Happy December Everyone! Roll out the holly- the holiday season is in full swing now with the delights and wonders that only this time of year can bring. Bring on the carols, the baked goods, the greeting cards, and the festivities.
In a few weeks we will be heading home to Utah for Christmas and we can’t wait to be back in the mountains with our family and friends as we celebrate the holidays. The mountains are beautiful anytime, but when they are covered in snow they are just wonderous. Utah has claimed the title of ‘greatest snow on earth’ and this comes from the fact that the state is so dry when there is snow it more likely to be a powder day. With that there are multiple renown ski resorts and some not so renown all over the state. The winter Olympics were held here in 2002 where the world watched top athletes as they made their way down all the slopes of Utah.
Because of it being such a famed skiing destination, a lot of people don’t realize that there is so much more to the state to enjoy. Especially at this festive time of year, Salt Lake City is a great place for some joys of the season. So in happy anticipation of spending Christmas in Utah, I thought I would share with you the best 10 holiday experiences to have in Salt Lake City. From the bright, to the musical, to the tender and the sweet- Salt Lake City at Christmas has something for everyone to enjoy.
#1 THE FESTIVAL OF TREES
My absolute favorite thing to do in Salt Lake during the holidays is go see the Festival of Trees. In the first few days of December, the convention center is packed full of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, gingerbread houses, wreaths, quilts, handmade toys, and delicious treats. All of these items are created and then donated. Then all the items are auctioned off to businesses and individuals. But the amazing thing is that every penny that is earned during this all goes to the Primary Children’s Hospital here in Salt Lake to help care for all the children that are patients there. Each piece shows the incredible creativity, ingenuity, and generosity of those that have put so much time and love into creating it. A lot of trees will have pictures of children that are or have been helped through the hospital. Still others have pictures of loved ones who have passed away and the family donates a tree in their honor. Walking through and looking at the trees and the pictures is a beautiful and humbling experience as you consider the medical care provided from the proceeds of this event and all the families that have been blessed by that generosity. (If you want to see my other post about this incredible event, you can read it here)
#2 CHRISTKINDLMARKT SLC
Inspired by the German Christmas markets of Europe, Salt Lake set out to create their own Christmas market full of the smells and sounds of the season. Named Christkindlmarkt this festive event is held at the This is Place Heritage Site sitting near the top of the hills that overlook the city. The stalls are filled with inviting food, homemade crafts and items. Dancers and performers make their way through the street bringing with them the music of the season. This is somewhere I usually spend a few hours as I wander from shop to shop and drink something warm and sweet while watching the dancers on the stage.
#3 CANDY WINDOWS AT THE ZCMI BUIDLING-CITY CREEK CENTER MALL
ZCMI, or the Zion Co-operative Mercantile Institution, was the first department store in Utah. The department store first opened its doors in October of 1868. The building has been remodeled into the new City Creek Center Mall, but part of the building still remains as a tribute. And every December, the windows of the old ZCMI building are filled with festive displays made entirely out of candy. These displays move and spin so passersby can see every side of these elaborate candy dreams. Pictures really can’t capture the creativity of these displays because they are so intricate. They are sure to give anyone a sweet tooth.
#4 CHRISTMAS CAROL SERVICE AT THE CATHEDRAL OF THE MADELINE
One of the most powerful musical moments during the holidays is listening to the choir as the music reverberates off the towering naves of the cathedral. Every year The Cathedral of the Madeline invites everyone to come and listen to the beautiful music of the choir. This is always a full house, full of people of every faith and background, coming together to listen to the music. Be sure to get there early and be flexible in seating wherever you can. We sat on the floor in front of the pews and we thought that we had the best seats in whole cathedral.
#5 WATCH BALLET WEST PERFORM ‘THE NUTCRACKER’
Ballet West is the premiere ballet company of the state and every year they put on the beloved classic of ‘The Nutcracker’ in the downtown Capital Theater. Visitors young and old delight in the whimsical telling of the little girl Clara and her Nutcracker that comes to life. This is such a beautifully done telling of this story and it is a favorite for everyone this time of year.
#6 SEE THE LIGHTS AT TEMPLE SQUARE
Temple Square is one of the iconic places of Utah with the impressive LDS temple standing at the heart of it. The construction of the Salt Lake temple started soon after the Mormon pioneers arrived in the area but it would take 40 years to see it to completion. The temple is surrounded by a complex of other buildings and visitors centers that give an understanding of the history of those pioneers. People from all over the world, no matter their faith, come to Salt Lake to visit this complex, but this is especially at Christmas when it is bedecked in millions of lights. There are so many lights in fact that they begin putting them up in August to make sure they are ready for the holidays.
#7 CULTURAL NATIVITIES OF TEMPLE SQUARE
Before going to see the lights at Temple Square, take a walk around the area in front of the temple where they have different cultural representations of the nativity scene displayed. These were all made by local artists and are all beautifully detailed.
#8 THE MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR AND ORCHESTRA CHRISTMAS CONCERT
If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Christmas concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra be sure you do it. The choir is known world wide and are constantly performing at major events and concert halls around the world. But at Christmas, they really pull out all the stops to give an incredible experience. Each year the choir is joined by a big name artist who comes and performs with the choir and orchestra. Past years has brought artists such as Hugh Bonneville, John Rys-Davies, The Muppets, Natalie Cole, Angela Lansbury, and the list goes on and on. The concert is broadcast on tv, but to get the full musical magnitude of the event requires an in person experience.
#9 WATCH ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ PERFORMED AT THE HALE CENTER THEATER
The Hale Center Theater is Utah’s own theater in the round where the stage is at the center of the room surrounded by the eager visitors there to see the actors perform. And of course, every December visitors are treated with a theatrical musical rendition of Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’. All the productions at the Hale Theater are amazing with a talented group of actors, musicians, and designers and the experience is an amazing tribute to great theater.
#10 ZOO LIGHTS AT THE HOGLE ZOO
And last but not least, I give you Zoo lights. At the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City nighttime takes on a whole new side of the zoo as the entire place is covered in lights. Most of the lights are made to look like the animals there at the zoo. And since it’s too dark to really see the animals themselves, this is a fun alternative. You walk through the zoo and marvel at the lights and you can hear some of the animals wandering around their enclosure wondering why you’re not paying attention to them. With one of their signature fried smores in hand to keep you warm you can enjoy the wild side of the lights.
So there you have it, what I consider to be the best holiday enjoyments of Salt Lake City beyond the many ski resorts that are there. Have you ever been to Salt Lake City? I hope your holiday season is merry and bright and full of joy.
If you enjoyed this list of festive things to do in Salt Lake and you want a few more Utah winter favorites to add, then you may want to check out: