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A Perfect 24 Hours in Salt Lake City, Utah


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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Salt Lake City. Before I started my project to visit all 50 states in 5 years, it never occurred to me to spend any time in Salt Lake City. I knew it was the capital of Utah, but that was about it. Little did I know that Salt Lake City is full of history, nature, and prehistoric wonders.

Also, though Utah is a majority Mormon state and alcohol is prohibited by the Mormon church, non-teetotalers can still find many an excellent drink in Salt Lake City. Don’t believe me? By the end of this blog post, you will!

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Where to Stay?

I strongly recommend staying in Downtown Salt Lake City during your 24 hours in Salt Lake City. You’ll be right near the beautiful turn of the century “skyscrapers”, as well as most of the best restaurants in the city.

I stayed at The Little America Hotel right in Downtown Salt Lake City, and I had an excellent time. The room was comfortable, and the location was extremely convenient, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a car. Also it was very affordable.

If you want a great deal on this hotel, click here. And if you’d rather explore great deals on over 100 other hotels in Salt Lake City, click here.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

What to Pack?

  • An excellent small cell charger so you can keep taking pictures all during your 24 hours in Salt Lake City
  • The best guidebook to Utah, which includes Salt Lake City as well as the rest of the state.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you exactly how solo travel can take your life from BLAH to amazing!
  • Want to learn how I saved enough money to travel 16 weeks a year? Check out my top secret How to Afford Travel digital system.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by Chloe Sevigny during your 24 hours in Salt Lake City
24 Hours in Salt Lake City

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Morning: This is the Place

Ah, here it is! This is the place where we will start our day in Salt Lake City! I wouldn’t blame you if you felt confused about the name “This is the Place”, Internet Stranger. Surely we could say of any place in the world, “This is the Place”, no?

But This is the Place in Salt Lake City is not just any place. This This is the Place honors the Mormon pioneers who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah. It also shows visitors what life was like in 19th and early 20th century Utah. It’s basically Utah’s answer to Colonial Williamsburg.

Apparently, the name This is the Place comes from what Brigham Young said when he decided to settle in this area, so the name was selected for historical and religious reasons, not to confuse random tourists. You could spend the entire morning here learning about Utah Fun Facts. But I’m going to limit myself to…

three fun facts: This is the place

24 Hours in Salt Lake City
1) what were the schools like?

My favorite exhibit in This is the Place was the recreation of an early Utah schoolhouse. Back then, the children wouldn’t have had separate classes for different grades. All of the children would have been taught in the same schoolhouse.

As a former teacher, I can’t imagine how hard that would have been. It’s a shame that the Mormon church doesn’t allow drinking, when I’m sure all those teachers could have used a cold one at the end of the day. I hope they were at least allowed to have a Coca-Cola.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Don’t leave the schoolhouse without noticing the Deseret Alphabet poster. Have you ever noticed that English spelling is a bunch of crazy nonsense? I mean, why is though pronounced the way that it is?

Well, you’re not alone! Brigham Young, the founder of Salt Lake City, wanted to create a different, more phonetically accurate, alphabet. This would make it easier for children and non-native English speakers to master the English alphabet. That’s why he encouraged Utah schools to teach the more logical Deseret Alphabet.

Unfortunately human beings are not logical, and so the Deseret Alphabet never took off. And it was probably never going to work for the entire rest of the US to use the Latin alphabet and Utah to use the Deseret. But I have to give Brigham Young props for trying. It would be nice to have a language like Greek or Italian that actually made sense phonetically.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City
2) Are there activities in This Old Place?

Worried there’ll be nothing to do but look at old buildings? Never you fear! I was there on a horrifically rainy day in early April, and there were still plenty of activities. If you come to This is the Place in April, you should make time for the adorable baby animals that will be frolicking in the fields or curled up in their pens.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Look at how cute they are! I didn’t pet them because I didn’t want to catch scurvy. (I’m not sure I actually understand what scurvy is, but you can never be too careful.) But I’ve never seen such teeny little lambs in all my life. I’m going to feel slightly guilty the next time I have lamb burger.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Just watch out for this piggie. He seems to be trying to make a break for it. I think if that pig manages to dig his way out from behind that fence, then he deserves his freedom. LIVE FREE OR DIE PIG! (Actually, that’s probably true because I think if he doesn’t escape, he gets eaten.)

