This is the last post in a seven part series about a trip we took through six national parks and other destinations in Arizona and Utah over Labor Day week in September.
After our day exploring Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point, we drove north from Moab about 4 hours to Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was a logical place to end our trip, since its major airport offered an easy way home. But it also had many interesting and beautiful attractions, including the Mormon Temple, amazing museums and gardens, and cool places to eat and shop. We spent a day and a half in the city over the weekend, which was just about the right amount of time for us. Rather than structure our visit into an itinerary, we’ve just listed a few of the highlights from our visit which you can mix and match depending on how much time you have in the area!
Front and center in Salt Lake City is Temple Square, a marvel of architecture constructed by the Mormons, and it is most worthy of a visit. We spent the better part of the day on Saturday in this area. Parking in various garages near Temple Square can be free or relatively inexpensive, although free days are not terribly well-signed.
We learned a bit more about the history and organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as we walked around different parts of the grounds. During our visit, we got views of the temple during the day and at night (the view from the fountain on State Street is especially impressive). We also took a guided tour of the conference center, as it is the only way to get a view of the city from the rooftop garden there. On many days, there is free musical programming: during our visit, we attended a free piano concert in the beautiful assembly hall. Although we didn’t have a chance to visit, the church also has a museum and a family search center with many genealogical resources.
Red Butte Gardens and the Natural History Museum of Utah
If the weather is nice, Red Butte Gardens on the University of Utah campus is an absolutely beautiful botanical garden. Admission is $12 per adult. There are many areas to sit and relax with a book or magazine, so we spent the better part of Sunday morning here after we checked out from our hotel. The colors and scent of the blooming flowers in the garden was phenomenal!
Right next to the garden is the Natural History Museum of Utah. Admission is $15 per adult. The exhibits at this museum are world class; with the number of important paleontological and anthropological digs in Utah, the museum owns some unique and diverse pieces, from their collection of dinosaur fossils to the gem and mineral collection to exhibits on the cultures of the native peoples of the region. This was the last place we visited before heading out to Salt Lake City airport to catch our plane, but you could really spend multiple days here taking a deep dive into the natural history of the region.
Where to Eat and Shop
If you are in Salt Lake City on a Saturday in the summer or early fall, you should definitely check out the Salt Lake City Farmer’s Market in Pioneer Park. It is absolutely enormous, with food trucks, fresh produce, flowers, and lots of locally made goods. We arrived at the market after our drive from Moab, and it was the perfect spot for lunch.
We had good luck with the food and shopping in the 9th and 9th district, at the corner of 900S and 900E. The pizza at Pizza Nono was awesome, and there were several interesting shops with artisanal goods in the area.
The Salt Lake City Public Library, in addition to being an beautiful architectural site, has many cool stores in the lobby. We tried to walk over from Temple Square, but the library is actually pretty far, so we’d recommend driving instead. The library also has a rooftop garden, but it was closed on the day we visited because of a festival on the grounds. To get there, we’ve heard that you can take the elevator up to the roof in the main building, and then you can walk down the outside staircase back to the central plaza.
Finally, we also found a great place for ice cream and delicious chocolate gifts at Hatch Family Chocolates in the “Avenues” district in the northeast of the city. You’ll find this shop smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood, around the corner from some homes and down the street from a hospital. As such, the vibe is very chill, and the line was not at all long at 8pm on a Saturday night.
The brownie sundae here was out of control. We had it with coffee ice cream, and it was very decadent. The hot fudge and caramel sauces were excellent, and the scoop of whipped cream on top was a nice touch. We also took home some chocolates. The Marzipan and penuche chocolates were rich and tasty and made a great gift to bring home from the city!
Side note: many cities in Utah are numbered on a grid. Major streets have names in the hundreds, and the cardinal direction gives you some indication of where the street is relative to a center or main street. For example, 900E runs north-south, 9 major streets east of Main Street. 900S runs east-west, 9 major streets south of Temple Street. The intersection of these two street is called by the shorthand “9th and 9th.”
Where to Stay
If you plan to stay in Salt Lake City, we would strongly recommend the University Guest House on the University of Utah campus. It has all the amenities of an upscale hotel or extended stay hotel at a very reasonable price (including a fridge, microwave, Keurig coffee maker, and free breakfast). The guest house is also only about a 15 minute drive from Temple Square and the rest of downtown, and it is walking distance to the Utah Museum of Natural History and the Red Butte Gardens.
That concludes the log of our exciting trip exploring the public lands of Arizona and Utah! We’d love to hear stories from all of your trips, as well as advice on where else to visit in the area. Please feel free to leave comments on any of our posts or send us a note. Until next time!