20 Things Salt Lake City Is Known And Famous For

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Salt Lake City is known for its Mormon heritage, arts and film scene, as well as beautiful nature including vast Salt Flats and powdery ski slopes.

Sitting alongside the shores of the Great Salt Lake, you’ll find Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City. Often referred to simply as “Salt Lake,” it is the largest city in Utah. Salt Lake City is known for its prominence in Mormon heritage, as well as its natural beauty.

What Is Salt Lake City Known For?

 Founded by Mormons, Salt Lake City is known for being the epicenter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It rises with beautiful mountains in the background, so it’s no wonder this city is home to great winter sports. Salt Lake City is also famous for being “the Crossroads of the West,” since it was the home to the first Transcontinental Railroad.  

However, the city has a lot more to offer! The local landmarks and churches tell the cultural story of Salt Lake City’s founding and growth, but just beyond the city lies incredible outdoor adventure spots. Whether you’re visiting for business, cultural exploration, or the great outdoors, Salt Lake City has plenty of attractions to keep you busy!

History, Culture, And Traditions

Ski Resorts Nearby

 What is Salt Lake City known for if not the perfect powder all around it? Skiers and snowboarders will tell you that this city is a great place to start a winter getaway. With four ski resorts within 30 minutes of Salt Lake, it is easy to grab your gear and hit the mountain.

Some of the best ski resorts nearby include Deer Valley Resort, Alta, and Solitude Mountain Resort, though there are many more to pick from! With beautiful mountains and fresh powder throughout the winter, Salt Lake City serves as a perfect winter escape.

Mormon History

 Salt Lake City is steeped in Mormon history and culture. A group of Mormon settlers, led by Brigham Young, founded Salt Lake City in 1847. This group is primarily known as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, though you will hear them referred to as “Mormons.”

Since the city was founded as a refuge and home for this religious group, you will find embodiments of Mormon culture all around Salt Lake City. This Mormon history, and the large population of Mormons today, is certainly something Salt Lake City is known for.

The Great Salt Lake

Salt Lake City is famous for (unsurprisingly) the Great Salt Lake – it’s right there in the name! The Great Salt Lake is the biggest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. This is actually a remnant of an enormous lake, which used to cover most of the state of Utah.

If you’re interested in visiting this lake, there are two state parks to choose from: Great Salt Lake State Park and Antelope Island State Park. Both of these parks provide different ways to appreciate the lake and its natural beauty, whether through outdoor excursions, tours, or simply viewing the sunset.

This northwest part of the lake also holds the notable land art installation, The Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson – so there is plenty to check out at the Great Salt Lake.

You can also find some of the nice beaches in Utah at these tranquil state parks.

The North Shore Monster

The North Shore Monster is a popular part of Utah’s folk culture. Legend has it that in 1877, a group of workers from the Barnes and Co. Salt Works company saw a figure in the Great Salt Lake. This figure, reported to be huge, had a body reminiscent of a crocodile and the head of a horse.

Allegedly, this creature roared at the men and scared them into the hills. Nowadays, people suspect the true monster was a buffalo. However, the legend of the North Shore Monster is still something Salt Lake City is known for. 

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival has occurred in Park City, just 30 minutes outside of Salt Lake City, for over 40 years now; and Utah is known for this notable film festival. It is the biggest independent film festival in the country, regularly attracting more than 40,000 viewers. The festival takes its name from the Sundance Resort, which is held every year in January.

The Sundance Film Festival promotes independent films, showing over 150 films over the course of 10 days. It attracts celebrities, filmmakers, and film fans alike – anyone can go to Sundance by buying the proper ticket, so if you’re a film fan, consider a trip to Salt Lake City!

Utah Jazz

Salt Lake City is known for basketball as well as the home of the Utah Jazz. The name originates from New Orleans (known for its jazz music), where the team started playing before they were transferred to Utah in 1979. While the team had a rough go of it in their first years as a franchise, they enjoy lots of local support.

If you’re in town during NBA basketball season, you can catch a game at the Vivint Arena. If basketball isn’t your thing, Vivint Arena also hosts musicians and entertainers throughout the years, so there is something for everyone!

