Visiting University of Utah - things to do in SLC to see if it fits my liberal mixed-race kid?

(Hope this is in the correct section).
My son and I are visiting University of Utah in a few weeks as he is very interested in their CS/EAE program. We are staying in the University guest house, and have scheduled a general campus tour, an engineering tour, and a student led tour of the games facility.

We are from CA, and I really would like my liberal, mixed-race (Chinese, Indian, White) kid to get a good feel for the Salt Lake City community in terms of tolerance and diversity.

Any advice for things to do downtown/restaurants would be appreciated. Also, if people can share their own experiences (or their kids) of living in SLC and Utah from various viewpoints. Thank you!

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I used to go to SLC for work with some frequency. SLC is much more diverse than the state of Utah as a whole. There is a good sized Polynesian community. People there are generally very nice but one needs to be careful when talking about religious issues. I found being curious and asking questions was good but not smart to make jokes etc.

One of my favorite beers, Epic, is in Utah. The Brainless beers they make are great!

Park City is really beautiful and is more upscale. Great for hiking, skiing, snow mobileing and horse back riding. There is a restaurant owned by Robert Redford there that is excellent.

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There’s Tracey Aviary and Botanical Park located in Liberty Park (very large park SE of Downtown) Liberty is busy every weekend with tons of picnickers, joggers, people chilling. Big dog park nearby too.

Red Butte Gardens and Arboretum is lovely. Often there is some sort of exhibit or show going inside the main building. I went to glass (craft) show there one Thanksgiving while visiting my daughter in SLC. Red Butte is also where they held her residency graduation dinner. Red Butte is on the east side of UU and there are spectacular views of the city from the foothills of the Wasatch Mtns there.

Open air concerts are held in the Red Butte amphitheater so you may want to check to see who’s playing.

There’s a great hiking & mountain bike trail that starts in the parking lot of UU’s hospital and runs south toward Red Butte along the foothills of Wasatch.

You could check to see if the Jazz have a home game scheduled when you’re visiting and go to Vivint Arena.

Besides Downtown, look at the Sugarhouse area, which is very popular with young adults. There are a couple good brewhouses, a several pizzerias and a number of interesting casual restaurants. So is 9th by 9th area. Lots of restaurants in 9th by 9th.

For dining, I recommend Red Iguana–assuming you can get a reservation. (Don’t even think of trying to just go–even during the week. The place is always busy.) Great Mexican food.

D and husband also like Freshies–which is fast casual lobster restaurant. Freshie’s makes an excellent lobster roll.

I also like Crack Shake in the 9th by 9th–another fast casual place, this one selling jibori chicken prepared in a variety of styles. Pretty Bird (downtown and Sugarhouse locations ) is another chicken place and the go to for Nashville hot chicken.

Caputo’s Market is a classic place to get fresh deli sandwich, salads, pasta dishes to go. Homemade tiramisu is wonderful

For Thai food–Chanon Thai Cafe.
For fine northern Italian food-- Valter’s Osteria

SLC has surprisingly diverse dining scene. Pick a cuisine and you can probably find it there.

Unfortunately UU really doesn’t have much of a traditional campus town near campus, but light rail allows students to get off campus to more “happening” areas without needing a car.

D has lived in SLC for 4 years now. Her experiences-- most people are nice and SLC is more liberal and diverse than she was expecting. However, get too far outside of SLC and the ski resort areas and people who don’t look like everyone else can run into issues. Two of her co-residents–both Muslim women in hijabs–were racially profiled, stopped & questioned extensively more than once by county sheriffs for no real reason while driving on their way to a hospital facility (where they worked as doctors!) outside SLC.

SLC is great place if you enjoy outdoor activities–skiing; hiking/backpacking; mountain, road and gravel biking; kayaking & white waterrafting. All those and more are available nearby.

SLC has surprisingly bad air quality, especially during the winter. It often ranks in the top 10 for worst air quality in the world.

Rents in SLC are high if your child wants to move off campus. Not quite SF or Seattle expensive, but not far from them.

Edited to add-- if you go to Caputo’s at 15th and 15th, go next door to Tulie’s Bakery to get a cookie or hand pie for dessert.


Thank you so much for a very helpful reply! We have a lot of amazing experiences to choose from that will hopefully highlight a vibrant and fun city. Also thank you for sharing your daughters impressions.

I will report back after our visit.

Thank you! Will try the beer for sure. Did not expect a beer recommendation for Utah! Lots to learn.


Yes, the liquor laws have changed in the last 15 years. You no longer have to join a private “supper club” to buy an alcoholic drink in Utah and 3-2 beer is a thing of the past.

However, blow 0.05% and you’ll get a DWI. Utah has the lowest BA limit in the US. There is zero tolerance for a driver having anything at all to drink.


I remember being surprised seeing “Harvey Milk Avenue” near downtown SLC a couple years ago. Not something I expected to see in Utah, although I’m surely no expert on Utah. I did very much like Salt Lake City.


I recommend going to the state capitol building. It’s beautiful , and the area around it is too. When it was being built, the state(? maybe it was the LDS church) gave land to all the other churches to build in that area. Great views too.

Temple square is also interesting and the tabernacle is open for visitors, and there is a lot of history there too.

Might as well know what you are being surrounded by for 4 years.

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Great suggestion. Thank you!

D18 attended and S23 is strongly considering. It is a great college for outdoorsy kids. D and her friends would go skiing, backpacking or climbing most weekends. They all stayed every summer (even during Covid) to take advantage of the outdoor opportunities. She had no problem with being a liberal Californian. Utah is very cheap compared to CA, so it was easy and cheap to eat out (the food on campus isn’t great though). It was very useful to have a car, or make friends with someone with a car, as they drove all over (Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Lake Powell, Boulder, Mammoth, even Banff).

Agree with Red Iguana. We also like The Copper Onion, Red Rock Brewery and The Dodo. I would consider renting a car and driving to Park City just to see how convenient the skiing is. The views over the city and lake from the top of campus (behind the medical center) are also great.

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Try Afghan Kitchen at State and 14th for an incredible meal. They’re having an amazing ski season in Utah this year, if you have time and money to go.

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I recommend checking out the local bookstores - I saw on the reddit/SaltLakeCity a number of bookstores that may lean liberal and they could get a sense of the vibe as well as local goings-on:

Legendarium (sci-fi/fantasy inclusive with DnD)
Weller Book Works (cozy)
King’s English (diverse)
Ken Sanders Rare Books (antiquarian/old)
Marissa’s Books (independent)

In the same vein - I would check out a couple of the local game stores -

Game Night Games
Oasis Games

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These look really fun! Thank you.