Difference between revisions of "Salt Lake City"
Revision as of 23:28, 25 March 2009
Salt Lake City  is the capital and largest city of Utah, a state in the United States. It is one of the largest cities in the Southwest region of the United States, although its climate is more similar to the Rocky Mountain region. It lies in a valley (the Salt Lake Valley) along the Wasatch Front urban corridor, located between the Wasatch Range to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains to the west, located on the border between the Rocky Mountain and Great Basin geographic regions. Salt Lake City is well-known as the center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although less than half of the city's residents are members. The city proper has a population of approximately 180,000, but the Salt Lake Metro Area in its entirety has over 1 million people.
Salt Lake City is well-known for the many ski resorts located in the Wasatch Mountains just to the east and southeast of the city, which were thrust into the world spotlight by the 2002 Winter Olympics. They are famous for the light, fluffy snowfalls caused by the low humidity and the dreaded lake-effect. In addition, some of the heaviest snowfall in the nation occurs in the Wasatch Mountains. These conditions make it just right for skiing and to the tagline "The Greatest Snow on Earth". However, summer activities, such as camping, hiking, mountain biking, rock-climbing, fishing, boating, etc are also popular, as the mountains around Salt Lake City provide outdoor opportunities of all kinds. In addition to the nearby mountain terrain and LDS culture and architecture, Salt Lake City is a 5-hour drive away from the major national parks and unique, striking desert sandstone terrain of southern Utah. Salt Lake City is, understandably, a major hub for recreational activities of startling variety.
When traveling to the city, knowledge of Salt Lake's famous grid system is a big plus. The entire valley lies on the same grid system. Most major streets are laid out precisely running north-south or east-west. The origin of the grid is located downtown, on the south-east corner of Temple Square (the location of the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Street addresses are coordinates within the grid system in intervals of 100 every street. For example, one might speak of the intersection of 700 East and 2100 South as either "seventh east and twenty-first south" or "seven hundred east and twenty-one hundred south" (remember that locals usually shorten the number part, so that instead of saying "seven hundred east", they usually say "seventh east"; try not to get confused between, say, 7th East and 21st South and 7 East and 21st South, both of which are very different addresses). Addresses are specific numbers, such as 855 South 1300 East ("Eight fifty-five south 13th east"). Downtown blocks are 1/8 of a mile in length, but blocks become more irregularly spaced farther from the city center. Most people will recognize the grid as one they studied in school, with a point of origin and 4 quadrants. After getting used to the system, you will find that it is very easy to navigate and simple to understand, although the streets become more and more irregular the farther south you move. It can also get confusing outside of the Salt Lake Valley, where many cities (whether or not they've grown into each other) often have separate systems, so that a single road that divides two cities may have two different names for the grid systems of the two different cities. The Avenues neighborhood adjacent to the northeast of the city center operates on a separate grid system with much smaller blocks. North-south streets are letters, while east-west streets are numbered avenues.
The benches are the mostly residential, upper-class communities constructed mostly along the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the valley, although they have recently been growing in the southern valley (the low Traverse Mountains) and the western valley (the Oquirrh Mountains). The east side is traditionally more affluent and conservative than the west side, leading to the expected "cultural rivalries" that you find in other cities with clear divides, although this divide is arguably less pronounced in Salt Lake City than in most major cities.
The Wasatch Front is the region located along the western edge of the Wasatch Range. It stretches from approximately Brigham City on the north to Santaquin on the south, and includes Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo. More than two-thirds of Utah's population are located in this region.
One thing to realize is that when people speak of Salt Lake City, they are often referring to Salt Lake Valley as a whole, or at least the suburbs adjoining Salt Lake City immediately to the south. The valley consists of 15 separate incorporated cities and several unofficial areas. Most of the residents are familiarized with most of the incorporated cities and several unofficial areas. Significant suburbs of Salt Lake City include Sandy (in the southern half of the valley), which contains a significant commercial strip containing two major shopping centers and a recently completed stadium for the local Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake (with the "Real" being pronounced like the Real in "Real Madrid" rather than the English word real; the two teams even share an unofficial partnership) as well as the expected concerts and local events. Other major suburbs include Murray, generally in the center of the valley, West Valley City, the largest suburb, immediately to the southwest and also containing a developing "city center" area, West Jordan to the southwest, which contains the massive Jordan Landing shopping center and Municipal Airport #2, and Holladay, which although it only contains a small section of the eastern bench area, is often used to define the entire east bench area (often used colloquially with "Cottonwood"). "Millcreek" is used to define areas a little further north on the east bench and adjacent to Salt Lake City.
