The capital of the Beehive State is a thriving big city with a small-town vibe. Move to Salt Lake City for work or school, and you’re likely to stay for the growing employment opportunities, affordable-ish cost of living, booming creative scene, and proximity to the impressive Wasatch mountains.
Despite its reputation as a conservative religious town, Salt Lake is becoming increasingly racially, culturally, and religiously diverse. Its population leans left, and it is known for being very LGBTQ-friendly. Here are 20 insider insights to prepare you for life in Salt Lake City.
1. Utah is an outdoor lover’s paradise.
Are you a mountain biker? Rock climber? Skier or boarder? Nature enthusiast? There are a community and an activity here for you no matter the season. GET OUTSIDE.
2. You’ll find world-class trails right outside your door.
Salt Lake has dozens of great hiking trails within a half hour of downtown, and Park City is known for its 400-mile system of maintained mountain biking trails—good for running and riding in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter.
3. Prepare for weather extremes.
Get ready for hot summers, cold winters, and everything in between. Average temperatures hover just above freezing in January and climb well into the 90s in July. Keep in mind that weather can change quickly and unexpectedly. It’s really all about having the right gear.
4. When it snows, life goes on.
Utahns don’t bat an eye when the snow starts falling. We go to work, we go to school, and most importantly, we go skiing.
5. Our skiing is epic.
Our license plates bear the phrase “Greatest Snow on Earth,” and we’re proud of it. Access six world-class ski resorts within an hour of the SLC airport—plus miles and miles of Nordic trails and backcountry skiing and boarding.
6. The LDS Church is an institution.
Salt Lake City was founded and settled by Mormon pioneers, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints global headquarters is in the heart—literally—of downtown. Roughly 60 percent of Utahns are LDS, though that number is slightly lower in Salt Lake. The Church influences much of the political and social fabric of the city.
7. SLC is a family-oriented city.
Thanks to the Mormon commitment to raising large families and a high birth rate, Utah continues to boast one of the youngest populations in the nation. You’ll find plenty of kids—and kid-friendly activities—in the city.
8. Our liquor laws are…complex.
Alcohol regulations in Utah are heavily influenced by the teetotaling Mormon church. Two of the many quirks: Draft beer must be under 4 percent alcohol by volume, and you’ll only find full-strength beer sold at room temperature in a state liquor store. Plan ahead for weekend parties, as you won’t be able to buy wine or liquor on Sundays.
9. Everything closes on Sundays.
— Uinta Brewing (@UintaBrewing) October 20, 2017
10. We still have great booze.
You’ll find a number of aptly-named breweries in and around Salt Lake City, including Red Rock, Uinta, Wasatch, and Epic. Small-batch distilleries are also popping up to provide locally-made liquor. Fun fact: some of the earliest distilleries in Utah were run by none other than Mormon pioneer Brigham Young.
11. There actually is a Great Salt Lake.
SLC’s namesake is the largest saltwater lake in the Western hemisphere. It is so shallow that its size and salinity fluctuate day-to-day. You can hike, bike, and camp on Antelope Island, the largest on the lake, and you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive North Shore Monster.
12. The city is on a coordinate grid. You’ll get used to it.
If you’re lost just looking at an address like 210 East 400 South, you are not alone. Street naming conventions throughout Utah are similar to longitude and latitude. Temple Square downtown represents the prime meridian at 0 degrees, which means 210 East 400 South is four blocks south and just over two blocks east of the temple. Pro tip: When referring to street names aloud, 100 South becomes “1st South” and so on.
13. Use caution when crossing the street.
Salt Lake City’s layout is rooted in Mormon leader Joseph Smith’s original city plan. Our blocks are long and our streets are wide—up to six lanes of traffic across! Walk quickly, and use the orange flags provided at street corners to make yourself visible to drivers.
14. Drive carefully.
Salt Lake City drivers—and Utah drivers more broadly—consistently rank among the worst in the nation. Many treat speed limits and red lights more like suggestions than laws. Keep your wits about you and follow the rules.
Word from Utah is the Dread Winter Inversion is back in SLC.. What a bummer to breath that air. Can look like this: pic.twitter.com/qMgr7f7xaM
— John Daley (@CODaleyNews) January 9, 2015
15. No, that isn’t fog.
From December to February, you may notice a thick smog over the Salt Lake Valley. Known as an inversion, it is the result of warm air above trapping cold air underneath, most often between snowstorms. Check air quality indices every day, and use it as an excuse to head up to the mountains.
16. We have a booming tech industry.
Utah is home to more than 4,000 startups as well as plenty of familiar names, from Adobe to eBay. In the last three years, venture capital firms have invested $2.5 billion in and around an area dubbed Silicon Slopes, which means opportunities in tech are likely to continue to grow.
17. We are avid sports fans.
Utahns take their sports teams seriously. You’ll soon get to know the Utah Jazz (NBA), Real Salt Lake (MLS soccer), and the University of Utah Utes.
18. There is plenty of free (or cheap) outdoor fun.
Our calendar is chock-full of free events ranging from farmers markets and street fairs to outdoor yoga and hiking meetups. Check out seasonal events at ski resorts, the zoo, and the botanical gardens.
— CPCLondon (@CPCLdn) October 18, 2017
19. You can rub elbows with celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival.
Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute hosts this world-renowned event in Park City every January. Head up to Main Street to catch a film—locals have access to discounted tickets.
20. Our music scene is rockin’.
You will never be lacking for live music of all genres. Outdoor concerts, like those at Red Butte Garden, are favorites during the summer.