Districts And Areas

Temple Square

Mormon culture in Salt Lake City is centered in Temple Square, located in downtown Salt Lake City. As discussed, Salt Lake City is famous for its prominent role in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.

In Temple Square, you’ll find the Salt Lake Temple and the Mormon Tabernacle. It is a ten-acre complex with wonderful architecture and historical buildings to enjoy. You will not be able to visit Salt Lake City without appreciating this area in the heart of downtown.

Liberty Park

There is no better place than Liberty Park to enjoy the crisp Salt Lake City air! Liberty Park covers 80 acres of land, making it the second largest park in the city – home to the Tracy Aviary, playground, tennis courts, and paddle boats.

If you want to go for a longer jaunt, it can take around 1.5 hours to make a full loop walking around the park. You’ll get to see the famous Ferris wheel, which is from 1956. You can even take a ride on the Ferris wheel and see the park Salt Lake City is known for, from above!

City Creek Center

Feeling up to a day of shopping? Check out the City Creek Center. The City Creek Center is an open-air shopping center that combines fountains, a simulated creek, restaurants, and upscale shops, to create a wonderful shopping experience.

While the principal activities at City Creek Center are shopping and dining, there are occasional events at the center as well. Go over their schedule in advance if you want to take advantage of fish feeding in the fountains or other events!

Ensign Peak Nature Park

If you ask hikers and bikers, “what is Salt Lake City famous for?” they will likely answer the Ensign Peak Nature Park. This nature park connects scenic Ensign Peak to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. It provides sweeping views of the foothills and mountains all around the city.

Although the trail is steep and short, it offers incredible sceneries and a fun outdoor experience near downtown Salt Lake City. If you feel like a quick escape from the city, make sure you don’t miss Ensign Peak Nature Park.

Bonneville Salt Flats

The Bonneville Salt Flats is an iconic area that Salt Lake City is famous for. These salt flats stretch for more than 30,000 acres and provide a fun trip for anyone willing to explore outside of Salt Lake City. They are the remainder of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville.

If you visit with friends or family, make sure that you take advantage of the Bonneville Salt Flats for fun photo illusions. The expansive white background creates an easy way to take crazy perspective photos.

In addition, if you catch the salt flats when they have a shallow layer of water, you can see the famous mirror effect, which makes it look like you’re walking in the sky.

You can see why this is one of the famous landmarks in Utah.

Big Cottonwood Canyon

If you head twelve miles southeast of Salt Lake City, you’ll run into the legendary Big Cottonwood Canyon! This canyon stretches 15 miles long and offers a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy, such as hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, and camping.

While the outdoor activity depends on the season, you can be sure there is always something to do in this wonderful canyon. In fact, Big Cottonwood Canyon holds two popular ski resorts, Brighton and Solitude. If you’re interested in enjoying the outdoors, make sure you check out this canyon that Salt Lake City is known for.

Park City Historic District

If you make your way to Park City from Salt Lake City, you can explore the Park City Historic District! Park City originated at the base camp of a silver mine and retains a lot of that history. In fact, the area is so well-preserved that exploring the main street can feel like stepping back in time.

Beyond this, the main avenue is packed with luxury shops, excellent restaurants, and fun souvenir spots. Pick up an ice-cream or search for the perfect thing to remember your trip by!

Landmarks And Architecture

National History Museum of Utah

 If you’re interested in history, make sure you don’t miss out on visiting the Natural History Museum of Utah. This museum contains an expansive variety of natural history, focusing primarily on Utah and the Intermountain West. Its mission is to shed light on the natural world and illuminate mankind’s place within it.

The museum houses an extensive permanent collection of geological, biological, and cultural specimens. In fact, it has over one million objects related to anthropology! This is a paradise for curious minds, so it is certainly worth it to factor some time for this museum that Salt Lake City is known for!

Beehive House

 For anyone who is keen to learn more about the history of the Mormon Church, make sure you check out Beehive House. This is a three-story house in downtown Salt Lake City, where Brigham Young once lived.