People who fly into Salt Lake City to visit the national parks and wild terrain of southern Utah should keep in mind that just because they're in the same state does not mean they are close; in most cases, Las Vegas is actually closer to the parks. Many of them are about a 5 hour drive away from Salt Lake City.
History and Culture
Salt Lake City was settled in 1847 by Brigham Young and his followers in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church, and whose followers are often called Mormons (originally a derogative term, now accepted and widely-used) or, less frequently (but more officially), Latter-day Saints. The Mormons migrated to the Salt Lake Valley following religious conflicts and violence in the East. The city immediately became a major transit point for people moving to San Francisco in the California Gold Rush, and the LDS Church's strong practice of missionary work drew converts primarily from Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia to emigrate to Salt Lake City during the 1850s and 1860s in long "handcart treks", a tradition that is now ingrained in Mormon, and, to an extent, Utah culture. This migration allowed it to become one of the largest cities in the Old West, although the conservative Church values bucked the typical Old West trend of lawless towns, sheriffs, cowboys, brothels, and rowdy saloons. Pacific Islanders are another group that was significantly recruited by the Church, and Salt Lake City possesses an unusually high Pacific Islander population. The handcart tradition ended with the arrival of the railroad in 1870, which also, with the rise of mining (attributed primarily to the Kennecott Copper Mine to the southwest) and industry, contributed to the first major influx of "Gentiles" (non-Mormons) into the city.
The "Utah Territory" often clashed with the U.S. government over the LDS Church's practice of polygamy. The most notable clash occurred from 1857-1858 when the government mistakenly believed that Brigham Young, the church leader and governor of the territory, planned to lead a rebellion against the government. The government then sent the military to install their own governor and maintain control over the supposed rebellious colony. However, when they arrived, they found the settlement abandoned. Although little actual fighting took place, the event is now known as the Utah War. Brigham Young eventually conceded to their demands, although long fights over the legal status of polygamy continued through the 1880s, with statehood for Utah being denied multiple times and with the federal government passing increasingly harsher anti-polygamy laws throughout the 1870s and 1880s that landed several prominent church officials in jail. In 1890, the LDS Church prophet, Wilford Woodruff, told his members to give up polygamy, a declaration that eventually allowed Utah to achieve statehood, with Salt Lake City as its capital, in 1896. Although polygamy is no longer accepted in the LDS Church and is illegal, and despite the fact that less than 1% of Utah's residents are believed to practice it (most of whom live in the town of Hildale along the Arizona border), the Church's former practice of polygamy is still often the most-thought of thing when it comes to Mormon among a wide variety of the country's population. It has become the butt end of enough jokes that some people even still mistakenly believe that the LDS Church still widely practices it. (This is helped in no small part by the high-profile case of polygamist Warren Jeffs, who was hunted by the FBI and prosecuted for charges of rape as an accomplice for forcing underage brides to marry older men within his Fundamentalist LDS Church (FLDS Church), a group that is not affiliated with the mainstream LDS Church and is widely considered to be a cult.) If making a joke about polygamy in front of an LDS Church member, while some members may get defensive about it, most will either laugh it off or roll their eyes (as most have heard the jokes a thousand times).
Although the majority of Utah's residents are still members of the LDS Church (estimates generally range from 60%-70%, although the percentage of practicing members is lower), Salt Lake City itself is less than half Mormon, with some areas (especially areas dominated by ethnic minorities or more artsy areas such as the lower Avenues and Sugarhouse) being lower still. Salt Lake City has recently developed a tradition of even being one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country (the Utah Pride Festival draws about 20,000 people annually) and has a recent tradition of zealously liberal mayors (most notably Rocky Anderson, who organized protests against President Bush both times he visited the city). Utah and Salt Lake City often has a sharp and sometimes bitter divide between the Mormon and non-Mormon populations. The state's position as being the state in the country with the highest proportion of residents adhering to a single religion, and also possessing one of the highest atheist populations in the country, creates a unique situation, and there's generally a fairly sharp divide between the Mormon and non-Mormon populations and cultures.
