Salt Lake City’s Free Culture

The numerous tour sites around Salt Lake City show that the best things in life truly are free. You can get an in-depth look at Salt Lake’s rich historical and cultural heritage all within a short distance of downtown.

Utah State Capitol

(Located at 120 State Capitol, 350 North State Street. Open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

For nearly a century, the Utah State Capitol has served the people of the state as the seat of all three branches of government and numerous state agencies. In 2004, the Capitol underwent its most extensive and comprehensive reconstruction and renovation with millions of pounds of concrete carefully shifted to new foundations and devices called base isolators to protect the building and occupants from earthquake damage.

The Utah Governor’s Mansion

(Located at 603 East South Temple offers free 30-minute tours every Tuesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from June 1st through August 31st.)

The mansion was built in 1902 by U.S. Senator and mining magnate, Thomas Kearns. In 1927, Jennie Judge Kearns donated the mansion to the state of Utah on the condition that it would be used only as the Governor’s mansion.

Temple Square

(Located at 50 West North Temple. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

The Salt Lake Temple, a granite-based edifice with its majestic spires towering over the city center reigns as Utah’s most visited tourist destination. The Temple itself which took 40 years to complete is a symbol of dedication and sacrifice of time and material goods. Only active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints can enter the Temple. However, the Temple is surrounded by a comprehensive visitor’s center, tabernacle, and museum with a knowledgeable staff that are eager to tell about the site and answer any questions.

Museum of Church History and Art

(Located directly across the street from the west entrance of Temple Square. Open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.)

The museum exhibits the look and feel of the first houses and structures erected in the Salt Lake valley. It includes numerous historical artifacts, films, and demonstrations.

The Salt Lake City Masonic Temple

(Located at 650 East South Temple. Tours: 801-363-2936 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

The Salt Lake City Masonic Temple is well-known as being the most publicly visible jewel of Freemasonry in Utah for the last 79 years. Completed in 1927 and dedicated to Worshipful Brother George Washington, the building consists of several lounges, Great and Lesser Halls, a banquet room, auditorium, four lodge rooms, and administrative offices. The building was re-dedicated in a public ceremony during the 2002 Olympics.

This is the Place Monument

(East side of Salt Lake City on Sunnyside Avenue near the mouth of Emigration Canyon.)

On July 24, 1847, LDS Prophet, Brigham Young, first laid eyes on the Salt Lake Valley and declared that this would be the place where the Mormon pioneers would settle and build what would become the State of Deseret and eventually the state of Utah. The monument was erected in this location to commemorate that occasion.

Gilgal Sculpture Garden

(Located at 749 East 500 South. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily).

The Gilgal Sculpture Garden is an exhibit of stone art including a Sphinx sculpture of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. The garden includes a huge Mormon cricket, some Biblical body parts, and a self-portrait of the artist. Thomas Child, a masonry contractor, established the symbolic sculpture garden as a retreat from the world and a tribute to his most cherished religious and personal beliefs. He named the garden Gilgal after the Biblical location where Joshua ordered the Israelites to place twelve stones as a memorial. The name “Gilgal” is sometimes translated to mean “circle of standing stones,” Friends of Gilgal, purchased the garden and donated it to the city.

Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts

(Located at 749 East 500 South. Open daily through Labor Day from 12 noon to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Group tours available mornings, by appointment 801-533.5760, Monday through Thursday.)

Traditional art and artists from Utah”s ethnic, native, occupational, and rural communities share their craft, music, and dance. It is filled with art objects made from everyday materials including plants, animals, found objects, and recycled items. It”s a great way to introduce children to the idea of creating art out of the ordinary. The museum also has an interactive scavenger hunt for kids who can win a prize for completing the activity. During July and August the museum hosts Monday night concerts at 7 p.m. out on the lawn in front of the museum. The concerts are free events featuring folk music and ethnic dance. Guests are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket for the lawn.

The Salt Lake Arts Center

(Located at 20 South West Temple. Open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

The Salt Lake Art Center presents contemporary exhibitions and programs of art, which have aesthetic and social consciousness. They elicit dialogue about crucial issues and evoke thought-provoking responses.

Fort Douglas Military Museum

(Located at 32 Potter Street at the University of Utah. Self guided tours are open Tuesday through Friday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday, 12 noon to 4 p.m.)

Established in 1862 as a small military base with the purpose of protecting the overland mail route and telegraph lines. The fort has exhibits ranging from arrival of Johnston’s army in 1857 during the “Utah War” though Vietnam. The fort officially closed in 1991. The University of Utah took over most of the buildings.

Meditation Chapel in Memory Grove Park

(Located at 450 North Canyon Road. Summer tours are open every Wednesday from noon to 2:00 p.m., June through September., the first and third Wednesday evenings of June, July and August, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and the first Saturday of June, July, August, and September, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon.)

The Meditation Chapel was constructed and designated for quiet reflection by Mr. and Mrs. Ross Beason in 1948. It serves as a memorial to their son, Ross Beason, Jr., and all other Utahns who died in World War II. The plaza surrounding the chapel contains more than 300 granite markers each representing a Utah serviceman whose remains were not recovered after the war.

The Rooftop Garden above the Salt Lake City Library

(The Salt Lake Public Library is located at 210 East 400 South. The Rooftop Garden is assessable from the inside of the library)

The garden was constructed to add to the aesthetic appeal of the library and its unique architecture. This is good place to view the city in panoramic fashion. The garden is well maintained and is currently home to thousands of honey bees living in two beehives. The bees are a symbol of Utah as the beehive state. The bees of course to have stingers, but they are not aggressive to visitors of the garden. In fact, there have been no reported bee stings and the garden does flourish from the efforts of these six-legged pollinators.

The Salt Lake City and County Building

(Located at 451 South State Street. Free one-hour summer tours are available every Tuesday from June 1, to August 31, except holidays at 12 noon and 1p.m.)

The Salt Lake City and County Building is one of Salt Lake City’s most beloved landmarks. Completed in the 1894, its rich history includes the Utah State Constitutional Convention, the trial of Joe Hill, and an infamous pumpkin. In the late 1980s, it became the first building in the world to be retrofitted with base isolators. During an earthquake, the building will gently float on 440 steel and rubber “slinkies.”

The Utah Heritage Foundation

(485 North Canyon Road, Salt Lake City, 801-533-0858)

The Utah Heritage Foundation schedules tours for several of the sites including the City County Building, the Meditation Chapel in Memory Grove, and the Governor’s Mansion.

By Salt Lake Digs Contributor, David Jensen

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