If you’ve ever debated about where in the world you can find the most beautiful Christmas lights or really feel the spirit of Christmas, odds are that people have recommended you come to Temple Square! Right in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City, Temple Square is already so much fun to visit and explore during the rest of the year, and it is the top visited attraction in Utah. However, during the Christmas season, it’s even more lively and there’s so much more to see and do! Whether you’re a local who comes every year, or this is your first time visiting, here’s what you can expect when you come to Temple Square during the Christmas season:
Lots of Lights:
Temple Square is the most popular place in Utah to see Christmas lights during the holiday season. After you come for the first time and see how popular it is for yourself, there’s no wonder why it’s so busy! No one knows what the exact number of individual lights is, but it is definitely close to (if not more than) a million. In fact, on the famous red-lit Cedar of Lebanon tree alone on the east side of the Salt Lake Temple, there are 75,000! (but, they only light this tree every other year to preserve this historic Temple Square gem.)
To see the lights, come any day between Friday, November 25th and January 1st. The lights turn on every day at 5:30pm and stay on until 10:00pm. There are a few exceptions for this, however. On the nights of the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert, taking place this year on December 8, 9, and 10, the lights will stay on until 11:00pm and on New Year’s Eve, they will stay on until 12:30am.
Source: Payson High School Choirs
During the holiday season, there are over 400 performances across seven locations on Temple Square. In fact, if you’re from Utah, odds are pretty high that your local high school will be performing! Events that are open to the public happen in the Assembly Hall, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the North Visitors’ Center, the Church Office Building, the Tabernacle, the Church History Museum, and the Conference Center.
Free performances happen every day from November 26 to December 23 (including Sundays) from 12:00pm to 8:30pm. During EVE Winterfest, December 29-31, performances go until 10:15pm and Temple Square will be open later at night too! For the full schedule of performing groups and free events, click here!
Every year during the holiday season, there are a few more popular events that require tickets such as the Bells on Temple Square concerts, the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concerts, the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, and the musical production Savior of the World. All of these shows are free, with the exception of Savior of the World. However, they’ve all sold out already. It is very likely, though, that you can get into any of the concerts or the devotionals in the standby line. For more information about standby and the performances themselves, check out this post before hopping into a standby line!
The average temperatures in downtown Salt Lake during December are between 19 and 34 degrees, so bundle up! If you’re planning on coming to Temple Square during the frigid month of December, you should plan on at least two or three layers and even more for kids and especially babies! If you’re coming with a performance group, like a choir or band, make sure to bring scarves to keep your vocal chords and your throat warmed up.
If you’re planning on spending the night walking around, there are plenty of buildings you can pop into if you need to warm up for a minute. The Church History Museum, the Family History Library, the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and the North and South Visitors Centers all have exhibits you can go visit and look at if you need a break from the cold. In addition, there are performances going on throughout the day in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Assembly Hall, North Visitors Center, and Church History Museum that are open to the public. Come inside, have a seat, and listen to some beautiful music while warming up from the cold weather!
Eats and Treats:
If you’re looking for some good food or a warm mug of our specialty hot chocolate, you have lots of options to check out here at Temple Square! All four restaurants will be open every night during the holiday season except for Sundays. All of the restaurants will also have extended hours on the nights of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concerts. Each restaurant has their own holiday traditions that you’ll find when you stop by, like flavored honey butters at The Roof Restaurant and the hot chocolate station in the Nauvoo Cafe. Each restaurant has a different environment and they all have their own fair share of holiday cheer served alongside a good meal, so you really can’t go wrong in choosing one of our award winning restaurants!
Whether you’re visiting Utah for the first time on a ski trip or you’re a local who has never come to see the lights, you won’t regret spending a day experiencing the holiday spirit on Temple Square. If it’s your first time coming during the holidays, there are three big highlights you’ll have to check off your list. First, make sure you get your classic picture on the pedestal located in front of the lawn just east of the temple. You might have to wait for a minute to take your turn, but from here, you have a perfect view of the Salt Lake Temple and all the lights.
Next, come to the tenth floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and see the lights from above! The west observation wing is open to the public during business hours at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and offers a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the temple and the christmas lights. Everyone is welcome to come up and see the view, just take the elevators up to the tenth floor and turn right once you exit the elevators. Finally, don’t miss out on the life-sized nativity scene that narrates the story of Christmas. It’s one of the most beautiful and realistic nativities you’ll see anywhere in the world, and it can be found on the north side of the Tabernacle.
Bring your friends, your family, a neighbor, a potential significant other, or anyone really, and come see the lights this Christmas season! Also, don’t forget to share any pictures from your Temple Square visit with us by using the#TempleSquareLights hashtag to possibly be featured on one of our pages! For more information about the history of the lights on Temple Square or planning your visit to see the lights, check out this blog post and this one, too!