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A Tale of Reopening: Experience Salt Lake’s Live Arts and Culture Now

Salt Lake City is the gateway to the Greatest Snow on Earth, but I’ll let you in on a little secret that we hope doesn’t remain secret much longer: it is also home to some…

Salt Lake City is the gateway to the Greatest Snow on Earth, but I’ll let you in on a little secret that we hope doesn’t remain secret much longer: it is also home to some of the greatest arts and cultural opportunities around. And there’s even better news: you can safely enjoy Salt Lake City’s cultural scene during the pandemic! With everything from virtual to hybrid to in-person events that are masked and well-distanced, there’s something for everyone. In many places around the country, you won’t be able to enjoy live music and performances until late 2021 or beyond.

Natural History Museum of Utah

And if you’re anything like me, you need live arts and culture. I crave it. Hasn’t your soul just died without the vigor of live concerts? Without the joy of the summer festival season? Without the zen of wandering through a museum? Without the power of live theatre? Nothing helps us process and heal like the arts. We need. them. now. More than ever. Here in Salt Lake, you can experience live arts and culture safely in-person or online. I’ve been to it all, loved it all, and let me tell you, I felt extremely safe at all of them.

This Is the Place Heritage Park

My very first post-lock down live theater experience was “The Corona Conundrum” at Parker Theatre. I was there front and center on opening night, May 15. Held in a beautifully restored art deco theatre, the original show was a hilarious series of skits detailing, “the lives of very average people trying their best to thrive in very unaverage times.” (from the show’s billing). Laughed my head off. Their COVID policies were superb: 10-foot spacing, masks required, ushers guided you to your seats one group at a time (so no interacting in aisles), dismissed you one group at a time after the performance and of course, extreme sanitization. The actors each had their own “zone” on the stage and were never within 6 feet of each other.

This Is the Place Heritage Park

Natural History Museum of Utah

In late June I cried my eyeballs out to Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star” at the beautiful Hale Centre Theatre. That show is one of those that sticks with you forever and delivers a powerfully emotional gut punch, set against a toe-taping bluegrass score. Since that show, I’ve seen “Mary Poppins,” Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” (the rotating train set was OFF THE HOOK), “Tarzan” and “Christmas Carol.” Just down the hill from the Cottonwood canyons (aka ski central, the canyon homes to Salt Lake’s four ski resorts), HCT’s brand new state-of-the-art performing arts center features two stages, both of which are technological wonders.

Audiences are treated to award-winning costume and artistic design, impressive stage and water effects, and aerial theatrics! As of this writing, HCT is sold out until April but come April 3rd, you’ll be able to hear the impressive sounds of “Les Miserables” again — live! Their 30-page COVID-19 safety-plan is posted online. Ushers monitor for proper mask wearing during the performance. Plus, their theatre boasts a hospital-quality HVAC system and breaking-edge sanitization technology.

Hale Center Theatre

Launching a performing arts company right before a pandemic hits might sound crazy, but the fine folks behind SonderImmersive not only did it, they used the challenges of COVID to produce truly original, groundbreaking experiences. Their first effort, Through Yonder Window, was a modern adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet”. Their stage: a parking garage. Yes, you read that correctly! This show was a drive-in theatre experience in which the audience stayed in their cars and the performers worked their craft around you. Audio was broadcast via the radio. You could also purchase popcorn just like a drive-in movie theatre! I took my kids and they had a fantastic time.

This Is the Place Heritage Park

Creativity is our middle name in the arts, and many of SLC’s cultural organizations have found innovative ways to safely deliver. SB Dance, which bills itself as musical dance circus theater, is a true original. You’ll never see anything like it anywhere else in the world. They built a stage on a trailer and brought it to your house for your own, private “Curbside Theatre” performance in your driveway complete with lighting and sound! These popular events grew to larger “Tailgate Parties” where you brought your camping chairs to beautiful settings such as the Jordanelle. Can’t wait for warm weather to return to catch SB Dance again!

This Is the Place Heritage Park

SLC’s gallery and museum scene is excellent, and safe. All museums have been safely able to implement distancing, require mask wearing, and have added stringent sanitation and ventilation practices. And of course, I’ve been to all of them since May. Whenever I’m stressed out — which seemed like a daily experience in 2020 — I’m cured by spending a couple hours exploring a gallery or museum. I find it a very calming activity.

Dreamscapes, an immersive art experience from Utah Arts Alliance much like Meow Wolf, re-opened June 16 in 2020. The whimsy and wonder of this experience constantly changes and all of it is built with repurposed and recycled materials. Utah Arts Alliance has also partnered with Sonder Immersive to offer mini theatre experiences at Dreamscapes as well as at Lumen Land, an outdoor light experience at their annual Illuminate festival. Dreamscapes is currently closed because it’s moving to a new, bigger space that opens January 29. It will be an all-new experience!


Salt Lake City Downtown Alliance

Natural History Museum of Utah

Since June, I’ve dived safely into classic and contemporary art at Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Modern West Fine Art, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Together my children and I have explored the natural world through Utah’s Hogle Zoo, Natural History Museum of Utah, This is the Place Heritage Park and Tracy Aviary. All of these galleries and museums (zoos are museums too!) are extremely safe. They have marked 6-feet apart viewing spots, require masks, ask visitors to sign up for time slots, reduced capacity, intense cleaning practices, hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE, and they’ve established directional flow so you’re never near other groups. The indoor spaces have improved their ventilation and the outdoor spaces have added heaters for comfort.

Utah has long been a mecca for indie music. Live concerts with bands have been slow to re-open but thankfully they’re opening again soon. Downtown venues such as Kilby Court, Urban Lounge (Read: Urban and RYE: An Intimate Mixture of Music and Local Eats) and The Depot are all setting up protocols and in the process of booking acts. All of these events are distanced, masked, sanitized and ventilated. I can’t. Wait. To rock. Check and venues for upcoming shows and to monitor changes to scheduling. And watch The Salt of Sound: Live Music in Salt Lake City to get a taste of the capital city’s scene and what we’ve been missing.

Natural History Museum of Utah

This Is the Place Heritage Park

I’m a classical musician by training, and for three glorious months I was able to see Utah Symphony and Utah Opera (USUO) again live. I cried at my first three concerts because it was so wonderful to be in beautiful Abravanel Hall again. Utah Symphony conducted an air-flow study in partnership with scientists at the University of Utah to determine how to get their musicians on stage safely. The result: smaller ensembles with musicians placed at least 10-feet apart and moving brass and woodwinds to the outer edges of the stage to improve airflow.

These COVID performances have been unforgettable. Plus, USUO has worked hard to amplify pieces by female and BIPOC composers this season. They’re offering online concerts right now, but come March, you’ll be able to hear their concerts again in-person. Streaming right now on their new USUO on Demand service are classics from Mozart, Bartok, Green, Mendelssohn and Ravel.

Abravenal Hall

If you’re still not ready to attend live performances, Salt Lake has something for you too. Doesn’t curling up to a concert in your hotel room with your ski bunny sound like a one-of-a-kind and amazing aprés-ski activity? Oh it is. Our creative cultural organizations have served up incredible virtual activities that you can find on There’s chamber music with Intermezzo, jazz with Excellence in the Community, and modern dance with Ririe Woodbury Dance Company, among dozens additional options.

Wether you’re beating those winter COVID blues on our slopes or welcoming in spring in the valley, definitely take the time to get in a little soul therapy in SLC’s unbeatable arts and culture scene. Our downtown hotels are your very own metropolitan basecamp perfect for staying close to the mountains. Plus, SLC offers delicious distanced dining and takeout, safe shopping, and more. Serenity now.