Salt Lake City, once a pass-through en route to sexier Utah destinations, is now a destination in its own right. A frenzy of recent developments has remade the city’s core and added upscale shops, innovative museums, and fun shops. Don’t miss these draws.
City Creek Center: This $1.5 billion project, funded by the real estate arm of the Mormon church, combines residential, retail, restaurant, and office space on 23 acres in the city’s heart, adjacent to its soul, Temple Square (or if that’s too wordy, 23 downtown acres adjacent to Temple Square). Named for a historic snow-fed source of drinking water and irrigation during the city’s pioneer days, City Creek not only has a creek running through it, but also two 18-foot waterfalls and a retractable roof sheltering it from inclement weather.
The Leonardo: Named after da Vinci, the Leonardo takes any preconceived notions of what a museum is and stands them upside down. The downtown museum is engaging and experiential, designed to encourage creative thinking and innovation with exhibits that blend science, art, and technology; think DNA testing, animation, movie making, artificial limbs, Tweetable art, and provocative exhibits. I tweeted my zip code to an art installation and watched a color rendition of the current weather ripple across it. I strapped on state-of-the-art prosthetic limbs and attempted an obstacle course; I danced in the studio that animates movement; I made a short animated film; and nd so much more. Don’t miss it.
Natural History Museum of Utah: The purpose-built, LEED-gold-designed Natural History Museum, on the University of Utah campus on the city’s eastern edge, showcases the state’s natural and cultural history. The scene-stealer is the Past Worlds paleontology exhibit, with more than 30 skeletal reconstructions, including a Gryposaurus (duck-billed) dinosaur made of original fossil material. But don’t stop there. This museum, purpose-built to showcase the collection, is especially interactive and engaging — you can even sniff the scent of a decaying dinasaur (not that I recommend it).
Grand gets grander: You don’t have to be a guest of the five-star Grand America Hotel, built downtown for the 2002 Olympics, to enjoy its shops and amenities, nor do you have to be a kid to enjoy JouJou, an interactive toy store complete with a 17-pipe musical candy organ, monsterpiece theater, and enchanted forest or La Bonne Vie, a Parisian-style patisserie specializing in artisan chocolates and macaroons. The good life, indeed!
The Public Library is an architectural gem with shops, cafes, exhibits, and cozy fireplaces on every floor. You can climb to the roof for a 360 degree view of the mountains.