Article Overview: List of the Pros & Cons of Living in Salt Lake City
Thinking about moving to Salt Lake City? You’re in the right place.
I’ve lived in Salt Lake City for more than a decade (there’s so much to love!).
Breathtaking mountains, an incredible food scene, unparalleled nature and world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, it’s hard to be bored around here.
But, that’s not to say it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Far from it. Read on to learn about the honest pros and cons of living in Salt Lake City from a local’s perspective (nice to e-meet you, I’ve Dave Bennett).
Please keep in mind this is my personal list based on first hand experience, not everyone will feel that same way (that’s what the comments are for!).
Pros & Cons of Living in Salt Lake City
Plan on visiting Salt Lake City before finalizing your decision? Here’s the BEST hotel in town (the one I recommend to my own family and friends).
But first, what’s it like living in Salt Lake City if you’re not Mormon?
Living in Salt Lake City as a non-Mormon can be a vibrant and diverse experience, but it’s important to navigate the unique cultural landscape with respect and open-mindedness.
Contrary to popular belief, there are thriving secular and non-religious communities in Salt Lake City. Organizations like secular humanist groups, atheist clubs, and LGBTQ+ support networks provide a sense of belonging for those who may not align with religious beliefs.
As someone that has lived in SLC for 10+ years and isn’t a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), I have found residents (both LDS and not) to be open-minded and welcoming. In my experience, people are respectful of different faiths and world views.
The biggest challenge of living in SLC as a non-Mormon? Networking. But look at me already getting ahead of myself! Let’s dive in.
The Perks of Living in Salt Lake City
1. Unparalleled Access to Nature
Nature nuts, rejoice! There’s no denying that one of the biggest draws of living in Salt Lake City is having access to incredible nature.
Locals are spoiled for choice with the diversity of landscapes. Especially the Wasatch Mountains, which take center stage and provide a breathtaking backdrop to the city from all angles.
Whenever I’m in need of some natural reprieve, I take a drive to the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest (a personal favorite).
The forest spans nearly 2.2 million acres, and is full of adventure seekers all seasons of the year, everyone eager to get their hearts pumping while enjoying the comforting peace that comes with being outside.
Don’t just take my word for it, SLC was ranked the 12th best city in the US for access outdoor recreation, the only thing we’re missing is the ocean!
Heck, you don’t even need to leave town to get access to the great outdoors. There’s 735 acres of parkland located in SLC.
Which means you’re never more than a few minutes away from green spaces. This makes Salt Lake City a great place to live for families with young kids, there’s a ton of areas to let them run wild.
2. Ample Career Opportunities
If you’re fresh out of college and looking for a gig, you’ll be happy to learn that Salt Lake City was recently ranked the best city in America to start a new career.
Salt Lake City has been experiencing a tech boom lately, with tech giants like Adobe and Qualtrics setting up shop. If you can code, you’ll be in high demand.
However, we all know the old adage that “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.”
Well, this is true in Salt Lake City as well, and since the city is known for its strong Mormon community, networking may prove difficult if you aren’t apart of the church (I’ll cover this more in depth shortly).
3. Salt Lake City is a Millennial Town
It’s official, millennials account for the majority of Salt Lake City’s population (a full 52%). Yep, more than half the folks living in Salt Lake City, Utah are between 27-42 years old.
Thankfully a little overprice avocado toast never hurt anybody.
Jokes aside, the city is shifting more towards things millennials enjoy, like modern coffee shops, trendy breweries, and popular brunch restaurants.
Like most millennials, I had a list of non-negotiables before moving to Salt Lake City: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods & Costs. Check, check and check.
4. Year-Round Sunshine
One of the things you’ll quickly learn after living in Salt Lake City is that sunshine is not hard to come by. On average, Salt Lake City gets 222 days of sunshine per year (better than the national average!).
I ended up moving to SLC from the Pacific Northwest (where this tool was non-negotiable). Needless to say, Salt Lake City has been a complete reprieve from the gray weather I was used to, and now I find it hard to think about living in a city that doesn’t get year-round sunshine.
But, I should clarify, the city offers plenty of sunshine, but the temps span the gamut. I liken SLC’s weather to an indecisive aunt trying to choose a restaurant. It can’t decide between hot summers and cold winters, so be prepared for everything from shorts in January to snow in June.
5. Salt Lake City is LGBTQ-Friendly
This perk of living in SLC tends to catch folks off guard, but Salt Lake City has the 7th highest LGBTQ population in the US.
Further still, the city gets a perfect ‘100’ score from the Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ+ friendly cities. The common misconception is that a “religious town” would not be a safe haven for folks that identify as LGBTQ, but I’m happy to report that SLC is welcoming in that regard.
The University of Utah is largely to thank for the cosmopolitan attitude attracting students from all over the world.
