Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is the capital of, and largest city in, the U.S. state of Utah. It is a destination for outdoor recreation, with nearby mountains full of hiking trails and ski resorts made famous by the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is also well known as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon church).

Salt Lake City has about 190,000 residents within the city limits, and is the downtown hub for a metro area of over a million people. Geographically, it sits on the border between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin, lying in the Salt Lake Valley along the Wasatch Range urban corridor, sandwiched between the Wasatch Mountains to the east and the Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake to the west.

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The Utah State Capitol overlooking the city

Notable neighborhoods in Salt Lake City include Downtown, the financial core and home to Temple Square (a two-block complex that includes the LDS church headquarters, the Salt Lake Temple, and various other sites related to Mormon history and culture); Central City, a mostly residential area from approximately 400 South to 900 South; Sugar House, a commercial/residential district in the southeastern corner of the city, known for its funky shops; The Avenues, a historical neighborhood with many old buildings, northeast of downtown; University, the area around the sprawling University of Utah campus and the adjacent Research Park, VA Medical Center, and Fort Douglas; Federal Heights, a small, affluent neighborhood in the hills east of The Avenues and north of the University; East Bench or Foothill, a residential neighborhood between 900 South and I-80, bisected by the major arterial road Foothill Boulevard; Capitol Hill, an affluent sloping district north of downtown, topped by the Utah State Capitol building; the Marmalade District, a quirky area immediately west of Capitol Hill with some unusual architecture and decor; Rose Park, a residential neighborhood northwest of downtown, near the airport; and Glendale, a heavily Hispanic residential district and home to the International Peace Gardens, at the southern end of the westside. The benches refer to a handful of residential, upper-class communities along the slopes of the Wasatch Mountains on the east side of the valley, and to a lesser extent on the Traverse Mountains at the southern end of the valley and the Oquirrh Mountains on the western side. The predominant economic divide in the Salt Lake Valley is between the eastern and western halves, with the east side traditionally being more affluent and conservative.

The Wasatch Front is the urban strip along the western edge of the Wasatch Mountain Range. It comprises everything from approximately Brigham City in the north to Santaquin in the south, anchored by the cities of Ogden in the northern half, ProvoOrem in the south, and the Salt Lake Valley dividing the two. The vast majority of Utah’s population lives in this region. Significant suburbs of Salt Lake City include Sandy in the southern Salt Lake Valley, Murray and Midvale in the center of the valley, and South Salt Lake and Millcreek on the southern border of Salt Lake City proper. The western portion of the valley has some very large suburbs such as West Valley City, West Jordan, and South Jordan. Holladay and Cottonwood Heights are smaller towns in the east benches.

Salt Lake City is not particularly close to the national parks and rugged terrain in the southern part of the state that draws many visitors to Utah. They are about a five-hour drive away, closer to Las Vegas.

Salt Lake City was settled in 1847 by Mormon pioneers who, led by Brigham Young, migrated a thousand miles west to escape the violent conflicts they had encountered whenever they tried to set up their religious community alongside established populations in the East. The city quickly became a major transit point for folks moving westward in the midst of the California Gold Rush, and the Mormon church’s extensive network of missionaries drew converts from Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia to Salt Lake City throughout the 1850s and ’60s in long “handcart treks”, a tradition now deeply ingrained in Mormon culture. Pacific Islanders were heavily recruited as well, and Salt Lake City retains an unusually large Pacific Islander population to this day. The handcart tradition ended somewhat abruptly in 1869 with the arrival of the first transcontinental railroad, which, combined with the rise of mining and industry, brought the first major influx of non-Mormons moving into the city as permanent residents.

Although the majority of Utahns are still members of the LDS Church, Salt Lake City itself is less than 50% Mormon, with some areas, such as those dominated by ethnic minorities and artsy neighborhoods like Sugarhouse, bearing little resemblance to the Mormon-dominated culture in other parts of Utah.

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