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10 Places on campus to visit

Taking a picture and getting familiar with some new areas of campus could win you $50.

Welcome back to campus. Some of you may be first-timers, others returning. But now is a good time to get reacquainted and visit some interesting, beautiful and fun places around the U that you may not know about—and if you do know these spots, you might learn something new.

We hope you enjoy this virtual tour of campus attractions, but we also encourage you to experience some of these places IRL (in real life). For some incentive, we’re throwing a contest:

  • Take a selfie photo at one or more of the locations below from Aug. 20 through Sept. 21
  • Post selfie to Instagram and/or Twitter
  • Tag AND mention the U on Instagram (@universityofutah) and/or Twitter (@UUtah)
  • Use #TopUspots
  • Each location photo will count as one separate entry (so more photos, more entries and more chances to win)
  • Three winners will be randomly chosen and awarded $50 gift cards to the Campus Store

**Please note that accounts must be set to public in order to participate in the social media contest.**


Plotted and planted since 1996, the Edible Campus Garden is the freshest produce around for the University of Utah campus community. Managed by the Sustainability Office and tended by student volunteers the garden is a unique living, learning laboratory environment. Volunteers get a hands-on education in ecological gardening as well as conduct research and facilitate sustainable gardening practices.

When ready, the harvest gets shared with volunteers, donated to the Feed U Pantry and sold at the University of Utah Farmers Market. Tomatoes, peppers, onions and squash are just a few of the homegrown goodies that are grown and sold. The Farmers Market, now in its 11th season, is held every Thursday at Tanner Plaza from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. starting Aug. 23 and runs until Oct. 4.


Nestled off of University Avenue, south of Presidents Circle and directly west of the Crocker Science Center, is a quiet, shady, grassy glen with a stone path and benches to sit, relax and contemplate the meaning of life.

This area of campus is called Cottam’s Gulch and was named after Professor Walter Cottam, who taught botany at the U from 1931-62, and served as the department’s head. “Doc” was also the founder of the Nature Conservancy, the State Arboretum of Utah and Red Butte Garden.

According to this Continuum article published in 2002, “In the 1930s the University proposed filling in the gully. Walter P. ‘Doc’ Cottam, a University botany professor, early ecologist, and founder of Red Butte Garden, thought the gorge should remain a natural area. He prevailed and subsequently planted native and experimental trees, including a zelkova, a pagoda, a large cottonwood and a giant sequoia.”


The University of Utah sits in the center of a rock climber’s dream; granite, limestone and sandstone walls are just minutes or hours away. The Summit Climbing Facility in the Student Life Center is an indoor gym that gives beginners a chance to learn the basics and gives experienced climbers a chance to pull on plastic.

The Summit features a 54-foot climbing wall and a 13-foot bouldering wall for a total of 4,600 square feet of climbable surface. The staff offers programs including climbing competitions, top rope and lead belay clinics, ice climbing and canyoneering workshops and more.

“We cater everything to the beginner, to someone who’s never climbed before. We want to share what climbing does for us, and help other people experience that,” said Ryan Kirchner, manager of The Summit. “But it’s not just for beginners; one of the beauties of the gym is that climbers come here and they’re also super stoked. Our goal to make a fun environment for everyone.”

Shoe rentals are $2, and harnesses and belay devices are free with a UCard. Experienced climbers can try out for the U climbing team. While the facility itself is great, the programs and community are what make The Summit one of the best campus gyms in the country.


Over the years this staircase, which rises seven floors through an open atrium, has been referred to as the double helix or DNA stairs. It seems like a staircase that winds and twists to connect labs of some of the world’s premier geneticists should have some connection to DNA. Right?

“I don’t want to squelch the notion that it’s the DNA stair, because it’s a great description,” said Mark Wilson, the project architect on the building, “but we never thought of that when we were designing it.” Instead, he said, it was designed to foster scientific creativity by creating spaces where different scientists could come together and combine their ideas into a new scientific spark.

Wilson, of FFKR Architects, said the initial concept for the atrium came from the researchers who would use the building.  “A lot of what they do in the labs is science,” Wilson said, “But the time away from the labs, talking informally with other scientists, is where a lot of science takes place. A lot of the ‘a-ha!’ moments happen when you’re out of the laboratory.”

To see how the architects created that space, look at the building from the outside. Amid the texture of the bay windows of the laboratories is a diagonal line of smooth glass, as if the building had been stretched and torn apart. The space between contains the atrium, the staircase, and spaces on each floor designed as casual places to meet, talk, and collaborate.


Looking for a free educational experience on campus? An experience that involves vintage military uniforms, tanks and a piece of the World Trade Center? Well, look no further than the Fort Douglas Military Museum.

Open 12-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, the Fort Douglas Military Museum is housed in a section of what once was Camp Douglas during the American Civil War. It was renamed Fort Douglas in 1878 and remained a military garrison outpost until 1991 when it was closed by the Base Realignment and Closure action. During that time, the Fort Douglas Military Museum was established in August 1974, officially opening in May 1976. The museum is now under the sponsorship of the Utah National Guard, and has been so since late 1988.

The museum’s mission is to “Preserve and interpret the history of Fort Douglas; educate visitors about the role of the military in the growth and development of Utah; honor all Utahns who have served their country in uniform.”

