Most of the time, we look for the quickest way to travel to the county we will explore during our holidays. Who likes spending extra time in the air or at airports? However, I always keep in mind that stopovers can be an excellent way to explore a destination that I may never visit otherwise. That’s how we ended up spending 24 hours in Salt Lake City on our way back to Australia after our two weeks in Mexico.
It was my first time in the U.S. and North America, so I was very excited. Of course, I realise that one day is not enough to pretend I visited the U.S, but it still feels good to know I’ve been to that part of the world. I also hadn’t seen snow for a while and it was a bit of a thermal shock compared to the climate in Cancun. I was fascinated by the beautiful mountains all around Salt Lake City.
We landed in the evening and had almost exactly 24 hours to visit the place. We spent the night at the Hilton near the airport*, which has lovely views of the nearby mountains. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw snow (Kilimanjaro, maybe?), so I was very excited.
When we planned to stop for 24 hours in Salt Lake City, I immediately had four things in mind:
- the Great Salt Lake
- the Mormons
- the snow
- the winter Olympic Games
We hadn’t booked a tour in advance so we were short of options to fill up our day. If you don’t want to be as unorganised as we were for this stopover, you may want to book a tour online before you get there. Viator* offers a large selection of tours to fit in your available time and to match your envies.
What to do in 24 hours in Salt Lake City
It was Mother’s Day and many guides were not available. We joined a half a day tour to visit the city’s surroundings.
We started with the Great Salt Lake.
It is the biggest salt lake in the Western Hemisphere. But to be honest, it was a rainy day, and the place had no charm at all. We could hardly see it. To stay positive, the guide regularly mentioned that the previous days were even more terrible. We could see some beautiful shots in the boutique. At sunset after a sunny day, the layers of colours are stunning.
The visit of the Great Salt Lake was still interesting – but for an unexpected topic.
I had no idea Rio Tinto, a famous Australian company, had a mine there. I am not usually interested in mining, but it was impressive to see it. Imagine this: the smelter is almost as high as the Empire State Building! They say it is the cleanest in the world. But the place is also the largest man-made excavation on Earth, which is bad news for the surrounding mountain.
Then, we went to the mountains.
It only takes a few minutes to leave the city behind and feel in the countryside. Despite the rain, the road was beautiful. We weren’t lucky enough to spot wildlife, but still saw some beavers’ habitats. A first time for me.
The whole trip got better when the rain turned into snow.
The contrast between the green of the trees, the red of the bushes and the white of the snow was stunning. I was very excited to have the opportunity to play in the snow! And I was delighted we could stop at a cabin for a hot chocolate. After the 30 degrees of Mexico, my body was not ready for the cold!
At the right season (from late November to April), a stopover in Salt Lake City can also be an opportunity to ski. Salt Lake City is the perfect ski destination with ski slopes only 4o minutes away from the city. They have eight world-famous ski resorts. Click here to read a Local’s Guide to Primo Salt Lake City Ski Resorts and read these tips to prepare for your ski trip.
We then had the entire afternoon to visit the city centre before catching our flight to LA.
We started with the Utah State Capitol, built on a hill in the early XXth century. We walked back downtown to check out the biggest Mormon Temple and its garden. I always find funny the mix of modern buildings and older churches we can now see in many cities. The Temple was built at the end of the 19th century, soon after the city was founded. It is the most historic place in Utah.
If you’re there on a Sunday, you can watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs.
After this visit, I think I may go back to Salt Lake City one day. But not for the city itself. And not for the lake, although I’d love to see it with better weather.
I’ve learnt during our stopover that it has several amazing national parks in Utah, like Zion National with the beautiful Angel’s Landing Hike. It was almost frustrating to hear about how great they were without having a chance to check them out! It was a very short trip to the U.S that made me want to see more. A lot more.
Have you ever visited Salt Lake City? What do you recommend doing in a 24-hour layover? Leave a comment below!
Where is Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City is in the middle of the west part of the USA. It is the capital of Utah. Mountains and national parks surround the city, giving it a unique look and creating beautiful scenery. There’s a blue area that you can easily see on the map next to the pin: that’s the famous Great Salt Lake.
Where to stay in Salt Lake City
We needed a hotel for our layover in Salt Lake City. We stayed at the Hilton near the airport* because we were arriving late and we got a good deal. However, I’d recommend staying closer to the town centre if you want to enjoy the city at night. Click here to check availabilities*