Maybe we’ve been operating under an obsolete impression about Salt Lake City being very conservative. We’ve had many former-Mormon friends over the years tell us stories about how they were ostracized for being LGBTQ+. And Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Mormon Church. But a recent opportunity to visit queer Salt Lake City updated our views. It appears that the city nicknamed “The Crossroads of the West” has come a long way towards tolerance, acceptance and even support. (And so have some Mormons, evidently.)
Overall, Salt Lake City’s downtown area and neighborhoods are charming and sophisticated. New construction is happening on nearly every block, and swarms of historic buildings have been renovated and repurposed into trendy addresses for restaurants, shops, galleries, hotels and living spaces. The streetscape is more vibrant than ever. Pockets of coolness can be easily found within walking distance of each other. Many businesses are flying rainbow flags, and the rest seem quite friendly and open.
Clearly things have changed in Salt Lake City, and the growing queer community here is paving the way for LGBTQ+ visitors to come and enjoy themselves.
Why Has Salt Lake City Become So Queer Friendly?
Only a short time ago, the Mormon Church helped to bankroll Proposition 8 in California, which was intended to ban same sex marriage. (It was later overturned.) But did you know Utah was actually the first state to legalize it? This was largely due to the efforts of Derek Kitchen and his husband, Moudi Sbeity, along with a host of other community leaders that sued to help this legislation pass in our favor. Derek then became a Salt Lake City Councilman. Later he was elected a Utah State Senator. These were groundbreaking feats in what had been considered a conservative State.
Since then, queers have been more accepted in their communities and particularly in Salt Lake City. Others started to move to the area from out of state, effectively growing the population with a younger, more liberal culture. The median age in Salt Lake city now is around 32 years old. This makes for a less-insular, more open-minded population that is accepting of all people.
The result has helped the city adopt a lenient “Live and Let Live” attitude. LGBTQ+ parents and families are becoming more commonplace. Rainbow flags can be seen across the city. Gender fluidity is visible and accepted. Although not a city with a big bar culture, queers have assimilated comfortably and successfully.
Visit Queer Salt Lake City
The vibe in Salt Lake City is very decentralized, and there is technically no designated “LGBTQ+ neighborhood” like in some other major cities. Here the community is interspersed among the general downtown and adjacent areas, with queer-owned businesses mixed into areas with many other points of interest. This makes the town ultimately discoverable, and somehow futuristic in its queer sensibility.
This vibe is giving queers more reasons to live in a city where we are comfortable anywhere and the downtown businesses we love to visit are mixed in with everything and everyone else. We like this vibe a LOT.
No doubt the further you wander from the city itself, things may feel a little different in the suburbs or rural areas. But in the city? The mix is nice and natural. We even went to a drag show at a bar about one block from the Mormon Church headquarters. That’s some serious mingling of interests, we’d say.
Queer-Friendly Bars in Downtown Salt Lake City
Here’s some fun places to hang out when you visit queer Salt Lake City:
Back Door – speakeasy in back of Laziz Restaurant has a chill vibe and great small plates
Why KiKi – divey tiki bar with stage shows, drag brunch and theme nights
Under Current – upscale bar and restaurants for the mature crowd, best martinis in town
Beer+Bar – owned by Ty Burrell from Modern Family fame, this dive bar is awesome fun
Bar X – Prohibition-style bar with fun cocktail menu and great music
Club Try-Angles – old school gay bar and dance club with all the trappings
Queer-Friendly Restaurants in Downtown Salt Lake City
Mar-Muntanya – Spanish-influenced menu with traditional and non-traditional dishes including the delicious Funeral Croquettas made from cheesy hash browns
Laziz Kitchen – delicious Mediterranean cafe owned by former City Councilmember Derek Kitchen
Post Office Place – Chef-inspired cuisine that consistently rates among the highest in town
Monarca – modern Mexican fare from a much celebrated husband and wife team with delicious plates and cocktails
Takashi Sushi – Sushi in the mountains of Utah, you ask? This is next level fresh and innovative cuisine.
HSL – Buzzy upscale restaurant with great mixology and an outstanding menu (Real Housewives of SLC was filming here when we had dinner)
Where to Stay in Downtown Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City does not have a queer-centric neighborhood (yet), so we did not find any hotels specific to the LGBTQ+ community. However, there are several quite friendly hotel options to consider when you visit queer Salt Lake City, including a glorious new one that sparks the downtown skyline.
Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City
The shiny new Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City is pretty darn magnificent. The latest hotel to open downtown, the Hyatt Regency is visually impressive inside and out. With floor to ceiling glass in all guest rooms and a curved side that adds visual interest, this new hotel has all the bells and whistles.
Our suite was positioned along this curvy wall, giving us a panoramic view of the city and mountains. The decor is modern and luxurious, with plenty of amenities like an on-site restaurant, worthy fitness center, and banging rooftop pool. Plus, the staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating. We couldn’t have asked for a better stay in Salt Lake City.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City, a stylish boutique hotel that welcomes all guests with open arms.
Little America Hotel, a classic old-school option with stunning views of the city skyline.
Events and Festivals
When you visit queer Salt Lake City, you will notice a number of LGBTQ+ events throughout the year. Things ranging from pride parades to film festivals to art exhibitions. Here are a few that we recommend checking out:
- Utah Pride Festival – July 21-23, 2023: This annual festival takes place in June and features a parade, live music, drag performances, and more. It’s a great way to celebrate and support the local LGBTQ+ community.
- Damn These Heels – October 12-15: This LGBTQ+ film festival is held in July and showcases a variety of queer cinema from around the world. It’s a fun opportunity to catch up on the latest films and connect with other movie lovers.
- Marmalade Jam Fest – : This neighborhood festival in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade District is a great way to experience the local community and support queer-owned businesses. It features live music, food trucks, and a wide variety of vendors.
Visit Queer Salt Lake City – Even if You’re Not
We were pleasantly surprised by how LGBTQ+ friendly Salt Lake City has become. The city has come a long way in recent years. It’s clear that the local community is dedicated to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. From queer-owned businesses to supportive events and festivals, there’s something for everyone here. So if you’re looking for a fun and vibrant city to visit, Salt Lake City should definitely be on your list!