Skimming Salt Lake City

The snowy mountains were my favorite part of Salt Lake City, which came as absolutely no surprise to me. It was one of the things that lured me there.

I made my first-ever trip to Salt Lake in February mainly because it was the site of a family history conference I wanted to attend. An amateur genealogy buff, I looked forward to the conference but also to getting a look at the city. Most of my time was spent zipping between conference sessions at the spacious Salt Palace Convention Center downtown, but I got a good look at the city, even with limited time. The Salt Palace, Temple Square, the state capitol, and even the downtown shopping area all impressed.

STATE CAPITOL. Utah’s state capitol has a mildly imposing spot at the edge of downtown, approached up the slope of a tree-lined, residential street. Parking is close, free, and in fairly good supply in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Imagine. The day I visited they were having a “legislative day.” I did not ask what it entailed … but it involved the presence of several manned tables in the rotunda. The Capitol also appears popular for engagement photos on the photogenic staircase … The weaving of the LDS church through Utah history is evident by statues displayed prominently in central areas of the Capitol. Walking around the outside gave me a chance to enjoy the crisp winter air and relative serenity of this spot. The snowy mountains that ring the city were in full view from the top of the stairs.

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BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON. I also had in mind a drive through Big Cottonwood Canyon, in search of picturesque scenery I could view mostly from my car. About a half-hour southwest of town, I approached the entrance to the canyon only to be met with a sign that discouraged drivers without chains and snow tires from driving through before April. With a rental car that had neither, I satisfied myself with a look around on the safe side of the sign. The mountains are visible from all around the city. Now confined to city views in Austin most of the time, it was a refreshing change.

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GREAT SALT LAKE. Time was not plentiful enough for drives to nearby tourist towns like Park City, but a drive in the other direction, to the Great Salt Lake, was within my grasp. I was warned of the pungent aroma that sometimes lingers around the lake, and indeed this turned out to be so, but the winter weather may have provided protection from the harsher descriptions I’d heard … It was foggy, giving the lake a mysterious look. A copper mine in the mountainous area that is visible from the lake was an interesting surprise. There was not time for a trip to Antelope Island, where wildlife is supposed to be more abundant, so that remains in the category of “save something for next trip.”

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TEMPLE SQUARE. On my last full day in Salt Lake, I made a return trip to Temple Square, having twirled through briefly on the evening of my arrival. I can only really describe the experience as rather striking. With the exception of the temple, the buildings were open and welcoming to visitors. I went inside the assembly hall and tabernacle, but ran out of time for the large visitor centers on the north and south sides of the square. The temple itself is imposing and photogenic from the outside. Several members of the church were about and engaged me in friendly conversation. One was incredibly helpful in filling me in on the buildings and family history resources. I completed my visit with a quick trip through the Family History Library, disappointed when closing time approached.

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DOWNTOWN. My visit to Salt Lake City was more broad than deep, which is often true on my first-time visits. It helps me know how to spend my time if I get to return. Downtown Salt Lake City was more diverse and lively than I’d anticipated. I’m not sure why I was surprised at the fairly evident but small number of homeless people downtown and couldn’t help but wonder where they went on those cold winter nights. It turns out SLC shares much in common with other cities its size. The UtaTrax system looked like a useful means of transport, though I mostly walked while in the downtown area, which was full of retail shopping and restaurants. On this trip, the “save something for next time” list remained fairly long, but I enjoyed getting my first taste of this lovely city.



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