the south side of Temple Square. The mall is named after a small stream that flows through the city called City Creek. The mall offers shoppers more than 100 stores and restaurants in a cool pedestrian-friendly environment. I loved the beautiful outdoor space that features a stunning water fountains.

City Creek Center Salt Lake City

In short, the next time you find yourself in Salt Lake City, be sure to set a side some time to explore the downtown area on foot. Yes, it's very different from hiking in some of Utah's famous national parks. However, a downtown walking tour still offers good exercise and lots of opportunities to discover hidden gems that can be just as awe-inspiring as canyons and mountain vistas.

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