The climate of Salt Lake City is widely-variable from season to season. It's very dry, averaging from 14-20 inches (350-500 mm) of precipitation per year, much of which falls as snow, which averages from 50-80 inches (125-200 cm) per year. The wide variation is due to the huge elevation changes within the city; the lower amounts are the averages on the valley floor. Summers are hot, long, and particularly dry, while winters are cold and snowy.
Winter (mid-November to early March): Winter is generally a poor time to travel in Salt Lake City, unless you're looking to ski in the nearby ski resorts. Daytime temperatures generally run anywhere from 25°F to 50°F (-4°C to 10°C). Low temperatures are usually below freezing, and on rare occasions can even drop below 0F (-18°C). Snow falls often, but single snowfalls exceeding about 10 inches (25 cm) are rare, except on the benches. Even when it is not snowing, a phenomenon known as the inversion develops, which traps cold, moist air and air pollutants in the valley, sometimes for weeks on end. This can lead to some of the worst air quality conditions found in the country. The mountains are clear and beautiful during these times, but also quite warm. During an inversion, be prepared for fog on the valley bottom.
Because of the frequency of snow, it takes a very large snowstorm to cripple or shut down the city. Minor snowfalls are basically treated as a daily occurrence in winter, with the city continuing to operate as normal. Generally it takes about 12-15+ inches (30-38+ cm) valley-wide to have a significant effect on the activity of the city, and even more for a citywide shutdown. Despite the frequency of snowfall, it is usually calm (no blizzards are seen in Salt Lake City, unlike in the Midwest or Northeast), and most snowfalls are very light and fluffy (although heavy, wet snowfall can occur). Even though snow is common, there are still far too many people who don't know how to drive in it (often half-jokingly attributed by the locals to transplants from southern California).
Spring (early March to late May): Springs in Salt Lake City are mild, but it is also the wettest and windiest time of year. High temperatures during this time range from about 45F to 80F (7C to 27C). Low temperatures are cool, and usually still drop below freezing on occasion into April. Although it's the wettest time of year, it's still dry in comparison to many cities in the Midwest or Eastern U.S., and heavy, prolonged rain is rare. Light-to-moderate snowfall can often be found well into April as well. Sunny spring days, which are quite common, offer some of the best weather available in Salt Lake City. However, the snowpack in the mountains usually reaches its peak in early April and doesn't melt entirely until late May or June, so spring is still a poor time to enjoy outdoor summer activities, such as hiking, camping, and boating, in the mountains. However, the ski resorts are usually open until mid-April, and Snowbird is often open longer.
Summer (late May to mid-September): Summer in Salt Lake City is long, dry, and hot. High temperatures during this period range anywhere from 80°F to 105°F (27°C to 41°C). Humidity is very low and nights are usually comfortable. Although a very dry season, powerful Pacific storms can sometimes impact the city as late as early June, prolonging the wet season and keeping temperatures cooler. Mid-June through early July in particular is very dry. From mid-July to mid-September, the monsoon affects Utah, bringing fairly frequent evening thunderstorms to the city. Although sometimes these thunderstorms are very powerful, bringing hail, lightning, and street flooding, they're usually relatively short-lived. However in late August of 2006, there was a violent storm that ripped through the Salt Lake Valley. It was short-lived, but did do a lot of damage in the process, and in 1999 a tornado hit downtown Salt Lake City directly. Sometimes the humidity is so low that the rain doesn't even reach the valley floor. However, even a "dry" thunderstorm in the valley often drops heavy rain and even hail in the mountains. If you can avoid the thunderstorms, summer is a great time to enjoy outdoor activities in the mountains. The snow is long-gone by the end of June, and temperatures rarely reach above 80°F (27°C), even during the heart of summer.
