You’ll enjoy your trip to the Great Salt Lake more if you understand the history and science that put it on the map. The Great Salt Lake is what’s left of pre-historic Lake Bonneville. It’s the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi River.
Great Salt Lake is salty because it is a terminal lake, meaning its water does not flow to the sea. The only way water can leave is by evaporating. When that happens, the salt gets left behind. Too salty for fish, only algae and brine shrimp live in the lake. Flies in the area are a common complaint, but they are a primary food source for the many birds that migrate to the lake.
Since the water is so salty, it’s easy to float, making swimming a must do for many visitors. White sand beaches, and typically its lack of flies make Antelope Island State Park a popular place to take the plunge.
When Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, Brigham Young, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), proclaimed “Here we will build a temple to our God.” The place where this pronouncement was made eventually became known as Temple Square, whose centerpiece is the Salt Lake Temple — the largest of 135+ Mormon temples.
Located in downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square is the world headquarters of LDS Church, as well as Utah’s number one tourist attraction, drawing in 3-5 million visitors each year. Contained within the Square’s 35 acres are the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, the Salt Lake Assembly Hall, the Seagull Monument, two visitors' centers and the largest genealogy library of its kind in the world. It is also home to the renowned Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra.
Free guided tours take in historic sites, interactive exhibits, art displays and films, parks.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square was built between 1863 and 1875 and originally housed meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church). It was also the location of the semi-annual LDS General Conference for 132 years, before the conference moved to a new center in 2000.
The Tabernacle’s unusual design is said to have come to Brigham Young while he was contemplating a hollowed-out eggshell. After the facility was completed it was considered an architectural wonder of its day, leading Frank Lloyd Wright to dub it “one of the architectural masterpieces of the country and perhaps the world.” Nearly 1.5 million feet of lumber was chopped in the nearby Wasatch Mountains to complete the project. The grand 11,623-pipe Tabernacle Organ, which pipes are made of hand-carved wooden staves, is one of the largest and sonorous organs in the world.
Founded in 1894 to gather genealogical records and assist members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) with family history and genealogical research, the Family History Library is the largest library of its kind in the world. Its main purpose is to fulfill one of the LDS Church’s fundamental tenets: to baptize and perform other saving ordinances on deceased family members. However, many individuals use the library simply to research their ancestry and chart their genealogy.
The library’s collection includes more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials and other formats; and over 4,500 periodicals and 3,725 electronic resources. The library is open to the general public free of charge. It maintains 100 full- and part-time professional staff, as well as some 700 trained volunteers, to assist visitors with their research.
Located at the mouth of Emigration Canyon near Salt Lake City, the Hogle Zoo is one of Utah’s most popular attractions. Spread out over 42 acres (17 hectares), it is the state’s largest zoo and houses animals from a number of diverse ecosystems. Exhibits include: ‘Elephant Encounter,’ which features white rhinoceros and African elephants spread out over four exhibit areas; ‘Asian Highlands,’ a re-creation of a Himalayan village featuring Amur tigers, Amur leopards, Pallas' cats, Siberian lynx and snow leopards; and ‘Rocky Shores,’ an exhibit that hosts a variety of animals, including harbor seals, sea lions, polar bears, grizzly bears, river otters and bald eagles.
Salt Lake City's museum of art, science and technology is aptly named The Leonardo, after Italy's famous Renaissance man. The museum opened in 2011 inside the former Public Library in downtown Salt Lake City. The museum's mission has been to inspire visitors to explore the places where art, science, and technology meet – just as da Vinci himself did. In addition to exhibits, The Leonardo Museum also offers classes and interactive studios. Visitors can check out the Tinkering Studio and Lab @ Leo, an art studio, where there are opportunities to experiment with provided materials or create original art. Temporary exhibits, such as Body Worlds, are also often featured at The Leonardo.
Brighton Ski Resort is not only Utah's oldest ski resort—it's also one of the oldest in the entire United States. Brighton has been focused on offering high quality skiing since it opened in 1936—it's not trying to appeal to visitors who want a luxury spa resort experience with their skiing—and remains a favorite ski resorts in the state. It has been highly ranked for affordability (children under the age of seven always ride and ski for free) and being family-friendly. There are 62 runs at Brighton, a ski and snowboard school, and plenty of opportunities for night skiing.
Located in Big Cottonwood Canyon in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Brighton Ski Resort is actually entirely on public land. Tickets are required in order to use the resort's ski lifts, of course, but the land itself is open to the public year-round. Brighton has a partnership with an adjacent ski resort, Solitude, offering a combined day pass and a chairlift that serves both resorts.
The second-largest copper producer in the United States, Kennecott has produced more copper than any other mine, topping 19 million tons. We all learned about copper in science class, but few people realize how much we depend on the element in our day to day lives. Copper is used in a seemingly endless list of things including electrical wiring, computer keyboards, cell phones, gold jewelry, hot water heaters and coin making. Utah’s Kennecott Copper Mine, also known as Bingham Canyon Mine, has been in operation for more than 100 years.
The mining pit is more than three-quarters of a mile deep and more than two and three-quarter miles wide across the top. It is still growing and is said to be visible from space.