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Summer Fun

Salt Lake City and County Building

Courtesy of the Utah Office of Tourism- Jerry Sintz

The Salt Lake City and County Building was built in the 19th century and served as the state's Capitol building for a number of years.

Salt Lake is a city at odds with its reputation. Settled by the Latter-day Saints (AKA the Mormons) in 1847, it is the church’s world headquarters, and the iconic LDS Temple Square is at its heart. But, in 2002, Salt Lake City welcomed the world with the Olympic Winter Games, and visitors discovered a vibrant and diverse burg nestled at the foot of the Wasatch Front range.

Those who come to play in Utah’s famous powder are rewarded by Salt Lake’s close proximity to ten of the world’s best ski and snowboard areas. But when winter is over, they’ll also find a city full of unique frontier history, art, culture, excellent dining and, yes, even nightlife. We’ll help you spend a day in Salt Lake sans snow.

Though your eyes may gaze longingly upon the snowcapped peaks above, use your first day to explore Salt Lake City’s downtown and Capitol Hill. The Utah State Capitol (801-538-3000) is looking good after a major renovation in recent years, and it’s an excellent starting spot for an introduction to Utah history. Be sure to look up into the rotunda for a collection of murals depicting important moments in state history. Down the hill on Main Street, visit the LDS Church’s imposing granite Conference Center (801-240-1000). Built in 2001 to house the church’s bi-annual General Conferences, the 20,000-seat center is home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and offers splendid rooftop gardens with an excellent view of the city and adjacent Temple Square—which we’ll save for later.

For lunch, it’s on to Em’s (801-596-0566), a cozy neighborhood spot just off Main Street above the Conference Center. The walls feature work by local artists, and the menu is equally local-centric. Be sure to try the deliciously simple potato pancake appetizer. Opt to bask in the sunshine on the little patio out back.

Head west (two-stop light-rail ride and short walk) to discover a row of antique and vintage shops, galleries and a Utah treasure—Ken Sanders Rare Books (801-521-3819). Sanders, a historian, has amassed an overwhelming collection of Utah ephemera and historical documents along with shelves and shelves of rare and used books.

As the afternoon sun wanes, it’s time to dine—and sushi, yes sushi, is what’s for dinner. Shogun Restaurant (801-519-9595) has a cult-like following among Salt Lakers. He flies his fish in fresh daily and is hard at work behind his bustling sushi bar every night. Don’t miss the TNT Roll with its signature hotter-than-hell sauce and the surprising Strawberry Fields roll—a far-fetched combination of almonds, yellowtail, chili peppers and strawberries. Trust us, it works.

In your rambles, you’ll have no doubt noticed LDS Temple Square (800-537-9703), the town’s literal center (the city’s grid system originates here). During the holiday season, it’s best to wait for sundown to visit, because that’s when a million-plus twinkling lights are set ablaze on the square and its surrounding plazas. Bundle up and get into the spirit of the season.

Spend the night at The Hotel Monaco (877-294-9710), a boutique hotel with a well-deserved reputation for old-world service. Before bed, enjoy a nightcap downstairs at the Bambara Bar (801-363-5454). Try the sugary-rimmed Vintage Park, made with Ketel Citroen vodka, Caprinatura Liquor and fresh lemon.

This article has been adapted from the original, which was published in December 2008 by MSP Communications.

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