Call us biased, but downtown Salt Lake is one of our favorite places to be. And if you’re headed this way for a convention or conference, you’re in luck—here, we’ll play virtual tour guide and offer the best ways to spend all the time you’re about to block out from meetings and seminars. So grab a colleague and clear some time. Your to-do list is about to get packed.
Have a beersy happy hour.
Utah may have had a pretty dry reputation once upon a time, but in recent years, more relaxed legislation has allowed a proliferation of breweries in and around Salt Lake. As of this publishing, there are over a dozen excellent breweries within city limits, and many more in the surrounding metropolitan area. There are several must-try breweries within a five-minute walk or five-minute Uber of the convention district, including established favorites like Squatters and Red Rock Brewing, plus incredible newcomers who have set up shop in the last few years including Fisher, Kiitos, Bewilder, Toasted Barrel, Proper on Main, RoHa, T.F. Brewing, and Shades Brewing. You can even snap up a Salt Lake Brewery Tour mobile pass here and get a discount at about a dozen local breweries.
Catch a concert.
Downtown Salt Lake and the immediate surrounding areas boast some excellent concert venues, including The Depot, a hip two-story venue just a few blocks away from the Salt Palace Convention Center. You can catch a bona fide Broadway show at the stunning Eccles Theatre, or a big-headliner rock concert.The beloved State Room sits five minutes down State Street and hosts a huge array of performers in a fairly intimate setting. The more offbeat Metro Music Hall a few blocks away hosts frequent concerts and unparalleled drag shows. You can even watch dueling pianos over beers at The Tavernacle (which is just as fun as it sounds, plus 75% more).
Have a laugh.
Look no further than Wiseguys, a favorite comedy club on the southern end of the Gateway area—just a hop and a skip from the convention center. They pack their calendar with the top comedy names in the country, and they feature regular Open Mic nights too for the upstart crowd.
Shop local, shop vintage, shop boutique, shop unique.
The convention district sits right between two standout malls—City Creek Center and The Gateway, both of which feature an array of upscale and well-known brands. You can also spend hours wandering the unique, local, and consignment shops and boutiques around the downtown area. Check out the clothes and accessories at Embers, The Fellow Shop, Decades, FICE, Maeberry Vintage, Tailor Cooperative, and Gypsy Soul. Lose yourself amid the funky-cheeky selection of antiques at Jitterbug, and pick out an adult-beverage-themed souvenir at The Boozetique.
Learn something new.
The acclaimed Leonardo Museum next to the downtown city library has ongoing exhibits that explore the intersection of science, nature, and creativity. There’s always something fascinating to check out in this artful space. And, over at the Gateway, the Clark Planetarium is an absolute delight for adults as much as it is for kids. Check out the evening show schedule for their domed theater, IMAX 3-D theater, or their Cosmic Light shows.
Take a cocktail tour of the city.
You might want to space this one out over a few nights, because there are too many fantastic places to get a one-of-a-kind cocktail or glass of wine in the downtown area … but what a delicious challenge. Try Copper Common for an intimate atmosphere, Undercurrent for its hip vibe, Bar X for a prohibition-era feel, Lake Effect for oversized booths and tacos on the menu, Purgatory for the best lawn-game patio ever, The Rest for a legit hidden speakeasy, BTG Wine Bar for a heavenly trove of wines, and Punch Bowl Social for throwback-era games.
Savor a bite.
Salt Lake’s lively food scene is ever-expanding, but we can narrow down the list of superfavorites by recommending just the places within a few blocks of the convention center. Martine is a classic, tucked into one of Salt Lake’s oldest buildings, offering a to-die-for tapas menu. Pallet’s one-of-a-kind decor is reason enough to visit—let alone its brilliant new American bistro fare. Eva pairs deluxe small plates with tasty cocktails and a super-hip back patio. And Settebello serves the best pizza in the city, hands-down.
Experience Utah's Heritage.
Hey, if you don’t come to Salt Lake every day, you should check off one of the town’s big tourist to-do’s: visit Temple Square and its environs. The square itself, and the adjacent Mormon church headquarters, are impeccably landscaped. The Temple, the city’s architectural headliner, is a pretty impressive feat of pioneer determination. The city’s first settlers spent four decades chiseling rock from a canyon 20 miles away, dragging it to their newly appointed downtown center, and constructing an elaborate temple edifice of perfectly stacked granite blocks. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Family History Museum, a church-sponsored mecca for genealogy. You can look up your own ancestral roots while you’re there.
Embrace your artsy side.
There are several galleries worth checking out in the downtown area—in fact, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art sits adjacent to the Salt Palace Convention Center and makes a soothing stop during an otherwise bustling conference day. The Rio Gallery in the historic Rio Grande train building is also fantastic and always worth exploring. You should also stop into the Hope Fine Art Gallery on Main Street or browse the Gallery at Library Square.
Take to the trails.
A stunning mountain range encircles the Salt Lake valley, and there are multiple fantastic trailheads very close to the downtown area—a quick jog or Uber ride will get you to the Ensign Peak trailhead, which leads to a sweeping overlook above downtown. (Yes, it’s a “peak,” but it’s less than a mile long hike to get there, so it’s attainable even if you haven’t acclimated to the elevation.) Memory Grove Park is a mere two blocks from downtown, and a trail heading up City Creek Canyon departs from there. You can explore for miles above the city, get away from it all, and never get too far away.