To say Salt Lake has changed in the past five years is an understatement. Side streets once filled with shuttered windows are now bursting with diverse shops run by local foodies, athletes, artists, and entrepreneurs who embody the pioneer spirit of making something special from scratch. Whether you need to stretch your legs after a long day of conferencing, want a burst of energy before networking, or are looking for something to take home to your loved ones, we’ve got you covered with our top picks for “doing” in downtown.
Get Caffeinated (and Satiated)
Think it’s impossible to get buzzed in Salt Lake? Our city is home to a number of passionate coffee roasters and shops, including places where accompanying food options are as good as the drinks. In addition to coffee brewed to order, The Rose Establishment features a menu of seasonal items plucked from the nearby downtown farmer’s market along with pastries that often look (almost) too good to eat. Up—or down—the street, La Barba’s two locations serve Fair Trade, Direct Trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees that are both ethically sourced and delicious. Musician-run Three Pines Coffee is a compact shop where vinyl records share space with specialty coffee beans wrapped in beautiful packaging. Everything tucked into the small quarters is artful and full of heart. The same can be said for The Day Room, a sister cafe to the adjacent Em’s Restaurant, which puts a playful spin on breakfast standards. Campos is another ideal spot for morning meetings. Utah is the only place outside of Australia where you can frequent the upscale cafe. This is the place to grab a meat pie with Vegemite or bircher muesli with your single origin cold brew or Tim Tam milkshake.
It’s hard to miss the City Creek Mall but don’t miss a chance to visit less-trafficked shopping districts where you’ll find pockets of small businesses selling handmade clothing and jewelry, vintage paperbacks and unique home furnishings. On Broadway, collectable and vintage reads at Ken Sanders Rare Books, mid-century furniture gems at The Green Ant, a selection of used and new “thoughtfully curated” clothing (largely from independent, woman-owned makers), ‘zines, and household items at Fellow Shop. On Pierpont, purchase a gift for someone back home (or for yourself) at Atelier, a studio and store shared by Innerspacism, Desert Rose Jewelry, Maeberry Vintage, and 30+ independent artists.
Yes, Utah is, by and large, a conservative state. But for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. In this case—dozens of tattoo shops within a five-mile radius of Temple Square. Check out their portfolios before your visit to pick one that really matches your style and interests. Start with the following spots, located within walking, bike and scooter distance of the Salt Palace: Sweetneedles, Lost Art Tattoo, Mercy Tattoo and Lonely Hearts Club Tattoo. For something completely different, check out the newest kid on the block, Everybody Tattoo, which aims to be an inclusive, welcoming space for, well, everybody. Owner Gheybin Cornish eschews the traditional apprenticeship path, instead recruiting visual artists who are interested in expanding their talents to the living, breathing human palate.
It’s not hard to get active in Utah. The Salt Lake valley is surrounded by mountains with world-class skiing, hiking, biking, and running trails that are perfect for a quick walk or day-long outing. City Creek Canyon is the closest destination for downtown visitors and residents. No car required. If you prefer more direction (or weather gets in the way), there are several group fitness studios nearby, including locally owned Salt Lake Power Yoga, Torrent Cycle, Rebel House and Peak 45.
Get a Drink
Again, claims that you can’t enjoy alcohol in Utah are greatly exaggerated. Take natural wine, for example. Savvy sommeliers and local importers like Flora Fauna keep State Wine Stores, select restaurants and bars, well stocked with specialty bottles featured in the likes of Bon Appetit. Enjoy glasses of white, red, rose, at BTG Wine Bar or HSL, where you just might discover your new favorite bottle. Salt Lake is also home to a number of talented craft brewers, including veteran trailblazers, Squatters and Red Rock. For craft cocktails, don’t miss Alibi, Bar X, Bodega and Under Current. In the mood for a mellow room where everyone knows your name (but will gladly ignore you, if that’s preferable)? Find a dark corner at Junior’s or Cheers to You. For something more lively, drink and score at Quarters Arcade Bar, where you can enjoy a cocktail while playing pinball and classic arcade games like Street Fighter.
Grab a Bite
Whether you’re dining solo or entertaining clients, there’s something for every price range, dress code, and palate. Vegan or vegan curious? Boltcutter removes the stigma of meat-free dining with flavors that transcend preconceived notions of what a plant-based diet tastes like. Get the jackfruit nachos and a margarita. For sushi cravings, you can’t go wrong at Takashi where Peruvian-influenced sashimi and rolls reign supreme. Just be prepared to wait. Grab a drink and a bite and sister restaurant, Post Office Place. Walk half a block to share tapas at Eva, or round the corner to get your doner on at fast-casual favorite, Spitz, which stays open until midnight on weekends. Nearby Regent Street is also home to several new restaurants which are especially great for lunch, including, Pretty Bird Chicken, Maize Tacos, Honest Eatery, and Fireside on Regent.
See a Live Show (or Star In Your Own)
Treat yourself with a night out at the Eccles Theater, a stately venue built as a roadhouse for touring Broadway musicals, concerts, comedians, dance and live kids shows (Baby Shark, anyone). Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center is another ideal spot for dance and theater fans. Hit Wiseguys Comedy for big laughs from touring stage comics, including recent headliners Emo Philips, Nikki Glaser and Adam Corolla. For something unexpected, check out the newly enhanced Gateway Mall, which is amping up efforts to connect with the community. Here, you’ll find everything from Goat Yoga (yes) to local beer, wine, and food festivals. Every third Friday of each month, downtown art galleries open their doors after hours for the public to meet artists and learn about their work. You can also see work from local and global artists most days at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art and Urban Arts Gallery.
If you’re in the mood for live music, you can’t go wrong at Urban Lounge, where rock, punk, metal, and folk artists perform in an intimate setting. On Wednesday and Sunday nights, Twilite Lounge welcomes Dave Payne’s Doom Lounge Nights when ensembles (no solo acts) featuring at least one female artist perform music that is “engaging” but quiet enough to talk over. Want to take center stage? Sing your heart out at Tokai Sushi’s private karaoke rooms or at The Tavernacle where vocalists test their skills in front of an audience to the tune of live dueling pianos.