Salt Lake City, Our Last Stop in Utah

21 Jun
2012
Posted in: Utah
By    8 Comments

I’m trying to be positive about Salt Lake City (SLC), but Utah is wearing me down. I’m tired of this state, of its rules, of its righteousness. I’m ready to leave. I don’t like being surrounded by people who think I’m going to go to hell because I have a cup of coffee in the morning. Enough is enough. They can have the state. When we visit in the future, I’ll BYO good beer and pack my own lunches. I can make it work.

SLC is less than 50% Mormon (“Moes” in the local slang, or “LDS” if your Mormon). That’s important to know if you’re visiting. It feels 100% Mormon, and the downtown is set up to make you think that. Half the people in town drink coffee … or are allowed to. Of course, they may be Jewish and not put dairy on their meat. Or they may be Christian and not eat meat on Fridays. But they can drink coffee. They may also drink beer.

Anyway, as I was saying, the downtown is set up as a Mormon Mecca. It’s their flagship metropolis. We look at the temple and are oddly un-awed by it. Seemed bigger in the pictures. Nicer too. We can’t seem to find the front of it. We look at one side and think the front must be the other side. We go around to that side and it doesn’t feel like the front either. Turns out, we were looking at the front the first time — it’s the side with the reflecting pool and the gold-leaf window that looks boarded-up in the wrong light.

When we enter Mormon grounds, there’s a smiling guy in a suit at the gate. He’s a guard dressed as your annoying uncle, ready to talk Joseph Smith and Jesus, I imagine. We avoid eye contact with him. There are lots of smiling young people with name tags, also trying to make eye contact.

At the visitor center, I urinate. We look at the statue of Jesus and listen to a snippet of the speech he’s supposedly giving. Then we leave. What else is there to do in this town?

We do a driving tour of the Sugar House neighborhood. We visit a thrift store Lisa remembers from her youth. We drive out to the Salt Lake, look at it, drive back. We twiddle our thumbs. Our friends have jobs, it’s too early to meet up.

We turn to the Google. There’s a brewery here, but it’s outside town. We can’t seem to find a bar to retire into or any restaurants besides the Cheesecake Factory.

We go to the brewery outside of town. It’s a working brewery, but it functions as a bar for the working-class locals, union guys that work in the surrounding factories. We get a six pack to go for our friends.

After we meet up, we see the good side of the city. We go on a hike in one of the surrounding valleys. We go to a cool area (either 9th and 9th or 15th and 15th, I can’t remember) and have Spanish tapas and wine and fun. Our friend gets weird looks for having a splash of wine — she’s preggo and used to the looks. We’re seeing the good side of things now, but it’s still not exactly Paris.

As a city, you can live a pleasantly sheltered suburban life here, I’m sure. It’s not really a city, not really a mountain town. We’re happy to see the good side, but it’s still not exactly our taste. There’s no grit, no guts. It’s a bit too artificially “safe” and definitely too righteous. We’re ready to be done with Utah.

The Great Salt Lake. Supposedly great sailing.

The Great Salt Lake. Supposedly great sailing.

The Utah State Capitol building.

The Utah State Capitol building.

The front or back of the Temple.

The front or back of the Temple.

Lisa really likes the walls in the Jesus room.

Lisa really likes the walls in the Jesus room.

Hiking in a canyon far above the city.

Hiking in a canyon far above the city.

Salt Lake sunset.

Salt Lake sunset.

An ominous smoke cloud hung over downtown the next morning.

An ominous smoke cloud hung over downtown the next morning.

  • Lauren

    I was born and raised in Salt Lake City. I’ve also lived in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and having traveled extensively throughout the country and abroad. I’m going to go ahead and say this: you have only yourself to blame for not enjoying Salt Lake City.

    Could you not pick up a local weekly paper? Look up the local community radio or NPR station to get a sense of what’s going on around town? How about yelping to find out that there are several amazing local breweries in the city? Squatters, Uintah (they sell their beer in high-end stores in California, because it’s THAT good), Desert’s Edge, etc. None of those came across your radar? And local coffee shops: Nobrow Coffee, Beans and Brews, and the Coffee Garden (which actually put the Starbucks across the street out of business). Bars within walking distance of the Salt Lake Temple: Juniors Tavern, Cheers to You, The Beerhive (with it’s own ice rail for keeping the over 150 beers served cold), The Red Door for fancy martinis, I can’t even list all of the fantastic places that you could have gone to.

    You missed Red Butte Gardens, and the amazing concert series that plays all summer.

    You missed Ken Sanders Rare Books, where you could talk to the staff about Edward Abbey’s writings and the history of the place. The list goes on.

    It’s fine that there are people out there like you that decide to have a chip on their shoulder over the predominant religion of the state and to put blinders on. It’s what keeps Salt Lake City from being overrun and turning into Aspen or Boulder. But the fact that you didn’t make even the most minimal of efforts stands as an insult to the many amazing artisans, foodies, and small business owners that make Salt Lake City a true gem.
    Think our liquor laws are weird? Try getting beer and wine in the same store in Maryland or Pennsylvania, or the dry counties you’ll drive through across some of the midwest and the south.
    This entry was culturally insensitive and reminds me of why I smile when someone in New York or LA or Chicago says “You’re from Utah? Weird. Are you Mormon?” And I think to myself “Good, another idiot that won’t sully my amazing home town.”

  • Tiffany

    To Lauren: Ditto and well said! Born and raised in Utah myself, I think it’s one of the most beautiful, diverse places on earth.

  • Joe

    Mormon but non-native Utahn now living in SLC, here. Is the culture in Utah strange? Sure. Even as a Mormon, it took some time getting used to the strange ways along the Wasatch Front. But “I don’t like being surrounded by people who thing I’m going to hell because I have a cup of coffee in the morning.” I am not trying to be rude, but who the hell did you talk to while you were here? No one, except the most uptight, self-rightous brats think like this. Any people that self-rightous exist everywhere, not just SLC.

    And how could you not find something to do? Reading your blog it is easy to tell you love the outdoors. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Wasatch Back, and Provo Canyon / Sundance. The recreation areas in Utah and Salt Lake Counties are (absolutely no hyperbole here) unparalleled.

    Lauren, above, gave some great advice for activities in the city, so no need to go any further. If you had a bad time, you blew it.

    • Well … to be fair, we’ve never had a BAD time anywhere. We’re on a year-long vacation. SLC just isn’t my kind of place. Yes, the outdoor activities are great, but the rest of it outweighs whatever positives those provide. Paris manages to be a great place without any canyons. Durango is smaller but has great outdoor activities without the liabilities of SLC. Every city provides a mix of experiences and, on balance, I’ll pass on SLC’s mix, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for others.

  • Df

    I have travelled all over the world and lived in many places and am proud to be a non Mormon calling Salt Lake home. I drink coffee, wine and beer in restaurants and breweries (of which I can easily think of ten microbrews within walking distance of temple square) and have never been given a second look. It just seems like you came to salt lake expecting a certain experience instead of actually experiencing the city as it is.