A Guide to Moving to: Utah
So you're thinking of moving to Utah, but you haven't quite finished playing the "Should I or Shouldn't I?" game. Well, luckily, you've come to the right place - just for you, we've compiled a supremely helpful, travel-sized guide to some of the biggest points of consideration for people contemplating a cross-country move.
Utah is known as the Beehive State. This nickname is said to "represent the qualities of industry, perseverance, thrift, stability and self-reliance - all virtues respected by the region's settlers." People here take their work and independence seriously, but they also have a strong sense of community, and consider themselves lucky to live in one of the biggest natural playgrounds in the country.
With its unique, predominately desert landscape, Utah is home to an impressive number of national parks (five), national forests (six) and national monuments (seven). The varied terrain here allows many of its residents to spend much of their time outdoors, engaging in all different types of sports and outdoor events. The state also hosts many festivals each year.
An estimated 3,159,345 people currently live here, with 57,512 people having moved here in 2017 alone. The state has the fourth-fastest growth rate in the country, but is simultaneously one of the most sparsely-populated states. It could be that the wide-open spaces with plenty of nature still preserved throughout the land are exactly what attracts so many people to permanently relocate here.
Still thirsty for more? Well then, friend, read on to discover more delicious trivia about Utah, and see for yourself if you want to become a Utahn so that you, too, can live life elevated. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
So we know that Utah is sparsely populated, but that it's still growing at quite an impressive rate. What does this mean for the job market then, exactly?
For starters, the state's unemployment rate is a low 3.1%, and it’s been on a nice decline since 2010 - when it was 8% - according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state's minimum wage is significantly less impressive, though - at $7.25/hour (matching the federal limit).
Some of the fastest-growing job fields include veterinarian technician, operations analyst, software developer, web developer, interpreter/translator and miner. The highest-paying positions currently include OB/GYN, anesthesiologist, surgeon, pediatrician, general practitioner, CEO, law teacher and petroleum engineer.
That's a nice variety of job fields out in the Beehive State - and with such a low unemployment rate, odds are good that you'd be able to find yourself a satisfying new career.
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We know it's tempting to think about moving to Utah and just setting up a tent underneath the stars for the rest of your days. But more realistically, you're probably going to want a more permanent housing situation once you relocate (maybe one with actual walls and a roof to protect you against the elements - just a thought). So what is the housing market out here like, you ask?
Well, the median home value in Utah is $298,348, with homes currently listed on the market at an average of $349,000 - and median rent for a house is around $1,425/month. Home values have increased a whopping 10.2% over the past year, and are predicted to rise another 4.8% in the coming year.
As far as apartments go, average rent for the state's capital, Salt Lake City, for a one-bedroom is $994/month, with two-bedrooms going for $1,148/month. Of course, the rent gets cheaper or pricier depending on where you look.
For example, Park City has one-bedroom apartments going for an average of $1,000/month, but Provo has one-bedrooms up for $880/month. However, certain smaller and less-populated towns, such as Moab, have places going for as little as $562/month, according to bestplaces.net.
There's an impressive amount of new construction popping up, too - mainly in northern central Utah, throughout the Provo/Salt Lake City/Ogden region. There's also a bit surfacing in the southwestern corner, near St. George.
Homes here are pretty new, which states that the majority of homes still standing were built in the decade 2000-2010. So there's certainly a good chance of not just finding a home here, but finding a brand spankin' new one, at that.
Culture and Natives
Utahns describe themselves and each other as some of the nicest neighbors you'll ever meet. This is due, in part, to the large concentration of Mormons in the state, and the values they hold. Of course, the state isn't all Mormon, contrary to popular belief - plenty of people here don't claim a religion.
In fact, Salt Lake City is regarded as being very liberal and progressive. The city has one of the largest LGBT populations in the country, and celebrates its pride in this fact annually. In 2012, Salt Lake City was named the country's "gayest city" by The Advocate magazine. The city has since fallen a few levels in the rankings, but consistently remains near the top. Salt Lake City also offers a trendy hipster scene and an artsy vibe.
Utah was the first state to legalize women's suffrage, in 1870. The state also has lakes so salty you’ll float in them - the Great Salt Lake has such a high concentration of salt that it increases your body's buoyancy. The super-salty lakes also make for the nation's saltiest (and locally argued to be the best) salt-water taffy.
There is no lottery in the state. However, there are two celebrations of Halloween - in the city of Magna, there is an annual Halloween in Summer Festival, for those who just can't get their sugary cravings for the holiday satisfied in fall alone. Another interesting feature of the state is known as the Little Free Library, in which boxes are scattered across the land, with books that locals can borrow for free - and in exchange, offer books of their own for others.
Twice in the past six years, the Provo-Orem metropolitan area has been designated in the Gallup-Healthways list of 189 cities and metropolitan areas as having the "highest level of well-being in the U.S.” The area is often thought of as a "quietly awesome" place to live.