24 Hours in Salt Lake City
3) what about museums?

I’m glad you asked that question, Nerd! There is a lovely quilt museum located in the former Deseret Hospital. I guess that makes sense because any nice hospital would have lots of quilts in it. You can see every kind of quilt here from the gorgeous…

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

To the disturbing…

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Also, you might be wondering what the word Deseret means, since it’s popped up a few times. It comes from The Book of Mormon (sacred text, not the musical), and it means honeybee. Of course the honeybee is the state insect of Utah. Probably the most famous bee in Utah history is current Utah senator Mitt Rom-BEE.

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Afternoon: Natural History Museum of Utah

I always like visiting natural history museums when I travel. Of course, we have a perfectly good Natural History Museum in my hometown of New York City. But natural history is different wherever you go, and the animals and plants of Utah have contributed just as much to the area as the people have. (That disturbed giant pigeon with the funny hat pictured above agrees with me.)

You can get to the Natural History Museum from This is the Place by either walking or taking a car, depending on how the weather and your legs are behaving that day. You’ll have time in your 24 hours in Salt Lake City for either choice.

I took an Uber, and the driver entertained me with tales of how his grandparents had to flee Utah when polygamy was outlawed, which is definitely not a story I’ve ever heard in NYC. And now I will entertain you with…

Three fun facts: natural history museum of utah

24 Hours in Salt Lake City
1) what’s the major attraction?

That’s debatable! Maybe you think giant rocks are the most interesting thing in the world. I don’t know your life! But I was most fascinated by the Lythronax Argestes, aka Utah’s Gore King. I was surprised that the natural history museum wanted to give this dino such a violent name.

But in fact, Lythronax Argestes means “Gore King From the Southwest”. I’m now going to insist that all my loyal minions refer to me as “Gore Queen From New York City”. This would also make a very good album title. (“The only living gore queen in New York…”)

The Gore King is a cousin of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, Gore King lived millions of years before the T-Rex. So I guess that would make the Gore King T-Rex’s great-great-grandpappy. I wonder if the Gore King also had to flee Utah when polygamy was outlawed.

24 hours in salt lake city
2) Are there any history mysteries?

Oh, I can do you one better than that! How’d you like a history mystery involving dinosaurs and the super-cool name Cleveland-Lloyd Mystery? I mean, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland, and Lloyd is my father’s name, so what’s cooler than that?

The Cleveland-Lloyd Mystery is a giant graveyard full of dinosaur bones. Only no one knows how they died. Were they A) Killed by predators? B) Killed in a giant flood? Or C) Killed by a former romantic rival who disguised himself as a London cabbie? The cabbie tracked the dinosaurs halfway around the world, got them alone and forced them to choose between two identical pills.

One pill was perfectly fine, but the other would be poison. The killer/fake London cabbie would take the other pill. That way it would ultimately be The Lord taking his vengeance on the wicked dinosaurs and not the fake London cabbie.

Well, what do you think? Which of those solutions sounds the most plausible to you?

24 hours in salt lake city
3) Is the whole museum dinosaurs?

Close, but no. One of the most interesting exhibits is called Native Voices dedicated to Utah’s American Indian history and art. The museum designed it in consultation with Native communities in Utah. I hadn’t realized that there were eight different federally recognized tribes in Utah to this day.

In the photo above, you can see a striking example of a Navajo ceremonial basket. The Navajo sometimes give these baskets to medicine men to use in their rituals. The practice was revived largely thanks to Utah-born Navajo basketweaver Mary Holiday Black. Thanks to women like her, this artform has been preserved for future generations to appreciate.

