Planned a trip to the Utah capital and just having one day in Salt Lake City? This Lake City itinerary will show you how to maximize 24 hours (including helpful travel tips)!
I’ll never forget my first trip to Salt Lake City. My family had visited in high school, but I didn’t make the trip because I had a sports tournament elsewhere.
My dad raved about the mountains and scenery, leaving me envious (and gutted) that I was stuck spending my trip on the East Coast when they went west.
Things To See In Salt Lake City In One Day
With just one day in Salt Lake City, you have plenty of time to tour the city’s historic sights, enjoy a mountain trip, and experience some of the evening culture. Here’s how to get the most out of Salt Lake City in just one day.
Take a crash course in Salt Lake City history with a tour of Temple Square. See the most prominent Mormon temple in the world and hear how Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers built a city in the desert.
Stroll through the gardens of Temple Square and tour the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, known for its remarkable acoustics and impressive pipe organ. Visit on a Sunday to see a live performance of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or come any day for the daily free organ recital. Enjoy lunch at the Lion House, the former home of Brigham Young.
No matter how short your trip to Salt Lake City, a trip up into the mountains is a must. Take a scenic ride to Big Cottonwood Canyon and stop for a short hike around Silver Lake. For the best views in the Wasatch Mountains, head up Little Cottonwood Canyon and take the Snowbird Ski Resort Tram to the top of Hidden Peak at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters).
Alternatively, hike to the top of Ensign Peak, just behind the Utah State Capitol, and enjoy panoramic views of the Salt Lake Valley.
Salt Lake City is often considered a dry city (it’s not; the laws have changed). As part of that change, small craft breweries are popping up downtown. Visit Salt Lake’s first microbrewery, Squatters Pub, or take a guided brewery tour and learn about Utah’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Other evening options include:
- Watching the sunset over this Great Lake.
- I’m catching a Utah Jazz basketball game downtown.
- Heading back to Temple Square to tour the festival holiday lights in winter.
City Creek Center, across the street from Temple Square, offers restaurants with plenty of kid-friendly options.
What Is Salt Lake City famous for?
#1 Mormon History And Culture
The history of Salt Lake City is inextricably bound to the Mormon faith. Salt Lake City was founded by a group of Mormon pioneers who arrived there in 1847, and today, the city remains the nation’s epicenter of Mormon church culture.<1
But whether you’re a person of faith or not, the city’s Mormon heritage rewarded Salt Lake with some of its most beautiful and historic buildings. If you’re new to the area, you can admire the architecture and brush up on your history by visiting the following attractions:2
- Temple Square: This 10-acre complex in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City features five city blocks of stunning architecture, lavish gardens, informative exhibits, and fun social activities.
- Mormon Tabernacle: The home of the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Mormon Tabernacle is a wonder of acoustic design. Tours and auditory demonstrations are given daily.
- Mormon Temple: Unfortunately, you won’t be able to enter this historic Salt Lake temple unless you’re a member of the Mormon faith—but if you’re in Salt Lake City, it’s worth a trip. The exteriors alone deserve a pit stop to glimpse authentic Mormon architecture’s rare, gorgeous beauty. For a closer look, tour the replicas in the visitor’s center.
#2 World-Class Cultural Offerings
Suppose you’ve never been to Salt Lake City. In that case, you might not know that it’s home to several nationally renowned cultural centers that entertain and educate residents and visitors alike.
These institutions are at the top of the list.
- Natural History Museum of Utah
- Tracy Bird Aviary
- Hogle Zoo
- Beehive House
- Park City Historic District
#3 Incredible Skiing
The Great Salt Lake City is nestled between two mountain ranges—excellent news for any ski bunnies who come to town. Several of the world’s best slopes and ski resorts are less than an hour’s drive from the central city.
Your options include places like:
- Deer Valley
- Park City
- Powder Mountain
And if you time it right, you can synchronize your visit to Park City to overlap with the Sundance Film Festival. This weeks-long cinema celebration features films regarded as the best in the industry, from the biggest stars in movies to the newest talents just starting to break through.
#4 Liberty Park
Salt Lake County is known for being cradled by mountains, but you don’t have to leave the commercial center to enjoy the great outdoors. Chief among the city’s green spaces is Liberty Park, located just shy of downtown Salt Lake City.
Liberty Park is an expansive public commons that covers nearly 80 acres, offering an array of outdoor activities to enjoy.3 From family outings to romantic picnics for two, this is the go-to destination for communing with nature (without venturing too far from your apartment).
Among the many amenities offered by Liberty Park are:
- Walking and running paths
- A public swimming pool
- Tennis courts
- Paddle boats
- An amusement park for children
#5 Burgeoning Food Scene
Salt Lake City has only sometimes been known for its culinary contributions, but in recent years, it’s transformed from a flatland of fast-food chains into an up-and-coming foodie’s paradise and a hub for Salt Lake City nightlife.
Which begs the question: what food is Salt Lake City known for?
SLC’s burgeoning gastronomic scene features diverse options, from farm-to-table eateries with locally sourced ingredients to restaurants specializing in international cuisines. While you’re in the area, these hotspots are must-sees (and eats and drinks):
- Valter’s Osteria, for delicious, authentic Italian cuisine
- Current Fish & Oyster, for lovers of fine seafood
- Red Iguana, for award-winning, family-owned Mexican food
- Takashi, for the best sushi in Salt Lake
Though a day may be brief, Salt Lake City’s highlights — from the historic Temple Square to the scenic views at the Capitol and the cultural richness of the museums — promise a memorable snapshot of the city’s diverse attractions.
Thanks for reading.