SLC Airport guide: Where to eat, shop, park and more
In many ways, the growth story of the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) mirrors the growth story of Utah. The earliest element recognizable as the “old” SLC was built in 1960, back when Utah was just a stop on the way to where most travelers wanted to go. At that time, it was expected that SLC would accommodate around 10 million passengers per year.
The airport grew slowly over the following decades, and passenger volume grew rapidly as SLC became a Delta Airlines hub in 1987. By 2002—the year Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympic Games—annual passenger traffic broke 20 million. During the decade that followed, SLC launched its first transoceanic routes and plans for a new airport, which broke ground in 2014 and opened in 2020.
In 2023, the new SLC hosted a record-breaking 27 million passengers and 300 daily flights to over 90 destinations. It also earned the third-highest customer satisfaction rating among large airports in North America from data analytics and consumer intelligence company J.D. Power.
Where to eat and shop inside the SLC terminal
The SLC Airport comprises one terminal and two concourses. The hallway connecting the terminal with Concourse A features walls over 50 feet high and columns arising from the benches designed to mirror canyon walls in southern Utah.
Utah culture has turned the ritual of welcoming returning missionaries into a full production, occasionally bringing hundreds together to cheer and wave signs. With that in mind, SLC features the Senator Garn Meeting Room just before security, where large groups can congregate to celebrate their returning loved ones.
Eight dining options in the terminal plaza and food court are found just past security, including locally-owned options Market Street Grill, Granato’s, Roosters Brewing Co., Fillings & Emulsions and Pizzeria Limone.
Terminal retail options include Utah-owned boutique Hip & Humble for “female-forward” items. No Boundaries is a must-stop for men’s and women’s hiking apparel and gear that features plenty of products by Utah outdoor brands Cotopaxi and KÜHL.
The locally-owned King’s English Bookshop offers a great selection of airport reading within the Tripadvisor convenience store.
Those who arrive only to realize they forgot to pack a suit jacket can visit Johnston & Murphy. MAC offers high-end cosmetics. UNOde50 offers high-end jewelry. You’ll find mobile electronics at Tech on the Go and chocolate confections at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Active members of the military and their families can wait for their flight in the USO Club, which overlooks the terminal plaza and is accessible via a hallway next to Johnston & Murphy.
Inside SLC Concourse A
Delta flights account for 70 percent of total SLC air traffic and 100 percent of the 49 gates in Concourse A. The Delta Sky Club is on the second level and is accessed adjacent to the terminal plaza on the main level.
There are 22 food choices in Concourse A, including Utah-based options Beans & Brews, Bruges Belgian Bistro, Cafe Rio, Millcreek Coffee Roasters, Red Rock Brewery, Salt Lake Brewing Co., Vessel Kitchen and White Horse Spirits and Kitchen.
Shopping options include a duty-free shop plus the locally-owned gift shops Giftology and The Atrium. Minute Suites and XpresSpa offer relaxation and stress relief. The Utah Jazz Pro Shop sells officially licensed team gear and souvenirs. A Deseret News storefront sells books, magazines and other travel items. The authorized Apple reseller iStore offers shiny white dongles galore.
Inside SLC Concourse B
The temporary 1,200-foot-long Mid-Concourse Tunnel connects Concourse A to the thus far half-completed Concourse B and is accessible between gates A13 and A15. Murals depicting Utah’s four distinct seasons line long sections of the tunnel and are affixed by adhesive rather than nails since the high water table caused by the nearby Great Salt Lake prohibits puncturing the walls.
The permanent Central Tunnel, accessible at the terminal plaza, will be completed in October of 2024 and will offer trains that considerably shorten the famously long trek to the B gates.
Aeromexico, Air Canada, Alaska, American, Hawaiian, Frontier, JetBlue, KLM, Spirit, Southwest, Sun Country and United fly out of Concourse B’s 24 gates. The remaining 24 gates will be opened in two phases, the first in October 2025 and the second in October 2026. Once complete, Delta will occupy a third of Concourse B gates and add a second Sky Club.
For shopping, you’ll find the locally-owned Liberty Park/Hip & Humble, athleisure seller @ease, luggage maker Briggs & Riley, the stress reduction store Treat, and a souvenir shop enthusiastically named “Utah!”.
“In 2023, the new SLC hosted a record-breaking 27 million passengers and 300 daily flights to over 90 destinations.”
SLC baggage claim
SLC’s high performance in the J.D. Power survey of baggage claim satisfaction was likely high for two reasons. First, every bag checked on a Delta flight—which accounts for 70 percent of all flights at SLC—is tracked via RFID, meaning few get lost, and travelers are kept apprised of the status of their luggage.
Second, because skis and bicycles account for an uncommonly high portion of baggage handled at SLC, significant investment has been made in processes that efficiently get those items to their owners, including the first system in the U.S. for automating the inspection of large items. By contrast, TSA manually inspects large items checked at every other U.S. airport.
At the new SLC, the legacy economy lot remains unchanged, apart from a recently implemented designation of one portion as the “blue zone” and the other as the “red zone”—each with their corresponding red and blue zone shuttles. Travelers must remember which zone they park in, as this will determine which shuttle returns you to your car. The shuttles run 24 hours a day, and their locations can be tracked via GPS.
The cost to park in the economy lot is $12 per day.
During heavy holiday travel periods, the economy lot fills to capacity. To deal with the overflow, an offsite holiday lot is made available. While it’s a much better alternative to driving around unable to find a parking spot, using the holiday lot adds 20 to 30 minutes to the process of getting to the terminal, so be sure to factor that into your travel plans.
It is possible to walk from the economy lot to the terminal, though it measures almost a mile from some spots and is not a very popular option. Alternatively, the new “Walking Lot E” costs $21 per day and is only a five-minute walk to the terminal. Lot E spots can be booked in advance.
The most expensive and convenient SLC parking option is the new parking garage, which has 3,600 spots—also able to be booked in advance—at a rate of $35 per day for standard spots assigned upon arrival and $55 per day for premium spots selected in advance.
SLC car rental
The nine largest car rental companies have counters at a facility set between the parking garage and the terminal, each with full inventories onsite. This dramatically speeds up the process of getting from SLC to the fun that brought you to town.
Five additional rental car providers have an offsite presence, accessible by shuttle.
SLC airport hotels
There are about a dozen three and four-star hotels within a 10-minute drive of SLC, most of which offer complimentary airport shuttle service, 24-hour fitness centers and printers for boarding passes.
SLC public transportation
The most economical way to access SLC is via rails. The TRAX Green Line’s northern terminus is the airport station, located at the front door of the SLC terminal. Frontrunner commuter rail transfers to the Green Line at the North Temple Station.
Both TRAX and Frontrunner cost $2.50 per trip.
SLC culture while you wait
There are 24 restrooms at SLC, and each features a wall-sized reproduction of an original artwork made to highlight something interesting about nature in Utah. Outside each restroom is a plaque with some information about the piece and its creator, with a QR code pointing to additional information.
Using the SLC International app
An outstanding resource for those using SLC—even if only during a layover—is the SLC International app, which is available for iOS and Android. In it, you’ll find detailed, interactive maps and endless bits of vital information, particularly regarding the time required to do most anything there—from getting through security to walking to the hamburger place you’re craving that’s a concourse away. The app eliminates surprises and increases efficiency.
More information about SLC can be found on the airport’s website.