Salt Lake City, Utah goes all out at Christmas to provide visitors with a total holiday experience complete with magical lights, music, and an authentic German Christmas Market. The month of December through New Year’s is the time to visit Salt Lake City to get that special holiday feeling.
Temple Square Lights and Music
Temple Square with its soaring Mormon Temple and spacious concert hall featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are always impressive. But at Christmas, the square takes on a bright and cheerful look. Families, dressed for the occasion in suits and dresses, bring their children to see the life-sized Nativity scene and marvel at the lights.
It was beginning to sprinkle wet snow when I visited the lighted square one evening. The lights reflected in the wet sidewalks added even more sparkle and color. As I walked along, listening to the broadcast Christmas music, I forgot the evening chill. The sight of groups of school children, the cheerful families, and the selfie-taking tourists warmed my heart.
I returned the next day and peeked into the auditorium to hear an organist practicing on the massive organ that accompanies the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Thirty-minute organ recitals are given in the Tabernacle Monday through Saturday at noon and Sundays at 2:00 p.m.
If you’re not prepared for the weather, you can ride the Jingle Bus from area to area in Downtown to see the lights. The bus runs Friday, November 23 through December 31, 2018, in the evenings (except Christmas Day). The Temple Square lights are turned on at dusk each evening until January 2.
German Christmas Market
I was surprised to hear from a local friend that a must-see was the German Christkindlmarkt at a park called “This is the Place Heritage Park.” The market, held annually the last weekend of November, was all she had described and more. The free market with food, entertainment, and European-style treats and gifts, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
We took a ride-share up to the park, which is quite an attraction in itself with pioneer-era buildings and a huge statue commemorating the moment when the Mormon pioneers saw the Salt Lake Valley and said, “This is the Place.”
As we entered the market, a dirndl-clad singer was entertaining children with a German-language song about a teddy bear. The smell of gingerbread and mulled cider wafted through the air. We walked from one little wooden shop to the next enjoying the imported carvings, clothing, and foods. Some goods were imported and others were hand-made locally.
We found other areas to peruse and watched the children giggle over farm animals as they petted them and took a ride on the winter-ready shaggy ponies. Since it was our first visit to This is the Place Heritage Park, we had to visit each and every historic building. They housed such finds as a candy store, the Brigham Young Donut Shop and, at the last building, a very special gentleman. Inside a wooden-floored little house, we found a cheerful traditional Santa Claus waiting for us. While he was there awaiting children’s Christmas lists, he and Mrs. Claus welcomed us in for a chat. My friend had her photo taken in this lovely setting. It was a step back in time.
This is the Place Heritage Park Candlelight Christmas
Since the German market was only one weekend, I found out there would be other opportunities to experience the magic of Christmas at the park. Each year, the park holds their Candlelight Christmas evenings.
The Village at the park looks like a Currier & Ives card with all the decorations. The flicker of candlelight fills each building. You can visit Santa and enjoy a live Nativity scene. The Heritage Village Carolers provide an inspiring musical backdrop to the glitter of lights, the glow of crackling fires, and the smells of Christmas.
You can go shopping and join others as they make crafts and gifts in historic pioneer cabins. The Gift Shop at the Visitors Center and the ZCMI Mercantile have a good selection of unique gifts. After touring and shopping, warm up with a bowl of hot soup at the Huntsman Hotel. While you are there, be sure and check out the re-created historic rooms upstairs.
When You Go to Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is truly a Christmas city. There are lighting displays at the zoo and throughout Salt Lake. It’s cold, may snow, and you’ll want to bring your winter clothes and waterproof boots as you tour.
The Salt Lake City Visitors Bureau maintains an online list of holiday events. A Salt Lake City Christmas will not disappoint. For more to do in Utah, read what our Wander With Wonder writers have experienced in the state.