While Park City once attracted miners, snowbirds now flock to its renowned resorts, and film enthusiasts to its famed Sundance Film Festival. Come warmer weather, the natural wonders surrounding the charming mountain town offer myriad ways to enjoy the outdoors, from hiking to hot air ballooning. What’s more, the historic Main Street – with its enviable array of locally-owned eateries, shops and art galleries – is worth wandering year-round.
The story of Utah’s Park City is one of rebirth. When walking along the characterful Main Street – often packed with people popping into its unique shops, watering holes and restaurants – it might be hard to believe that this once prosperous silver mining town was all but decimated by a fire in 1898. And, that over a half-century thereafter, after a short-lived revival, most of the mines would close, causing a mass exodus that would leave the city on the verge of becoming a ghost town. Relying again on the area’s natural treasures -the Wasatch Mountain Range and its abundance of dry, powdery snowfall – Park City tried on a new identity as a ski destination in the 1960s. Now, the luxurious mountain resort draws crowds year-round.
Just a 35-minute taxi ride from the Salt Lake City International Airport, Park City makes for an easy, carless getaway. Once in the city, navigate the area by way of the free, eco-friendly bus system; by taxi/Uber; and by bike or on foot, during warmer weather.
Park City’s snow surplus caught international attention when the United States hosted the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in and around Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital (located about 30 miles west). The area has continued to bloom since then, gaining a reputation as a winter sport mecca, where everyone from Olympic athletes to newbies sharpen their skills at its world-class venues.
Utah Olympic Park (3419 Olympic Parkway) continues to be a training complex for Olympic Athletes, but enthusiasts can still tour the grounds and visit the George Eccles 2002 Olympic Games Museum. Regional ski history is celebrated at the park’s Alf Engen Ski Museum, which takes learning to another level through interactive exhibits. For the daring, a virtual ski jump down a steep hill awaits. This is one of many opportunities at the park for adrenaline junkies to get their fix. You can also hop behind a professional bobsled pilot and race down the actual Olympic Sliding Track, zoom across the Extreme Zipline or Ziptour, and tackle the seasonal adventure courses.
Beyond its Olympic legacy, Park City’s appeal lies in not just the abundance of opportunities to hit the slopes, but also each venue’s venerable quality. Ski Magazine named Deer Valley Resort (2250 Deer Valley Drive South) as the #1 ski resort in North America for the 2017-18 season. With its six mountains to explore and average 300 inches of “The Greatest Snow on Earth,” it’s no wonder why. This ski-only resort welcomes all levels on its expertly groomed slopes, whether you’re slowly starting out on the bunny slopes during a lesson or defying gravity, racing down the Olympic courses. Along with its limited ticket sales, Deer Valley is known for its congenial customer service and three luxurious day lodges, each with its own restaurant and bakery. Reward yourself with one (or a few) bakery-fresh jumbo chocolate chip cookies and an après ski fondue at the Goldener Hirsch Inn (7570 Royal Street East) restaurant.
With its 7,300 acres and over 300 trails, 41 lifts, 8 terrain parks, 1 super pipe and 1 mini pipe, Park City Mountain Resort (1345 Lowell Avenue) reigns as the United States’ largest ski and snowboard resort. Make the most of this bounty of terrain with expert advice from the Ski and Snowboard School or a guided tour, like the signature Peak-to-Peak, where an expert will show you how to connect the resort’s tops runs. Another unique ski/boarding experience is the free Silver to Slopes Historic Mining Tour, which unveils the history and evolution of the former silver mining town turned mountain sport super star. The resort makes it easy to linger throughout the day with its 16 restaurants, including a chance to warm up with a bird’s eye view (and homemade donuts!) at Cloud Dine. To top it all off, skiers and snowboarders can conveniently catch a lift right from downtown or finish their last run smack dab in the middle of all the action.
More Outdoor Fun
For a break from the slopes (or other winter sports, like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, tubing, snowmobiling, and even dogsledding), catch the sunrise on a memorable hot air balloon ride with the family-owned Skywalker Balloon Company. Flights run year-round, offering gorgeous mountain views and a celebratory champagne and cider toast upon landing.
