Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a one day in Salt Lake City itinerary. Some cities are most famous for a monument, like a bridge or a skyscraper. Some cities are best known for their cuisine. But Salt Lake City, Utah is unique. It is best known for the Tabernacle Choir.
The Tabernacle Choir is one of the most popular religious singing groups in the world. But you don’t have to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enjoy their music as part of a one day in Salt Lake City itinerary.
Join me for a one day in Salt Lake City itinerary! We’ll not only get to hear the Tabernacle Choir sing, we’ll also explore Temple Square, learn about Utah’s history, and eat the finest Mexican food that Utah has to offer!
One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
Where to Stay?
I strongly recommend staying in Downtown Salt Lake City during your One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary. 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.
One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll also need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which happens in SLC, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
Morning: Tabernacle Choir Tour
This is very silly, but before I visited Salt Lake City, I didn’t realize that you could actually go see the Tabernacle Choir. I assumed they performed as some sort of secret society in an underground lair. But their performances are open to the public every Sunday. If you really want to maximize your One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary, I suggest taking the Tabernacle Choir and Salt Lake City tour with Salt Lake City Tours.
The Tabernacle Choir only performs on Sunday mornings. They also have a dress rehearsal on Thursday afternoons. So those are the only times you can catch a full performance. But if you’re not available for a tour at those times, you can always take a very similar tour with Salt Lake City Tours. This one includes a concert with the Tabernacle Organ, not the full choir.
Now that you’re aware of all your options, allow me to share with you…
Approximately top 5: One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
1) Tabernacle choir
The Tabernacle Choir’s concert, Music and the Spoken Word, is notable for many reasons. First, it is the longest, continuously-running radio broadcast in the world. It’s been going since before World War II. I’m pretty impressed that this church choir out West has managed to outlive flashier fads like the Rubik’s Cube and the Macarena.
I wasn’t exactly sure what the choir’s music would sound like. Now, I didn’t think they’d start playing songs from The Book of Mormon, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure. After listening to the concert, I still am not sure what Mormon music sounds like. They appeared to sing all sorts of songs you could find in any Protestant service. Everything from the Psalms to Methodist hymns to Episcopalians was covered. Only Broadway musicals and Catholics were left out.
The “spoken word” sermon was similarly ecumenical. The speech was on recently deceased Jon Huntsman Sr. (His son, the former Governor of Utah and Ambassador to Russia, is probably the first person to come to your mind when you are thinking of Jon Huntsmans.) Apparently Huntsman Sr. was known for his philanthropy. He gave away ten percent of his income even back when he and his wife were struggling financially.
I found this homily to be quite inspirational. If I die, I hope that whoever speaks at my funeral will praise my generosity and philanthropy. Or I hope someone calls me a horrible name and throws a glass of champagne at my dead face. Either/or.
2) salt lake city capitol building
Salt Lake City isn’t just home to the Tabernacle Choir. It’s also the state capital of Utah. So it’s not proper to leave the city without visiting the capitol building. Even though I took this tour on a Sunday, because we were with a guide, we were able to get inside the capitol building. Just one more reason this tour is worth the money!
Our guide informed us that the Salt Lake City capitol building is considered the second-most beautiful capitol building in America. I have so many questions about that! Who measures the beauty of capitol buildings? What is the first most beautiful capitol building in America? Does Washington DC count? Also, whatever is the most beautiful, I know it’s not my state capitol building. (Albany sucks!)
One fun game to play at the Utah Capitol Building is to spot all the references to bees. Utah’s nickname is the Beehive State. Our guide said that it was because Utahans are so industrious. It has nothing to do with local honey production. (But I bought some honey in Salt Lake City anyway because honey is delicious.)
3) olympic venues
Salt Lakers are very proud that their city was home to the Winter Olympics back in 2002. Above, you can see Rice-Eccles Stadium. It’s the main college football stadium in Salt Lake City. But during the Olympics, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were held here. Our guide boasted that the Salt Lake City Olympics had been successful and profitable for the city. Not every city around the world can make the same claim. Just ask Athens, which still hasn’t recovered financially.
