The land of Utah covers 85,000 square miles, and is home to some of the most spectacular and unique natural formations in the country. Some of the most amazing national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches) reside in Utah, and not to gloss over them (because they are amazing), but today I’m going to give you an inside tour you won’t read about in travel guides.
So first of all, yes, there are a lot of Mormons in Utah! That’s because the state was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young as he led the then persecuted American sect of Mormons west. Since Mormons make up a huge part of Utah’s history and if you’re only in Utah for a couple hours, make sure to check out Salt Lake City’s Temple Square! It’s 10-square acres owned and operated by the Mormons located right in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. There’s the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple, the Mormon Conference Center (an indoor auditorium that holds 21,00 people!), and the new City Creek Center shopping center! If you are there during the holiday season, it’s even better with all the holiday lights!
A little farther out is The Great Salt Lake. This lake is about 4 times saltier than any of the world’s oceans. If a person boiled 1 quart of water from the saltiest part of the lake, half a cup of salt would remain. It is so salty because as the ancient Lake Bonneville dried up, salt and other minerals were left behind. Because the shrinking lake had no stream out to sea, the salt deposits became concentrated in the lake. It’s a beautiful place that is super serene and never crowded.
Continuing with the salt theme, there is the Bonneville Salt Flats, one of the most unique natural features coving 30,000 acres. It is perfectly flat and has a thick crust of salty soil. It looks like a frozen lakebed covered in snow (even in the heat of summer!) No vegetation grows in the area. In other places, low mountains and hills break up the flat landscape, the view is absolutely breathtaking! On hot days, heat waves rise from the salty soil and create a mirage that looks deceivingly real. If you believe your eyes, the dry desert looks like it’s covered by water.
If you’re hungry make sure you check out some of the local favorites! First up is Café Rio, an American-Mexican fusion place. It’s so amazing, it’s actually expanding, but it’s still a local favorite. Their sweet pork Barbacoa salad is to die for! J-Dawg is a local hot dog place that has an amazing “secret” sauce. And for dessert, make sure to check out Swing, an amazing drinks and sugar cookie joint. Like grandmas but so much better! Having lived in NYC and now in San Francisco, and a somewhat self-proclaimed foodie, Utah’s food doesn’t disappoint!
So everyone knows that the Sundance Film Festival takes place in Utah every year, but unlike it’s name suggests, it doesn’t take place at the Sundance Resort, it’s located in downtown Park City. Sundance ski resort has some of the most breathtaking views (year round I might add), and the Sundance Film Festival is located in downtown Park City. Both are super fun to check out, but just want to clear the confusion! J
Lastly, taking it way back, all the way back, approximately 75 million years ago, Utah was part of a landmass called Laramidia. This land mass was hot, swampy, and full of dinosaurs, making Utah one of the best places in the US to find dinosaur fossils. The world’s largest raptor lived in Utah, known as the “Utahraptor,” it measured over 23 feet long, making it larger than any other known raptor. If you’re into dinosaurs, all parts of the state have some sort of awesome dinosaur attraction, perfect for the kids or the Jurassic Park fanatic!
Did I leave any of your Utah favorites off the list? Let us know in the comments below!