24 hours in salt lake city

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Late Afternoon: Red Butte Garden

One of Salt Lake City’s best features is its sublime mountains. They’re why people come from all over the world to ski in Utah. But even if you’re not spending 24 hours in Salt Lake City to go skiing, you can still get outdoors and appreciate the city’s natural wonders. If you’re lazy like me, the easiest way to do this is to tiptoe through the tulips at the Red Butte Garden.

The Red Butte Garden says it’s the largest botanical garden in the Intermountain West. I’m pretty sure that’s true because it sounds like they just made up the term Intermountain West, so it can probably mean whatever they want it to mean.

The Red Butte Garden has been open to the public since the 1980s, even though it was founded back in the 1930s. Before it opened to the public, it was used for secret plant research at the University of Utah. I assume that means they were breeding man-eating Venus flytraps.

But you won’t find any dangerous beasts at the Red Butte Garden today! If you come in April, like I did, all you’ll see are daffodils.

24 hours in salt lake city

Daffodils here!

24 hours in salt lake city

Daffodils there!

24 hours in salt lake city

Daffodils everywhere!

24 hours in salt lake city

This sign is trying to tell me this flower is a “Narcissus Primeur”. But you can’t fool me, sign! I know that’s just another daffodil in disguise!

24 hours in salt lake city

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

Evening: Dinner at The Copper Onion

Utah, as a state, is not primary known for its food. When I Googled “famous foods Utah”, all that came up were a bunch of Jell-O recipes and something called funeral potatoes. But perhaps that reputation is unjustified. After all, the food scene in Salt Lake City is really taking off. And if you’re looking for a trendy place that serves small plates and craft cocktails, you can’t go wrong with The Copper Onion.

24 hours in salt lake city

Don’t believe me that a restaurant in Salt Lake City can be trendy? Well, what’s trendier than multi-colored beets and whipped goat cheese, huh? Riddle me that!

24 hours in salt lake city
24 Hour treat

The must-order dish here is the Wagyu Beef Stroganoff. I like that they took a dish I associate with sad high school cafeterias and made it all classy with Wagyu beef and homemade noodles. But I’m afraid this version of the dish has spoiled me for all other Stroganoffs.

24 hours in salt lake city

Also, for those of you worried about being able to get a drink in Utah, know that you have many choices when it comes to imbibing. You can get a seasonal craft cocktail, but you can also get a local craft beer. And I can’t imagine being able to get something called Polygamy Porter in any state but Utah.

In fact, North Carolina has banned this beer because of the polygamy reference. (I like to think the people on the beer can are the grandparents of my Uber driver, fleeing Utah because polygamy was outlawed.)

one day in salt lake city itinerary

24 Hours in Salt Lake City

How to Get There

By Car: This is really only feasible if you’re going to your 24 hours in Salt Lake City from somewhere else in Utah or from a fairly nearby state. I live in New York City and don’t know how to drive, so this would be impossible for me.

By Plane: Fortunately it is very easy to fly into Salt Lake City because it has an airport. Yay! No muss, no fuss. I was coming from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, and the flight was quick and easy. I think for most people, flying into Salt Lake City is the best choice.

I recommend using a search engine like Expedia to search for the best prices on flights.

By Train or Bus: Greyhound does go to Salt Lake City, so if flying is really outside your budget for your 24 hours in Salt Lake City itinerary, this might be your best option. Check out their website to see if Greyhound will work for you. As you know if you’ve taken the Hound before, it’s not always super reliable, but I use it from time to time because something nothing else will do.

Amtrak also sends trains to Salt Lake City, at least if you’re coming from the Denver direction, so feel free to check that out as well.

24 hours in salt lake city

That’s a Perfect 24 Hours in Salt Lake City!

What would you do with 24 hours in Salt Lake City? Have we solved the Cleveland-Lloyd Mystery or do you think they were all killed by an orangutan? And will you sign my petition to get Polygamy Porter unbanned in North Carolina? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Salt Lake City. If you have time for another 24 hours in Salt Lake City, try this itinerary.

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