By Laurie Carter
Visit Salt Lake/Adam Barker
Canadians whose last experience of Utah was the 2002 Winter Olympics, will be astounded at the changes in Salt Lake City. While the four magnificent ski resorts and in-city venues remain, visitors can now skate on Olympic ice or experience the thrill of the luge for themselves.
The iconic spires of the Salt Lake Temple, spiritual centre of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), still pierce the sky in Temple Square and music lovers of any faith can still take in a Thursday evening rehearsal of the legendary Mormon Tabernacle Choir in their acoustically remarkable home space. But directly across South Temple Street lies the birthplace of a Salt Lake City renaissance, the centrepiece of a vital new urban experience.
Seamlessly blending the old with the new, City Creek Center is one of America’s largest mixed-use downtown redevelopment projects. With great attention to the principles of sustainability, this unique community encompasses some 90 retail outlets including Macy’s, Nordstroms and a Tiffany & Co. shop that sources its local gold from Utah.
City Creek Center
Running through the heart of the casually walkable environment is a 365-metre-long recreation of historic City Creek that once flowed through downtown and provided early settlers with water. Complementing the creek are two 5.5-metre waterfalls cascading over Utah sandstone boulders. And in a nod to the state’s varied climate, outdoor walkways are heated to deal with snow and a retractable roof system shields shoppers from winter storms while letting in the dazzling summer sun.
At the core of urban renewal is the goal of enticing people to make their home downtown and when this is successful you can count on finding interesting restaurants and bars in the city centre. A host of high-design, high-concept eateries have recently opened their doors in the heart of Salt Lake offering a range of American and international cuisine and making this city the hottest dining destination in the West.
Visit Salt Lake
Cultural attractions are the third pillar of a thriving urban environment and Salt Lake City offers some impressive options including the stunning angularity of Abravanel Hall, located next to City Creek Centre and home of the Utah Symphony and Opera. Also situated in the downtown core and new in 2012, the visionary Leonardo museum takes an interactive approach to science, art and technology.
More interactive fun is geared toward youngsters at the Discovery Gateway children’s museum in the Gateway Mall, another premier shopping venue in downtown Salt Lake City. Home of the Olympic Legacy Plaza, Gateway also hosts the Clark Planetarium with its 3D IMAX and Hansen Dome Theatres.
While exploring the universe is fascinating for some, other visionaries are more intent on exploring their own DNA in the “genealogy capital of the world.” At the Family Search Center over 100 individual computer stations provide access to family history resources and the Family History Library maintains over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records to help leaf out the family tree.
For residents of Salt Lake City, that family tree spreads broadly. Although still closely associated with the followers of Brigham Young who settled here in 1847, Utah’s capital has evolved in a way that might surprise many. As the “crossroads of the West,” the area has attracted immigrants from all over the United States, Mexico and Latin America, Europe, Asia and, interestingly, Pacific Islands such as the Solomons and Samoa.
Visit Salt Lake
Annual multi-cultural events and festivals underscore the diversity that thrives here. While Pioneer Days celebrates the Mormon heritage with one of the biggest parades in America, the city also lays on a massive three-day Pride Festival along with a Greek Festival, Cinco de Mayo and various Pacific Island celebrations.
There is much to celebrate in a land of unique natural characteristics and physical beauty. Salt Lake City spreads across a valley bordered by the Wasatch Mountains (the western range of the Rockies) to the east and north, with the Oquirrh (pronounced “oaker”) Mountains to the west. The valley was once covered by massive prehistoric Lake Bonneville, a remnant of the last ice age, which at its crest stretched to a length of 556 kilometres covering portions of Utah, Nevada and Idaho to a depth sometimes exceeding 300 metres.
The most obvious reminders of Lake Bonneville are the arid plains of the Bonneville Salt Flats west of Salt Lake City and, to the northwest, Great Salt Lake. Although very shallow, reaching an average depth of just four metres, this is the largest lake west of the Mississippi, covering 5,439 square kilometres. With as much as 27 per cent salinity, only the Dead Sea has a higher salt content.
Most of Utah lies on a high mid-continent plateau more than 1200 metres above sea level. In contrast to the blue of the lake and the eye-piercing white of the salt flats, much of its geography is characterized by the warm tones of mountains surging as high as 3,900 metres, flat-topped buttes and layered canyons revealing myriad shades of red and the fossilized remains of an abundant past.
