New Year’s Day 2015. I woke up after a fun and memorable countdown inside a circus tent in Midtown Manhattan. My mom and brother were still sleeping in my brother’s dorm room, but I had an early-morning flight back to San Francisco to catch! I headed to JFK International after saying a quick goodbye to the fam and bade adieu to New York.
Funnily, my return flight had a three-hour layover in Salt Lake City, so after I landed I considered my options. I could either spend three hours chilling in the airport, maybe grabbing a bite to eat and walking around the duty-free shops, or I could venture out to explore the city. There was always the risk of not making it back in time, and my prospects didn’t look as good after I asked around and found out that the light rail into the city center was closed for New Year’s.
Well I decided to do it anyway. After all, it’s not everyday I find myself in Salt Lake City, out of all places. Better yet, Lyft and Uber saved the day. I didn’t even have to wait outside in the freezing 20-degree cold! My driver picked me up in no time and I chatted with him the entire drive about what it’s like to live in SLC (not much to do but beautiful), what it’s like to drive for a rideshare company (awesome, flexible hours and supplements his traveling blues band gig), and what to see in the city (the Temple, the mall).
After 15 minutes or so, I was standing in front of one of the most magnificent buildings I’ve seen in the US. The famous Salt Lake Temple rose out of the ground and looked like an ancient castle in Temple Square. The temple took 40 years to build and is considered one of the LDS Church’s most sacred buildings. I took a moment to admire the intricate carvings and patterns and snapped some pictures before continuing on my way.
I passed by several statues of famous Mormon leaders Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon religion) and Brigham Young (founder of Salt Lake City) before arriving at another building – this one was the Salt Lake Assembly, a congregation hall that today hosts free weekend music concerts. The equally well-known Seagull Monument stood right in front of the building and commemorates the Miracle of the Gulls.
Next up came the Salt Lake Tabernacle, which I’ll describe as a building that looks like a giant spaceship. Home to the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir, this building was a feat of engineering and design when it was completed in 1867. Many people at the time didn’t think the roof could hold, but the 150 feet by 250 feet roof has stood for over a century without any issues!
I stepped inside the heated room and spotted the Salt Lake Tabernacle Organ, which was absolutely awe-inspiring. I could just imagine the choir and organ filling the congregation with the most beautiful sounds. After warming up for a bit I went back out into the bitter cold, catching a glimpse of the nativity scene that was set up for Christmas before heading out of the square.
A brief stroll through downtown saw some cool buildings from the nearby City Creek Center shopping center. The juxtaposition of modern-day popular stores and the historical buildings practically next to it was quite jarring, but I did like how a lot of the shops were in some old-fashioned buildings as well.
My final stop was the Salt Palace Convention Center, which was under construction so I didn’t venture too close. By now I felt so cold I couldn’t feel my hands and feet, so I hailed another car and was back at the airport with plenty of time to spare for my final flight to San Francisco. I even grabbed a McFlurry on my way to the gate, and the flight itself went by without any hitches. Salt Lake City visit – success!