Last summer, well…It just wasn’t summer, right? Sure we went on hikes, longer than usual walks, dusted off the bike to pedal around empty streets and generally got away from our locked-down lives as best we could, but, meh. We’re talking about summer—all caps SUMMER—with festivals, parades, patios and unbridled, unfettered, just-plain goofing off. And while not everything will be back in full form, there are rumors and rumblings of a proper Salt Lake Summer about to come out of hibernation and roar. As we, hopefully, tentatively, carefully, nervously look forward with our bleary eyes toward SLC’s summer glories, we find ourselves with a little bit of that old spring swing in our step. We’ve got a lot to make up for. This year it’s DOUBLE SUMMER. Get out there and make it count.
Day Trip #1: Urban Outdoors
1. Start your day with coffee and a lovely selection of French pastries at Eva’s Bakery. (155 S. Main St., SLC, 801-355-3942)
2. Lace up your light-hikers and head up to the Utah State Capitol building to explore the grounds, enjoy views of the valley and explore the history inside the capitol rotunda. From this perch, you can experience just how close Salt Lake is to the great outdoors with a drop into Memory Grove (a collection of memorials and monuments honoring Utah’s Veterans) and a hike up the paved trail into City Creek Canyon. The canyon’s relative wildness has been preserved to protect the precious water flowing down its namesake waterway.
3. After you’ve closed your fitness rings, grab a bite at Laziz Kitchen (912 S. Jefferson St., SLC, 801-441-1228) a modern Lebanese cafe serving small plates (muhammara, falafel, salmon ceviche) and full meals, including brunch. (Watch out for the sporadic Sunday Drag Brunch, an outrageously fun party.)
4. Set out to explore the Granary District, a newly emerging area built around the warehouses and grain silos where our forebears used to sock away summer harvests for the winter. Start with dessert at the retro-fabulous shop RubySnap FRESH Cookies (770 S. 300 West, SLC, 801-834-6111) with its Rosie the Riveter vibe and cookies named after fictitious 1940s pin-up girls—like Trudy (classic chocolate chip) and Judy (velvety orange dough, topped with buttery cream).
5. Nibble your cookies while browsing the stacks of old and new vinyl at Randy’s Records Shop (157 E. 900 South, SLC, 801-532-4413) and then drop into Thyme and Place (362 E. 900 South, SLC, 385-381-9216), a tiny shop specializing in tiny plants for tiny homes and apartments.
6. For dinner, find your way to SLC Eatery (1017 S. Main St., SLC), where a nondescript facade hides delights like fresh coriander noodles with lamb in a fermented black bean sauce, prawn-stuffed agnolotti and rare smoked beef and a rolling dim sum-like cart loaded with appetizers.
Bikeshare & Artshare
Curate your own exhibit of public art on SLC GREENbikes.
A tour of downtown Salt Lake City’s public art lets you get to know the city and its maze of lesser-known alcoves and alleyways, concealing an eclectic collection of breathtaking murals and installations. It requires some mild zigzagging through Salt Lake’s wide city blocks, but the treasure hunt is well worth it. The tour also gives you the chance to stretch the pandemic atrophy from your legs and brain (and snap some great pics for the ’gram)!
1. Grab a GREENbike from the SLUG Mag Station (200 S. 200 East.) and head west along 200 South.
2. Right off the bat, there’s the Ave Maria (156 E. 200 South, El Mac & Retna), a mural depicting a vibrant, larger-than-life Virgin Mary on the side of the old Guthrie Bicycle building.
3. Stay the course and you’ll find the cosmic mural Constellation Owl (200 S. State St., Yvette Vexta), a celestial owl leaving a comet trail of rainbow-colored geometry across the matte-black brick wall of Impact Hub Salt Lake.
4. After the owl, turn onto Regent St. to get a splash of high-contrast color from the Eccles Theatre Mural (146 Regent St.), painted with the unique canvas in mind: slated loading-bay doors. The signature style is that of mural artist Traci O’Very Covey, whose work is also on display in South Salt Lake.
5. Head back to 200 South and cross the street to the north side of the Gallivan Center (approx. 50 E. 200 South.). There, you should see one of the most eye-catching art installations currently in Salt Lake City: a heart made of super-reflective intricate designs engraved on dichroic plexiglass, koro loko.
6. You can cut through Gallivan Center to the next stop on our tour, which is a little bit harder to spot. There’s an unassuming alleyway just off Main Street you’ll need to duck down (approx. 222 S. Main St.). It will take you to a quiet courtyard and the Book Wall mural (Paul Heath), marking the old location of Weller’s Books, where you can take a photo with a giant-size version of your favorite book.
