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Surprising Salt Lake City

Published: 06/30/2010
I didn't expect to find a world-class micro¬brewery in Salt Lake City. But, since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the city has finally loosened liquor licensing laws and filled new concert venues with big names to establish itself as an adventure playground.

In June of 2009, home brewing was legalized in Salt Lake City. The result is a population (many of whom have been passionate home brewers for years) with an affinity for brewpubs like Squatters.

My tour guide, Shawn Stinson, explains that Salt Lake City is an important site for the Mormon Church.

We are biking to Emigration Canyon, the place where, in 1847, prophet and pioneer Brigham Young looked upon the valley and founded Salt Lake City in the name of the Latter-day Saints Church.

It's an impressive vista: Cradled between the snowcapped Wasatch and Oquirrh Mountains, the city's location resembles a margarita glass dipped in salt. The wide streets and flat terrain make it perfect for cycling and, as we pedal through the foothills and university campus, new and more beautiful views are revealed at every turn.

Watching the city from lofty heights is a favorite local pastime - Especially from Lake Bonneville Shoreline Trail, which marks a million-year-old high tide and is a popular route for joggers and mountain bikers. It meanders past Red Butte Gardens, an outdoor concert venue where Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow and comedian Steve Martin will perform this summer. Even the animals at the nearby Hogle Zoo get a view worthy of the city's founders.


I return to The Grand America Hotel and soothe my exercise-induced aches away in the tub.

Local oil tycoon Earl Holding spared no expense when he built the hotel, considering it an Olympic gift to his hometown. He became so carried away with Murano glass chandeliers, 17th-century tapestries and Louis XVI clocks, that his extravagant style (and some surplus furnishings) overflowed to his chain of Little America truck stops.

After a sumptuous dinner, I settle in by the open fire for a five-course dessert (yes, really) then roll into bed.

I'm up early to meet Nick Teynor, my guide from Western Rivers Flyfishers.

"The Lower and Middle Provo Rivers have 5,000 trout per mile, and it's just 20 minutes from town," he explains as he carefully chooses flies.

My success seems assured. Mr. Teynor has been fishing since he could hold a rod. As we don waders and forge the river, he regales me with how Salt Lake City has changed.

"Just seven years ago, I used to fish in the center of town. In City Creek there was this wily old trout called Ted who lived in a half-submerged shopping cart. It was decorated with the tangled lures from all the fishermen who tried to catch him," he says.

We catch half a dozen brown trout and release them to become old and revered like Ted.

The next morning, I head to Snowbird, a ski resort 15 minutes from town. From the gondola, I see wildflowers are already blooming. A family of hikers draws silhouettes along the ridge. Come late September, the mountains will echo with the sound of alpine horns and yodeling competitions during the month-long Octoberfest.

On my final night in Salt Lake City, I am torn between the highbrow entertainment of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir - who conduct free concerts every Thursday and Saturday - and something else.

I choose the something else. Brewvies (a cinema and brewpub combo) may not be the most sophisticated establishment in town, but they are certainly among the most enjoyable.
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