A Locals Guide to Salt Lake City Utah

In July of 1847, the weary pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley which was to be a safe haven. They were met by a huge desert, a lake of salt and one tree on the valley floor. The growing season was well underway but they began planting their crops for the coming winter. In time, they transformed their formidable desert into an oasis.

No matter the season or the time you have available, you will find something of interest in Salt Lake City, headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). Hiking and picnicking in the nearby canyons are favorite activities in late spring, summer and early fall. Many hotels are available at various price ranges. Though the downtown renovation is not scheduled to be completed until 2011, there are many fine places to dine. Shopping at the outdoor Gateway Mall is a fun diversion. Plays, concerts and other cultural events are offered all year, some of them at no cost. Temple Square is transformed into a magical fairyland of miniature lights during the Christmas season.

At the very center of the City is Temple Square-a treasure trove of history. The main building for which the block was named is the Mormon Temple. Granite was quarried from Little Cottonwood Canyon, 20 miles southeast of the city and then hauled by teams of oxen and wagons to the building site, a journey of four days. Sometimes only one large stone could be hauled per wagon. No wonder it took the settlers 40 years to complete the temple! There are no tours inside the temple.

Next to the temple stands the Salt Lake Tabernacle. It is an acoustical marvel-a pin dropped at the pulpit can be heard 170 feet away at the back. The dome-shaped building was originally designed by a bridge builder. His technique made it possible for the early settlers to span the roof of 150 feet without center supports.

The magnificent organ inside the Tabernacle, considered one of the finest in the world, has 11,623 pipes and is still in use today. The main purpose of the organ is to accompany the Tabernacle Choir. It was originally powered by hand-pumped bellows, later by water and then converted to electrical power. Each day organ recitals are performed free to the public at 12:00 noon and also at 2:00 PM on Sunday. In the summertime they are performed at 12:00 noon and 2:00 PM every day. Meetings and concerts are still held in this historic building.

The Tabernacle is home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The 360 volunteer members rehearse on most Thursday evenings from 8:00 to 9:30 PM. There is no charge to attend and you are free to come and go as needed. The Choir performs each Sunday for a weekly television broadcast “Music and the Spoken Word.” The public is welcome to attend free of charge. You are asked to be in your seat by 9:15 AM and remain until the conclusion at 10:00 AM. I am a fan and have a few of the 150 albums they have released, but nothing can compare to attending a live broadcast, sometimes accompanied by the Symphony.

The Assembly Hall, located next to the Tabernacle is a charming gothic-style building with lovely stained glass windows. Every Friday and Saturday evening an hour-long concert featuring international and local artists is held. Tickets are not required.

Since we are a country of immigrants, researching family history is one of the most popular hobbies in the world today. If you want to learn more about your ancestors, you have come to the right place. The Family History Center is located just across the street to the west of Temple Square and is available to everyone free of charge. The guides and genealogists inside are available and happy to help you learn more about your ancestors-where they came from and when. There are 2 million rolls of microfilmed records available. The only charge to you is for copies of documents you make while there.

Step back into the 1800’s and visit Brigham Young’s old home on South Temple and State Street, known as the Beehive House. The tour is free and lasts about 30 minutes. The home was built in 1854 when Young was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and governor of Utah Territory.

In 2002, Salt Lake City was host to the Winter Olympic Games. You can visit the Utah Olympic Oval, which was built to host the speed skating competition, at 5662 So. 4800 West (Cougar Lane). It is about 25 minutes from downtown and gained the reputation for the “Fastest Ice on Earth.” Skates, helmets and other equipment are available to rent for a nominal fee. The Oval also serves as a multi-purpose recreational facility with recreational gyms, weight facilities, running track and swimming pools. For more information on upcoming events, prices or what is available, visit olyparks.com.

The Great Salt Lake, for which Salt Lake City was named, is 15 miles west of the city. It is the largest body of water west of the Mississippi River, covering 2,000 square miles. There are no outlets for this lake, resulting in water that is six times saltier than the ocean and second only to the Dead Sea. Hundreds of years ago it was part of a massive lake known as Lake Bonneville, which covered 20,000 acres and extended into parts of Idaho and Nevada. The Great Salt Lake is accessible by taking I-80 west to the Saltair Exit. Take a left at the Saltair building and drive west along the access road for 2-3 miles. You will come to the beautiful Saltair Marina where over 300 sailboat owners have slips. The massive lake is beautiful and if you are there in the late afternoon, you will see incredible sunsets.

I love Salt Lake City and the history here. I moved away for a few years but I’m glad to be back and to share these items of interest with you.