1. There are 5 (5!) national parks.
The country’s 50 states average just 1.18 national parks each, but Utah gets five — which shows just how remarkable its landscapes and flora and fauna are.
2. Utah gave the vote to women half a century before the rest of the country did.
It took over 70 years, from the birth of the national movement for woman suffrage in 1848 to the signing of the 19th Amendment, for American women to get the universal right to vote. But in 1870 — 50 years before the US Constitution was amended — Utah granted its female citizens this right.
3. It’s home to the heaviest known organism in the world.
Spread over 106 acres, Pando (aka The Trembling Giant) is a male quaking aspen tree that comprises an entire forest. It’s believed that the tree is 80,000 years old, although there are other theories that place it closer to a million years old. And as a whole, the entity is estimated to weigh around 13 million pounds.
4. It has the first (and only) ski-in / ski-out distillery in the world.
Once your legs are shot from all that epic Utah pow, you can slide down the slopes to Park City’s High West Distillery & Saloon for a tasting session of their local small-batch whiskey and other spirits.
5. It hosts one of the world’s biggest Holi festivals.
One of the biggest festivals in the world, every year at the Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple over 70,000 Mormons and hipsters, Hindus and hippies join together to dance and hug and throw colorful corn starch in the air in a weekend of pure joy. Check it out in this vid.
6. It’s home to the only warm water scuba spot in the continental Unites States.
And the 90-96 degree mineral water inside Homestead Crater is crystal clear and super deep.
7. On average, Utah has the tallest mountain peaks in the country.
“Utah is the rooftop of the United States,” writes Paula Huff in Hiking Utah’s Summits. Averaging the tallest peaks in each Utah county works out to 11,222 feet. The highest elevation in the state is King’s Peak, located in the Uinta Mountains in northeast Utah, at 13,528 feet.
8. Park City hosts one of the biggest and most influential independent film fests out there.
Two hundred films are screened at Sundance Film Festival each winter, many of which will later go on to give you tons of indie street cred when you casually remark that you attended a Q&A with the director and cast back at Sundance years ago — you know, before the Oscar.
9. It has some of the sickest mountain biking on the planet.
And not just at Slickrock Trail, which draws huge crowds in Moab. Gooseberry Mesa in Hurricane has 14 miles of technical slickrock and singletrack, with none of the crowds (yet). Plus, it has something else Moab doesn’t: mind-blowing views into Zion National Park.
Even Salt Lake City has over 150 miles of bike lanes, multi-use trails, shared lanes, and off-road tracks. And the entire city’s tourable along a 13.5-mile loop that goes through downtown, passes the farmer’s market, and hits tons of historical sites across the city.
10. Salt Lake City has one of the largest LGBT communities in the US.
Betcha didn’t know that Salt Lake City was Advocate‘s #1 “Gayest City in the USA” in 2012. It dropped to #6 in 2013, but I’m betting that’s still a lot higher than you expected. SLC was the first in the state to pass anti-discrimination ordinances based on sexual orientation, and the LGBT community here is HUGE. The Pride Festival is one of the biggest events in the city and draws over 25,000 attendees, including (for the last couple years) a hundred or so members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) who come out to show their support.
11. The average depth of the Great Salt Lake is 13 feet.
It’s also 75 miles long and about 35 miles wide, making it bigger than the state of Delaware. And like the name suggests, it’s salty. This means floating in the Great Salt Lake is effortless (slightly smelly) fun.
12. The music scene is epic.
Salt Lake City’s the only big stop in the Intermountain West, which makes it a great spot for music by default. But in addition to that, SLC’s music scene is boosted by a huge pool of regional talent including Neon Trees, The Used, and Imagine Dragons.
Even the SLC Arts Council’s gotten in on the action by offering concerts downtown in the park — and with bands you’d actually pay more than $5 to see. The Black Keys, MGMT, Bon Iver, Sonic Youth, and the Empire of the Sun have all played in the park in recent years.
