By Elspeth Callender, The Sydney Morning Herald

In the last two years the city's restaurant scene has taken off, with more than 35 new restaurants opening. Standouts include the Copper Onion, Pallet, Eva's and Forage, though don't overlook old favourites like Bambara Bistro. It's not just the inspired menu and classic booth-style seating that makes Bambara enduringly fabulous, but waiters who pride themselves on doing what they do so well as a serious career ( For something more quick and casual try Squatters, Sette Bello, Pie Hole or Frida Bistro.

It's only natural that deep-seated conservatism in some people brings out the complete rebel in others, so Salt Lake City footpaths carry an almost equal ratio of ripped jeans and multiple body piercings to white short-sleeved shirts and name tags. Everyone else falls somewhere in between, but you'll find concentrated pockets of extreme diversity at markets and festivals. Being out west means you're also likely to see the odd cowboy loping around town.

The Mormon Church recently reached into its back pocket for a billion bucks or so to replace the two former downtown malls - described by locals as being "like prisons: dark and enclosed" - and replaced them with the City Creek Centre and Harmons Grocer. Along with the shops, dining and off-street parking of any modern mall, City Creek is refreshingly open air with a fish-filled pseudo-stream running through it to simulate the original creek that flowed from City Creek Canyon.

Local breweries have taken to satirising the fundamentalist Mormon image as a marketing angle. Squatters have a Provo Girl Pilsner (the world's largest Mormon missionary training centre is in the nearby city of Provo) while Wasatch produces Polygamy Porter with merchandise that reads: "I tried Polygamy in Utah". Apparently the T-shirts sometimes outsell the beer.

Salt Lake's city blocks are bigger than average - walk five and you've covered a kilometre - so increased incidental exercise is a way of life. Give the recently launched bike share program a whirl, designed for "short trips in the city by people wearing regular clothes and carrying ordinary stuff" as the GREENbike website explains ( Walk up Ensign Peak from where the city's founder, Brigham Young, and other pioneers surveyed the valley back in 1847. Today it offers the best view over Salt Lake without leaving the city limits.

The Leonardo is a contemporary museum that combines science, art and technology in a way that is fun, interactive and exciting. The museum also offers a surprisingly broad selection of programs, classes and workshops. Leo Libations: Wine and Food Pairings happens on the first Thursday of every month and the Leo also hosts a monthly Salt Lake Gallery Stroll.

The Natural History Museum of Utah wishes to engage all your senses. Sit in the round and listen to the voices of the Navajo people, handle genuine specimens in the palaeontology hall, or walk a Perspex path over ancient bones lying in the configuration they were discovered in. Art and artefacts merge seamlessly in the museum's three-storey collections wall.