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One Day in Salt Lake City – What to See

by Valerie Vanr

See the outstanding architecture and lush parks of Salt Lake City, Utah on a walk through downtown’s Temple Square and Utah’s Capitol Hill. Learn about the founding of Salt Lake City by the Latter-day Saint pioneers and Utah’s history.

Our one-day guide provides the details about all of the best things to do in Salt Lake City!

What to See in Salt Lake City in One Day

Spend a day exploring Downtown Salt Lake City for a mixture of history and the beautiful outdoors.

Day 1 Itinerary:

Day 2 Optional:

On a second day in Salt Lake City, visit “This is the Place” Heritage Park and Library Square. There is no shortage of impressive architecture, history and kid-friendly activities at these two attractions. For a beautiful view over the city, hike the Ensign Peak Trail.

Day 3 Optional:

With more time, enjoy a day trip west to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Salt Lake City Attractions Map

Salt Lake City Utah Attractions Map
Click on the Salt Lake City attractions map for an interactive version

Downtown Salt Lake City Things To Do

The best way to explore the things to do in downtown Salt Lake City is on a self-guided walking tour.  

2024 update: Construction continues on a number of the buildings within Temple Square including the Salt lake Temple. Many of the outdoor public spaces reopened early this year. currently the renovations are scheduled to be fully completed in 2026.
2023 update: The Salt Lake Temple and many of the public spaces around it are under long-term renovation. Access to the area will be impacted. Best efforts are being made to ensure that as much of the Square as possible is open for visiting. Visitors will need to adjust the route based on day-to-day conditions.

See these highlights of Temple Square and Capitol Hill on our walking tour.

Downtown Salt Lake City – Walking Tour Map

Salt Lake City walking tour map
Click the map for an interactive version

Temple Square

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled in the Salt Lake Valley starting in 1847 after fleeing religious persecution in several eastern states. Temple Square, 10-acres in downtown Salt Lake City, became and remains the religious center of their community and its world-wide headquarters.

Between 1847 and 1869, 70,000 people traveled to the valley beginning the successful city we see today. Latter-day Saints also established settlements in the future states of California, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, representing one of the greatest waves of 19th-century Western pioneering.

Salt Lake City Temple and reflecting pool
The reflecting pool in the center of Temple Square mirrors the temple perfectly.

Temple Square has several must-see sites.

Brigham Young Monument

This bronze monument, at South Temple and Main Street, honours Brigham Young who led church pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. It also recognizes Native Americans and fur traders who came before the pioneers. This is the perfect place to start a walking tour of the downtown.

Salt Lake Temple

Sacred rites and ceremonies, such as marriage, are held in the temple which was built between 1853 and 1893. The temple is not open to the general public.

Ox-drawn wagons hauled the granite used to build the temple from Little Cottonwood Canyon twenty-three miles away. The temple’s walls are nine feet thick at their base narrowing to six feet at the top. The center tower is 210 feet high. A statue of the angel Moroni, a symbol of faith in the church, sits on top.

Salt Lake Tabernacle

Construction of the tabernacle began in 1863 and lasted for twelve years. While the first organ contained 700 pipes, it is dwarfed by the current organ’s 11,623 pipes. This is one of the largest pipe organs in the world. The tabernacle is the home of the world-renowned Tabernacle Choir, founded in 1847.

Choir loft organ Salt Lake City Tabernacle
This organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle has over 11,600 pipes, one of the largest in the world.

The stunning Gothic revival Assembly Hall, south of the tabernacle, was completed in 1880 using granite left over from the construction of the Salt Lake Temple. Visitors are welcome in this place of worship. This large building holds almost 2,000 people with 100 seats in the choir. It is 68 feet wide, 120 feet long and the center tower is 130 feet high.

