By, Forbes Travel Guide Correspnodent Stephanie Nitsch

Since stepping into the limelight during the 2002 Winter Olympics, Salt Lake City has experienced a renaissance and shows no signs of returning to its humble pioneer past. While visitors continue to flock to this area for the notoriously stellar skiing and snowboarding, the city’s evolving vibe has started to attract more cultural aficionados and foodies. In recent years, the welcome addition of several hundred independent businesses have helped each of Salt Lake’s neighborhoods transform into micro-communities that boast flavorful character and soul. But few other districts carry that dynamic spirit quite like the new downtown Salt Lake City.

As recipient of the 2013 Salt Lake Magazine Dining Awards for Best New Restaurant, Vivace already has plenty of clout behind its delectable cuisine; the Italian hot spot is a sister restaurant to Cucina Toscana, a beloved trattoria of heirloom recipes. Vivace prepares each dish with the same show and design as its predecessor, yet infuses brand-new energy into already stunning plates of al dente pastas, grilled meats and tender vegetables. If innovation is the defining characteristic of Salt Lake’s renaissance, The Leonardo is the epitome of downtown culture. Dozens of interactive exhibits explore art, technology, discoveries and big ideas — perfect activities for both kids and adults.

Though its one-year anniversary is already approaching in March, City Creek Center continues to shine as one of the largest multi-use developments in the country. You might not guess by its retractable roof, synchronized water displays and more than 100 stores and restaurants —Tiffany & Co., Coach and Porsche Design included — that the shopping district has been granted a Silver LEED Certification. Named in honor of the mountain stream that once supplied Utah’s first pioneers with a glacial water source, the exuberant City Creek Center quenches a thirst of a different kind.

Salt Lake City has a number of vibrant performance venues, such as Capitol Theatre, Abravanel Hall and Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, but the state-of-the-art Utah Performing Arts Center — slated for a 2016 opening — will bring Broadway-scale theatrics to the heart of downtown. The proposed Utah Film and Media Center will also complement the growing arts community with a facility that provides education, exhibits and entertainment within the film industry.

A novel bike share program, set to launch this March, will enable residents and visitors to make full use of Salt Lake’s extra-wide streets and navigable city blocks. Nearly 100 urban-friendly bicycles will be available at 10 docking stations throughout the city, letting recreational cyclists pedal their way around town in lieu of sitting in traffic.