SALT LAKE CITY, July 14, 2012 — Anyone who has seen the billboards inviting shoppers to the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City will associate the mall with high end retail.
But what Bloomberg Businessweek recently deemed an upscale “megamall” a stone’s throw from Temple Square beckons families, and especially kids.
Two billion dollars, three city blocks, 700,000 square feet, and enough fanfare to stand out even in a presidential election season, the City Creek Center is the new centerpiece of Salt Lake shopping. Yet there is plenty to do besides drop large amounts of cash among the 80 stores. Parents can hang out with young kids, who will find several activities that make a non-shopping trip downtown worth the time and effort.
The Center is an architectural wonder that will impress parents and wow kids, from the large retractable dome roofs to the sky bridge that connects the west block to the eastern portion of the mall.
Visitors can enjoy the scenery in a relaxed atmosphere: “From the outdoor fireplace lounge to the iconic fountains, City Creek Center is the family room of Salt Lake City. Everyone is welcome here,” said Dee Brewer, marketing director for the center.
In 90-degree weather, needless to say, the fountains attract kids like a swarm of Mormon Crickets attract seagulls. Young ones are more than welcome to play in the water, following the simple rule that they must be fully clothed and shoed. Parents, come prepared with a towel and a change of clothes.
At night, fire and water features will dazzle, and a fountain show plays every hour. A large fireplace sits amid couches and benches near a “:Sky Orchid” wind sculpture that moves beautifully in the hot, desert breeze.
When not getting dazzled by the water shooting up from the ground, kids will love the creek that flows though the mall. The City Creek of Mormon legend was, for decades, channeled through an underground aquifer. The mall has resurrected the historic waterway and populated it with native Utah flora and fauna, including Rainbow and Cutthroat trout.
A dozen foot bridges spring across the over the stone-lined creek inches from the water that flows directly from the mountains to the Jordan River out west.
Plaques scattered throughout City Creek Center describe the history to which the modern structure pays homage. Parents can learn a thing or two about the city’s past, and take the opportunity to teach young kids.
For example, the gold-leafed, ornate façade of ZCMI glistens on Main Street in the afternoon sun, welcoming shoppers into a modern Macy’s. The plaque outside describes the short history of Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution, which for years bragged about being “America’s first department store,” until it was sold in 1999.
For long-time Salt Lake residents, Z-C’s was the anchor to downtown shopping. Almost 15 years after its demise, its elegant storefront reminds visitors that modernity has its rivals.
If a meal is on the itinerary, a food court on the east side of Main gives plenty of options for young eaters, and a large play area is situated behind the restaurants. Abundant seating allows parents to eat and relax while their kids climb around on dinosaurs, their eggs and bones.
If it’s just a summer treat that parents are looking for, Farr’s ice cream—a Utah favorite—has a self-serve shop facing the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
City Creek has already become a destination for Salt Lake Valley residents. Out-of-towners with kids should stop in, too.
For one, the center is convenient. Five-thousand underground parking spaces are easily accessible and reasonably priced (three hours cost $2; the first hour is free). Walkways are wide for strollers, and elevators abundant.
For those who don’t want to deal with parking, the Trax (Salt Lake’s light rail line) station is right in the middle of the development, on Main Street, which kids will enjoy riding and watching from the sky bridge above.
Salt Lake City has plenty to offer tourists and locals alike. The magnificent City Creek Center is now near the top of the list.
Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com
Rich is the proprietor of the “Rich Like Me” political column at the Communities @ Washington Times and the the author of Tunnel Club, an adolescent adventure for adults set in Salt Lake. His “Salt Lake City and the World” column is a guided tour of Utah’s capital city for parents with curious kids.
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