Gay Vacations in Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City Highlights

  • Bars are actually private clubs. Despite the newly laxed liquor laws in Utah, you still need to pay a small cover charge to get into bars and have someone sponsor you, or purchase a two-week membership. (It’s easier than it sounds.)
  • Take in a free Tabernacle Choir concert. A number of organ recitals take place year-round mainly during the daytime, and admission is free. For a schedule, go to www.mormontabernaclechoir.org.
  • Rooms are inexpensive in Salt Lake. Thanks to a surplus of hotel building for the 2002 Olympics, there are a ton of reasonably-priced rooms in the city.

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Salt lake (locals never call it Salt Lake City) was founded in 1847 by Mormon leaders, and has forever been colored by the religion. But contrary to what LGBT travelers may think, the city is more liberal and gay-tolerant than its reputation—the city has even elected three openly gay politicians. The Utah state capital’s populace is actually less than half Mormon, and the winter Olympics in 2002 helped bring it an air of internationalism. New light-rail lines, gourmet restaurants, an active arts scene (home to the highly acclaimed Utah Symphony and Opera), and big-city development projects have enhanced downtown Salt Lake City’s cachet, and yes, you can drink: Utah’s notorious liquor laws were radically loosened a few years back. More importantly, the city’s queer community is surprisingly visible in a political and social way—billboards for gay pride have lined the city’s freeways, and pride is the second-most attended event in the city, after the annual parade commemorating the Mormon exodus to the Salt Lake Valley. There are several crowded gay and lesbian venues, and even an unofficial gay nude beach on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.

Downtown Salt Lake is amazingly spacious and tidy, laid out by early church leader Brigham Young in a wide grid pattern, with Temple Square at the center. A collection of gay bars is found on the western edge of downtown, and the boys and girls here know how to throw a good party. The Sugar House area, southeast of downtown, is a young and hip district with quirky stores, galleries, and eateries. And don’t forget to check your lineage at the Family History Library—one of the world’s largest collections of genealogical records under one roof (central to the Mormon’s belief is eternal families in the afterlife). And regardless of your beliefs, taking in a performance of the world-famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir is nothing less than heavenly.

The gay-popular 100-acre Liberty Park, bordering the city, has miles of trails, a small lake with ducks and paddleboat rentals, the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts, and an excellent aviary. And then there’s the imposing Wasatch mountain range, rising 7,000 feet, and just a 30-minute drive from the city, and the 1.3-million-acre Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Some of the best skiing in the West is a day trip away at resorts like Alta, Snowbird, and Park City (the latter being home to the famous Sundance film festival).

Come in June for Utah Pride (complete with a film festival and three parades), and there’s another LGBT film fest in late January. For a real Salt Lake experience, come for the month-long Days of '47 festival in July, marking the founding of Salt Lake City with concerts, an art show, cooking competitions, a rodeo, and a pioneer festival.


Published: 17 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Salt Lake City

$219-$299
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#1
Grand America Hotel
$110
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#2
Hyatt Place Salt Lake City Airport
$252
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#4
Hyatt Place SLC Downtown Gateway

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