If you stroll into La Barba, you can pick out green coffee beans and wait for them to be roasted on the spot. While this level of coffee curation sounds indicative of a trendy coffee bar in San Francisco, it’s just another cup of joe being made in Salt Lake City.
And it’s just one of many venues that constitute the city’s eclectic cultural ecosystem that offers a ton of surprises, a world-class theater scene and outdoor experiences that are minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. For another caffeine fix to kick off your day, head to Sugar House Coffee. You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner here – think breakfast bagels or chia pudding in the morning and avocado, bacon and egg toast for dinner. You can listen to live music several evenings a week, including Jazz Jam on Thursdays.
Experience the great outdoors at Memory Grove Park, which is in the city but feels worlds away with its small creek that flows into Harbor of Beauty, a small pond built in memory of fallen U.S. sailors. Dogs are welcome here, and there’s enough green grass and ADA-compliant paths to unwind and listen to the birds. For great views of the city, hike the easy, one-mile round-trip trail to Ensign Peak. It’s here Brigham Young and others looked out over the valley and plotted out what would become Salt Lake City.
At This is the Place Heritage Park, which was the end of the 1,300-mile Mormon Trail, you can dig for gems, pan for gold, go on pony and train rides and explore Navajo hogans, see a medicine wheel and learn more about the five main tribes that live in Utah. The air-conditioned and heated teepee seats 110 guests.
Despite having incredible outdoor experiences minutes away, Salt Lake’s cultural scene rivals its scenery. See Broadway hits like Les Miserables at Hale Centre Theater, which has a modern, 900-seat stage (think arena-like seating) or catch a concert at the larger Eccles Theater. You’ll find live improv and political satire at Off Broadway Theatre.
And then there’s the foodie scene with innovative chefs. Chef Milo Carrier owns Arlo, which opened in 2020 in the Marmalade District a few minutes walk from downtown. Committed to sustainability, he serves locally grown produce and is a whole animal butcher. Chef Cory Harwell serves reimagined comfort food with a refined twist at Carson Kitchen downtown.
Former New York City chef Ryan Lowder owns Copper Common, which offers gourmet farm-to-table food in a completely renovated setting. Head to Pago on Main for a modern bistro experience with vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian options. For a light lunch on the go, head to Central 9th Market, which offers sandwiches and pizza, along with grocery items. In the same neighborhood, dine at Nohm for beautifully prepared Japanese food. It’s right next door to Water Witch, which has a great neighborhood feel and serves craft cocktails but is not above having Miller Lite on tap.
Laurel Brasserie & Bar in the Grand America Hotel offers a gorgeous setting and affordable prices for great food. Don’t miss the lively scene at Beehive Distilling, which is known for its gin but offers creatively crafted cocktails of all spirits and serves locally crafted beers. Actor Ty Burrell, who played the awkward father on ABC’s Modern Family, owns Bar-X, along with Beer Bar next door where chef Viet Pham cooks up house-made bratwursts and Belgian-style fries. Don’t miss the lively scene at Hallpass at the Gateway, Utah’s first food hall, and explore the city’s lively brewery scene by downloading the Salt Lake Brewery Pass at www.visitsaltlake.com/things-to-do/tours-experiences/salt-lake-brewery-tour/.
Despite all the innovation, you can still experience the city’s traditional religious roots — the state was founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Utah is number one in the nation for volunteering, a core value of the Mormon religion, and The FamilySearch Center at Temple Square is still the best place in the world to find out more about your family tree, regardless of your religion.
Don’t miss the four nearby ski areas that offer summer and winter activities. Take the Snowbird Tram up nearly 3,000 feet to Hidden Peak. In Alta, you can sample that light powder Utah is known for and base out of the Snowpine Lodge, a new hot spot that’s home to The Nest, Alta’s first fully stocked game room. In case you’re wondering, that means you’ll find Pac-Man, foosball, pool tables, ping-pong and even karaoke. Choose between standard rooms, luxury suites and even dorm rooms with fancy bunk beds that sleep 2-4.