7. Pedal down Broadway toward Squatter’s, passing a number of small but no less interesting art installations along the way, and you’ll see the last stop on our tour: the mural Squatter’s Nod to Beer (147 W. Broadway, Mike Murdock, Trent Call, Chuck Landvatter).
8. Here, you can drop off your bike at the Squatters Station and head in for a well-earned beer. If you’re hungry for more, opt for the GREENbike day pass ($7/day) and go on as many 30-minute rides as you can cram into 24 hours. Get yours at greenbikeutah.org.
The Ultimate Cabin Fever Cure
While you can base any of our day trips, adventures and good-for- the-soul activities from the home+office+school you’ve been hunkering down in for a year, get out for a weekend and check in to Hotel Monaco. Located in the center of downtown SLC in the renovated Continental Bank Building (the hotel restaurant, Bambara, has a private room built into the old bank’s steel cash repository), the pet-friendly boutique hotel is a well-situated and civilized base to help you overcome what by now must be a severe case of cabin fever. Also, starting this summer the hotel offers a selection of guided hiking trips through the local outfitter Utah Mountain Adventures. If you want someone else to do the planning, these customized outings range from day hikes to multi-day backpacking excursions.
Day Trip #2: Fun in the Foothills
1.Take your breakfast on the lush patio at Ruth’s Diner (4160 E. Emigration Canyon Rd., SLC, 801-582-5807) in Emigration Canyon with the sounds of the babbling Emigration Creek in the background. Ruth’s is a Utah classic, with a hearty diner-style menu and its famous “mile- high” biscuits and homemade jam.
2. Walk those biscuits off at Red Butte Garden (300 Wakara Way, SLC, 801-585-0556) a large, beautiful botanical garden that focuses on native plant education in a peaceful spot in Salt Lake’s eastern foothills.
3. For lunch, venture into Millcreek Canyon and enjoy another essential Utah patio at Log Haven (6451 E. Mill Creek Canyon Rd., SLC, 801-272-8255). Chef Dave Jones and the lifer team serve a game-centric menu paired with a thoughtful selection of wines and creative cocktails in this canyon retreat.
4. Spend the rest of the day exploring the Natural History Museum of Utah (301 Wakara Way, SLC, 801-581-6927). Start at the top and wander through the prehistory of the Great Salt Lake Valley to the big payoff, one of the west’s most extensive collections of dinosaur fossils.
5. If bones aren’t your bag, consider the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (410 Campus Center Dr., SLC, 801-581-7332), featuring a rotating collection of western artworks. The museum recently hosted “Black Refractions,” an exhibit on loan from the Studio Museum in Harlem, featuring 100 works by nearly 80 artists of African descent, from the 1920s to the present.
6. For dinner, visit the love child of chef Drew and front-of-house angel Angie Fuller, Oquirrh (say: Oaker, 368 E. 100 South, SLC, 801-359-0426). Named after that mountain range out west, the Fullers’ homey restaurant serves new takes on classic comforts—think roasted carrots of many colors, placed vertically in a spicy carrot puree, tiny potatoes cooked in milk or the must-try chicken confit pot pie.
Day Trip #3 – Explore the Great Salt Lake & Bar Crawl
1. On the industrial outskirts of the city, you’ll find The Garage on Beck (1199 N. Beck St., SLC, 801-521-3904), a roadhouse-style bar (ages 21 and over) with a Mad Max meets Austin, Texas vibe. Try the huevos rancheros.
2. Keep heading north to Antelope Island State Park. The island is the largest of the “keys” of the Great Salt Lake and is home to a resident herd of roaming bison. Views from the western side of the island reveal the otherworldly landscape of Utah’s salty sea.
3. Back in civilization, start the afternoon with a pint and a sampling of local sausages in the modern beer-hall environment of Beer Bar (161 E. 200 South, SLC, 385-259-0905).
4. From there, embark on a bar crawl in of the main downtown watering holes. Drop by Alibi (369 S. Main St., SLC, 385-259-0616) for excellent cocktails and walls of art by local artists Dan Cassaro and Dan Christofferson.
5. Or get your Donkey Kong on at Quarters (5 E. 400 South, SLC) an arcade bar with a full slate of retro and modern video games, pinball machines and video-game-themed cocktails.
6. These and more are all within stumbling distance of your hotel and dinner at Eva Restaurant (317 S. Main St., SLC, 801-359-8447), a lovely little bistro featuring small pates and a daring wine list.
7. Close out the night with absinthe at The Rest, a subterranean speakeasy hidden under the street-level bar Bodega (331 S. Main St., SLC, 801-532-4042).
For more urban adventure ideas, click here.