beer photography Salt Lake City Utah

Making TRAX around #SLC

Some common misconceptions held by those of us who have never visited Salt Lake City, Utah are nearly all people in SLC are Mormons, you can’t buy alcohol and Utah voters will once again vote 73% for Romney as President 2016.

While I can’t predict the future election results, the first two assumptions are not true based on my trip this week to the Great Salt Lake country.

Will I only meet Mormons in Salt Lake City?

If you want to meet Mormons easily, then go to Temple Square.

51.4% of the population in Salt Lake County are members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, commonly shortened to LDS or Mormons. Only four of 29 Utah counties have a minority LDS population. There was a proportional decline of Mormons in Utah for a decade through the 90s and into the new millennium, as new non LDS resident population increased. 36,000 people moved into Utah in 2005. The incoming population has averaged only 5,000 people per year for the past decade. To be blunt, Mormons are increasing their numbers again in Utah through births. 22 of 29 counties in Utah saw a rise in the proportion of LDS members in 2013 in the population. SourceMormon populace picks up the pace in Utah – Salt Lake Tribune Nov 30, 2014.

So that gives you about a 50-50 chance of talking to a Mormon when you are out and about in Salt Lake City. The pubs probably offer a higher probability of meeting non LDS people.

City Creek

On a 3-day MLK holiday weekend Sunday, I kind of wondered if I was ever going to meet anybody in Salt Lake City outside Temple Square?

Downtown was eerily vacant.


Even Tuesday, the next regular working day in Salt Lake City, there were not that many people around downtown, until the Outdoor Retailer conventioneers showed up in the afternoon for a few days of economic boom activity when the local hotels, restaurants and bars became beehives of SLC industry.

You can buy alcohol in Salt Lake City, even on Sundays

Salt Lake City has its fair share of pubs and clubs. I only made it into three pubs in three days and all were fantastic spaces with beer prices that had me confident I was not in coastal California any more. $4 at Beerhive Pub and $5 pints at Squatter’s Pub for craft draft are their regular beer prices. Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco bar on Main Street looked depressingly empty on Sunday afternoon during the NFC Championship game, except for one couple oblivious of TV programming.

Beerhive Pub

I’ll cover the beer scene I saw in Salt Lake City in another detailed piece on the peculiarities of alcohol sales in Utah.

Making TRAX around SLC

One of the best features of touring Salt Lake City is its light rail system UTA TRAX. Salt Lake City Airport is one green line terminus and West Valley City Station is the other terminus. The green line passes within one or two blocks of more than a dozen name brand hotels like:

  • Hyatt Place Salt Lake City Downtown Tripadvisor #16 of 75 hotels in SLC
  • Radisson Hotel Salt Lake City Downtown #26
  • IHG/Kimpton Hotel Monaco #8
  • Salt Lake Marriott Downtown at City Creek #35
  • Marriott Salt Lake City Center
  • Hyatt House
  • Hilton Salt Lake City Center
  • Courtyard Salt Lake City Downtown
  • Sheraton Salt Lake City Downtown

In West Valley at the end of the line are

  • Embassy Suites
  • Staybridge Suites
  • Holiday Inn Express

There is a blue, red and green TRAX line. The green line is primarily Salt Lake City Downtown. I thought I saw a lot of Salt Lake City riding the green line trains across the city and the Red line up the hillside to the University of Utah. The University has a huge football stadium and museums.

University of Utah

UTA rail map shows the green line as the short one. Red and Blue lines extend several miles to south valley communities. TRAX is $2.50 one way and $6.25 for all day pass.

In Salt Lake City, the easterly hillsides with an elevated view over Salt Lake Valley are the desirable places to live. TRAX red line goes east up the hillside to University of Utah locations and ends at the University Medical Center.

McCune Mansion

Uphill from Temple Square is the Utah State Capitol. In clear January sun I caught some images in mid-afternoon while hiking up the hillside to the Capitol.

Salt Lake Temple sun

Temple Square is sort of a direct line when walking to the Utah State Capitol from most downtown hotels.

Alfred McCune Home, a 1901 mansion on Capitol Hill caught my eye. I’d never heard of Alfred William McCune. His house is a masterpiece. He died in 1927 having made his fortune in railroad and Utah natural resources. McCune lived in the home around 20 years before moving to Los Angeles.

SLC McCune Mansion

McCune donated the house to the LDS church. About 15 years ago the house was purchased and restored by McCune Associates.

I climbed the stairs and saw a plaque mounted on the red brick wall “Alfred W. McCune Mansion National Register Utah Historic Site”.

SLC McCune Home cu

The view from McCune Mansion looks out to a forest in the city displayed on the rooftop of the LDS 21,000 seat conference center.

LDS conference center Temple Square

Utah State Capitol

The hike uphill was comfortable on a clear day with a winter temperature in the mid-40s and dropping along with the sun.

Utah State Capitol -1

Utah State Capitol has a grand location looking over Salt Lake City and the mountain valley region. On a clear day the view might be the grandest from any capitol in the states. Leave a comment if you know of a better view in another state. I’d like to know if there is a capitol I missed.

SLC Capitol view

Utah gained statehood in 1896 and the Utah State Capitol opened in 1915. For nearly 20 years the Salt Lake City and County Building served as Utah State Capitol. That historic city building and the Salt Lake City Library are found on the UTA TRAX red line in downtown Salt Lake City.

SLC City Hall

Salt Lake City Public Library is ranked as 5-Star by the Library Journal’s Index of Public Library Service 2014. SLC Public Library is 113 of 7,586 libraries in the country and in the top ten for libraries of its size with a 5-star rank.

SLC Library

The last place I’ll mention in this post is the Capitol Theatre across the street from Hotel Monaco. The building was originally constructed in 1913 and restored in 1978. The place now serves as the home of Utah Opera, Ballet West and Broadway Across America.

SLC Capitol Theatre

I spent two full days wandering around Salt Lake City and I barely scratched the surface. I did not enter a single museum and there is the planetarium, zoo, Natural History Museum and art museums in town. Temple Square has the family genealogy research center guests can access for free. I walked by on my way to the Utah Capitol with the intent to stop by on the trip back to my hotel. I ended up walking a different way through downtown.

Salt Lake City is an interesting place to see. My tour of hotels shows the downtown tourist industry is growing through new build hotels like Hyatt House and a new Courtyard in construction.

With airline tickets frequently under $100 round trip from California, Salt Lake City is a place with enough to see to make a long weekend enjoyable.


  • swag January 23, 2015

    It’s worth noting that the TRAX (and the buses) have a downtown free fare zone. From the library area down to Temple Square and west to the Arena area, you can ride for free. This area include the convention center and many of the areas tourists will be visiting.

  • Daria January 23, 2015

    Hey Rick, nice post on Salt Lake City! I have never known that this town is known for its good pubs. The massion of Temple Square differs greatly from the rest of city infrastructure, as I see it. And the overview of mountains around SLC is wow!
    I see you make worthy photos in a trip. I would love your involvement in photo aggregation user project called Carde (I am one of the developers). You can have a look at our website or better email me!
    Thanks and happy travels!

  • Kelly M January 23, 2015

    Another good downtown pub is the Green Pig on 4th south between Main and State Street. Nice overview of the city.

  • Ric Garrido January 24, 2015

    I was in the Green Pig for NFC Championship game kick-off. The place was packed. Looked like a fun time, but too crowded and loud for me with few available places to sit.

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