It has also received other high honors, such as being named one of six "cultural hubs for outdoorsy types" by National Geographic, one of the "10 best cities for creative jobs" by U.S. News & World Report, and one of the "best places to raise a family" by Forbes.
The state's slogans include "Life Elevated" (because it is the third-highest state in the country, with a mean elevation of 6,100 feet above sea level), "Greatest Snow on Earth" (because of the crazy amounts of snow that fall every winter, which is said to have the best chemistry for deep-powder skiing and other winter sports), and "This is the Place" (referring to the many different opportunities in the state - jobs, outdoor sports, and more).
The Beehive State has the highest birth rate, the lowest death rate, and the youngest population in the country. There's also a much lower-percentage of drinkers and smokers than the national average, and locals boast about their clean towns with no litter on the streets. Locals like to lead a slower-paced, quieter lifestyle than average - outside of the major cities. There's plenty of wide-open, quiet space to explore here.
Utah is home to the largest open-pit mine in the world, Bingham Canyon. It takes a truck more than two hours to drive down to the bottom of the pit and then to come back out again - and it can even be seen from outer space. It is more than 1.2 kilometers deep and 4 kilometers wide. Now, that's a big hole.
Aside from eating locally popular square donuts (since circular donuts are actually for "squares"), residents here have a few other unique quirks - for example, they have a type of slang all their own. Locals will say, "They biffed it" (and no, they're not talking about Biff Tannen from “Back to the Future,” though he'd be a good reference) when someone has made a mistake, fallen, messed up, tripped or wiped out. Another resident catch phrase is "sluffing" – it means slacking or scraping by. You'll have adopted a unique language that confuses your friends back home in no time, after moving here.
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Can't-Miss Utah Fun + Activities
Whether you're a churchgoing Mormon with a large family or an artsy/hipster college student, the Beehive State has got plenty to do.
Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Sundance Film Festival: Hosted annually in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival is the most popular film festival in the country, and the biggest in the world. The Sundance Institute, founded by Robert Redford, is a nonprofit organization that works to advance the projects of independent storytellers in both film and theatre. This festival turned both Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino from no-names into famous directors. Almost 50,000 people attend annually.
- Dark Arts Festival: Taking place over three days, this annual festival is held in Salt Lake City at Area 51. It features music, dance performances, fashion, art and vendors. The festival is targeted at the Gothic scene and fans of underground or industrial music. There's a chance for attendees to let out their "dark side" - including partaking in activities such as palm readings and fortune telling, Tarot card readings, and more.
- Arches National Park: The state's official website says, "The landscape looks like Mars and the place names sound like purgatory, but stroll through Devil's Garden or claw your way out of the Fiery Furnace and you'll feel like you’ve landed in a corner of heaven." This park features more than 2,000 natural arches illuminated by some of the clearest and brightest skies in the country. It's a place made for explorers and photographers. You'll find it in Moab.
- Zion National Park: Located in Springdale, this park features waterfalls, cliffs, a river, reflecting pools and canyons. "Even the godless will get some religion looking out on this national park." A bold declaration - visit and see for yourself.
- Hole N” The Rock: It was started in the 1940s by a man who dreamt of turning a giant rock into his home. Albert Christensen began carving, digging, and blasting his way through an immense sandstone rock. He worked on his vision for about 12 years before he arrived at his fully realized vision of a home encased in stone, and opened a diner for tourists and locals. The family has passed on, but the Hole N” The Rock remains open as a roadside attraction. Inside, you can tour the 14 rooms that are carved around huge pillars. Outside, you'll find a rock and cactus garden, stone-carved picnic benches and a petting zoo. This is a unique Utahn attraction, and not one to be missed.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Beehive State
We're sure that you're ready to book it on over to Utah to begin playing in the giant natural playground, but hold on a beat. It just may be to your benefit, before packing up for your cross-country move, to review a little list of some pros and cons to Utah life. Here - we've assembled it for you.
Here are some Utahn-approved PROs to living here:
- Ease of travel: Though Utah is not without its share of big cities, on the whole, traffic in the state is pretty much nonexistent. The wide-open spaces and miles upon miles of desert scenery, coupled with the sparse population of humans, provides for some wide-open roadways. The state also has one of the lowest-driving fatality rates in the nation. It's just another factor to life here that locals attribute to their feelings of expansiveness and freedom.
- Low crime: WalletHub does an annual "safest states to live in" study, and Utah consistently ranks in the top 10 for the U.S. It's also ranked as #1 for the "continental west," in terms of safety. The "sense of community" is cited as being responsible for the low crime rate. Residents tend to look out for each other, and lots of them get involved in keeping their living space safe.
- Strong Economy: With the fourth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation, Utah has a good, stable economy. They also have the fourth-most "diverse" economy in the nation. In addition, corporate taxes have not risen in almost 20 years. Utah boasts that its residents are "highly educated and skilled," which also contributes to its booming economy.
