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Utah capital expands its tourism credentials linking outdoor pursuits with culture

Columbia Hillen

Ringed by scenic mountains, it’s little wonder Salt Lake City is renowned as a haven for outdoor sports’ enthusiasts keen on hiking, skiing and snowboarding. What’s less known, however, is its diverse culinary and cultural attractions.

Here are a few ‘to-do’ travel tips on Utah’s capital city.

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Getting Around

Start your visit with a familiarity tour with Jeff Manwaring, owner of Exclusive Excursions. Whether its mountain adventure, a guided tour of Olympic Park or city sightseeing, Jeff and his team can deliver what’s required.

We enjoyed a leisurely three-hour drive with Jeff soon after arriving in the city, stopping at all the major attractions, including the Mormon Temple, the state capitol, assorted museums and the downtown shopping area. 

The tour really helped us quickly understand the layout of Salt Lake, making it easier for us during our stay to reach our destinations easily and without fuss. We also learned a lot about the development of the city from its earliest pioneering days, and about Mormonism.

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Eating Out

Table X

Started by three friends, Mike Blocher, Nick Fahs and David Barboza, all alumni of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, this contemporary restaurant is housed in a renovated wood-barrelled roof building first constructed in 1929. So enamored of fresh produce are the trio, they’ve created their own impressive raised herb and vegetable garden adjoining the restaurant, French potager style.

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Large windows make the dining room seem bigger, as does the seating arrangement. On one side are three, semi-circular, upholstered booths, the other is lined with a banquette fronted by tables. In between are spaced-out tables conveniently placed for diners to walk through the room easily.

A large open kitchen permits guests to enjoy the performance of the young, enthusiastic team while delightful aromas caress one’s palette. This is a place where fresh sourdough bread is baked onsite and where homemade burrata served with pine-infused oil is so tasty it’d make top Italian chefs envious. 

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We opted for an innovative tasting menu, created around seasonal vegetables. From farm, soft-cooked egg with fresh spinach and toasted rye, to a sausage, clams, beans and nasturtium leaf stew, to halibut on risotto and bed of garden greens and beef bavette with fermented kale, we loved it all.  Table X also has a private dining room overlooking the vegetable garden which can accommodate up to 14 guests.


Campos Coffee Roastery & Kitchen

An Australian specialty coffee company, Campos brought its product to the U.S. before opening a chic flagship restaurant located in downtown Salt Lake City, one that is modern and airy. And they roast their beans on-site. 

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Tantalizing coffee is only one reason to try this eatery, the food is equally delightful, with a brunch menu that includes homemade biscuits and gravy, vegemite and coffee braised short rib meat pies, burgers, smoked trout and eggs benedict. For healthier eating, try the intriguingly entitled, ‘Buddha bowl’ comprising quinoa, rice, sweet potato, chickpeas, mushrooms, sautéed greens, tofu, avocado, carrot almond and turmeric puree. 

We decided on lunch and feasted on grilled octopus, magret of duck slices on sourdough bread and roasted chicken with barley risotto. In fine weather, Campos opens its rooftop garden patio.  

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Sights and Sounds

‘This Is The Place’ Heritage Park 

If you’re in the mood for an outdoor stroll with panoramic views over the city and surrounding mountains with onsite historical re-enactments, this is the place. 

Located on a high viewing-point 15 minutes from downtown, this attraction comprises a native American Village and historical homes with live interpretative guides, as well as ongoing activities, from panning-for-gold simulations to blacksmiths, spinners and weavers plying their trade. Kids will love the pony rides and petting corral and the various arts and crafts workshops. If not keen on walking, a tourist train also transports visitors around the park.

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Natural History Museum of Utah

Part of the University of Utah and located in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, this museum is housed in the Rio Tinto Center, which rests on a series of terraces following the contours of the hillside. The main collection is housed in what is called ‘the Canyon,’ a three-story high room. Here, among other impressive collections, you’ll find an entomology section with 200,000 specimens showcasing the diversity of insect life; a mineralogy section with around 5,000 items ranging from gold and copper to colorful minerals such as fluorite, dioptase and azurite; and an herbarium with more than 135,000 botanical specimens from the Wasatch Front and Salt Lake Valley. Earlier this year, a new species of meat-eating dinosaur -  Allosaurus jimmadseni,  - has been unveiled. The huge carnivore inhabited the flood plains of western North America during the Late Jurassic Period, between 157-152 million years ago, making it the geologically oldest species of Allosaurus, predating the more well-known state fossil of Utah, Allosaurus fragilis.

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Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts 

The only museum in the United States dedicated to a state-owned collection of contemporary folk art, Chase Home offers a snapshot of Utah’s contemporary culture and heritage by highlighting crafts, music and dance. In addition to rotating exhibits, concerts, and workshops, four galleries feature objects ranging from quilts and handbags to musical instruments and jewelry. There’s even a collection of saddles, dolls and totem poles. The museum also hosts artist-facilitated workshops on creating traditional arts and crafts. 

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The Leonardo

Inspired by Renaissance figure Leonardo da Vinci, this interactive science and art museum explores ways by which science, technology and art connect with each other. You can learn the principles of robotics, computer animation and coding in a lab or experience special installations that communicate the basics of electricity, genetics, chemistry, light and anatomy. Watch out for the Hylozoic Veil, an innovative artwork stretching along three floors that combines physics, chemistry, sculpture, engineering, and even hints of artificial life. 

Travel Tip 

Buy a Salt Lake City Connect Pass and save on activities, museum entries and much more. You might even consider buying a Salt Lake Brewery Tour Pass, which offers you a discount at each of the 12 brewpubs.

Sean Hillen

Sean Hillen has been an international journalist and editor for over 30 years and published author. His contemporary novel, ‘Pretty Ugly’ is an intriguing ride through the murky undercurrent of the lucrative cosmetic industry http://www.seanhillenauthor.com/  Sean’s writing experience spans several continents - in Ireland, for the national daily The Irish Times and in England, as foreig...(Read More)