Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I have this friend who served an LDS mission here in Salt Lake. On his mission he was introduced to many attractions and collected some obscure stories about some pretty cool (and strange) places. As a result, he developed a rather bizarre tour of the city.

I was first introduced to his tour about a year and a half ago. He set me up on a date and we doubled with him and some other girl because his actual girlfriend was busy (but that’s another story). I loved it. Being from Salt Lake, I’m used to the typical things that make Salt Lake – well, Salt Lake.

What’s great about this tour is that you can do it within 2 or 3 hours. There are some long stops, and some short stops to give it variety. And of course each stop has a mission-related story. I was familiar with most of these places, but here is what was on the 2007 tour:

Gilgal Gardens
Hobbitville (it’s always just a driveby)
Cathedral of the Madeleine (it was closed)
The Virgin Mary Tree
The Garden Park Ward
Summum Pyramid (by Welfare Square)

Last night I did the tour again with my friend Dre and her friend from out of town. Last night was a little different. We made it to the following:

Gilgal Gardens
Cathedral of the Madeleine
The Virgin Mary Tree
The Summum Pyramid
The Mormon Ovens

OK…we didn’t actually make it to the Mormon ovens. And I’m still unclear as to what those really are. He took us up through Federal Heights and then we started walking in the snow. After twenty minutes of hiking I asked if we were there yet and he said we were maybe half way there. The guide’s girlfriend and I decided it was too cold, my wet feet were starting to freeze, and so we turned back. After about 25 minutes of chatting in the car we get a call from him saying, “Hey where you guys at? We need you to come pick us up at the hospital.” Apparently they took a wrong turn and walked over the mountain and out the other side and ended up at Primary Children’s Hospital. So we picked them up and called it a night. Fun…nonetheless. Always a good time.

This got me to thinking about if I had visitors from out of town and were unfamiliar with Salt Lake, what kind of tour would I take them on? First, I would try to get my friend to take them on his tour, because there’s nothing better, but if I were left on my own, I think I would take them to some places I really like and know a little bit about:

The State Capitol Building is one of my favorite buildings in Salt Lake. And I was actually a tour guide there so I know a lot about it. And it’s right by my house so this would be the first stop.

Next stop: the Cathedral of the Madeleine. It’s a beautiful building and a nice complement to the Mormon Temple, so people know other religions thrive here too.

Gotta hit Gilgal Gardens. I mean, a man who built a strange, sculpture garden in his back yard with Mormon-related symbology? A sphinx with Joseph Smith’s head? Awesome. I remember my mom took me there when I was really little. Years later I asked her where that man’s house was with the statues, and then my ward ended up going there one night for an activity.

Then we’d go up to Red Butte Gardens. It's pretty all year long. There are a lot of little gardens and the view is amazing. If I planned it right, we’d get there around sunset where you can see the whole valley.

Then we’d drive down to Temple Square where I’d take them to the tabernacle – if it’s a Thursday night, we’d be able to pop in on the choir rehearsing, which might be exciting for them. If they still let people do that…

And then maybe I’d take them to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to look around and then take the elevators to the top where you get an awesome view of Temple Square.

We’d also eat somewhere during the tour -- depending. You have to be flexible. Possibilities include Cucina in the Aves or even the Garden at the Joseph Smith Memorial.

Probably not nearly as entertaining as my friend's tour, but it would be informational. If I had another day, I would probably take people to the Spiral Jetty or Antelope Island because, you know the Great Salt Lake and everything. And it’s amazing out there – almost surreal.


Annie said...

Good job with your tour. You hit a lot of places that I hit when I take people on tours of Salt Lake. The only place I don't take them is Gilgal Gardens because I prefer that they don't think Salt Lake is a weird creepy Mormom town. Oh, and you can still drop in on the Thursday rehearsals for the MoTabs.

And did you know that during WWII they sent German and Japanese POWs to Salt Lake because they figured it was too far away for the POWs to escape? So, if you go up to the cemetary by Fort Douglas there are a lot of POW graves.

Kelly D. said...

Now I'm really curious. I've got to go to Gilgal Gardens soon!

Laura Lee said...

Annie, that reminds me...the Salt Lake Cemetery is great, closeby and has some historic graves. Maybe I'll add that to my list.

Kelly, you'd like Gilgal. And the Summum Pyramid with the consecrated water spout.

Annie said...

Salt Lake Library, also a good place to take people. It's architecturally interesting. And cool. Just don't go in the morning before it's open because it's where the bums hang out apparently. Unless you want to hang out with bums.

Cameron's Corner said...

Wait a second, Laura. You told me that Hobbitville wasn't real. How am I supposed to believe that ANY places on your tour list really exist?

Laura Lee said...

It LOOKS like hobbits live there. It's the hobbits that aren't real.

abel said...

Wonderful tour! But if you have to take them somewhere to eat, you must take them to the Red Igauna.

dre said...

I'm so glad I was on that tour. So my friend said that tour was top THREE things he liked here in Utah. And we tried to get red iguan, but we were too hungry to wait. I will add red butte to the next visit.

Ilene said...

Yes, a tour without having to get my tush off of the couch or drag three little ones along. This is the only way to see Salt Lake.

luke_witkowski said...

It was THE best tour I've ever been on. The combination of three people riding in the backseat, all of the stops, the tour guide stories and the endless hike are all elements of a dynamic tour. It doesn't hurt to have four of the finest Utahans with you.

Pen to Paper said...

Next time we are in Utah. I'm taking your tour.