Hidden Gems in Salt Lake City – Utah

Salt Lake City is often full of visitors from across the world touring Temple Square, watching a show at the Capitol Theater, and skiing the slopes of Park City.

But it is not a popular fact that many hidden gems are scattered across Salt Lake City, undiscovered by tourists. 

There are a series of off-beat places both indoors and outdoors. Slat Lake City hides these gems just out of sight of outsiders, be it local markets or natural landscapes. 

Be local with me and discover the 10 hidden gems in Salt Lake City that you’ll keep coming back for!

Key Takeaways

Hidden Gems in SLC, Utah

  1. The Urban Flea Market
  2. The Urban Arts Gallery
  3. Ken Sanders Rare Books
  4. The Shoestring Theater
  5. Ensign Peak Nature Park
  6. Neff’s Canyon
  7. Gilgal Sculpture Garden
  8. Ruth’s Diner
  9. The Rest
  10. Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine

Here are the best-kept secrets of Salt Lake City.

Hidden Cultural Gems in Salt Lake City

1. The Urban Flea Market

The Urban Flea Market

This needs some planning ahead. The Urban Flea Market is only open on the last Saturday of each month in a parking lot downtown. 

You can find over 300 vendors here selling vintage items, handcrafted art, quirky memorabilia, and more. This is the best place to find retro t-shirts, antique cameras, 1980s posters, and one-of-a-kind jewelry. 

No shopping is complete without food. There are food truck sites with local specialties like Navajo tacos or Malaysian satay. On top of that, there’s live music! Musicians can be seen performing jazz, bluegrass, and folk live all day long. 

This is the friendliest spot in the city to mingle with vendors and other shoppers. If you want to find the rarest items, arrive early, around 8:30, or passionate collectors will snap up the best ones fast. 

Do not forget to bring cash and small bills since some sellers can’t make changes. Bring a reusable shopping bag as well. A big one at that if you plan on splurging.  

The fun part? Take a close look at the concrete walls there for inside scoops and rumors on vendor drama. 

Less than an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City in Utah, Ogden emerges as a snowy paradise.

The Urban Arts Gallery is a non-profit art venue of the Utah Arts Alliance. They mostly exhibit street art and rotate monthly. Some recurrent themes include graffiti, murals, tattoo culture, and proactive or political pieces. You can see in-progress works of local painters right on the walls. 

The interiors are dimly lit with contrasting bold colors and imaginative shapes. Most displays can be seen from the sidewalks to attract the passersby.

The entry is also free here. On some select Friday nights, they have live music and spoken word poetry. 

The best place to find and interact with the city’s creators and backstage arts community. You can grab a cappuccino across the street at the Bohemian Art Cafe to discuss the pieces.

Save some time to take a look at the architecturally striking City Library next door.

Also, Mondays are closed, and it’d be wise to check their schedule before visiting. 

3. Ken Sanders Rare Books

Ken Sanders Rare Books

The Ken Sanders Rare Books is a dimly lit literary spot with over 200,000 books. They are situated in downtown Salt Lake City.  The wooden shelves here have rare signed first editions and art prints. You can find hand-drawn title pages, vintage Utah photographs, antique maps of the West, and so much more. 

The aisles are narrow and contain rare books of every niche. The staff here is well-read, and they’ll tell you the stories behind the rare finds.

Check their calendar for free readings, local author debuts, and creative writing classes. 

You can also find art and provocative works from independent presses displayed alongside the stacks. Love free books?  They also have a “Free Books” bin outside with giveaways from Ken’s overstock. 

4. The Shoestring Theater

Is indie music your vibe? Well, The Shoestring Theater is an intimate live music venue where Salt Lake City’s independent artists perform. The lineup has it all from indie rock, punk, bluegrass, and jazz groups.

The ticket prices are mostly under $15, and the crowd is often young people. BYOB policy lets you sip local Utah brews during the show. The outdoor patio here also offers late-night DJ dance parties decorated with strings of Edison bulbs.

The atmosphere is laidback and welcoming, with the tattooed bartenders chatting with regular customers at the bar. The place gets packed pretty quickly, so go early and find a booth near the stage. 

The weathered floorboards here are dotted with bubblegum art underfoot. You can get handstamps to get you back in any time to catch other genres over the weekends. Fan of Namesake Theater’s popcorn? The Shoestring Theater’s seasoning on the popcorn provides the Namesake Theater’s signature spice.

If you find yourself exploring NYC and have a passion for food, be sure to check out these must-visit restaurants in town.

Hidden Nature Gems in Salt Lake City

5. Ensign Peak Nature Park

Ensign Peak Nature Park

The Ensign Peak Natural Park is a mile-long trail situated just north of downtown. You can see the peaks of the Wasatch Range, the golden Salt Lake Temple, and the State Capitol Building from here. The path is steep and is full of scrub oak and Utah juniper trees. 