Our guide credited Mitt Romney with helping the city manage the Olympics and help make them a financial success. Mitt Romney is crazy popular in Utah for a guy who was born in Michigan and then became governor of Massachusetts. I know they say Romney is currently the junior Senator from Utah. But I think he is secretly the King of Utah given how people there go on about him.
4) Pioneer heritage state park
Of course the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long and rich history even before Mitt Romney became King of Utah. (For anyone who is confused, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormon Church are the same thing. But the church prefers not to be called Mormon. I am not 100 percent sure why, but I think it’s because they want it to be clear that they are a Christian church, not an entirely different religion.)
Part of the reason for this desire is that Latter-day Saints have been persecuted throughout their history. The best place to go to learn more about this history is the Pioneer Heritage State Park. There are statues and signs there that tell the story of how the Latter-day Saints ended up in Utah. The church was founded in the 1800s by Joseph Smith in my home state of New York. Smith moved to Illinois where he was murdered by an angry mob. But before he died, he had already converted others to his religion.
One of those converts, Brigham Young, led a group of his coreligionists out to Utah. They believed they’d be free to practice their religion here. The statue above shows both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young looking West. (Smith said he had a vision of his people going out West, which is why Young decided to make the trek.)
I am not sure whether or not the scene depicted in this statue ever happened. But I’m 100 percent sure the events in The Book of Mormon never happened, and that’s a massive hit on Broadway. So I’m okay with the sculptor fudging a few details.
5) cuisine of utah
I always do careful research about regional food when I plan my trips. But the results I got for “Utah cuisine” were a little strange. Can Jell-O really be the official state food of Utah? And what are funeral potatoes? That’s why I was thrilled that the tour stopped for lunch at a local chain called Chuck-a-Rama. The restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat buffet for one low price. Plus Jell-O AND funeral potatoes were on the menu.
Funeral potatoes are hash browns. You cover them with cheese and crunchy stuff, like potato chips or cornflakes. They got their name because people bring them over to serve at an after-funeral party. I have to admit, I’ve never been to an after-funeral party. In New York City, when someone dies we just go out drinking until we black out. But maybe this is why I’ll never be Queen of Utah.
One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
Afternoon: Temple Square
Now that we’ve seen the Tabernacle Choir, it’s time for Salt Lake City’s other famous attraction. I speak, of course, of Temple Square. In fact, Temple Square is the most popular tourist destination in Utah. This Square is where Brigham Young decided to build the Latter-day Saints main temple, all the way back in the mid-1800s.
There are many things for tourists to do at Temple Square, regardless of whether or not you are a Latter-day Saint. I learned so much about the history of the Church here, but I promise to limit myself to…
three fun facts: temple square
1) How should I begin to explore?
There are two visitors centers at Temple Square: the North Visitors’ Center and the South Visitors’ Center. They are both open from 9-9 every day so you can definitely fit it into your One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary. I explored the South Visitors’ Center because I wanted to see the scale model of the inside of the Salt Lake Temple. (Non-LDS like me are not allowed inside the Salt Lake Temple. So this is the only chance I’d get to see it.)
Keep in mind that the Visitors’ Center is staffed by Sister Missionaries who will definitely try to talk to you. The Sister Missionaries at Temple Square are young LDS women selected from all over the world to come to Salt Lake City. I met a young woman from Nigeria, one from China, and one from Korea.
These ladies were pretty upfront about how they wanted to get me interested in joining the LDS church. But they weren’t pushy or rude about it. When I said I wanted to move on, they wished me a pleasant farewell. And I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with young women who had learned a second language and moved halfway across the globe for their faith.
The most amusing part to me was that one of the young women said I might be interested in the LDS concept of the Eternal Family. I gathered this means that even after you die, you’ll be with your family forever and ever. I can’t think of any concept I’d find more horrifying than being stuck with my family through eternity! But the Sister Missionaries had no way of knowing this…
2) are there tours of temple square?
Yes there are, and they leave every 20 minutes. Like the Vistors’ Centers, the tours are free of charge. You can reserve your ticket in advance online. (I guess that’s to make sure the tours don’t fill up during the busy season?) Our tour was led by two Sister Missionaries, one from India and one from Arizona.
They explained that only women are assigned to work with non-LDS visitors at Temple Square. This is because young women are considered more approachable. And I have to admit, I probably would have been more weirded out as a young single lady by a bunch of dudes coming up to me to chat me up in the Visitors’ Center.
The tour lasted 45 minutes, and it gave a general overview of the history of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Temple Square. No one on the tour was LDS, but there was no heavy push to try to get us to join the church. At the end of the tour, we were invited to take a copy of The Book of Mormon and sign up for more information if we wished. I did take a copy of the book because I never say no to free books. But I don’t understand how they turned this book into a smash Broadway musical! There were even fewer songs in The Book of Mormon than in that Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton.
My favorite fun fact from the tour was the story behind the Seagull Monument, pictured above. Apparently, back in the 1840s, crickets devastated the crops of all the local farmers. The crickets were NOM NOM NOMMING their way through all the plants, and the farmers had nothing to eat. Until one day, a Flock of Seagulls appeared and starting nomming all the crickets. (The rest of the crickets ran, they ran so far away.) This is known as the Miracle of the Gulls.
3) is there any non-lds thing to do at temple square?
Do you like flowers, Internet Stranger? Because Temple Square is full of gorgeous gardens. I was there in the springtime, so I feasted my eyes on the cherry blossoms as if they were a bunch of crickets and my eyes were a flock of seagulls.
Into pansies and daffodils? They’ve got those covered too. I don’t know exactly what you can do if you really want to avoid talking to Sister Missionaries. Maybe just try to think Very Mormon Thoughts? Like just bring in a tupperware container full of Jell-O and funeral potatoes? Then they’ll assume you’re already a member of the LDS church and not try to chat you up.
One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Red Iguana
When I think of world-class Mexican food, Salt Lake City is…not the first place that comes to mind. But you can’t come to Salt Lake City without tasting the Mexican food at Red Iguana. Their slogan is “Mexican Food That’s Worth the Wait”. They don’t take reservations, so you’ll have to put your name down on the list and wait on the street for a table to become available. Get here earlier in the evening on your One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary to have a better chance.
That is, unless you are me! Because I lucked out and met a group of three older ladies waiting for a table ahead of me. They invited me to join them and fill out their fourth chair. So I only had to wait on line for 15 minutes. Suck on that, Utah!
24 Hour treat: tamarind margarita
Some people don’t like drinking margaritas. It reminds them too much of binging on cheap tequila in college. But fortunately I was a straight-up nerd in college, so I have no negative associations with the spirit. That’s why I could indulge in this spicy-sweet tamarind margarita. As a bonus, because of the flavoring on the rim, it’s always better to drink a margarita without a straw. That’s why margaritas are good for the environment.
24 hour treat: mole amarillo
Visiting Red Iguana without eating a mole is like being a seagull in Salt Lake City and not eating any crickets. It’s just sick and wrong. Red Iguana has at least six different kinds of moles on offer. According to their website, mole is Mexico’s national dish. It’s a sauce made with chiles and many other kinds of ingredients.
I selected the Mole Amarillo because of its pretty yellow color. The dish is made with habaneros and guajillo chiles, so it has a serious kick to it. Do not order unless you have always wanted to set the inside of your mouth slightly on fire. I love spicy food, so this dish was exactly to my taste. Also the raisins in the dish added a little sweetness to dampen the flames of the habanero.
In case you are squeamish, the meat in the dish above is chicken. As far as I could tell, no iguanas are actually on the menu.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary!
What would you do with a One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary? Will the Tabernacle Choir ever sing from The Book of Mormon? And how did seagulls get to landlocked Utah anyway? 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 enjoy a One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary. If you have time for another One Day in Salt Lake City Itinerary, try this itinerary!