The Comparative Government AP Reading moved to Salt Lake City this year, after five years in Kansas City. KC was lovely, but five years was enough, especially as our group was stuck in the Hotel of Death every year. It felt like folks could go either way on Salt Lake; it was a different place, but doesn’t exactly have a reputation for catering to the industrial-age drinkers of AP.
I wasn’t that worried, because I knew that the city had changed a lot during the last decade and a half. “Don’t you have to be part of a club to buy a drink?” was something that I heard a lot, but could safely dismiss. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was how bohemian (for lack of better terminology) downtown Salt Lake had become. There were plenty of bars, including good beer bars, restaurants, shops, attractions, and whatever else you might need. Temple Square is cool to visit, any reservations about LDS notwithstanding, and good hiking is available in easy walking distance. The crowd for the USA-Sweden match was, in a word, the most “Portland” group that I think I ever hung out with. Salt Lake even has the angry, assertive homeless community that’s characteristic of every city on the West Coast, but apparently is surprising to people east of the Rockies.
Two caveats; first, I suspect that leaving the 12 square blocks at the heart of the city would offer a much different picture of the area. Second, Utah state laws mandate that no liquor pour amount to more than 1.5 ounces, which effectively hamstrings the cocktail culture. I didn’t have a decent cocktail at any point during our ten day stay, unless I made it myself.