Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Once a paradise for native hunter gatherers, then a safe haven for pioneers seeking religious freedom, today Salt Lake City is a sparkling metropolis, offering some of the wildest outdoor adventures in the USA. Salt Lake City is just a four-hour flight from New York and a 2-hour flight from L.A. Cradled in a basin beneath the Wasatch Mountains, Utah's capital is just a stone's throw from the shining shores of Great Salt Lake. Beneath its gleaming skyline, Salt Lake City is one of America's great pioneering stories. And there's no better place to turn back the pages, than at the Church History Museum. When Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, met his untimely end in Illinois, his followers headed Westward in search of a place free from persecution. Led by the iron-willed Brigham Young, known to many as the “American Moses,” they found their promised land, Salt Lake Valley, in 1847. Young wasted no time in breaking ground on a patch of desert he christened, Temple Square, and as the number of faithful has expanded, so too has the square. The square's premiere monument, Salt Lake Temple took 40 years to complete. Now, after a century, the craftsmen and stonemasons are returning to carry out a 4-year renovation, ensuring that the temple stands for generations to come. Today, Temple Square is not only the city's heart, but the world centre of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Set aside at least a day to explore this astonishing 35-acre spiritual complex, which is often called “The Mormon Vatican.” Take the Pioneer History Walking Tour, which explores Temple Square's most historic monuments and buildings. Stop by the Beehive House, Brigham Young's former residence, and the neighbouring Lion House, once home to some of his 55 wives and their children. Up to five million visitors come to Temple Square each year, and for many, the highlight is Salt Lake Tabernacle. Time your visit with a concert or rehearsal and feel the thunder of the organ's eleven thousand pipes, then close your eyes and be wonderstruck by the heavenly strains of the Tabernacle Choir. Finish your day in Temple Square in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. After exploring the lavish gold interiors, head to the top floor, sit back and enjoy a meal backdropped by some of the city's finest views. For all its history and faith, Salt Lake City also knows how to loosen its collar. For a change of pace, head downtown to City Creek Centre, a world-class shopping and dining precinct. Then, hang out in the hip streets of Sugar House, the epicentre of Salt Lake City's creativity and diversity. This neighbourhood overflows with pioneering restaurants, street art, and craft breweries, so set aside a least a day to explore. When it's time to relax, roll out a picnic blanket in the city's living room, Liberty Park, an 80-acre estate that regularly comes alive with events and festivals. Nearby, walk the grounds of the Utah State Capitol, a landmark which has been presiding over Utah's legislative and civic life for over a century. For sweeping views of the capitol building, and the rest of the city, hike to the top of Ensign Peak. From this lofty position, gaze out at the sprawling state capital, framed by powder dusted mountains, a cloud-marbled sky and the golden shores of Great Salt Lake. If your hiking boots are itching for more, take the short drive to the foothills of the Wasatch mountains where you'll find Red Butte Garden and Arboretum. This vibrant oasis offers over 5 miles of hiking trails and 11 themed sections, including medicinal and fragrance gardens. To the southeast of the city is Big Cottonwood Canyon. Spend a day exploring this dramatic alpine wilderness, carved by restless glaciers, wandering rivers and tectonic plates which have been shifting for billions of years. Follow the crisp cool air even higher, into the welcoming embrace of Park City. Once a silver mining town, today Park City is one of America's top winter destinations, boasting two world class ski resorts, and Utah Olympic Park. To Salt Lake City's northeast, the landscape changes again and suburban streets melt away into arid Utah wilderness. It's here that you'll find the city's namesake, the largest saltwater lake in the U.S.; Great Salt Lake. Despite being nicknamed America's Dead Sea, there's no lack of wildlife around Great Salt Lake, especially on its largest island. Visit the untouched prairie wilderness of Antelope Island where bison, bighorn sheep, antelope and mule deer roam freely, on the city's doorstep. When those Mormon pioneers first rolled their wagons into this broad, secluded valley and beheld such natural wonders, it's easy to see why they knew they'd found their promised land. And today, you too can enjoy the fruits of their vision and labour. What began as a refuge from religious persecution has bloomed into a destination where faith and diversity, tradition and creativity, nature and architecture, all go hand in hand. And whatever our beliefs, we can all say amen to that.