13. The powder here is different.
It’s more than just marketing hype. Most storms that hit Utah develop over the Pacific, then travel inland, losing moisture density as they go. After passing over the Great Salt Lake, they pick up speed and get colder and drier before spewing down all over the Wasatch. The effect is perfect for skiing: a nice dense base, topped with fluffy low-density powder. Science!
Pro tip: On average, April sees 6.7 feet of snowfall, making for phenomenal spring skiing.
14. Salt flat car racing is a thing.
The Bonneville Salt Flats spills out for miles in a radiant white carpet (in winter, when standing water collects on the salt pan, the effect is mirror-like). And for the past 100 years, the unique characteristics of this terrain have drawn speed enthusiasts seeking to test the limits of technology and human endurance. The first land speed record was set in Bonneville in 1914, and modern-day events like Speed Week and World of Speed continue to pit custom vehicle designs against the laws of physics on the long, flat salt plain.
15. It’s the home of the first KFC.
You’re welcome, world. Salt Lake City is the epicenter of the fast-foodification of Southern fried chicken, and the only place you can chow down on a KFC chicken buffet while sitting next to one of the colonel’s original white suits.
16. It has the densest concentration of Jurassic-era dinosaur fossils ever discovered.
At Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, more than 12,000 bones — from at least 74 dinosaurs — have so far been excavated. One of the big mysteries of this ancient grave site is the presence of so many animals, and that around 75% of the bones found came from meat-eaters.
17. It’s one of the best places in the country to see ancient rock art.
Deep within the rugged Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, Horseshoe Canyon has artwork dating back to the Late Archaic period 1,500 to 4,000 years ago, and you can see recovered artifacts dating back as far as 9,000 B.C, when the place was still teeming with mammoths and giant bison.
18. Provo has the highest level of well-being in the US.
Of 189 cities and metropolitan areas, the Provo-Orem area has topped the Gallup-Healthways list for the second time in six years.
19. You can drive six miles into the middle of a gigantic lake and see herds of free-range bison.
Antelope Island is 27,000 acres of the exact opposite of what you were looking at before you got on the island: no buildings, no cars, no suburbs. Just nature—a billion kinds of birds, mountains reflecting in the lake, bighorn sheep, mule deer, 360-degree views, and pronghorn antelope (obviously). March and April offers opportunities to catch a glimpse of bald eagles and bison babies. And there are 21 miles of trails to mountain bike.
20. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, Utah is doing the opposite.
Almost 10 years ago, Utah set in motion policies with the goal of ending long-term homelessness by 2015. Since then they’ve managed to reduce it by 74% by, essentially, giving homes to people without homes. Sounds ludicrous, right? It was a decision based on sound logic — the policymakers realized it’s cheaper to provide a home and a social worker to someone than to pay for their emergency room visits and jail stays.
21. Utahns are the most generous people in the country (in the most generous country on Earth).
Out of all 50 states, people from Utah give the most of their time and money, according to a recently published Gallup poll. Of those asked during the second half of 2013, 71% had donated money and 56% had volunteered their time (48% did both). And this is in the US, the most “civically engaged” country in the world, with 65% of those asked having donated money, 43% having volunteered, and 73% having helped a stranger.
22. And the sense of community is unrivaled.
Where else will a neighbor bring by a casserole dish stuffed with rich and gooey homemade funeral potatoes when your grandmother dies? Where else can you live a decent driving (and possibly walking) distance from some of the best hiking, climbing, boating, skiing, boarding, riding, rafting, camping, biking, and running available in world-renowned national parks? Where else do you read a billboard or a monument that says, “This is the place,” and catch yourself feeling lucky?
This article references the following sources from Matador:
20 things you didn’t know about Salt Lake City, by Sarah Park
14 things to do in Utah once you’re done skiing, by Sarah Park
15 signs you were born and raised in Utah, by Rachel Rueckert
20 fascinating things you didn’t know about Utah, by Carlo Alcos
5 best places to see ancient rock art, by David Page
There’s a Holi festival in Utah…and it’s totally rad, by Ailsa Ross