Autumn (mid-September to mid-November): Autumn is the best time to visit Salt Lake City. It's usually drier and warmer than spring. Temperatures are comfortable, ranging from 45°F to 80°F (7°C to 27°C) during the daytime. Powerful Pacific storms begin impacting the state by mid-October, but are usually infrequent. Although storms can again start dropping snow in the mountains, the snowpack usually doesn't begin building until November. The first light snowfall and overnight freezing temperatures in the valley usually occur by the beginning of November, and by mid-November, snowfall and cold temperatures should be prepared for. The leaves on the trees reach their brilliant peak color in the mountains in mid to late September and about a month later in the valleys.
Salt Lake City generally has a relative lack of severe weather. The worst flooding that can be expected is short-lived street flooding during powerful summer thunderstorms. The last major flood to occur was in June 1983, when City Creek burst its banks in downtown due to excessive snowmelt. However, due to safety precautions and emergency measures implemented since then, widespread snowmelt flooding is unlikely to ever occur again. Severe weather events such as hail, sleet, and freezing rain are rare (freezing rain is unheard of). The most common severe weather is crippling snowstorms, which can occur from late November to early March. Tornadoes are an extremely rare occurrence; the only tornado of note to ever hit the city was an F2 that tore through downtown on August 11, 1999, killing 1 person. The all-time record high is 107°F (42°C) and the record low is -30°F (-34°C), although this record low is rarely even threatened.
Interstate 80 slices through the city east-to-west, passing the airport and meeting Interstate 15 west of downtown. I-80 continues east into the Wasatch Mountains and eventually Wyoming, and west across the desert to Nevada. I-15 slices through the city and its suburbs north-to-south down the center of the valley, providing access across the entire Wasatch Front, reaching St. George and eventually Las Vegas far to the south and entering eastern Idaho to the north. Interstate 215 provides a loop around the city, providing access to many of its suburbs and running near the airport. U.S. Highway 89 enters from the north parallel to I-15. The new Legacy Parkway runs parallel to I-15 form the north and connects to I-215, providing an alternative to travel into/out of Davis County. Otherwise, there are few routes into the valley due to geographic constraints, although all of the suburbs fit nicely into the grid system of Salt Lake City. Traffic jams are relatively rare, although they can occur, especially along I-15 during rush hour. I-80 is currently undergoing a major reconstruction and expansion from I-15 east to 1300 East.
When navigating the city, it is important to have a knowledge of the unique and simple grid system that the city is based on. (See the description under Understand).
The city is very car-friendly due to wide, straight roads and the fact that they're laid out in a simple grid orientation. Although the streets become much more irregular in the suburbs, the grid system maintains itself pretty well within the boundaries of the city (although the east bench makes straight grid-oriented roads impossible, evidenced by the northwest-to-southeast orientation of Foothill Boulevard). Although the grid becomes more irregular the farther away from the city center you move, the numbering system remains consistent, and even named streets have their corresponding "grid number" listed below the name of the road on the street sign. The grid system means that you can easily reach almost every major road from almost every other major road. Car travel is also simplified by the fact that only one major one-way street pair exists in the city (500 South and 600 South).
Salt Lake City is well-served by freeways, with Interstate 15 running straight north-south through the city, running straight past downtown. I-15 through the city is 10 lanes with 2 High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes (more commonly known as "carpool lanes"). I-80 briefly merges with I-15 just west of downtown, and continues west past the airport and east past the Sugarhouse neighborhood, passing a major shopping district and running through a major residential area. Interstate 80 east of I-15 to 1300 East is currently undergoing a major and sorely-needed reconstruction and expansion project (a huge chunk of concrete in one of the bridges recently fell out, and the road is very rough and worn). I-215 runs through the west part of the city, directing traffic into the city from the western neighborhoods and the northern and southern suburbs. It intersects with I-80 just west of the airport. Highway 201 (often referred to as the "201 freeway", "21st south freeway", or just the "201"), heads west from I-80's southern merge point along the border with West Valley City, although it mostly serves residents looking to come into or go out of the city. The interchange where the three freeways come together on the border with South Salt Lake is known as the "Spaghetti Bowl".
