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Pioneer Park: Salt Lake’s Jekyll and Hyde

Pioneer Park

Throughout most of the year, Salt Lake’s Pioneer Park is a makeshift sanctuary for the city’s growing homeless population. Thanks to its beautiful green lawns, ample shade, and public restrooms and water, it isn’t difficult to see why someone would want to spend their time here. Place Salt Lake’s largest homeless shelters on one side and its busiest homeless health care facility kitty-corner on the other, and you have the ideal location for the down-on-their-luck. However, balmy Pioneer Park summers take on a very different aesthetic, and you won’t want to miss it.

General Information

Pioneer Park is located on the southwest side of Downtown Salt Lake City between 300 and 400 South and 300 and 400 West. It spans the entire block, and boasts playgrounds, basketball courts, a tennis court, an off-leash area, a walking and running trail around the perimeter, and massive lawns speckled with shade-giving trees. It is open year round, and is host to some incredible events during the summer for Salt Lake City residents and visitors alike.

Downtown Farmers Market

Pioneer Park Farmers Market

The Salt Lake City Farmers Market is the largest farmers market in Utah, and it’s no surprise why. Utah has a rich agricultural history. The Beehive State takes its name from the industrious honey bee, who cultivates its delicious bounty from its native surroundings through tireless work. When the Mormons settled Salt Lake City it was a barren desert, but through hard work and industry, the people of the Salt Lake valley and beyond have cultivated and nurtured a heritage of hard work, craftsmanship, and delicious fruits and veggies. Every Saturday morning and Tuesday night, you can buy them in Pioneer Park.

Farmers Market Schedule

The Salt Lake City Farmer’s Market runs bi-weekly from June 11 to October 22 in Pioneer Park, and it brings farmers, crafters, makers, and food vendors from all around the state to peddle their wares and their harvests to thousands of perusers. The Saturday Farmers Market opens at 8 am, and plays host to a huge assortment of talented and jovial vendors, including a wide array of handmade goods, local food, and of course, deliciously fresh produce. If you aren’t much for mornings, Tuesday evenings at the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers Market offer fresh produce without the crowds. Entrance to both farmers markets is free, too.

Personal Recommendations and Tips

On any given Saturday at the Farmers Market you will find live music, activities, lots of people, and free samples (which is my favorite part). Here are a few things I just have to do every time I cruise loop at the Farmers Market.

1. Grab a Drink

There are 2 must have beverages at the Saturday Farmers Market, and in an amazing twist of fate, their booths are settled right next to each other. If I get there early and the I can still feel the gravitational pull of my mattress, I head to La Barba Coffee for a locally brewed and bottled cold brew coffee. They are delicious, and at just 3 bucks a pop,  La Barba Capitol Cold Brew Coffee comes in as one of the cheapest drink options at the market.

Cold Brew coffee available in pioneer park farmers market

If I show up a little bit later, a refreshing, fresh-made mint limeade is the perfect counterpunch to the beating of the Salt Lake City summer sun. On the south side of Pioneer Park along 400 South, just a booth or two away from La Barba is Sweet Lake Mint Limeade, where a bustling bunch of busy workers form an assembly line to mix up a concoction that Farmers Market regulars can’t get enough of. You’ll also find a bit of a line, but this sweet, tart, ice cold brew is worth the wait. Here’s a sneak peek into the process.

2. Get a Bite

One of my favorite food vendors at the Market is Dottie’s Biscuit Barn, where you’ll find freshly made biscuits and sweet jam or salty gravy emerging from a cute cabin on wheels. You’ll find Dottie’s smack-dab in the middle of Pioneer Park every Saturday.

3. Sample, Sample, Sample!

At the Downtown Farmers Market, you don’t have to have an insider’s connection to get a taste of the goods. Just take your time, stroll from booth to booth, and strike up a little conversation with the growers and makers, and you’ll find yourself nursing a full tummy without spending a nickel. But you’ll have a hard time not buying anything once you get your hands on the delicious artisan cheeses made and aged to perfection locally, the honey from local bees, the fresh baked breads and pastries, and the cherries picked right in our backyard.

The Salt Lake City Farmers Market is an incredible way to get to know what Salt Lake has to offer in one place, in one day. Come on by and get to know the locals, and find out why so many people love to call this city their home.

Twilight Concert Series

Pioneer Park Twilight Concert

For 8 weeks out of the summer, Thursdays in Pioneer Park are reserved for hordes of Utahns who converge in front of a massive stage for the Twilight Concert Series. In my opinion, this series is Salt Lake City’s greatest claim to normalness. I might even stretch to say it makes Salt Lake City pretty damn cool.

History of the Twilight Concert Series

Starting 10 years ago, Twilight, as it has come to be known, was just a small group of edgy college kids huddled around a small stage bobbing their heads to some small band no one has ever heard of that they paid a small price to see—free. Word got ‘round pretty quick, and soon it didn’t matter whether or not you knew who the band was– why not go a to a free show? As the crowds grew, so did the reputations of the bands who came to play, and so did the ticket prices. For 5 bucks people of all ages from all around Salt Lake have seen Beck, Ludacris, Wu Tang Clan, MGMT, Run the Jewels, Empire of the Sun, Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, Ratatat, Girl Talk, and many, many more. That once tiny huddle has grown to often over 30,000 attendees, which has inspired a sister concert series up north in Ogden, wittily dubbed Ogden Twilight.

This Summer at Twilight

Every Thursday for 8 weeks starting July 21st, make your way to Pioneer Park and join me and 30,000 of my closest friends as we rock Downtown Salt Lake City to it’s bones. Shows start at 7, but come early and get a taste of some of Salt Lake’s favorite food trucks. Spots are still being filled, so we will know what treats to expect soon, but you can be sure you won’t be disappointed.

Twilight Concert Series Lineup

July 21: Chet Faker, Kaytranda
July 28: Big Grams, Anderson, Paak & the Free Nationals, Burnell Washburn
August 4: Diplo, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Sneaky Long
August 11: Jenny Lewis, Shannon and the Clams
August 18: Pusha T, Digable Planets, Grits Green
August 25: Grimes, Jagwar Ma
September 1: Fitz & the Tantrums, Trombone Shorty, National Parks

Find more information about the artists on the bill for Twilight Concert Series 2016 here.

Twilight Tickets

There are a few different ways to enjoy Twilight, and a few different ticket options. Each show is $5 in advance, $10 day of show, cash only. If you want to save a couple bucks, you can buy season tickets in advance for $35. I did the math and that means one show is free! If you have a few extra dollars to burn, splurge for the VIP passes. Twilight VIP passes get you into a closed off area with chairs, free food and free drinks, and you get a pretty cool lanyard credential that makes you look way more important than everyone else. VIP passes are $25 per show in advance, and $35 day of show, however, you can buy VIP season passes for $160 in advance, which I would say is well worth it to get out of the crowd.

A Word of Warning

Pioneer Park Homeless

Pioneer Park is in a great location, and it has pretty much everything you could ever want in a park besides a Kool-Aid fountain and a slide through the core of the earth to a parallel universe, but it’s proximity to homeless aid centers makes it a hotbed for criminal activity, especially at night. Salt Lake City does a pretty good job of clearing it out for these special events, but when the crowds clear, it becomes a completely different animal, sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or Teen Wolf. I won’t get into the details, but you shouldn’t either. Avoid Pioneer Park at Night, and don’t go by yourself during the day.