When the snow melts, there is even more to do outdoors. Pack a simple afternoon picnic or camp overnight to absorb as much mountain air as possible. Hike or mountain bike the hundreds of miles of trails on your own or with a guide, like All Seasons Adventures (1555 Lower Iron Horse Loop Road). The company also offers fly fishing on the Provo River and whitewater rafting and kayak adventures on the Weber River.
Always up for a celebration, Park City holds special community events all year. The biggest crowd pleaser, however, is the Sundance Film Festival. What makes Sundance unique is that it represents the celebration and recognition of independent film and its creators, both from the U.S. and worldwide. The event, that began in 1978 as a humble attempt to attract the film industry to Utah, has grown exponentially since Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute take-over in 1985. Now, every January, the event attracts big stars along with its big crowds. Curious film enthusiasts should plan far in advance and book early. Note: Redford’s whimsically rustic Sundance Mountain Resort (8841 Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, Sundance) is worth the 35-mile trip from Park City, whether you hit the slopes or enjoy a hot toddy at the Owl Bar…or both.
Come summer, the city offers many excuses to spend the day outside with the community. In June, at Savor the Summit Grand Table event, dine with upwards of 1,500 guests at a table that stretches along Main Street and toast to summer’s bounty of local fare. Other summer events include the Deer Valley Music Festival – with Utah Symphony and Opera outdoor performances, as well as other genres – and the Park City Kimball Arts Festival. At this massive arts event, listen to live music while perusing the work of hundreds of artists and taking a break at one of the many wine and beer gardens.
Park City’s wide range of accommodations makes it easy to find your perfect fit, whether you’re traveling solo or in a big group, looking to be pampered or to ski on the cheap.
A mind-boggling list of options can be found in and around the large resorts themselves. Park City Mountain Resort offers seven signature properties, located within the original property and Canyons Village. Each has its perks, from location, price, amenities and services. At Canyons Village, choose from the newly renovated 212 suites at the Grand Summit Hotel (4000 Canyons Resort Drive), with ski-in and -out access; hotel guest rooms and condos at the Sundial Lodge (3720 North Sundial Court) and Silverado Lodge (2669 Canyons Resort Drive); or slope-side condos and town homes with ski-in and -out access at Vintage on the Strand (3756 North Vintage East Street). Prefer to be in the heart of the Park City Mountain Base Area? Choose from the Resort Plaza Condominiums (1325 Lowell Avenue), with ski-in and -out access; the newly renovated Doubletree by Hilton Park City (1800 Park Avenue); and slope-side hotel rooms and condos at The Lowell (1335 Lowell Avenue).
Deer Valley Resort offers a fleet of its own properties, both within the property and surrounding areas. Standouts include slope-side luxury at the Black Diamond Lodge (2280 Deer Valley Drive East), with ski-in and -out access along with fireplaces, kitchenettes, spacious family rooms and private spas in the one-to-four bedroom condos. Escape higher up the mountain at the 20-room Goldener Hirsch Inn (7570 Royal Street), known not only for its serene setting and convenient ski-in and -out access, but also its European feel, personalized service and award-winning restaurant. Make it easy on yourself and contact a resort Vacation Planner for help deciding which of the dozen or so properties is your best fit.
Memorable stays await outside the resorts, as well. For a taste of the area’s history, book one of the 12 suites at the Washington School House Hotel (543 Park Avenue). Conveniently located within the historic downtown, this late 19th century school house was redesigned to bring chic modern comfort to its original character. Think vintage art, European antiques, high ceilings and fancy chandeliers. Linger long into the morning, enjoying French press coffee brought to your room before heading to the dining room for a hearty complimentary breakfast. Then, post mid-day fun, be sure to mingle in the ski lounge, where the free après-ski fare is served fireside.
On a budget? What Chateau Après Lodge (1299 Norfolk Avenue) lacks in luxury, it makes up for with affordability and convenience. Just 150 yards from the main Park City Mountain Resort Ski Lift, this 32-room lodge makes it easy to access the slopes. Along with basic comforts, enjoy a continental breakfast before heading out and warm up around the large lobby fireplace upon return.