Although the roads are generally wide and spacious and generously laid out in a grid pattern, the geography of the valley forces transportation to be very north-south oriented, and this can cause severe traffic congestion on all major roads. The worst traffic is seen on I-15 north into Davis County, where rush hour traffic jams are a common sight, throughout the surface roads, especially in the heart of downtown and in the central and southern parts of the city. The Legacy Parkway was recently completed into Davis County and connects with I-215 in the far northern part of the city. This has significantly alleviated traffic during rush hour going into and out of Davis County.
Driving Courtesy Utah has many drivers on its roads from many different surrounding states and various countries. For the most part, you will find most western US drivers' styles consistent with other urban and rural locations. However, Utah drivers are somewhat known for being more prone to cutting people off and aggressively changing lanes. While driving in any location, the best advice is to safely follow the flow of traffic, whether it is faster in the city or slower in the country, obey all traffic laws, and be patient and courteous to other drivers.
Utah drivers also generally know how to drive in snow, although like anywhere there are still plenty of people who don't (particularly transplants from sunnier locations).
The Utah Transit Authority  operates an extensive bus system that reaches the entire Wasatch Front, with the most extensive coverage in and around Salt Lake City. Every light rail (TRAX) station in Salt Lake City is connected by several bus routes. Only the most important routes operate during nighttime hours, Sundays, and holidays, although even nighttime routes will often end service around midnight. In winter, service to the four ski resorts located in the Cottonwood Canyons to the east, in the Wasatch Range, is provided. Standard one-way fares are $2.00, a day pass (which is good for both bus and TRAX rides) is $5.00, and most of downtown is a free fare zone for all UTA service (bus and light rail).
Another good way to get around the city is on the light rail system, or TRAX. TRAX is administered by UTA. There are two separate lines, both of which begin at the Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub, which is also used by Amtrak, Greyhound, FrontRunner, and UTA buses. The two lines head past EnergySolutions Arena and Temple Square before turning south on Main Street. The University Line splits east along 400 South and serves the University of Utah on the east bench. The other line continues south through Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake, Murray, Midvale, and ends at the Sandy Civic Center at about 10000 South. Total, the lines contain 26 stations. Standard fares for all light rail lines are $2.00 one-way, $4.00 round-trip, and $5.00 for a day pass (which includes bus and light rail service). Downtown is a free fare zone for all UTA bus and light rail lines. Schedules are available at ride UTA . The Mid-Jordan line into West Jordan and South Jordan, the West Valley City line, and the Airport line are all under construction - an extension south to Draper from Sandy is also planned. All of these lines are expected to be completed by 2014.
Many of the major attractions of Salt Lake City are accessible by bicycle and it is easy and quick to get out to the zoo or the university by bike.
Salt Lake City offers trails and routes through the city and around the city for bicyclists of all ages. It is legal to cycle on the footpath in all but the central blocks of the city, and footpaths tend to be wide and there tend to be few pedestrians.
Several major streets offer bicycle lanes and signed shared roadways, but often these can be "car-door" narrow cycle lanes, and it can be often easier to cycle on an adjacent quieter street heading the same direction. Navigation is easy, and if the street you are on looks too busy, there is always an alternative street to choose. The wider streets in the city centre don't make it any easier for cyclists, as they are just taken up with extra car lanes, and are just extra lanes to get across when turning.
There are some off-road paths and mountain bicycling trails, following the Jordan River south from I-80 is a well developed path, but a little desolate in parts. City Creek Canyon is open to bicycles only some days. The Salt Lake City Green Bikeways Map 2006  provides detailed bicycle route information about these routes and trails.
Ski or Snowboard one of the many world class ski resorts accessible within minutes of SLC. Ski Areas in both of the Cottonwood Canyons are served by UTA buses There are a few of them:
Granite Peaks Lifelong Learning is part of the Granite School District in Salt Lake City and offers a wide variety of courses for serious education or for fun at a reasonable price. English as a second language, GED Prep and Food Handler's Permit classes are available, as well as a few Spanish-language courses. For those of you looking for something more fun, sign up for wine tasting, pottery or even ghost hunting!
The Univeristy of Utah Continuing Education Department also offers classes on art, finance, foreign languages and a variety of specialty subjects.
For many years, Utah has experienced a very low unemployment rate. Wages are less than the national average and have not kept up with the steady rise in housing and food costs.
