Want to live somewhere with beautiful mountain views, affordable housing, tons of outdoor recreation, and a budding tech industry? Consider moving to Salt Lake City! Utah’s capital city continues to grow and diversify, making it one of the best mid-size cities in the U.S. and an excellent place for young professionals and families to settle down. Here are 24 things to know about living in Salt Lake City!
Welcome to Salt Lake Valley
Wondering how many people live in Salt Lake City? Well, that answer depends on how you define the city’s boundaries. The population of Salt Lake City itself is right around 200,000, but the SLC metropolitan area is much bigger than that. Encompassing the entire Salt Lake Valley between the Wasatch Mountains and the Oquirrh Mountains, this 500-square-mile area includes Salt Lake City, West Jordan, South Jordan, Sandy, Murray, and West Valley City, bringing the total population of Salt Lake County to nearly 1.16 million residents.
A Young, Fast-Growing Population
Did you know Utah is the youngest state in America? With the continuous influx of college graduates and young professionals moving to the state for career opportunities on top of the state’s incredibly high birth rates, Utah is seemingly ageless. The Salt Lake City population, on a smaller scale, is no different. The two largest demographics are ages 25-34 and ages 5-14. Because both the state and its capital city consist of such a young population, the local economy has seen considerable growth, particularly among entry-level jobs and startups—and it’s led to a hot real estate market for young homebuyers and new developers!
One of the Best U.S. Cities for Jobs
Are you relocating to Salt Lake City for job opportunities? Good news! Not only is Utah one of the top states in the U.S. to find a job, but Salt Lake City itself is one of the best cities for jobs as well! The city has a 3.9% unemployment rate and a median household income of $50,353, and it’s seeing steady job growth in government, retail, technology, and healthcare industries. Some of the area’s top employers include Salt Lake County, Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah, and Delta Airlines. (Fun fact: Extra Space Storage is also headquartered in Salt Lake City!)
Silicon Slopes Is On the Rise
Of course, you know about Silicon Valley. But have you heard about tech industry up-and-comer Silicon Slopes? Nicknamed for its home among the Wasatch Mountains, Salt Lake City is poised to join the ranks of top cities in the U.S. for tech jobs, thanks to the boom of startups in the SLC metro over the last few years. Major companies like Adobe, eBay, Microsoft, and Oracle have set up shop in the area, too, making the Wasatch Front a great option for people who want to relocate for tech work but who don’t want the Bay Area cost of living. In other words, if you’re looking to get in on the ground before Silicon Slopes gets big, now’s the time to move to Salt Lake City!
Get Outside & Enjoy the Weather
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Salt Lake City frequently tops the lists of best cities for outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to its beautiful mountain climate. The weather in Salt Lake City is mild throughout the year. Winters see temperatures between the low 20s and mid-40s, while summers see temperatures between the low 70s and mid-90s. There isn’t much rainfall in the area, but there is considerable snowfall with nearly 62 inches on average each year. Even still, the snow doesn’t stop locals from enjoying the outdoors. If anything, it just means the 11 ski resorts around the valley will be busier than usual!
Be Ready for Winter Inversions
Some mornings between December and February, you’ll walk out of your door and suddenly notice a thick fog hovering over the city. This is called “inversion,” and it happens whenever layers of cold air get trapped below layers of warm air. Since Salt Lake City is in a valley encircled by mountains, this is pretty common, especially right after a snowstorm. Winter inversions trap pollutants in the lower layers, so they can affect overall air quality. However, the city is good about alerting residents ahead of time. SLC continues to introduce green initiatives to reduce emissions in the valley, such as the Clear the Air Challenge.
Trendy Neighborhoods & Family-Friendly Suburbs
Whether you want to live in the heart of the city near the action or you want to raise a family in a quieter, residential community, SLC has the perfect place for your lifestyle! Looking for a trendy area with unique bungalows, hip boutiques, exciting nightlife, and easy walkability? Check out areas like Sugar House, Yalecrest, East Bench, and Greater Avenues, all of which are among the best places to buy a home in Salt Lake City. Or maybe you want a spacious home with a lush yard that’s close to good schools and outdoor recreation areas. In that case, you might consider living in Salt Lake City suburbs like Bountiful and West Jordan.
Great Public & Private Education
Whether you’re searching for the best schools in Salt Lake City for your kids or you’re hoping to earn an advanced degree, there are plenty of good education options available. Canyons School District, Jordan School District, and Salt Lake City School District are among the top public school districts in the area, while Rowland Hall, Intermountain Christian School, and American Heritage School are among the best private schools. As far as higher education goes, the most prominent universities are University of Utah and Brigham Young University (BYU), but the area is also home to Utah Valley University, Weber State University, and several community colleges.
