48 Hours in Utah: Salt Lake City and Park City

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Rachel Off Duty: Park City Utah

“You don’t move to Salt Lake City for the city. You come here for the mountains… the snow… the mountain air.”

Utah. When you think of it, you probably immediately think of sprawling red rock formations, mountain biking, snow, and ski resorts. But without a car, and with no mountain biking/snowboarding/skiing experience, I wasn’t here to do any of that.

So, what’s the draw of going to Utah when you’re not going for the snow? A lot, actually.

What I Was Doing in Utah 

Rachel Off Duty: Kimpton Monaco Salt Lake City

Unlike most other trips, I actually ended up packing my bags for Utah because of a work meeting. Never having been here before, I knew I didn’t just want to fly in, head to an office, and fly out, so I ended up extending my trip an extra night to explore Utah’s capital city by myself. Without a car (and honestly, with a fear of skiing/snowboarding, especially by myself and for the first time), I knew my plans were going to be slightly different than your usual Utah ski trip, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

I had very little background knowledge of Utah or Salt Lake City going into this trip. But, what I have heard–and can now absolutely vouch for as truth–is that Salt Lake City is often described in sort of a Goldilocks way–not too small, not too big or crowded, but “just big enough.” It’s big enough to have everything you could possibly want out of a city, from attractions and wide open streets and good public transportation, to bars and metropolitan restaurants and coffee shop corners. On the flip side, it’s not so big that you feel overwhelmed (traffic? It doesn’t exist here). A traffic-free city that’s not too small and not too big, situated right in the middle of sprawling snow-capped Wasatch mountains so close that the air you breathe (even in the city center) tastes like nature and freshly fallen snow? Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty special.

What to Do in Salt Lake City in 48 Hours

Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is a mesmerizing clash of traditional Mormon faith mixed with metropolitan culture, and since the city was founded by Mormon pioneers just over 150 years ago, the religious undertones are palpable. Whether you’re religious or not, the undercurrents of faith and history are easy to notice as soon as you arrive, and if not for anything else, it’s eye-opening, fascinating, and really educational to behold. Main Street intersects a downtown area dotted with bars, restaurants, and activity, all leading up to the famed Temple Square. With the city’s population being an almost even split between Mormon and non-mormon residents (51 to 49%), it’s a dynamic city full of extremely welcoming and diverse people. The city itself is actually pretty small, but for a quick visit, there’s a surprising amount of things to do and see. If you only have 24-48 hours in this city, here is the bare minimum you should include on your itinerary: 

Temple Square

Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City Temple Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City Temple

No matter what your religious beliefs might be, a trip to Temple Square really should be priority #1 when you come to Salt Lake City. The Square is the global HQ of the Mormon faith, and is home to the beautiful Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, and the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Within minutes of getting out of my Uber from the airport, I walked over to the Temple to quickly cross it off my list before the meeting I was heading to later that afternoon. I ended up bumping into another traveler visiting the city, and on a whim ended up going to the Temple together. Thanks to him, I learned that you can actually pop into any visitor’s center at Temple Square for a complimentary tour of the grounds, which we did.

City Creek Center

A beautiful open-air shopping mall in the middle of downtown (a block away from the Temple). Unfortunately, thanks to the size of my carry on, I didn’t spend much time here, but I can see how someone would!

Ensign Peak

Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City Ensign Peak

Less than a 10 minute drive outside of the city center, Ensign Peak is a short (0.9 mile out-and-back) trail that lets you see panoramic views of the city, the surrounding mountains, and Salt Lake. On my last day in the city, I accidentally slept in and wasn’t sure if I’d have time to actually be able to do this, but I went for it anyway. Thankfully, it really only took about 30 minutes to get up to the top and back down, including the 8 or 10 minutes I spent at the top gawking at the view and teaching other hikers how to use my camera in a failed attempt to get a decent picture of myself on my solo trip to Utah.