- Adventure sports capital of the U.S.: This term was coined by fans of the varied, unique terrain. Utah is the adventure sports capital of the nation. The desert areas provide opportunities for off-road exploration, the forests provide plenty of hiking and camping, the rivers and lakes allow all-kinds of water sports, including kayaking and canoeing, and the mountains provide opportunities for climbing and, during winter, skiing. We've already mentioned that Utah is rumored to have some of the best snow in the country - which is why locals here are just crazy about their winter, snow-bound sports.
- The brightest and clearest view of the stars: A sparse population leads to less light-pollution, which allows a crystal-clear, unobstructed view of the skies. Locals say that the place to go to really get your stargazing on is Bryce Canyon National Park, in Garfield County and Kane County. You'll be surrounded by nothing but hoodoos - spire-shaped rock formations - clear, dark night, and wide-open space. Grab your comfiest blanket and prepare to lie out under the most breathtaking view of the stars you'll ever experience.
Now for the local-consensus on CONs:
- Expensive cost of housing: It's a little surprising to see just how expensive housing is in Utah - bestplaces.net states that it has an index of 122, with the national average being 100. That's quite a hefty difference, but other amenities in the state, such as groceries, health care, energy, property taxes, etc. are all well-below the national average. So it's possible that living here will balance out, or actually end up being cheaper than in your current location.
- Misunderstood reputation: Ask just about anyone from out-of-state about Utah, and you'll probably get theories about the entire population there being strictly Mormon or pro-polygamy. While it's true that it does exist - an estimated 30,000 polygamists still reside in Utah - it's far from being close to the majority of the population. Polygamy is a dying legacy of an old-school Mormon belief that it brings "exaltation in heaven." The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reportedly abandoned this practice in 1890, and in fact now strictly forbids it.
- Extreme weather: Being that it is a desert, Utah can get really hot - summers in south-central Utah can reach up to 115 °F at the end of June and the beginning of July. Areas all over the state can reach over 100° in summer, and Salt Lake City runs at an average of 90°. Winters across the state are usually in the low 20s, with lots of snowfall. Though rare, it does fall below 10° degrees, with temperatures of 0 °F reported even in Salt Lake City.
- Lack of ocean: Residents here are super-proud of their state's varied terrain and myriad of opportunities for outdoor events, exercise and sports, but they agree that the one component their state is lacking is an ocean. Utah is landlocked, meaning beach bums may not consider this to be their vision of paradise.
- Lack of diversity: Another negative fact about their state, according to locals, is that Utah is seriously lacking in cultural diversity - a reported 91.1% of its population is white, according to census.gov. If you're looking to get a variety of cultural influences, this may not be the place for you.
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We know you came to get the goods regarding all-things Utah, and don't worry - we're here to deliver. That's why we've compiled a list of a few of the strangest, lamest, most downright, "...Huh?" laws still in existence, for your enjoyment.
Here are a just few:
- A husband is responsible for any criminal act his wife commits in his presence. When you marry someone in Utah, you also marry her criminal ways - and accept the legal punishment that comes with them.
- It's illegal to detonate a nuclear weapon. Good luck finding the person (or, more likely, the remnants of them) to arrest for this offense.
- It's illegal to perform services as a "weather modifier." So no more rain or snow dances. You'll just have to settle for whatever good ol’ Mother Nature throws at you - and hope she gives you the day off by her own good graces.
- Causing a "catastrophe" is punishable by 2nd-degree felony charges. Those charges seem pretty catastrophic in and of themselves.
- Beer kegs were banned years ago. The only places legally allowed to obtain them are restaurants, or those with event permits. So no wild keg parties, out here in the desert.
- You have to wait until 11:30 a.m. to order a drink. Utah does not believe in the saying, "It's always 5 o'clock somewhere." You'll remain completely sober here until late morning - and must finish ordering drinks by 1 a.m. Your altered state of consciousness must be carefully scheduled, so pencil it into your day planner in advance.
Determining If This is the Place for You
Well, folks, there it is - your handy-dandy, go-to guide for all-things Beehive State, served with a nonalcoholic drink (just in case you're reading this between 1:01 a.m. and 11:29 a.m.). While it would be impossible for us to cover absolutely everything that would be beneficial to consider before making a huge relocation move cross-country (we're busy beavers), it's our sincere hope that we've given you plenty to begin molding your decision out of.
Now it's over to you to decide if you'd like to convert into being a Utahn - enjoying life in one of the country's biggest natural playgrounds, becoming ultra-outdoorsy, attending super-artsy independent film and other festivals, climbing gorgeous red rock formations, taking jaw-dropping photos of giant natural arches, or enjoying a breathtaking view of the stars, unobstructed by light-pollution. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
It's been our pleasure bringing you this little sneak-preview of the state, and we hope that you've enjoyed it, yourself. Good luck, and prepare to get elevated.