Salt Lake City
Sparkling Salt Lake City (SLC), with its bluebird skies and powder-dusted mountains, is Utah's capital city. The only Utah city with an international airport, it still manages to emanate a small-town feel. Downtown is easy to get around and fairly quiet come evening. It's hard to grasp that some 1.2 million people live in the metro area. While it's the Mormon equivalent of Vatican City, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) owns a lot of land, less than half the population are church members. The university and excellent outdoor access have attracted a wide range of residents. A liberal spirit permeates the coffeehouses and yoga classes, where elaborate tattoos are the norm. Foodies find much to love among the multitude of international and organic dining options. And when the trail beckons, it's a scant 45 minutes from the Wasatch Mountains' brilliant hiking and skiing. Friendly people, great food and outdoor adventure – what could be better?
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Salt Lake City.
Rio Tinto Center's stunning architecture forms a multistory indoor 'canyon' that showcases exhibits to great effect. Walk up through the layers as you explore both indigenous peoples' cultures and natural history. Past Worlds paleontological displays are the most impressive – an incredible perspective from beneath, next to and above a vast collection of dinosaur fossils offers the full breadth of prehistory.
A family-friendly museum at Thanksgiving Point that houses one of the world's largest displays of mounted dinosaurs. The exhibits, many of which are hands-on, are arranged chronologically and teach about fossils found all over the world. Little ones can dig for their own bones, search for hidden gnomes within the exhibits and practice paleontology in a Saturday lab (for an additional cost).
Both landscaped and natural gardens cover a lovely 100 acres, with access to 5 miles of trails in the Wasatch foothills. Check online to see who's playing at the popular, outdoor summer concert series also held here. Daylight hours in low season and on concert days.
Kids can help farmhands milk cows and there are also tractor-drawn wagon rides into the wooded back acres at this historic 1898 farm. Tours of the farm house, which contains many artifacts, are by reservation only.
Adjoining Temple Sq, this interactive museum has impressive exhibits of pioneer history and fine art.
Dedicated to the 1847 arrival of the Mormons, this heritage park covers 450 acres. The centerpiece is a living-history village where, June through August, costumed docents depict mid-19th-century life. Admission includes a tourist-train ride and activities. The rest of the year, access is limited to varying degrees at varyingly reduced prices; you'll at least be able to wander around the exterior of some 50 historic homes. Some are replicas, but some are originals, such as Brigham Young's farmhouse.
A 10,000 sq ft glasshouse is the steamy home to dozens of tropical plant species and more than 1000 butterflies, including the iridescent blue morpho and the orange-and-black halloween butterfly. Interactive exhibits help children (and adults) cultivate a greater appreciation for the insect world.
The University of Utah, or 'U of U,' was the site of the Olympic Village in 2002. This small, on-site park has giant panels detailing the games and also contains the 72ft glass torch. A 10-minute, dramatic but heartfelt film booms with artificial fog and sound effects.
You can do more than read a book at this library. Meander past dramatic glass-walled architecture, stroll through the roof garden or stop by the ground-floor shops (covering gardening to comic-book publishing). Many activities for kids are offered here, too.