Assembly Hall Salt Lake City
Assembly Hall seats 2,000 people and is open to the general public

The brass Handcart Pioneer Monument of a family pulling a handcart sits adjacent to Assembly Hall. It is a tribute to the nearly 3,000 pioneers who walked the 1350-mile trek from Iowa with all their possessions in handmade, all-wood handcarts. They could not afford ox-drawn wagons so they personally hauled their handcarts the entire route. About 250 people died on the gruelling trek.

Sculpture family pulling cart of possessions
Many Latter-day Saint pioneers pulled their possessions behind them in wooden handcarts.

Church History Museum

This free museum, open 6 days a week, displays artworks, artifacts, photographs and much more, explaining the founding and history of the church.

Displays of art Church History Museum
The Church History Museum displays an extensive art collection.
Museum display cases Church History Museum
There are many artifacts in the museum explaining the history of the church and the Latter-day Saints.

The small Pioneer Log Home was built in 1847 and moved to its current spot next to the museum. This was the home of Osmyn and Mary Deuel who where among the most prosperous of the first settlers. It is furnished as the Deuel’s would have in 1847.

Pioneer log home Salt Lake City
This simple log cabin was the home of wealthier Latter-day Saint pioneers in 1847

Beehive House and Lion House

The Beehive House is so named due to its cupola topped with a beehive.  It is built of stuccoed adobe and has a two-story veranda and an observatory. Brigham Young used it as residence, office and reception area for official visitors in his roles as president of the church and Utah’s first territorial governor.

Lion House was built in 1855 to accommodate Young’s large family.  While the number is not confirmed, it is said he had over 50 wives in his lifetime and over 40 children survived to adulthood. Young died in August 1877.  The church has not sanctioned polygamy since 1890.

Beehive House Salt Lake City
Beehive House served as both home and office for Brigham Young.
Brigham Young's Lion House
This stuccoed-adobe home was built in 1855 to house Brigham Young’s growing family.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center

The semi-annual church general conference and other major church events are held in this huge conference center just north of Temple Square. It opened in 2000. The main auditorium alone seats 21,000 people.  

Conference Center Salt Lake City
The conference center’s main auditorium is large enough to hold two 747s side by side.

Brigham Young Family Memorial Cemetery

The gravesite of Brigham Young is a little off the beaten path, to the east of Temple Square. The cemetery is dedicated to the more than 6,000 Latter-day Saint pioneers who died making the journey to Utah between 1847 and 1869. This is a peaceful spot in the middle of the city.

Statue of man teaching 2 childen plus Val
I decided to listen in while Brigham Young teaches two of his children using both the Book of Mormon and the Bible

Capitol Hill is a short uphill walk from Temple Square.

Capitol Hill

Utah became a territory of the United States in 1850. It was three decades later, as work was underway toward statehood, that a spot for a proper capitol building was determined. The city donated about 20 acres of land in 1888 for a new statehouse. Over time more land was purchased for monuments and buildings. The seat of Utah government now covers about 40 acres.

See the Utah State Capitol’s website for details regarding tours of the Capitol. The grounds of the capitol are great to wander.

Be sure to see these places around Capitol Hill.

Pioneer Memorial Museum

Artifacts celebrating Utah’s pioneer heritage fill the 6-floor Pioneer Memorial Museum. There is no admission fee, so just take a peak if time is tight. We were surprised by the detail and number of artifacts.

Andy in front of Pioneer Memorial Museum Salt Lake City
Andy is waiting for me in front of the Pioneer Memorial Museum, started by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers, a non-denominational heritage association founded in 1901.
Antique steam-powered fire pumper
This horse-drawn, steam-powered fire pumper was built in 1902 by the American Fire Engine Company, Seneca Falls, NY. One of many artifacts at the Pioneer Memorial Museum.

Utah State Capitol Building

Utah became a state on January 4, 1896 but it was 1911 before funding was obtained to construct the Capitol Building. It contains 2 legislative chambers, a ceremonial Supreme Court chamber and working offices for top state officials. The Senate, House and other state offices are in separate buildings on Capitol Hill.

