By CHRISTINA VALHOULI, amNewYork -- Most travelers use Salt Lake City as a hub to reach Utah's ski resorts or one of its national parks, such as Zion or Bryce. But it's worth lingering in SLC as the city has been undergoing a renaissance, thanks to an influx of stylish restaurants and cafes. It's also a mid-century design hot spot. And just in case you were worried you couldn't cool off with a beer -- don't be. Utah has relaxed its drinking laws so you can get a drink pretty much anywhere, and a new crop of distilleries and microbreweries have also opened up. Bottoms up.
WHERE TO GO
Kick off with stroll through the 35-acre Temple Square (50 W. North Temple, 801-531-1000), the headquarters of the Mormon Church. Check out the beautifully landscaped gardens as well as the Tabernacle, which is famous for its acoustics and choir. The temple itself is closed to the public but worth a look from the outside, and the visitor center has a model of the interior. For another outdoor excursion, dip your toes in the Great Salt Lake, which is about 20 minutes from downtown.
Looking to exercise your left brain? Head to the Leonardo Museum ($9.95 adults, $8.95 seniors, $7.95 ages 12-17 and students, $6.95 ages 6-11, free ages 5 and under; 209 E. 500 South, 801-531-9800). Refuel or grab a glass of wine in the Salt Café before checking out the science- and engineering-themed exhibits.
Unleash your inner paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah ($13 adults, $11 seniors and ages 13-24, $9 ages 3-12, free ages 2 and under; 301 Wakara Way, 801-581-4303), which is housed in a modernist building clad in sheets of local copper. Don't miss the dinosaur fossil collection -- it's extraordinary.
More design inclined? Browse the midcentury furniture collection at Tomorrow's House (177 E. 300 South, 385-222-5373).
WHERE TO EAT
Kick off your day with a strong coffee and a flatbread topped with baked eggs and gruyere cheese at boulangerie Eva's Bakery (15 S. Main St., 801-355-3942). For a hearty lunch, pop into the Copper Onion (11 E. Broadway, 801-355-3282) for a cast-iron chicken and kale salad, washed down with an Aperol Spritz. Get a cup of coffee at Publik (975 West Temple, 801-355-3161), which roasts and grinds its own beans. Wrap up at the Uinta Brewhouse Pub (1722 S. Fremont Drive, 801-467-0909) and sample a Detour Double IPA or Hoodoo Ale.
WHERE TO STAY
For a stylish stay, head to the Hotel Monaco (rates start at $128; 15 W. 200 South, 801-595-0000), located in the heart of downtown, so it's walking distance to Temple Square, City Creek shopping and the Leonardo Museum. The hotel was originally built in 1924 as a bank, and some of original features remain, such as vault doors and teller windows. Don't miss dinner at Bambara, the in-house restaurant which is consistently ranked one of the top in the city. Kick off with Hawaiian ahi tuna tartare before tucking into berry-glazed South Carolina quail.