The Temple Is the City Center
Moving to Salt Lake City requires learning a unique street numbering system, which can be confusing for new residents and visitors alike. The most important thing to know is that the city’s grid is based off Salt Lake Temple in Temple Square, which is bordered by North Temple, South Temple, West Temple, and Main Street. The starting point is where South Temple and Main Street intersect. Think of this like “point zero.” From there, each street name references how far north/south and how far east/west it is from this point. For example, 100 South 300 East is one block south of South Temple and three blocks east of Main Street. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, it’s easier to get the hang of it than you’d expect!
Utilize the Public Transportation
It’s getting easier to find public transportation in Salt Lake City, thanks to the city’s sustainable living and conservation efforts. With commuter train FrontRunner, residents can travel back and forth across the metro from Ogden (in the north) to Provo (in the south). There’s also a light-rail system known as TRAX that travels between neighborhoods and suburbs, as well as to Salt Lake City International Airport. You can even take UTA buses across the metro and up into the mountains to local ski resorts. So while you still may need a vehicle for traveling outside of the SLC metro, you can get around frequently without one!
A History Led by Mormon Pioneers
Salt Lake City was founded in 1847 by pioneer Brigham Young, who sought a land where he and other Mormon settlers could practice their religion without persecution. Though the Salt Lake area still has some reflections of its native Ute and Navajo peoples, most of the city’s structure is the result of these pioneers. From the magnificent temple in Temple Square and the 132-feet-wide streets in Downtown SLC to the sheer volume of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) chapels throughout the valley, there’s definitely a large Mormon influence in Utah’s capital city.
The Culture Is Becoming More Diverse
Although the Beehive State is home to the largest Mormon population in the U.S., the Mormon presence in Salt Lake City is decreasing with the influx of new residents. In fact, only about 50% of residents are part of the LDS community. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City has become a queer-friendly city. It’s home to the Utah Pride celebration and a large LGBTQ population—and former mayor Jackie Biskupski was even the city’s first openly gay mayor! There are even major shifts in the city’s ethnic makeup. Since the 2010 census, there has been considerable growth among Salt Lake City’s Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino populations.
Home to the Great Salt Lake
Located on the northwest side of the valley is the city’s namesake landmark, the Great Salt Lake. It’s the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere at about 75 miles long and 35 miles wide. You can hike, bike, camp, go horseback riding, and see free-ranging bison along the lake at Antelope Island State Park. You can even swim in the lake at Bridger Bay Beach—though it’s more floating than swimming due to the lake’s high salinity. (Be sure to wash the brine off after you’re done swimming in the park’s shower areas!)
Where’s the healthiest city in the U.S.? You’re looking at it! Salt Lake City living is all about being outdoors. No matter where you go in the city, you’re bound to encounter hiking trails. Hike Ensign Peak to the summit where Salt Lake City founder Brigham Young first laid eyes on the valley below. This beautiful spot also offers great views of the Utah State Capitol and Downtown SLC. Head into Big Cottonwood Canyon and hike to Donut Falls, where water from a nearby stream runs through a “donut” opening into a small cave. Or test your endurance on the nearly eight-mile hike up Mount Olympus to its Instagram-worthy summit.
Hiking isn’t the only outdoor activity residents in Salt Lake City love! You’ll see tons of bike racks along the streets and on top of cars since both mountain biking and urban biking are popular among residents. Make your way along Little Cottonwood Creek for a rocky seven-mile ride, or get in shape for your next triathlon with the strenuous 20-mile Wasatch Crest Trail. Prefer a more leisurely ride? Not only do most Salt Lake City neighborhoods have bike lanes, but you can also follow the Cycle the City loop around downtown or enjoy an easy ride on multi-use paved trails. Don’t have your own bike? No problem! Rent one through the city’s nonprofit bike sharing program, GreenBike.
Close to Some of the Best National Parks
There are five national parks in Utah within four hours of Salt Lake City, making weekend getaways easy for those who love camping, hiking, canyoneering, horseback riding, backpacking, and more. Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park are also part of the Grand Circle, which has the largest concentration of national parks in the U.S. So if you’re looking to knock out a bunch of national park trips in one go, a Grand Circle road trip is a great idea!
Hit the Slopes in the Winter
Salt Lake City didn’t host the Winter Olympics for just any reason. The Wasatch Mountains offer some of the best places to ski in the U.S., thanks to the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Ski spots like Brighton, Alta, and Park City are all within 45 minutes of Salt Lake City, while resorts like Sundance and Powder Mountain are within an hour, making weekend ski trips a popular activity for local residents. If you want a more unique winter adventure, visit Utah Olympic Park in Park City, where you can learn more about the 2002 Winter Olympics, ride a bobsled with a professional driver, and go extreme tubing down Nordic ski jumps.