Where to Eat in Salt Lake City


Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City Stanza
Rachel Off Duty: Woman in Salt Lake City

This is the restaurant my clients chose when my coworker and I asked them where they wanted to go. It was delicious! The restaurant is very chic and serves refined Italian food and wine. Pro tip: they don’t have bread listed on the menu, but if you ask for it, they will bring it to you (secret menu bread just tastes better, doesn’t it?).


Manoli’s is a newer restaurant in SLC. It’s Greek, but not in the gigantic gyro sandwich and fries kind of way. We’re talking upscale, sophisticated Greek, with intricate, delicately plated meze meant for sharing. Do not leave without saving room for desert – all of the options are incredible. Did I actually try multiple deserts all in one sitting, after eating a full dinner? I’ll never tell (yes).

Red Iguana

I love checking out hyped-up places to see if they deserve the praise, and Red Iguana was no exception. This little unassuming Mexican restaurant is so good. I repeat, SO good. I’ll probably have dreams about the carne asada burritos smothered in green mole that I ordered here for years to come. The restaurant is famous for mole and just all-around amazing Mexican classics, and I can absolutely vouch for the fact that it’s not another hoaky tourist trap. It’s just amazing food.

I was told that if you go to the main Red Iguana location, which I did, you’ll probably be hit with a long wait to get a table. I didn’t have any problems with this and was seated right away, but if you don’t want to wait as long, they also have another location nearby, aptly named Red Iguana 2.

Carlucci’s Bakery

Rachel Off Duty: Carlucci's Bakery Rachel Off Duty: Carlucci's Bakery

I actually happened upon Carlucci’s Bakery while Google Maps was taking me to another breakfast spot, but this cute little bakery just looked much more appetizing. I gave it a chance on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve never had cheesy polenta for breakfast before, but it was awesome. For a somewhat healthy bite, I recommend the tofu scramble with polenta and whole grain toast. Oh, and they serve up their iced coffee with coffee ice cubes. Perfection!

Where to Grab Coffee in Salt Lake City

Eva’s Bakery

Rachel Off Duty: Eva's Bakery

Eva’s Bakery is a quaint little French-inspired bakery and breakfast joint on Main Street. Beyond the food, pastries, and bread (all of which smells so good you’ll be drooling the moment you walk in), they serve up pretty good coffee, too.

Three Pines Coffee

Rachel Off Duty: Three Pines Bakery

What began as nothing more than a coffee cart just a few short years ago quickly evolved into one of the tastiest places to grab a well-made cup of coffee in all of downtown Salt Lake City. Three Pines is a tiny little coffee shop–also on Main Street–with coffee, pastries, and a cool little back corner filled with vinyls and a record player. Grab a scone to go with your cappuccino. Thank me later.

La Barba

Rachel Off Duty: La Barba

La Barba is a coffee shop nestled inside of a restaurant, but it’s not difficult to find, thanks to a giant sign outside the brick facade (likely bigger than even the restaurant’s sign itself). The coffee is delicious, the baristas know their stuff, and the window seat made for the perfect spot to people watch from in the early morning hours.

Where to Drink in Salt Lake City

Rachel Off Duty: Wasatch Brewery

One of the things that undeniably stands out the most about Utah are the liquor laws. Bars aren’t allowed to serve alcohol past 1 am, which is why you’ll notice that every place worth going closes at 12 or 1 at the latest. Tasting beer before you buy a pint will set you back 50 cents or $1 per taste. Grocery stores aren’t allowed to carry anything but low ABV beer, and all other beer, liquor, and wine is dished out from state-governed liquor stores (closed on Sundays). While the laws are heavy-handed compared to most cities in the US, Salt Lake City is coincidentally not lacking in places to grab a drink.

Copper Common

Classy little bar with tasty craft cocktails.


Fun two-story bar with live music and a beautiful view of the downtown area.

BTG Wine Bar

Classy wine bar with a moderately older sophisticated crowd.