Restaurants, Bars & Cafés
Likewise, there is no shortage of enticing eats in Park City, particularly on Main Street. The local ban on chains makes meals here all the more special: you surely will not find them anywhere else. Good luck choosing where to get your fill, from small-batch coffee roasters and local baked goods and mixology bars matched with award-winning farm-to-table fare. Call ahead if you can, as hoping to snag last minute reservations will see your options dwindle.
There’s no need to rush out for pancakes in the morning: the Eating Establishment (317 Main Street) serves breakfast all day, as they have been since 1972. Enjoy modestly-priced comfort foods, like pancakes, Belgian waffles and French toast. Or, venture out of the classic breakfast box with the ratatouille and grits or the pork hash, with beets, butternut squash, sweet potato and kale costarring alongside slow-roasted pork shoulder. Lunch and dinner serves up dishes with various combinations of meat, grains and veggies, ranging from the Established Burger to grilled fish tacos to a quinoa bowl. For those wishing to imbibe, the diner became even livelier when new ownership added a bar in 2017.
Housed in the historic Rocky Mountain Bell telephone building, Purple Sage (434 Main Street) is known for being one of the first in the area to feature regional food, with the bold, rustic, spicy flavors of the American West. While the veal meatloaf remains the house specialty, expect to find other tantalizing dishes on their seasonal menus. Try the grilled Mexican white shrimp, served atop golden griddled polenta cakes and drizzled with chipotle creamed leek sauce. Or another house favorite, sugar- and chile-cured duck breast on green chili mac’n’cheese. Not to be missed is the unrivaled wine list, which the owner has built over the last decade by forging relationships with both boutique and big-name wineries and working with the state to bring in exclusive, memorable American wines that pair perfectly with Purple Sage’s American fare.
For more locavore fare with a smoky flare, head to Firewood (306 Main Street), where everything on the menu is cooked – you guessed it – over a wood fire (a 14-foot-long wooden stove, if you’re curious). The menu goes far beyond campfire hotdogs, incorporating interesting flavor combinations in unexpected ways. For instance, fun starters include empanadas filled with oxtail, frisee, potato and poblano romesco and “hushpuppies,” with soft shell crab, ramps, carrot slaw and lemon aioli. The array of mains includes fish, meat and vegetarian options, each accompanied by sides that are tempting in their own right.
Mindfulness about sustainability is the pulse behind all of tupelo Park City’s (508 Main Street) operations, from their fresh ingredients – procured from farms handpicked by Chef/Owner Matt Harris – to the lack of plastic straws and napkins served with their cocktails to the composted food-waste they donate to local farms. Dishes are influenced by this spirit of “food terroir,” allowing the ingredients, and the earth from which they came, to drive the sensory experience. A mainstay at tupelo is the Beef & Barley, with Niman Ranch sirloin, mushrooms, sautéed kale and roasted root vegetables. Another simple, yet crave-able treat: tupelo’s buttermilk biscuits and honey butter.
Taste for yourself why Riverhorse on Main Street (540 Main Street) has consistently received four-star ratings from Forbes Travel Guide and four-diamond awards from AAA. Housed in the former Masonic Hall, and spruced up with a tone of urban sophistication, this fine dining legend serves American cuisine, re-invented. Like many Park City favorites, the restaurant’s menu shifts with the seasons, playing with ingredients at their peak. The macadamia encrusted Alaskan halibut is a house specialty that will likely be on the menu, along with other fun twists, like the seared scallop tum ka (with red coconut curry and risotto) and the caramelized onion, herb and garlic pierogis. Tip: For a coffee and a quick, scrumptious bite or picnic feast, head to Riverhorse Provisions (221 Main Street), the specialty market and deli where you’ll find all things “gourmet-on-the-go.”
Farm-to-fork fans may also find a new favorite at Handle (136 Herber Avenue). The menu of “simple” small plates makes meals feel more like a tasty smorgasbord. Take your taste buds on a ride, rotating between bites of the spicy buffalo cauliflower and the slightly sweet beet root salad with candied pistachios. Those wishing for a heavier meal are not to be disappointed. The 25-ounce “Baller” prime ribeye is accompanied by duck fat potatoes and caramelized onion crema. Creative cocktails add to the menu’s allure. Keep it local and order a Rattlesnake, made with High West double rye, lemon, egg white and bitters.