As with most places, cities are way more diverse than the more remote areas. So, if you’re moving to Salt Lake City and acceptance is a concern, I suggest living in the heart of downtown.
6. The Downtown is Lively
Salt Lake City has a thriving arts and cultural scene where you can enjoy concerts, theater productions, art galleries, and festivals that celebrate various forms of artistic expression.
There’s a lot going on downtown! No small feat, especially considering a lot of towns took a hit post-COVID.
Sports fans can head over to Vivint Arena to catch the Utah Jazz, while soccer fans will have to drive over to Sandy to catch the Real Salt Lake.
On Saturdays, I love heading over to the Downtown Farmers Market in Pioneer Park to pick up some local produce before parking myself at a cafe for a bit. The people-watching opportunities are endless!
7. The High Quality of Life in Salt Lake City
Here’s a fun stat not many folks realize: Salt Lake City is ranked the 12th happiest city in the United States.
It’s not hard to see why, the city has so much to offer! Between access to the great outdoors, ample sunshine, good job market and low crime rates, living in SLC lends itself to a happier version of daily life.
8. The Great Food Scene
Foodies thinking about moving to Salt Lake City can rest easy. While the downtown was hit pretty hard by COVID, it’s coming back strong with a lot of great restaurants.
The restaurant scene in Salt Lake is both surprisingly and incredibly diverse with flavors from all over the world.
9. SLC is a (Really) Clean City
If cleanliness is important to you then living in Salt Lake City might be a great choice. Salt Lake City recently ranked as one of the cleanest cities in America.
The city has programs in place to control litter, including regular street cleaning and maintenance of public spaces such as parks and recreational areas.
Simply walking the streets is a job because the city feels so clean. Whether you’re popping into shops, sitting on benches, aimlessly strolling — you’ll find very little graffiti, trash, or litter.
In a lot of ways, SLC reminds me of of Vancouver, BC — impeccable cleanliness surrounded by incredible mountain vistas. What’s not to love?
Cons of Living in Salt Lake City
1. Let’s Talk About Networking & Community
I often get asked what it’s like to live in Salt Lake City if you’re not Mormon. Well, if you’re curious about that then you’re in the right place, because that’s my current situation.
I’ll b honest, oftentimes it feels like networking requires way more effort while living in Salt Lake City.Around 62% of the population identify as Mormon, which makes me feel like I need to brush up on Tabernacle Choir hymns to fit in sometimes (joking, of course).
There’s definitely a strong sense of community based around the LDS community, but overall, I feel respected regardless. Most of my neighbors are Mormon, they’re some of the kindest people I know.
They look out for me (picking up my mail/packages when I’m out of town) and are always quick to greet me with a hello.
But, when it comes to networking in my career, it seems the preference is to “stick with what you know,” so advancement/promotions have been somewhat challenging. Just being honest here.
2. Summer Wildfires Are On the Rise
I’m hardly the first to tell you that wildfires are wreaking havoc in the west. The constant threat of wildfires have become a part of daily life in SLC.
Salt Lake City has been one of the many victims of these wildfires via diminished air quality and destroyed nature. Locals wait, with bated breath, to see if the upcoming summer will be worst than the last.
It’s no longer a question of IF we’re get wildfires this year, but WHEN (which really sucks).
3. Housing Is Expensive
Now, I understand that housing affordability isn’t unique to SLC, but damn, houses aren’t even in the same time zone as affordable right now.
The current median home price in Salt Lake City is 580K, which is much higher than the national average. Likewise, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment clocks in at a steep $1,400 in the downtown area.
I like to think of the housing market as a mirage. I hear locals talk about “affordable housing” like it’s a mythical creature. We’ve heard the tales, but we’re not entirely sure it exists.
But it’s not hard to see why housing is on the rise. Salt Lake City has experienced significant economic growth, particularly in sectors like technology, healthcare, and finance.
Thriving job markets and expensive housing go hand in hand. The recent spike in job opportunities has led to an influx of workers, increasing demand for housing.
4. Restrictive Alcohol Laws
Alright, here’s another give away that I’m not Mormon, I love a strong libation.
After all these cons you’re probably ready for a drink, eh? Think again.
Alcohol laws in Salt Lake City are some of the most restrictive in the country.
All liquor transactions directly to the public must happen at state-run liquor stores.
While beer and wine can be picked up at most grocery stores and gas stations, the maximum ABV allowed for these is 5% (prior to 2019 it was a mere 3.2%!).
Getting higher gravity beers requires a visit to one of aforementioned state run liquor stores.
On top of that, expect small wine pours at restaurants (the maximum allowable is 5 ounces) and skimpy cocktails (1.5 ounces of primary alcohol is the max allowed) at the bar.