Tavernacle Social Club

A dueling piano bar! It was fairly empty when I went (on a Wednesday night), but the music that was playing was really fantastic.

Beer Hive

Cozy little pub on Main Street. Sit at the bar so you can order a beer and utilize the built-in ice rail to keep your drinks nice and cold.

Wasatch Brew Pub

Tasty and unique beers, like jalapeño cream ale and apricot hefeweizen.


What to do Outside of Salt Lake City 

Visit Park City

Rachel Off Duty: Park City Rachel Off Duty: Park City Utah

Of course, a trip to urban Utah wouldn’t have been complete without a pit-stop in Sundance capital, USA, and I’m so glad I made time for a quick visit. It really is a gorgeous little mountain town less than 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City. Home to the famous Sundance Film Festival (which I thankfully missed by 3 days), this little town is home to a surprising amount of bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques. Unless you’re skiing, plan to spend around 3-4 hours here, which will give you just enough time to walk up and down Main Street, grab a cup of coffee (try Atticus Coffee Shop) have a bite to eat (I recommend Wasatch Brewpub or Cafe Terigo!), and do a little shopping (which, once again, I couldn’t do. Thank you carry on suitcase). If you are up for a ski day, the ski lift in Park City literally leads right onto Main Street, meaning you can hang out downtown and then head up to the mountains without ever having to get in your car.

More Time to spend in Park City? Here are some things you can do:

Winter –

RELATED: Check out all of my Winter in Park City recommendations here!

Summer –

RELATED: Check out all of my Summer in Park City recommendations here!

Take a Yoga Class in a Crater

Rachel Off Duty: Park City Yoga Adventures Rachel Off Duty: Park City Yoga Adventures

Even though I didn’t have any desire to take a stab at skiing, that didn’t mean I wanted to leave Utah without doing anything adventurous. In a small sleepy town just 30 minutes south of Park City, you can actually take a stand-up paddleboard yoga class in geothermal water (95-100 degrees year-round) nestled in a crater that’s thousands of years old. I know–what a mouthful. I came across Park City Yoga Adventures a bit serendipitously by skimming through hashtags of things to do in Utah on Instagram, and I knew that I just had to do this. The experience was absolutely unique, and there’s something about doing yoga in near darkness on a paddleboard floating in the water that was extremely therapeutic. I only fell in twice, but I willingly jumped in a dozen more times throughout the class. The bright blue water in the crater felt that amazing!

If you’re willing to try this yourself, a few things to know in advance: plan to book ahead of time (because booking was kind of hard to do–you might have to call a couple times to get through to someone, since their hours vary depending on the classes happening on any given day), and if you show up for a class that’s scheduled before 11:30 am, don’t listen to what anyone tells you about needing to “check in at the Adventure Center” (It won’t be open that early in the morning. I found this out the hard way, so just go straight to the crater. There are clearly marked signs that will take you there). Also, if you’re traveling solo like me, you’ll only be able to book a class if other people are already signed up (classes need to be at least 2 people or more in order to actually happen).

Getting Around in Salt Lake City and Park City

Rachel Off Duty: Salt Lake City TRAX

Uber & Lyft

Uber & Lyft both work just fine in Salt Lake City and Park City. I’m not sure I’d rely on it outside of Salt Lake and Park City in the more suburban areas, though.

Light Rail

Salt Lake City has a really efficient light rail tram system that runs from the airport to downtown and the surrounding areas. Called the TRAX, this public transportation system can pretty much take you anywhere you need to go while you’re in Salt Lake City proper.

Snow Country Limousines

An elegant and reliable method of transportation, Snow Country Limousines is an effortless way to get to Park City and back from Salt Lake City. Both times that I’ve taken a Snow Country transport, I’ve been met with on-time, professional drivers, beautiful vehicles, and pleasant conversation. The driver I had taking me back to the airport after my latest trip to Utah even offered to take a detour through Red Iguana (see my thoughts on Red Iguana above) so I could pick up a burrito on my way to catch my flight. Need I say more?