Brigham Young was one of the early leaders of the Mormon Church and the second president of the church.

The Beehive House is named for a beehive sculpture on top of the house. The house is restored and undergoes ongoing restorations. When the house is not under restoration, it is open to the public for tours, so if you’re interested make sure you look into it!

Mormon Tabernacle

 The Mormon Tabernacle is an unmissable landmark that Salt Lake City is known for, located in downtown Salt Lake City on Temple Square. It took over five years to build and is designed for large gatherings of Mormons.

One of the key features of the tabernacle is its amazing acoustics, which may be part of the reason why the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is so well-known worldwide.

The Mormon Tabernacle is open for visitors, even outside of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  If you’re interested in getting a view of the inside, carve out some time while you’re in Temple Square to step inside. Maybe you’ll get lucky and hear the choir practicing!

Tracy Aviary

 Bird lovers and appreciators will know that Tracy Aviary is the oldest aviary in the United States. Tracy Aviary has two locations, one in Liberty Park and the other along the Jordan River, offering varied experiences. This allows you to appreciate tons of species of birds, either in a natural habitat or in carefully maintained botanical gardens.

The Tracy Aviary features over 130 different bird species in its collections, exhibits, and programming. They also host a variety of events throughout the year, so there is always something new to see. Make sure you check out this incredible aviary that Salt Lake City is famous for!

Mormon Temple

 The Salt Lake Temple is one of the landmarks that Salt Lake City is known for. It is the centerpiece of Temple Square and is the biggest Mormon temple in terms of square footage. The temple cuts a beautiful shape against the Utah sky, with gorgeous mountains flanking it in the background.

While you can appreciate the architecture from outside the walls, the Salt Lake Temple hosts events only for practicing members of the Mormon church. However, if you’re curious as to what the temple looks like inside, you can reference some photos taken of the inside by James Talmage in 1912 or other photos that appeared in Life in 1938.

Lagoon Amusement Park

Opened in 1886, this family-owned amusement park offers family-friendly fun within 20 miles of Salt Lake City. It is open during the warmer months in Utah, from late March to late October. Lagoon Amusement Park is best known for its rollercoasters, with a total of ten on the property.

The park houses plenty of games, activities, and a waterpark in addition to its thrill rides. Within the property, you will also find amenities like a full-service RV area, camping grounds, and walking trails. This amusement park makes a great day trip or camping excursion for the more adventurous. 


Famous Food In Salt Lake City

Fry Sauce

 If you spend time in Salt Lake City, you’ll likely run into Fry Sauce. Salt Lake City is famous for being the origin of this dipping sauce. Fry sauce is a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise: with one part ketchup and two parts mayonnaise.

Don Carlos Edwards served this sauce first at his Salt Lake City restaurant, Don Carlos’ Barbeque. Now, you can find fry sauce all over the state. This famous sauce typically accompanies classic American foods like hamburgers and french fries.

Funeral Potatoes

 Funeral potatoes are a common dish for group gatherings that Salt Lake City is known for. This crowd-pleasing dish is easy to make, as well as delicious. It gets its name from its popularity at large gatherings, such as funerals.

Funeral potatoes are a type of potato casserole, which combines shredded potatoes, sour cream, cream of chicken soup, onions, butter, cheese, and a crunchy topping, such as crackers or cornflakes. Several restaurants have upscale versions of this Utah classic, so you can give them a try when you visit!

Discovering More Things Salt Lake City Is Known For

If you ask, “what is Salt Lake City known for?” the answer will vary depending on what interests you!

While the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is strong in Salt Lake City, the influence of winter sports, outdoor enthusiasts, and film is also prominent.

And these are just some of the things Salt Lake City is famous for. There is plenty to explore in this city that caters to different preferences and interests.

From the legendary powder to notable landmarks, you won’t be bored in Salt Lake City. Whether you want to spend time in town or get out into the mountains, there is more than enough for you to do. Make sure you put plenty of time in your itinerary to explore this amazing city!



Book Your Flight

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Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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