Temple Square ranks 16th in visitors

Published: Thursday, March 12 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Salt Lake Temple is reflected in the glasses worn by Eric Davidson of Tampa, Fla., during a tour of Temple Square.

Keith Johnson, Deseret News

Tom Alms strolled through Temple Square, a camera dangled from around his neck.

The Missourian's visit Wednesday is one of the roughly 5 million reasons annually the iconic square is the state's top tourist draw and one of the country's Top 25 attractions, according to a new list from ForbesTraveler.com.

In spite of a struggling economy, 5 million visitors made Temple Square the 16th most visited site in the United States, according to Forbes.

"When I think of Salt Lake, I think of the temple and (general) conference," said Alms, who was married in the historic temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than two decades ago.

The square dropped one spot on Forbes' list from the previous year, though visitation numbers remained unchanged from 2007 to 2008.

Temple Square visitation was outpaced by the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which jumped from 4.8 million visitors to 5.13 million, taking the No. 14 spot on the list.

With 5.1 million visitors last year, San Antonio's River Walk took the No. 15 spot. California's Universal Studios Hollywood came in at No. 17 with 4.7 million tourists.

There was no movement in Forbes' Top 5: New York's Time Square (37.6 million); The Strip in Las Vegas (30 million); the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (25 million); Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace (20 million); Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida (17.1 million).

At Temple Square, tourists — Mormon or otherwise — come from around the world. On a brisk March afternoon, visitors spoke French and Spanish as they snapped pictures of the granite temple and took tours with female missionaries.

In 2007, the square saw visitors from 83 countries and each of the 50 states, according to the LDS Church.

"We hope these visitors feel welcome and enjoy their time in Utah," church spokesman Scott Trotter said.

A man from St. Paul, Minn., however, left a little disappointed Wednesday.

"I like to come for the music, but they're not rehearsing today," the man said of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. "We'll come back tomorrow."

E-MAIL: afalk@desnews.com

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