Val standing on steps to the Utah State Capitol Salt Lake City
The Utah Capitol has 52 columns, each 32 feet tall by 3.5 feet in diameter.

Council Hall and White Memorial Chapel are just across the street from the front of the Capitol Building.

Council Hall

The hall was built in the early 1860’s and used as City Hall and the territorial seat of government. Originally located downtown, Salt Lake City outgrew the building in the late 1800s. It was dismantled in 1960 and moved to its current location.  Today, it is the Utah’s official Visitors Center. Pop in for tourism assistance, brochures, travel information and souvenirs and gifts.

Council Hall Salt Lake City
Council Hall was Salt Lake City’s City Hall from 1866 to 1894.

White Memorial Chapel

This non-denominational chapel was built by the Later-day Saints in 1883 for worship services. It was also located elsewhere. In 1976 it was dismantled and rebuilt on this land, which was donated by the state, to honor the country’s 200th anniversary. The White Memorial Chapel is now a nondenominational meetinghouse and event space.

White Chapel Salt Lake City
Now a non-denominational chapel this was built by the Latter-day Saints as a house of worship.

To the east of Capitol Hill is a beautiful park in the valley along City Creek.

Memory Grove Park

The first memorial which honours the fallen soldiers of World War One was created in the 1920s. Over the years since, memorials to veterans of many conflicts have been added. The Meditation Chapel is a perfect spot to sit and gaze over the well-maintained park.

6 columns in circular memorial Memory Grove Park
The pagoda honors Utah’s World War I veterans.
Andy taking photo of chapel across Memory Grove Park
Memory Grove Park’s paths take you past many monuments like Meditation Chapel

For a longer, more strenuous walk, cross the stone bridge at the north end of the park. This is the beginning of the Freedom Trail. It is a walking, jogging and bicycling trail extending from the park into the mountains to the northeast of the city. The park and the trail are part of the Lower City Creek Natural Area. This natural area within the city protects the water of City Creek and provides a habitat for wildlife

Ensign Peak Trail, within the Ensign Peak Nature Park, is a short hike to Ensign Peak, offering a scenic view of the city from the northeast. It is a favorite of residents.

“This is the Place” Heritage Park

The 450-acre state park is at the junction of Emigration Canyon and the Salt Lake Valley. Explore the park’s many things to see and do. For more information about all the activities at the park and admission details, visit the This is the Place Heritage Park website.

This is the Place Monument sits close to where Brigham Young declared “This is the right place” in 1847. That declaration stopped the Latter-day Saint pioneers’ 1300-mile journey from Nauvoo Illinois and started their settlement in the valley. The monument honours those pioneers and all the explorers and settlers of the American West. It was dedicated in July 1947 marking the 100th anniversary of the pioneers’ arrival.

Andy on path in front of the Granite monument to early pioneers
Honoring all of Utah’s early pioneers and settlers, this massive monument was developed by a committee which included representatives of many area religious groups

Heritage Village Living History Experience

The village has over 50 historic homes and structures, all relocated from elsewhere in the state. Collectively they depict a 19th-century Utah settlement. “Villagers” demonstrate crafts, trades and home-making skills. Use the hop on/hop off trains to help see everything. Riding the park’s 3 trains is included in park admission. For the kids, there are pony rides, petting farm, splash pad and a mini-train. There’s a gift shop, a candy shop and many other food options.

Entrance gate This is the Place Heritage Park
Visit This is the Place Heritage Park to learn about pioneer life in Utah

Take a guided trail ride led by experienced wranglers. Explore the base of Emigration Canyon and iconic views of the Salt Lake Valley. All skill levels are welcome.

Mormon Battalion Monument

The monument recognizes the accomplishments of over 500 Latter-day Saint volunteers who joined the US army supporting the war against Mexico. They left from Council Bluffs, Iowa in July 1846, marched nearly 2,000 miles, and arrived in San Diego, California at the end of January 1847. This is the longest infantry march in United States history. The work they did along the way and in California helped open up the southwest for settlement. Their military pay, sent to their families in Iowa, helped many of them finance the journey to the Salt Lake Valley which began later in 1847.

2 groups of bronzed figures of Mormon Battalion
The monument honors the contributions of Latter-day Saint pioneers to the settlement of the US southwest.

Pony Express National Trail Monument

For 18 months in 1860-61, Pony Express riders carried mail back and forth between St. Joseph Missouri and Sacramento California. It was the only practical solution for mail delivery at the time and helped bind together a nation in civil war. Riders traveled day and night as fast as their horses could travel covering the 1800-mile trek in 10 days or less.

The Pony Express National Historic Trail is the best guess for this historic route. There are short unimproved segments believed to be traces of the original trail but most of the actual trail markers are gone. You can travel the trail and stop at monuments along the way which tell that area’s pony express story. It is believed that a relay station where riders stopped for fresh horses was near this Pony Express National Trail Monument. Behind the monument see a relay station’s cabin and fenced compound. The completion of the transcontinental telegraph line in 1861 ended need for the Pony Express.

Monument of 2 horses with riders
Pony Express riders switched their horses for fresh mounts many times along the 1800-mile route.

Library Square

The Salt Lake City Public Library is the highlight of Library Square. The stunning building, designed in partnership with internationally renowned Safdie Architects, opened in February 2003. The exterior courtyard’s 5-storey, curved wall and limestone flooring, are mirrored in the indoor entry hall. The hall’s skylight lets in huge amounts of natural light. Check out the art gallery, spiral grand staircase and glass elevators.

View of Salt Lake City from library roof
The library’s roof top garden is a great place to get a bird’s eye view of Library Square and the cityscape.
5 storey open lobby Salt Lake City library
The library’s entrance lobby is a wide open bright space.

For kids activities, check out The Leonardo museum, next door.  The museum combines science, technology and art to inspire creativity and innovation. For information about current exhibits, hours and admission, visit The Leonardo‘s website.

The balance of Library Square is covered by parkland. What a great way to cover the large underground parking garage! The playful Celebration of Life Monument, dedicated to the gift of life by organ, eye, tissue and blood donations, is a fun place to sit or burn off some energy.

Statue figures plus Andy doing cartwells
Andy is enjoying the park at the Celebration of Life Monument

Washington Square Park, to the west of Library Square across South 200 East Street, is home to city hall. The Salt Lake City and County Building, built in the late 19th century, is surrounded by parkland with mature trees and walkways. By closing South 200 East Street, Washington Square Park, the street and Library Square become one large event plaza for fairs, concerts and other city events. What a great place to explore!

Day Trip from Salt Lake City – Bonneville Salt Flats

The salt flats are about 46 square miles of environmentally sensitive area. Most of the area is perfectly flat with a thick crust of salty soil. There are a few low hills with bits of vegetation. The flats look like a lake bed covered with snow.  In late fall, winter and early spring water typically covers the flats. This is a unique time to visit.  Driving on the flats is not permitted when they are wet. Once the water has evaporated, usually by the start of summer, driving on them is allowed.

From downtown Salt Lake City, the flats are about 1.5 hours west on I80. Stop at the rest area about 10 miles from the Nevada border. There is information about the flats, washrooms and a tap to wash off the salt after a walk on the flats.

The Bonneville Speedway, famous for land speed records, is located on the flats near the Utah/Nevada border. There is still racing on the salt flats but check ahead if that is your only reason to visit as racing is particularly susceptible to weather conditions. 

Be sure to check out our Bonneville Salt Flats article for tips on how to visit and photograph this amazing location. These Utah salts flats are one of the most unique landscapes in the world.

Andy and Val standing water-covered salt flats mountains background

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