Walk Among the Animals
Looking for things to do with kids in Salt Lake City? Visit Hogle Zoo! Located near East Bench and the University of Utah, this local attraction is home to more than 800 animal species and offers train rides, bird shows, and more. Stroll through the African Savanna exhibit to see giraffes, zebras, and lions. Meet polar bears, sea lions, and bald eagles in the Rocky Shores exhibit. Or watch elephants swim in the Elephant Encounter exhibit. Hogle Zoo even hosts family-friendly annual events like BooLights and Zoo Lights, as well as events like Zoo Brew and Zoo Rendezvous for adults. (You can purchase a zoo membership here!)
Get to Know Downtown Salt Lake City
Downtown Salt Lake City offers a little something for everyone—shopping, dining, nightlife, museums, sports, live music, you name it! Get some retail therapy at the indoor-outdoor City Creek Center. Pick up fresh produce and handcrafted goods at the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park. Snap a photo in front of the art installation at Salt Palace Convention Center to let everyone know “You Are Here.” Take the kids to see a space-themed light show at Clark Planetarium. Catch independent films and documentaries at Broadway Centre Cinemas, operated by Salt Lake Film Society. Or discover up-and-coming standup comedians at Wiseguys Comedy Club. And be sure to take advantage of UTA’s free fare zone!
Make a Date with the Theatre
You don’t have to travel to Los Angeles or New York City for fine arts. Salt Lake City has everything you need! Ballet West and Utah Opera perform at Capitol Theatre, while the Utah Symphony performs at Abravanel Hall. Of course, you can’t forget about the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which performs at the Tabernacle on Temple Square. You can also visit Eccles Theater and Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center to see Broadway musicals, dance troupes, Christmas concerts, and more. Want an experience that’s off the beaten path? Check out The Viva La DIVA Show at Club X. It’s Salt Lake City’s first (and only) professional celebrity and female impersonation show!
Home to Sundance Film Festival
Calling all film fans! Did you know Utah is home to Sundance Film Festival? Named after chairman Robert Redford’s character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, this ten-day festival showcases shorts, indie films, documentaries, feature films, and foreign films. It’s even credited with helping films like Little Miss Sunshine, Reservoir Dogs, Call Me By Your Name, and Man on Wire get wider attention. The Sundance Institute hosts the event in January across Salt Lake City, Park City, and Sundance Mountain Resort.
Discover Your New Favorite Team
Hoping to find a new pro sports team to root for after moving to Salt Lake City? Take your pick from the Utah Jazz (NBA), Salt Lake Bees (MiLB), Real Salt Lake (MLS), and Utah Grizzlies (ECHL). You can catch the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Downtown, the RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, the Bees at Smith’s Ballpark in Central City, and the Grizzlies at Maverik Center in West Valley City. And if pro sports aren’t your style, you can always cheer on the Utah Utes or the BYU Cougars!
A Growing Food Hub
Salt Lake City has become a “foodie” haven in recent years, so finding excellent restaurants is as easy as walking down the street! Want the best Mexican food in Salt Lake City? Grab a Jalapeno Margarita and the signature Mole Negro dish at Red Iguana in Downtown SLC. Looking for an intimate date night spot? Try Antica Sicilia in East Millcreek, where you can enjoy authentic Sicilian cuisine with a bottle of wine. Feeling some sushi for dinner? Pop into Sapa Sushi Bar & Asian Grill in Central City for a Spicy Yellowtail or Maui Wowie roll. Or searching for your new takeout go-to? Check out Afghan Kitchen in South Salt Lake, where you can get a savory Lamb Kabob with garlic naan. No matter what you’re in the mood for, there are plenty of incredible restaurants in SLC!
Yes, You Can Get Drinks Here
You might have heard the common misconception that Salt Lake City doesn’t serve alcohol or only has 3.2% beer. While the Beehive State had stricter liquor laws back in the day, that’s not the case now. In fact, there are tons of cool bars in Salt Lake City! Visit the conjoined Bar-X and Beer Bar in Downtown SLC, where you’ll find an energetic gastropub on one side and a prohibition-style cocktail lounge on the other. Check out local brewery Uinta Brewing in Glendale and try the Hop Nosh IPA or Golden Spike Hefeweizen. Or swing by Elixir Lounge in Holladay for the perfect Moscow Mule or Dirty Martini after work!
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