Utah: A people-friendly town

By Brady McCombs

There are plenty of fun - and free - things to do in Utah, writes Brady McCombs.

The Wasatch mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop to Salt Lake City's skyline. Photo / Getty Images
The Wasatch mountain range provides a dramatic backdrop to Salt Lake City's skyline. Photo / Getty Images

Temple Square

Utah's most-visited landmark, the granite-towered Temple Square invokes the mystery of Mormonism. The 35-acre square is the worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and features the church's sacred temple, one of the world's largest genealogy libraries and spectacular gardens. The square is open every day of the year from 9am-9pm, and free tours are available in 30 different languages. Female church missionaries are happy to answer any questions.

The sacred temple - built over 40 years from 1853 to 1893 - is closed except to all but the most devoted churchgoers with a wallet pass. At the Family History Library, genealogists will help you track down your family roots free of charge.

If you visit on a Thursday evening, you can catch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsing at 8pm in the historic Tabernacle.

City Creek Centre

Built for a reported $1.6billion by the Mormon church to revitalise downtown Salt Lake City, it's the USA's most modern outdoor shopping plaza. It has a trout stream meandering through the centre and retractable roofs that keep the place warm during winter. Just don't call it a "mall," a sacrilege to the architects.

Waterfalls and fountains dot the village-like development, which includes condominiums and is joined by a pedestrian bridge over Main Street. There are more than 100 stores and restaurants, but don't come on Sundays. The church-owned mall is closed on Sundays.

Downtown Light Rail

Built with the 2002 Winter Olympics in mind, Salt Lake City's light-rail network is free for passengers as it weaves through downtown. Riders can get to and from major attractions such as Temple Square, City Creek Center, Salt Lake City Library, Energy Solutions Arena and the Gateway for free.

The last trains run until close to midnight from Monday to Saturday and until about 9pm on Sundays.

Salt Lake City Library

Making this library more than a place to read was the goal of renowned architect Moshe Safdie.

"My ambition was for it to be the best library in the world," he said.

Safdie's $65m building is a six-storey crescent of concrete and glass with vaulted ceilings is a place that invites people to linger. It has a cafe, shops, high-speed Internet connections, art exhibits that turn over every six weeks, film lectures and occasional live music.

Utah Museum of Contemporary Art

A four-time recipient of funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation. The museum is now featuring works by up-and-coming Utah artists Siren Bliss and Megan Geckler, and other exhibits by Jonathan Horowitz.

The second Saturday of each month the museum hosts a family arts event in which children and parents are led through creative art projects by trained artists.

- AP

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