Along the Wasatch Front on the former shoreline of Lake Bonneville, researchers have found the remains of mammoth, musk ox, ancestral camel, horse, deer and mountain sheep that once roamed the area. The state also encompasses two of the largest dinosaur graveyards in North America: Dinosaur National Monument in the north and the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in east-central Utah.
This rich heritage is now showcased in another Salt Lake City landmark, the stunning Natural History Museum of Utah. Opened in 2012, the Rio Tinto Center at the University of Utah is clad in 3,900 square metres of copper, echoing the colour of the landscape into which it blends so easily with rooflines that follow the silhouette of the foothills.
Located at the junction of the urban and natural worlds, the museum serves as the trailhead to Utah with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail passing right by the front door. Inside, its imaginative galleries interpret climate and astronomy; First Peoples traditions of the Shoshone, Goshute, Paiute, Ute, and Navajo; geology, geography and mineralogy of the Middle Rocky Mountains, Basin and Range; 500 million years of changing landscapes and life forms; and the remarkable biodiversity of the state.
The museum is an outstanding starting point for personal exploration of the natural world in Utah’s 43 state parks and five national parks. Some 65 per cent of the state is owned by the federal government with Utah boasting more national parks than any other state.
The largest island in Great Salt Lake is a terrific example of Utah’s state park system. Just 66 kilometres from Salt Lake City, Antelope Island is easily accessible by causeway from the mainland. A favourite for swimmers who enjoy floating effortlessly in the salty water, it offers hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, a marina for powerboats, sailboats and kayaks, a restaurant, concessions and multiple camping facilities including RV hook-ups.
Clustered in the southern half of the state are the national parks: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef and Zion. In addition, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park straddles the Utah/Arizona border, the best access to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is through southern Utah, and Mesa Verde National Park lies just over the border in Colorado. The parks are so close together that it is possible to take them all in on a one-week grand circle driving tour, although at least two weeks would be a better timeframe for really appreciating the grandeur of this country.
As the name suggests, Arches National Park offers the largest concentration of natural arches while Bryce Canyon is most notable for its brilliant red sandstone hoodoos. Red rock pinnacles, cliffs and spires mark Canyonlands and Capital Reef is best known for the Waterpocket Fold, a 160-kilometre long bulge in the planet’s crust. Zion is Utah’s oldest national park. Created in 1919, it attracts adventure-seeking hikers from around the world to trek The Narrows, Subway and Angels Landing trails.
St George Conventions and Tourist Office
Only 145 kilometres from Las Vegas, the southern-Utah town of St. George is the gateway to Zion Nation Park. Beloved of Canadians for its mild, dry winters with average temperatures in the mid-teens Celcius, St. George enjoys a high desert environment at 853 metres above sea level. Along with Zion National Park, the city of 75,000 people is close to Snow Canyon, Quail Creek, Gunlock and Sandy Hollow state parks.
St. George’s Dinosaur Discovery Museum is acclaimed as one of the top 10 dino-track sites in the world. But many winter-weary visitors are more interested in the area’s destination spas or the Red Rock Golf Trail. The city boasts six excellent courses within a 40-minute radius including Sunbrook, Coral Canyon, Sky Mountain, Sand Hollow, Falcon Ridge and Sun River.
The historic downtown presents a variety of interesting shopping and dining opportunities and in recent years, St. George has expanded its focus on the arts. The Tuacahn Amphitheatre and Center for the Arts, an outdoor venue surrounded by 450-metre red rock cliffs, attracts thousands annually to its Broadway-style musicals, concerts and Christmas Festival of Lights with live nativity. St. George also hosts the Southwest Symphony and the DocUtah international documentary film festival.
Modern living adapts easily to the ancient landscape in Utah.
For more information on Utah, visit www.visitutah.com
Greatest Snow on Earth®
Selling A Winter Sports Destination? It has to be Utah. Utah averages more than 1,270 centimetres average annually, and its location almost 1,000 kilometres from the sea guarantees the lightest driest and best quality snow. Here are some passes that make Utah even more attractive:
• Park City Three Resort International Ski Pass: This is a booklet of one-day lift ticket vouchers for the three Park City area resorts – Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons. www.visitparkcity.com/visitors/international-english/e-resort-intl-pass
• Ski Salt Lake Super Pass: 20% off lift tickets for Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton; 20% off ski rentals; free transportation from Salt Lake City by UTA bus and TRAX light rail. www.visitsaltlake.com/ski/superpass/
• Visit Salt Lake Connect Pass: All-in-one ticket to 15 of Salt Lake’s best attractions.
• America The Beautiful Pass: Covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle. Current rate $80. www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm