By Marit Fischer, Wild Blue Yonder -- There's no better way to spend wintry days than in Utah's famous snow-covered playground, the Wasatch Mountains, and in the city at the heart of it all.
Make yourself cozy at Hotel Monaco, located in a bank building that claims to be home to the world's first drive-through teller (15 W 200 S, 800-805-1801). Two blocks from the Utah State Capitol sits the Inn on the Hill, a stately turn-of-the-century (the previous one) mansion turned B&B with gorgeous rooms and breathtaking views (225 N State St, 801-328-1466).
Pat's Barbecue serves up the best dry rub in Salt Lake and, Thursday through Saturday evenings, some of the top blues acts in the country (155 W Commonwealth Ave, 801-484-5963). Settle in to the homey warmth of Sage's Café and its tasty menu of organic vegetarian cuisine (473 E 300 S, 801-322-3790). Load up for a day in the mountains at the Blue Plate Diner, but go early to beat the long line of locals (2041 S 2100 E, 801-463-1151).
Step up to the ice-topped bar at the Beerhive Pub to order from the impressive selection of imported and domestic beers and a full menu of German pub fare (128 S Main St, 801-364-4268). If you prefer cocktails in dimly lit intimacy, spend late night at the Red Door (57 W 200 S, 801-363-6030). A cornerstone of Salt Lake's music scene is Kilby Court, a bare bones but hip all-ages venue where you can catch national and local bands performing nightly (741 S Kilby Ct, 801-364-3538).
Temple Square puts on a spectacular Christmas lights display from the day after Thanksgiving through the end of the year (15 E South Temple, 801-539-3100). The famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearses every Thursday night, visitors welcome. In December, the choir rehearses in the larger Conference Center across the street from the square (50 NW Temple, 801-240-4150).
Learn why Utah claims the Greatest Snow on Earth at one of the world-class ski resorts within an hour's drive of the city (go to www.skiutah.com). Brighton is an international snowboard destination. Skiers have Deer Valley and Alta all to themselves. For sheer vertical and the best chance to spot a pro, Snowbird's the place. Families will love Park City Mountain Resort, and The Canyons, Utah's largest resort, with 300 acres of new terrain