By Roslyn Jolly.
You might know Salt Lake City as the world headquarters of the Mormon Church and the capital of Utah, one of America’s most conservative states. But did you also know it has an openly lesbian mayor and has been identified by Gallup as the “seventh-gayest city in the US”?
Salt Lake City has always been a countercultural hub. Ever since the Mormon pioneers founded their city in the desert (in 1847), where they pursued their polygamous lifestyle, it has marched to its own beat. While Mormonism no longer dominates, the city remains a place where people feel free to be different – as its strong anti-discrimination laws attest.
Where diversity thrives, great dining, night-life and culture are guaranteed to follow. Salt Lake City’s expanding restaurant scene keeps pace with its range of performing- arts venues. And although the Mormon Church decries alcohol, the city boasts award-winning craft breweries and microdistilleries, with many offering drinks that pay tongue-in-cheek homage to the traditions they subvert. Five Wives Vodka or Polygamy Porter, anyone?
Base yourself at the chic Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City for access to its bistro, Bambara. It’s only a few minutes’ walk to Italian alfresco dining at Caffé Molise and craft beer institutions Beerhive Pub (128 South Main Street; +1 801 364 4268) and Squatters. See a concert or ballet at the nearby Salt Lake County Center for the Arts.
Families may prefer to stay at the Little America Hotel with its easy access to Downtown via the Trax light rail system. From here, it’s a short drive to Pago, which serves farm-to-table fare. Further south is the bohemian Sugar House neighbourhood, where the breweries Epic and Wasatch have gastropubs. Hipsters will love Unhinged boutique, while those with a punk vibe should check out the vinyl and comics at Raunch Records.
East of the city, the Wasatch Range forms a spectacular natural backdrop and the mountains are excellent for daytrips. Visit Park City, the former mining town that now hosts the Sundance Film Festival, or enjoy the jagged grandeur of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. To the north-west is the Great Salt Lake, where you can drive across the causeway to Antelope Island to see deer, antelope and bison roam.
Back in town, immaculately landscaped Temple Square showcases Mormon history and culture. Marvel at the Gothic-style magnificence of Salt Lake Temple and admire the charming Assembly Hall. Mormon volunteers offer free tours of the precinct
or The Beehive House, where early Church leader Brigham Young lived.
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