Christmas time was the perfect time to visit Salt Lake City, Utah. Before I was invited by my lovely friend Andrew I knew almost nothing about the city. All I knew was that the Winter Olympics were held there back in 2003, that it snowed a lot, there were a lot of Mormons, and…that’s about it!
I was so pleasantly surprised with every aspect of the city. It’s clean, the people are very kind and generous, and (my favorite) it has so much history! So, let me tell you what I learned…Back in 1847, Mormons were running away from the East Coast persecution and decided to look for a place in Mexico to take refuge and establish their church. That’s exactly what they found just a few hours away from the then US border, now called Salt Lake City, Utah. Here they established the Church’s Headquarters and immediately started planning the streets and temples of what is now Temple Square.
I can only speak from my experience and what I learned about Mormons. So here I go… Mormons are SO nice and very open to show you their buildings and the history. They were never pushy with their religion and they always made the tours feel educational, not religious. They even have people around Temple Square to give you brochures with information about the buildings. I was walking right in front of Salt Lake Temple when one person approached me. It was quite cold so I asked if there was a place where I could get coffee–Silly me! Coffee?! They don’t drink coffee! Smiling gently, he politely said, “you can visit one of our restaurants in the top of the ‘Joseph Smith Memorial Building.’ You will find a warm beverage there.” He never made me feel inadequate for messing that one up. When I got to that beautiful building, there were a lot of teenagers singing Christmas songs from the second floor. It was amazing! They sang pretty well, for sure. I also noticed a long line to some vending machines. When I asked what was in them, they explained to me that they dispensed food to donate to local charities and the other machine dispensed medication and medical equipment to donate to charities to other countries… You read right! There was a LONG line to go there and donate! I was pretty surprised. I had never seen that before. They call this movement “Light the World”.
Ah! I would also like to add that I asked the uncomfortable question… “So, is it true that you guys believe in polygamy?” I asked this to 3 people, and they all responded very politely with the same answer. They said they don’t believe in that anymore and haven’t practiced it for one-hundred years. They also said the people who call themselves Mormon and still believe in or practice polygamy are not part of their church.
So, what to do in Salt Lake City? Here are my top places to visit…
Top 5 places to visit in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake Temple
This beautiful castle is a look-alike to Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland (or Disney World)–Seriously! I felt like I was Cinderella (no, Prince charming though). This building took over 50 years to build. At night it’ perfectly illuminated and looks amazing! There are no tours allowed here. This is a very sacred space for them and they only use the space for marriages and baptisms. It’s very picturesque! Besides, when walking through it, you will find groups of teenagers singing Christmas songs to you–it is magical! (and free)
This building is also located inside Temple Square. It’s the home for the Choir and Orchestra. The public is invited to choir and orchestra rehearsals (which are amazing!) More details about schedules below 😉
Joseph Smith Memorial Building
This used to be a hotel and was going to be torn down, but the church bought it just in time. I’m so glad they did because this is one of my favorite buildings. It’s nicely kept and decorated, and it has a lobby area where you can sit down to admire the beautiful Christmas tree. During my visit, there were different Choirs playing Christmas songs… It was amazing! I felt as if I was transported living a Hallmark Christmas movie. At their in-house theater, they offer a show, “Meet the Mormons” though I didn’t watch it.
You can also enjoy a cup of hot chocolate at the first-floor café or go up to the tenth floor. They have two restaurants–one open all day and one open only for dinner. Both have a pretty amazing view of Temple Square.
This auditorium is certainly one of a kind. It offers seating for over 21,000 people, an amazing pipe organ, and it doesn’t have any visible support columns. Every seat is a good seat with no visual obstruction. They also have a beautiful garden on the rooftop, with amazing water fountains. Throughout the year, they hold main church events but also host civic events. It’s open every day for tours, the sweet lady that gave me the tour was very knowledgeable and patiently answered all my questions. They will show you all the original art and educate you about the history of it.
More info about schedules here
Utah’s State Capitol
This beautiful building has been one of Utah’s most remarkable landmarks. It has been home to the state government for over 100 years. Here, you will find a wide variety of original artwork inside and around the building too. It’s open to the public during regular business hours plus weekends too. It gets better… You can also rent the space for parties or weddings! More info here
Have a layover at the Salt Lake International Airport? Well, you’re in luck! You don’t have to spend the afternoon watching planes take off. If you have a layover of two hours or more, take advantage of a free tour of the heart of Salt Lake City—Temple Square. Go to airport information desks in terminal 1 or 2 and ask for a shuttle brochure, which shows time and day schedules.