Haute Cars

While you can rely on Uber in Park City, it’s probably going to be harder to get transportation if you’re not in the city center. When I went to the yoga class, it was located in Midway, a small town (population 4,000) an hour southeast of Salt Lake City. Getting an Uber there was no problem, but I was told I’d probably not be as lucky requesting a car on my way out. So, I booked a car in advance with Haute Cars Park City, a black car chauffeur service that organizes everything from airport pickups to ski resort drop offs and downtown Park City ride services. My driver was so sweet and went above and beyond to give me recommendations on what to do, see, and eat while I was in Park City. And, she was even sweet enough to take a picture or two of me for my blog when we arrived! Hey, sometimes I have to take drastic measures to get these shots.

Car Rental

If you prefer to drive yourself, you can definitely do that. The two main places to pick up and drop off a car are at the Salt Lake City International Airport and in the downtown area, and from the looks of it there’s a good amount of metered parking stalls and structures in the city to choose from. You can search for and compare car rental prices for Salt Lake City here.

Rachel Off Duty: Woman in Park City
Rachel Off Duty: Woman in Park City

48 hours was a perfect amount of time to soak in all that Utah’s metropolitan areas had to offer. Of course, I am already dying to come back so I can visit Kanab, Zion National Park, and the Bonneville Salt Flats (to name a few). But even if you don’t ski or have a car to take you all throughout Utah’s parks and natural phenomena, Utah’s two main cities are can’t-miss destinations to spend some time getting to know. The culture, location, wide range of activities beyond skiing/snowboarding, and up-and-coming food/drink scenes are unique, enchanting, and definitely not to be overlooked.

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Rachel Off Duty: 48 Hours in Utah: Salt Lake City and Park City
Rachel Off Duty: 48 Hours in Utah: Salt Lake City and Park City

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

Recent Adventures:
Let's Go Places!

20 Responses

  1. That SUP class sounds amazing! Utah is on my bucket list currently so I am absolutely saving this in my travel folder. Love the cutesy coffee shops you went to too. #scfollow

    1. Hi Becca! Yeah the SUP class was definitely one-of-a-kind. I highly recommend trying it whenever you’re able to go visit Utah! 🙂

  2. Love the photos! I feel like I was there traveling with you too! Love the structures of the buildings. Thanks for sharing! ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!


    1. Thank you, Tiffany! I’m glad you liked all the images! Utah was a pretty beautiful place to visit 🙂

    1. Thank you SO much Leona! That’s probably the best compliment I could hope to get on posts like this 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!

  3. Lots of good information, but did you know Salt Lake City has the worst air quality in the country? One of the photos you have even shows the inversion that contributes to what makes the air so bad, especially in the winter.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the post! I know 🙁 isn’t it crazy? It blows my mind. I believe it has to do with forrest fires and pollution getting ‘incubated’ by the nearby mountains, amongst other things. Hope the city does something about it because it’s a beautiful place!

    1. Glad I touched on some of your favorite things to do in SLC! I tried to see as much as possible in the 48 hours that I was there 🙂

      That’s very true – thanks for pointing that out. The air quality actually wasn’t palpably ‘bad’ when I was there, but it’s definitely a huge issue for the city. Hope they start doing something about it!

    1. As someone who lives in Long Beach, CA, I’d say Salt Lake City has some pretty decent air haha!

      But in all seriousness, I think the person I quoted was referring to the mountain air specifically. The people in SLC know they have high air pollution and it’s been on their radar for a while. Didn’t bother me much while I was there, but it definitely is something people should be aware of especially during winter!

    1. Maybe so, but there are a lot of places in Utah where the air quality is fair. The same way air quality doesn’t stop people from going to Los Angeles!

    1. Hi Poorva! Thanks so much! Let me know if you have any questions 🙂 Hope you enjoy your time in Salt Lake!

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