Ready to head back home to that expensive house? You better hope those pours were as light as the state requires. The legal BAC (blood alcohol content) in Utah is a paltry .05% (or 1 to 2 drinks) making it the lowest in the United States.
And if that wasn’t sobering enough, you probably guessed it by now, alcohol is really expensive in Salt Lake City (5th most expensive state in the US) thanks to the 5th highest alcohol taxes in the country.
5. Poor Air Quality
What’s the point of living amidst a breathtaking backdrop of mountains of the air quality keeps you indoors? Things to consider while living in Salt Lake City, because our pretty city ranks as the 9th worst in the country for air pollution.
Air pollution has been a growing problem for many years now and doesn’t show signs of slowing anytime soon. Part of the problem is the constant wildfire smoke that engulfs the city come summer.
Easy to assume that the air quality improves in the winter. But not so fast! The frequent winter inversions are worth considering.
The winter months are infamous for inversions that trap the valley with pollutants for days at a time. All this to say, brace from poor air quality before moving to Salt Lake City.
6. Moving to Salt Lake City? Think Drought & Dry Skin
The drought in Salt Lake City has become a major concern in recent years. The great Salt Lake itself is drying up and reaching record low levels every year.
Just getting to the lake itself requires a considerable hike because of how much water has receded. But the drought conditions don’t stop there.
According to NOAA, 99.4% of Utah is currently in some level of drought with 90% of the state at a minimum D2 Severe Drought conditions and a whopping 50% of the state at D3 Extreme Drought conditions.
With the state projected to get drier and drier in years to come, the drought is worth a consideration if you’re thinking of moving to Salt Lake City.
Heck, according to the latest statistics Utah ranked as the 2nd driest state in America.
Something to know about living in Salt Lake City is that not only is there very little rainfall, but the air is so dry you’ll be applying lib balm and lotion like it’s a full time job.
7. Salt Lake City Lacks Diversity
Nearly 73% of the folks living in Salt Lake City identify as white alone. Since the comments section is often riddled with variations of “well, why is that a bad thing?” I decided to do some more digging.
I found that folks who are much smarter (and more articulate) than myself have explained it better than I ever could, this helpful (and short) article is a great place to start.
And, as I mentioned earlier, 62% of the population identifies as Mormon. If you’re not Mormon and living in Salt Lake City, you will find it difficult to fit in or make friends past the obligatory pleasantries.
Well, that’s been my experience, yours may be different. I like to think I’m a pretty open guy (I don’t typically have a hard time making friends), but fitting in hasn’t always been easy while living in Salt Lake City, especially in the beginning.
8. You’ll need a car to get around
One of the biggest disadvantages of moving to Salt Lake City probably doesn’t need much explanation.
Simply put, you’ll definitely need to own a car while living in Salt Lake City, because things are spread far apart and public transportation leaves much to be desired.
Make sure to account for the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance if you’re moving to Salt Lake City from a city with decent public transportation.
FAQ – Living in Salt Lake City
Yes! Living in Salt Lake City is an ideal choice for outdoor enthusiasts and those who value a balance between city life and nature. Its access to recreational activities, coupled with a growing job market, makes it particularly appealing to young professionals and families who appreciate an active lifestyle and a welcoming community.
Salt Lake City is a great place to retire for individuals who enjoy a mix of cultural experiences and outdoor adventures, thanks to its vibrant arts scene and proximity to national parks. Retirees who appreciate a tight-knit community and want to explore a variety of activities while still having access to city amenities might find Salt Lake City to be a fulfilling choice for their retirement years.
Comparison of the Pros & Cons of Living in Salt Lake City
|Pros of Living in Salt Lake City
|Cons of Moving to Salt Lake City
|Great career opportunities
|Poor air quality
|Access to nature
|Endless recreation opportunities
|Vibrant atmosphere with millennials
|High happiness index
|Restrictive alcohol laws
|Limited alcohol availability and sales hours
|Lively downtown with cultural events
|Inclusivity and cosmopolitan environment
|Rich food scene
|Emphasis on cleanliness and tidiness
Map of Living in Salt Lake City
Pros & Cons of Living in Salt Lake City (Summary)
- Great career opportunities
- Access to nature
- Endless recreation opportunities
- Hopping with millennials
- SLC is a happy place
- Lots of sunshine
- Lively downtown
- Inclusive & cosmopolitan
- Great food scene
- Very clean
- Poor air quality
- Summer wildfires
- Expensive housing
- Drought is real
- Restrictive alcohol laws
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In conclusion, living in Salt Lake City as a non-Mormon can be a positive and enriching experience. The key is to embrace the city’s diverse offerings, engage with open-minded individuals, and respect the choices and beliefs of others while celebrating your own identity and values. Salt Lake City’s sense of community extends beyond religious boundaries, making it a welcoming place for people from all walks of life.