Gay and Lesbian Employment. Utah is a "right to work" state where it is legal to fire an employee for any reason, including living a homosexual lifestyle. In Utah, an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE) frequently does not include equality for homosexuals. (It is also legal to evict homosexual tenants for their lifestyle.) The best employment and job security is with larger national companies which have an active policy of non-discrimination. Smaller companies with a large LDS (Mormon) work force will greatly increase the chances of discrimination.
Fry sauce is a Utah specialty. What is it? Fry sauce is a mixture of ketchup and mayonnaise (and other seasonings depending on what restaurant is making it) eaten on French fries. Fry sauce was created many years ago by the local fast food restaurant Arctic Circle and has since spread to the rest of Utah, as well as eastern Idaho. Almost any local (and many chain) restaurants will serve this tasty pink concoction. For more on Arctic Circle locations see: Arctic Circle Restaurants 
Utah liquor laws
Utah's liquor laws are known as one of the more peculiar things about the state. Liquor is sold only in state-owned stores which can cost more than in other states - but are neat, clean and always well stocked. In fact, the wine stores are brimming with a surprising selection of wines. "Near-beer" (3.2% alcohol by weight/4% alcohol by volume, as opposed to the standard 4-5% alcohol by volume) replaces the usual brew, which is available in stores and restaurants. "Full strength," or, "Strong Beer," is available in bars and liquor stores. Also, state law prohibits the serving of more than 1.5 ounces of alcohol as the primary liquor in a mixed drink. This used to be circumvented with the purchase of a "sidecar" (a separate shot of liquor), but the laws have recently been amended. Secondary alcoholic flavorings may then be added to a mixed drink as the recipe requires.
Although liquor laws in Utah are more strict, they are not impossible. There are several kinds of establishments to know about:
Utah's main professional sports team is the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Utah's fans are known as being raucous and their home court of EnergySolutions Arena is considered one of the most difficult places to play in the entire NBA. The NBA season lasts from November through mid-April; the playoffs can last as long as early June. It is directly accessible from the TRAX light rail system and service is often increased for games.
Real Salt Lake (pronounced ree-awl like in Real Madrid as opposed to the English word real) is a member of Major League Soccer (MLS) and plays their home games at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. It is also directly accessible from TRAX. The season lasts from March through October, with the playoffs lasting into November. They are a fairly new team, having only been established in 2005, but gained a significant amount of notoriety due to major controversy over the construction of the stadium.
The Utah Blaze are part of the Arena Football League (AFL), a fast-paced, indoor version of American football. They play their home games at EnergySolutions Arena. However, due to the financial difficulties of the AFL, the league has suspended play for the 2009 season and the future of the franchise may be in jeopardy.
Utah also has two minor-league teams - the Salt Lake Bees baseball team of the Pacific Coast League who play their home games at Franklin Covey Field south of downtown (which is served directly by TRAX) and the Salt Lake Grizzlies of the ECHL, a hockey legue, who play their home games at the E Center in West Valley City (which will soon be served by a TRAX station as well).
Crime, Compared to other major cities in the nation, Salt Lake City has relatively low violent crime rates, but relatively high rates of property crime. Pioneer Park is a popular hangout for drug dealers and should probably be avoided at night. The west-central and northwest areas of the valley tends to have more crime and gang-related activity. As in any other case, basic tips go a long way.
Gay and Lesbian Travel, Salt Lake City is home to Utah's large Gay and Lesbian community. The LDS (Mormon) church strongly opposes homosexuality and intolerance and prejudice is common. Visiting homosexuals are safest while in Salt Lake City. The more rural and remote smaller towns are less tolerant and gays and lesbians should either make a convincing effort to act straight or avoid visiting these locations.
Weather, The weather is generally mild and has few extreme weather events. It can become fairly hot during the summer, but humidity levels are low, while winter can see the occasional major, crippling snowstorm. A temperature inversion, where cold heavy air locks warm light air in the valley, are frequent in the winter months and can last for several weeks. During an inversion, the valleys quickly fill up with dense smog that leads to unhealthy air quality and becomes a hazard for those with asthma or other respiratory problems. Stenuous outdoor activity should be avoided during an inversion. Inversions only occur in the valleys and none of Utah's ski resorts experience temperature inversions.