"This is the place," said pioneer-extraordinaire Brigham Young after months of exhaustive trekking across some of the country's harshest terrain.
The "place" to which he was referring is now known as Salt Lake City. At the time though, in 1847, it was no more than a barren land where a band of fatigued Mormon immigrants found themselves after giving up all other worldly possessions for a chance to build their lives anew. One can only speculate as to the reaction of his weary followers. Surrounded by crackly sagebrush and barren soil, and in the midst of an uninhabitable lake, it must have taken a serious mind's eye to foresee the Lake Grande metropolis that would ultimately prove to become a promised land for hedonists and ascetics alike.
My relationship with Salt Lake City is quite extensive. After all, I can't even begin to count the number of times I have found myself in this capital city of the Beehive State. And I must admit-I haven't yet grown weary of it. Salt Lake City has been the intended destination for dozens of family road trips. It has served as a gathering place to meet up with friends and relatives. And most of my journeys elsewhere usually commence at Salt Lake City International Airport-the region's predominant air hub.
Salt Lake City is an eclectic hodgepodge of modern and antiquated, fancy and plain, kitschy and virtuous. The city serves as the global headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and yet, only about half its residents classify themselves as such.
The city boasts wide thoroughfares crammed with shopping outlets and fine restaurants. The city center itself is quite small however, as most of the valley's population is settled in outer suburbs. Its focal point is a grand LDS temple that serves as the landmark of the area. The rest of the city is made up of easily navigable gridded streets to the north, south, east, and west of the temple.
While only primed members of the LDS faith can enter the temple itself, the surrounding gardens and buildings are accessible to visitors. Full-time volunteer missionaries from over 40 nations are eager to share Mormon Church history, beliefs, and doctrine in 30 different languages on several customized tours around Temple Square.
Although downtown Salt Lake City is charming enough to hold its own against the likes of other major U.S. cities, it's the easily accessible tracts of wilderness that alluringly entice visitors to Utah. The nearby mountains of the Wasatch Front act as a glorious bastion of perennial outdoor activities. The surrounding forests cater to all types-from penny-pitching tent dwellers to lavish five-star resort frequenters. And in the midst of it all lies Park City, Salt Lake's frivolous little brother.
Ski resorts dot the landscape. In fact, there are four within an hour's drive from the airport. Visitors and locals alike flock to the slopes every winter to experience what "Ski Utah!" claims to be "the greatest snow on earth." And considering the sheer popularity of such resorts, "Ski Utah!" just might be on to something.
While the soft, powdery snow is the main enticement to Park City during the winter months, it's not by any means the only draw. Each January the Sundance Film Festival showcases independent films from across the nation and all over the globe. During the festival, Park City transforms itself from a rustic winter village to a sensational Hollywood-esque bash. Glitz and glamour overtake rugged and wild.
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