There are historic plaques along the way explaining how early Mormons surveyed the valley in 1847 before establishing  Salt Lake City.  The best time to hike here? Dawn or dusk as the view of the skyline in soft lights is great. 

If a picnic is also on your mind, Howell Bandstand at the peak is a lovely spot. The main trail is stroller-friendly, but near the cliff, it is dangerous for kids and dogs. 

The Ensign Peak Nature Park is open year-round but has limited access to snow, so check the weather conditions first. 

6. Neff’s Canyon

Neff’s Canyon

Neff’s Canyon is only 20 minutes from downtown. But it is not a regular tourist attraction. The impeccable natural scenery is the highlight of Neff’s Canyon.

The whole place is filled with trees and has small waterfalls. You can spot exotic birds and mule deer grazing in the forest clearings here. 

The vibe here is very calm and serene. Dirt trails, mossy creek beds, and old cabins covered in foliage set the vibe here. The path has flat meadow loops as well as steep switchback climbs. The higher you hike, the better the view, but even short hikes are worth it. 

Freshen and fill up your bottles before heading in from the nearest public bathrooms and water taps at the trailhead parking.  Weather can impact the access to Neff’s Canyon trail. So, call the Salt Lake Ranger District for trail updates. 

Heads up, Neff’s Canyon gets a bit busy during summer and weekends. So, if you want to enjoy it peacefully, go midweek to explore. 

Explore the essential guide for hiking Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon.

7. Gilgal Sculpture Garden

Gilgal Sculpture Garden

Gilgal Sculpture Garden makes you feel like you’re in some other world. It is a beautiful green space with curving walls engraved with Bible verses, Egyptian sphinxes, and celestial pillars.  

The garden work was started in 1947 by Thomas Battersby Child, Jr., who was a contractor and a bishop for the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. He later passed away in 1963, after which it was falling apart. 

Later, the Friends of Gilgal Garden group was organized in 1997 to protect and maintain the garden and Tomas Child’s religious philosophies. 

The signature piece at the Gilgal Sculpture Garden is a bust of LDS church founder Joseph Smith with complex symbols and metal accents. Shady spots with limestone carvings track the sun’s path throughout the day, making it a perfect place to relax and reflect. 

Hidden Local Eats Gems in Salt Lake City

8. Ruth’s Diner

Ruth's Diner

Ruth’s Diner has been in business since 1930. It is the oldest restaurant in the state. This classic diner is built inside an old trolley car and is very beloved by the locals. Bright red railcar exterior, cozy wooden booths, and a humming jukebox experience make you not want to leave this place. 

Ask the locals, and they’ll rave over Ruth’s Diner’s mile-high biscuits and country gravy. Another popular dish is their pie milkshake, which is blended thick with a slice of their towering desserts. 

Going with kids? Their paper placements can also be coloring books for kids while waiting. If you answer the trivia on the paper table tents, you’ll win a slice of pie. 

They also have affordable daily blue plate specials for college students. Visit the diner spart from regular meal times to beat the queue outside. You can enjoy the food inside the trolley car or outside on the patio. 

Ruth’s Diner is close to the city center and yet hidden in plain sight as it is located in a quieter block. 

9. The Rest

The Rest is an intimate speakeasy-style bar. The ambiance here is retro yet refined. The place has exposed brick walls, leather banquettes, and velvet curtains. They serve global flavors like Malaysian chicken satay or Indian chickpea fritters while also serving classic cheese boards. 

They have a variety of cocktails with curious matches of flavor combinations and garnishes. The popular ones are their vodka and gin infusions with local ingredients like honeycomb and dried orange.

They have a hidden entrance off West Temple. Look for the blue light above the worn wooden door. They take reservations as the space is small, and people come here to soak in the vintage vibe fully. 

10. Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine

Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine

Mazza Middle Eastern cuisine is the best option if you crave some Lebanese dishes while in Utah. They have a main downtown dining room and a lovely tiered patio behind it. Some of their most hyped dishes are falafel, lamb kebabs, creamy hummus, and tabbouleh salad dressed with bold spices and bright herbs. 

The Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine has a cozy ambiance with stone walls and imported rugs and is a great choice for a date night locale. Their flavors span across the Levant region with additions like pomegranate, molasses, za’atar spice blends, and Turkish coffee. 

They have been serving authentic Middle Eastern cuisine for over 20 years now. Check their timings before you go, and Sundays are closed. 

Conclusion

Located between the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake City is known for its beautiful landscape and vibrant culture. Beyond all that, Salt Lake City is visited by around 18 million people every year. They have usual tourist places flooded with these visitors, but they have so many places still unexplored. 
So, take a detour and visit these hidden gems in Salt Lake City.  Each of these 10 experiences is unique and locally-loved.

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