Highlights of the museum are the Memorial Park, which has the Utah Fallen Warrior Memorial, the Women’s Service Memorial and part of the World Trade Center from New York City. The piece of concrete from the World Trade Center weighs nearly five tons and was excavated from a slurry wall that prevented the Hudson River from flooding Ground Zero during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Still craving more military history? Check out the bell from the USS UTAH, one of the first ships lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The bell is on display in the Naval Science building on campus.


Take a look at the innards of Gardner Commons. The building is heated and cooled by the first and only geothermal ground-source heat pump on campus. The pump uses the ground as a battery, putting heat into the ground during the summer and taking heat out of the ground during the winter. It is estimated that this little pump will save the U more than $70,000 a year in energy costs. It also will save 1.8 million gallons of potable water and 351,202 kWh of electricity annually.

Why the windows? “We wanted to have an educational component so students could see how the building is using energy,” said Lori Kaczka, architectural project manager in the U’s Planning, Design and Construction office. “There will be a code and a meter on the window wall that shows how it works and what the different color-coded pipes are.”

The combined impact of Gardner Commons’ efficient design and clean energy sources is equivalent to planting 4,389 trees or eliminating more than 3,918 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That’s cool—literally! You can see the mechanical system through a bank of windows on the first floor, next to Carolyn’s Kitchen.


Talk about hands-on learning. That’s exactly what the Make Space at Lassonde Studios, open to all students on campus, is designed for. The Make Space is located on the east side of Neeleman Hangar on the studios’ main floor. It features 3-D printers and a fabrication shop with all the tools you need to build a prototype or craft project. Like what? Student projects have included a sled, a wakeboard, skis, ski racks, a backpack, LED light cloud, key chains, medical devices, a motorized surfboard, a hydroponic garden and all sorts of boxes.

“It’s been amazing to see how students use our Make space at Lassonde Studios,” said Thad Kelling, marketing and public relations director for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute. “All students on campus are welcome to use the space. All they need to do is drop by during open hours to talk to one of our tool mentors. No experience is required.”

The Make Space and shop are open Monday through Thursday from 12-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12-6 p.m.

Learn more about Lassonde Make Space here.


The George S. Eccles Legacy Bridge was built for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City. Now a campus icon, the 300-foot bridge is a favorite photo op for students and visitors.

The path bypasses a busy road to connect upper and lower campus but also serves as a beloved reminder of when the games were in the U’s backyard.

Rick Miner, the foreman at Harv and Higam Masonry, was laying stone on the pedestrian walkway on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and left to get more supplies.

“While I was driving in my truck, I heard the news on the radio about the attack on the World Trade Center.  When I got back to the bridge, I left my truck radio on and the doors open so I could listen to what was happening. It was so unbelievable.

“It hit me so hard and so deeply. I wanted to do something so that I’d always remember what I was doing when this happened. I decided to put two of the stones in vertically, even though the stones in the bridge were laid horizontally. I didn’t talk to anyone about it; I just did it.”

To view the tribute to the twin towers, walk to the east end of the bridge and check out the stonework on the south side.


Where can you find the big pair of hands flashing a block U? Katherine’s Courtyard! The courtyard is like a secret garden, tucked between two levels of the Marriott Library. It is an outdoor extension of the Fine Arts & Architecture Library and features a sculpture garden, small performance and quiet spaces for students, staff and faculty.

Sculptor David Paul Thomas created the “U rock” sculpture shown here, which he said was inspired by the red rock arches and canyons of Moab.

“Katherine’s Courtyard is the Marriott Library’s new space to enjoy the outdoors while studying, meeting and relaxing,” said Luke Leither, assistant head librarian, Katherine W. Dumke Fine Arts & Architecture Library. “With areas to exhibit art and host music and dance performances, this is the place to spark your creativity and appreciate the creative work of others on campus.”

You can access Katherine’s Courtyard from Mom’s Café and the level-one book stacks. On level two, a four-season enclosure with retractable glass walls can be accessed through the Fine Arts & Architecture Library or next to the Reserve Desk.


Atop the roof of the South Physics building sits your window into the universe. The South Physics Observatory hosts free star parties on Wednesday nights where attendees can peer through telescopes fixed on celestial bodies, from planets in our solar system to galaxies millions of light years away.

“Viewing through the telescopes is currently the only way we get to travel off of the Earth, the only way we can study the universe, and the only way to really understand how tiny we all are…until we finally develop tourism to Mars, then we’ll be a little larger,” said Paul Ricketts, director of the observatory housed in the Department of Physics & Astronomy.

The observatory has seven telescopes, the largest of which is a 14-inch Meade Lx200GPS housed in an electrically-rotated skydome. The dome was originally built in 1970 and sheltered the observatory’s first large telescope, a 16-inch Ealing Cassegrain.

The star parties are open to all ages, interests, and groups every Wednesday night, at times that change throughout the year. On nights when clouds restrict stargazing, come to the Observatory Outreach Room 408 to see physics talks and demonstrations. Follow the observatory’s Facebook page for viewing times and for special celestial events and parties.

The observatory is only accessible during specific times, so check this off your scavenger hunt list by taking a selfie in front of the Observatory Outreach room on the fourth floor, room 408 in the South Physics building.