Saturday, February 18, 2012

Downtown Salt Lake City on a Friday Night

My wife and I drove to Salt Lake City last night on a multi-tasking trip. We combined a date with picking up our son and a couple of friends from the university. But before bringing them home, we took them to a concert for which they had tickets that was at a venue near The Gateway.

We would have left the crew to get to the concert on their own, and then we would later have picked them up. But they needed to bring gear with them for the weekend and we didn't want to make a run from 5th West back up to the university, which would have added nearly an hour to our trip, getting us home even later.

Besides, we figured that we'd do something in town while the college kids were attending the concert. Our big mistake here was failing to plan in advance. We assumed that there were so many things to do in downtown Salt Lake City on a Friday night that we'd have no trouble finding something.

But the downtown area has changed a lot in recent years. With projects like City Creek Center, the downtown area has been a perpetual construction zone for several years running. So much has changed that many of the venues with which I was once familiar have moved or no longer exist. We didn't know what to expect, but we were sure to be able to find something to do.

Unfortunately, given the fact that I do not follow sports at all, we were unaware that there was a basketball game going on at the Energy Solutions Arena. All of the downtown parking spots were crammed. Traffic was terrible. After dropping the concertgoers, we drove east for a number of blocks before seeing someplace we could park.

We pulled into the City Creek Center underground parking. It is very clean and nice. But it is also unfinished. There are lots of escalators and elevators designed to take people to the surface, but zero of them were functional. We wandered around the very well-lit parking terrace until we saw people coming from the north. We backtracked the way they had come and discovered a 'temporary pedestrian path.' We followed this path as it went on and on and on until we found ourselves in the lower level of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

It was after 8 pm by this time. We knew that we could dine at The Garden or The Roof, which are in the building. Both are open until 10 pm on Fridays. But I'm not particularly fond of the fare at The Garden, and while The Roof is grand, so are its prices. It's someplace to go for a very special occasion. Maybe some other time. The Nauvoo Cafe and the Lion House Pantry are OK, but they both close at 8 pm.

We thought that, given how well lit City Creek Center was across the street from the JSMB, there certainly must be someplace to eat over there. We headed across the street, only to find the place largely deserted. You'd think that a venue like City Creek Center would post directories like they do at other similar developments. Maybe that kind of thing will come in the future. At least, we couldn't find anything like a directory last night.

We ducked into Deseret Book to get out of the cold. I checked the City Creek Center website on my smartphone. I was impressed with how well the mobile site was designed as well as its snappy response. But the only restaurant that was in operation at all was the Blue Lemon. We checked it out, but frankly, it didn't look like it was ready for prime time to us.

By this time it was a little before 9 pm and the entire district seemed like a ghost town. We decided to head back to our car. Although the parking terrace was just below our feet, we couldn't figure out how to access it directly during this construction phase. So we retraced our steps through the JSMB and made the long trek back to our car.

It was late and I was hungry. We were running out of time, because the college kids would need to be picked up before long. So we headed to the closest fast food establishment we could think of, ate in a hurry, and then went to pick up the concertgoers.

Although we had only a few blocks to drive, the basketball game had recently ended, so the traffic was appalling. Somehow we eventually arrived at the concert venue. As we waited for the crew to come, we saw people dropping off their young teens to attend a rave at the place. Many of the young girls we saw were wearing extremely brief and tight—uh, I'm not sure what to call them. I'd say pants, but they barely managed to cover the crotch. I suppose the parents of these kids were then freed up to go home and get high without the kids around.

Getting out of the downtown area was a bit of a chore as well. We ended up in a slow moving line of vehicles that were waiting to get onto the freeway. It stretched for blocks. I figured that we didn't need to play that game, so I split off and took an alternate route that sported surprisingly little traffic. I guess the standard sheep tendency common in crowds prevailed among the basketball revelers.

We finally arrived home a little before 11 pm, which was earlier than I had expected. In the future when venturing into downtown Salt Lake City, I will make sure to check to see what else is happening in the area so that I can be better prepared. I will also make more definite plans as to where to go and what to do rather than just leaving those questions open. And I plan on avoiding City Creek Center at least until after its grand opening on March 22.

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