Originally posted on https://www.cntraveler.com/story/weekend-guide-salt-lake-city
By Jeremy Pugh
Thanks to an influx of relocating professionals and a higher-than-average birth rate, Utah ranks as America’s youngest state. That youthful energy is shaking up the reputation of Salt Lake City, a capital that had long been dismissed as sleepy and old-fashioned. Urban-centric, green-thinking locals are reinvigorating once derelict industrial neighborhoods, while outdoorsy transplants are moving in to take advantage of the city’s enviable position minutes from the mountains. And last year, Salt Lake City International Airport unveiled a totally rebuilt terminal. Part of a $4 billion redevelopment program, it’s the nation’s first major hub replacement of the 21st century. Here’s how to spend a weekend in the new Salt Lake.
Wake up at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, which occupies the 1923 Continental Bank Building and is ideally situated downtown. Start with a short walk to Eva’s Bakery for coffee and a selection of French pastries.
To experience just how close Salt Lake City is to the great outdoors, lace up your hiking shoes and head uphill to the Utah State Capitol building. After a spin through the rotunda to marvel at its historic murals and a bronze statue of TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth, drop in to the adjacent Memory Grove Park, filled with monuments to Utah’s veterans. The park is also the gateway to City Creek Canyon, which maintains its relative wilderness as a means of protecting the precious water that flows through this semi-arid region. Hike up the canyon’s paved trail, where you might encounter deer, hunting hawks, and even a rare moose or lynx.
Back in town, grab a bite at Laziz Kitchen, a modern Lebanese café that sometimes hosts drag brunches. Taste your way through James Beard Award semifinalist Moudi Sbiety’s small plates, such as muhammara, falafel, and salmon ceviche.
In the afternoon, explore the emerging Granary District, built around the warehouses and silos that held the grain the early settlers grew in the surrounding valley. Pick up a Judy (an orange-flavored cookie topped with cream cheese frosting) at RubySnap cookies, with its Rosie the Riveter vibe and cookies named after the creator’s heroines, both real and fictitious.
For dinner, make a reservation at SLC Eatery, where a nondescript façade hides delights like Kurobuta pork shank with pumpkin-seed-based pipián sauce and a rolling dim sum–like cart loaded with appetizers. Close out the day with drinks at Water Witch—the boozy anchor of the Granary District and home to Salt Lake’s most fastidious bar crew. Name your spirit, and the Witchers behind the bar will come up with a custom tipple.
Today, head to the eastern foothills above the University of Utah and explore two of Salt Lake’s smaller canyons. Take a 20-minute drive into Emigration Canyon for breakfast on the tree-shaded patio at Ruth’s Diner, with the sounds of the babbling Emigration Creek in the background. Order Ruth’s “famous mile high” biscuits with house-made jam, and then walk them off at Red Butte Garden, a sprawling park known for its native plants.
Venture into Millcreek Canyon for lunch on the patio at Log Haven. Chef Dave Jones and his team pair a thoughtful selection of wines and creative cocktails with a game-focused menu that includes grilled elk New York strip steak.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the Natural History Museum of Utah. Start on the museum’s top floor and work your way down, wandering through the prehistory of the Great Salt Lake Valley to reveal the big payoff: one of the West’s most extensive collections of dinosaur fossils. If bones aren’t your thing, consider the Utah Museum of Fine Arts instead, where rotating exhibits include this spring’s “Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem,” featuring Black artists from the 1920s to today.
For dinner, visit Andrew and Angelena Fuller’s homey restaurant Oquirrh (pronounced “oaker”), named for the mountain range on the valley’s western edge. Chef Andrew serves seasonal comfort classics, like roasted multicolored carrots standing vertically in a spicy carrot puree or the must-try confit chicken pot pie.
You can’t visit SLC without an expedition to its eponym, the Great Salt Lake. Sometimes referred to as America’s Dead Sea, the lake is 10 times saltier than the ocean, which famously makes it easy to float in. Drive north into the city’s industrial outskirts to fuel up with huevos rancheros at the Garage on Beck, which looks as if Mad Max opened a roadhouse-style bar.
Keep heading north to Antelope Island State Park, which is set on the largest of the lake’s keys and is home to pronghorns and a herd of reintroduced bison. Drive the island’s loop road, but leave time to make shoreline stops to see the otherworldly landscape of Utah’s salty sea.
Back downtown, kick back with a pint and a sampling of local sausages (elk bratwurst, chipotle buffalo) at Beer Bar, which was cofounded by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell. From here, embark on a bar crawl of the city’s various watering holes including Alibi for excellent cocktails and works by local artists Dan Cassaro and Dan Christofferson, or Quarters for arcade games and video-game-themed cocktails.
You’re within stumbling distance of dinner at Eva, a little bistro featuring small plates—lollipop lamb chops, vinegary brussels sprouts—built for sharing. Finish the night with absinthe at The Rest, a speakeasy hidden under the street-level bar Bodega. In the past you might’ve said this bar “feels like Brooklyn,” but as SLC changes and grows, the need for those clichéd comparisons is fast fading away.
Visit Salt Lake is a private, non-profit corporation responsible for the promotion of Salt Lake as a convention and travel destination. In partnership with Salt Lake County, Visit Salt Lake improves the area economy by attracting and providing support to conventions, leisure travelers and visitors with a strong commitment to sustainability and stewardship of the area’s natural environment. Through its sales and marketing programs, Visit Salt Lake’s impact on Salt Lake’s annual $4.5 billion visitor economy equates to $1,166 in tax relief for each household within Salt Lake County. For more information on all that Salt Lake has to offer, go to www.VisitSaltLake.com.