THE BLOCKS 12 Best Holiday Activities

The holidays are here and downtown Salt Lake City has been transformed into a glittery, bejeweled urban wonderland. And while many of the ways we’re used to celebrating this time of year are sadly canceled, THE BLOCKS remains abuzz with a full slate of new, festive and socially distanced things to do to mark the holidays. Following are a dozen holiday activities sure to infuse you with a little much-needed cheer.    

1. See Burning Man Art 

Yes, you have read that headline correctly. Burning Man art. In downtown Salt Lake City! At The Gallivan Center, among a holiday music-infused forest of 285 lit evergreen trees, you will find the Purr Pods, a trio of huge metal cat sculptures by California Bay Area-artist Paige Tashner that vibrate (a la purring) and glow with LED lights at night; and Koro Loco (which means “heart place” in Esperanto), a three-dimensional heart made with hundreds of light-catching dichroic plexiglass squares by Salt Lake City artists Emily and Ian Nicolosi and Steve Wong. Both pieces debuted at Burning Man 2019.  

2. Shop Hard-to-Find, Artisan-made Gifts 

Get them something that they’ll honestly love to receive at the annual Holiday Art & Craft Market (12 S. Rio Grande St., Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through December 19). There you can shop in an intimate setting of really cool artisan-made gifts, ranging from organic soaps and jewelry to pottery and photography while chatting up the makers. 

3. Take a Multisensory Stroll through The Gateway

Not only has The Gateway invited local artists to install holiday-inspired art within 14 shop windows throughout this open-air mall, but it also partnered with VoiceMap to create a downloadable audio tour of said installations (that even includes an interactive map) to guide you through this free and festive activity, appropriately called the Winter Magic Art Stroll.  

4. Drool Over the Macy’s Candy Window Displays 

The Gateway isn’t the only downtown shopping mall thrumming with holiday vibes. At City Creek Center, Macy’s is maintaining a downtown holiday tradition started by ZCMI in the 1970s: edible holiday-themed window displays. This year’s six candy windows were handcrafted by Utah artists Neil Brown and Holly Jones and will be on display through Christmas.      

5. Sip a Bit of Holiday Cheer

Most if not all downtown bars are open, providing a socially distanced respite from your daily beers on the couch in your sweats. Who wouldn’t, for example, feel the spirit of the season while sipping a Cruel Intentions, a concoction of vodka, cranberry and lime juice, rhubarb bitters and sparkling rosè, at London Belle? Or head over to Alibi Bar & Place where you can ask mixologist Maddy Schmidt to mix you up something warm and bright. And if you’re just looking to change up your football-watching scenery, mosey down to Cheers to You where during Monday Night Football you’ll find jersey giveaways, cold beers and $3 Maker’s Mark.      

6. Find the Perfect Thank You Gift

Wondering what to get your hairstylist, housekeeper, babysitter, kid’s piano teacher, etc, etc, etc? Here you go: Downtown Dollars electronic gift cards. When you buy a $75 Downtown Dollars e-gift card, you’ll automatically receive an extra $25 in Bonus Bucks; buy a $50 Downtown Dollars e-gift card and you’ll get an extra $10 in Bonus Bucks. To redeem, you simply show the e-gift card code (sent to you via text or email for you to use or gift to someone else) at a Downtown Dollars participating business at the time of payment. You’re welcome.   

7. Host a Living Room Singalong with Your Quaran-team

Despite the cancellation of downtown’s traditional live holiday performances—Ballet West’s The Nutcracker, the Utah Symphony’s holiday concerts and A Kurt Bestor Christmas—you can still get your singalong on from the comfort and safety of your home with both the Utah Symphony and Bestor. The Symphony’s Messiah Sing-in is available for on-demand streaming from November 26 to December 26, as is it’s A Merry Little Christmas with Tony De Sare from December 22 through January 2. Kurt Bestor’sannual Christmas performance has gone virtual as well and will live stream on December 12. And no Christmas would be the same without The Nutcracker, of course: a 2019 performance of this Ballet West classic ballet air for free on KSL-TV on December 25 and 35 and January 1, at 5:30 p.m

8. Bundle up and Ride the Downtown Mural Trail

In case you haven’t heard, more than 60 murals now adorn downtown buildings, contributing to a fantastic open-air gallery best toured on two wheels. Grab a GREENbike and take a view cruise of this vast collection of public art and sculpture courtesy of THE BLOCKS’ handy interactive map.   

9. Settle in for a Virtual Tour of the Temple Square lights

As is tradition, Temple Square is lit this year for Christmas. But due to an ongoing renovation, access is closed to the public. You could peer through or gates or a much more intimate alternative is to make some popcorn and tune in for a virtual tour of the Temple Square Christmas lights, scheduled for live broadcast on and on the Temple Square Facebook page on December 1 at 6 p.m. The tour is available for on-demand screenings after then.

10. Go Out for Dinner

Eating every meal at home has been one of the more monotonous aspects of this pandemic, for sure. All the more reason to leave the cooking (and clean up) to someone else and head to THE BLOCKS for a well-deserved dinner out. Downtown restaurateurs are taking multiple precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, including mask-wearing, socially distanced seating, upped cleaning and handwashing routines, etc. Besides, supporting local eateries during this difficult time will ensure they are still there when we’re eventually given the green light to gather at-will again.      

11. Buy a Handmade Quilt from the Festival of Trees

For 50 years, Utah quilters have been supporting Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital through the much-anticipated Festival of Trees. This year’s event has gone virtual, including its popular handmade quilts shop. After buying your quilt, snuggle up with it and tune in for a live broadcast of the Festival of Trees’ Wonderland Walk—a celebrity-studded tour of the event’s decorated trees which are display inside the Vivant Arena—on December 4.        

12. Set Your Holiday Table from the Winter Market

Serve your household peeps something really special during this holiday season from the Winter Market (12 S. Rio Grande St., Saturdays through April 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) where vendors from all over the state sell fruit, honey, baked goods, cheeses, meats, pies and much more. 

Written by Melissa Fields