Speaking of High West Distillery & Saloon (703 Park Avenue), the establishment is Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870. No pressure, right? The often-packed gastro-distillery is a testament to High West’s success in bringing high quality whiskey to Park City. So are accolades like being named “Whiskey Pioneer of the Year” in 2011 and “Distiller of the Year” in 2016 by the Whiskey Advocate, the nation’s top whiskey publication. The spirit of the Great West is palpable in the rustic saloon, housed in a historic livery stable and garage. To sample High West’s main four – Double Rye!, Rendezvous Rye, Campfire and American Prairie Bourbon – order the High West Flight. Other spirits are also available however you fancy, as well as a list of creative cocktails that pair nicely with their Western mountain cuisine. Order an assortment of nibbles, like the bacon, caramel, and cashew popcorn; the pretzel with whiskey-whipped beer cheese; and a trout salad. Or hearty mains, like elk chili or chicken schnitzel.
Wasatch Brewery (250 Main Street), the state’s first brew pub, also calls Park City home. Midwestern transplant Greg Schirf opened the Park City brew pub in 1988, two years after he began the brewery, paving the way for craft brewing in Utah. The brewer’s unique portfolio expanded when it joined forces with Squatters Craft Beers in 2000. Cheap tasters allow you to try their range of beers on tap – including creative brews like the Apricot Hefeweizen and Jalapeño Cream Ale – before choosing your pint (or growler to go). Cans of their award-winning Polygamy Nitro Porter and IPAs are also available. Fill up on eats that go beyond fried pub grub, like The Bird Pizza – topped with smoked mozzarella, spicy grilled chicken, pesto and pickled vegetables – and the Super Food Beet Salad, which involves kale tossed with roasted beets, blueberries, almonds and a goat cheese crouton.
Park City’s lack of chains also makes shopping here all the more interesting. The locally-owned shops’ creatively dressed window displays make it nearly impossible to walk on by without at least peeking inside (and scoring a souvenir). Here are just a few highlights.
Combine a pick-me-up with a bit of shopping at Atticus Coffee Shop (738 Lower Main Street), a local hub beloved for its welcoming vibe and healthy food and drink options. In addition to the traditional coffee menu (with fun names like the Finch, a Cubano-style latte), you can also choose from over 65 loose leaf teas, including custom blends. Make it a latte by adding your favorite milk, as in the house favorite Goblet of Fire (cinnamon spiced black tea latte). Or, for a caffeine kick, try the dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso). While you wait or sip, peruse the unique assortment of cards, books and journals for fun gifts (for yourself and others). Feel even better about your purchases knowing Atticus donates a portion of each sale to their local non-profit pick of the month.
With its clean, natural Scandinavian aesthetic, Park City Mercantile (523 Main Street) gives the sense of walking into a welcoming home. The modern general store sells necessities and comforts, including home décor and kitchenware, skincare and beauty products, and local dry goods in Instagram-worthy packaging. Bestsellers include their cozy Faribault wool blankets and small-batch, hand-poured soy candles, but the ever-changing inventory invites slow grazing.
Another find on Main Street is Cake (577 Main Street) and its many stores. The boutique prides itself in carrying a thoughtfully-curated collection. The chic, feminine aesthetic makes Cake the perfect place to find timeless staples, like comfy sweaters, the perfect pair of jeans or a pair of booties with just the right amount of pop. C | Two, at the same address, offers a range of reputable beauty products to cover your wake-up, dress-up and clean-up routines. Nearby, Cake’s shop Monroe Mens (511 Main Street) offers shoppers a likewise thoughtfully-curated collection, with a sophisticated sense of style.
While it is easy to step into the many galleries in town as you shop, a more focused way to explore the area’s local artistry is through the Park City Gallery Stroll. This free evening of art celebration, along with light refreshments, is held during the evenings on the last Friday of the month, throughout the summer and fall.
On Main Street, the Claim Jumper building – an elegant Old West hotel for “new money” patrons that later evolved into a popular restaurant and saloon – is now home to the Prospect Gallery (573 Main Street). The historic building itself is full of character inside and out, but perusing the awe-worthy artwork inside offers an even greater treat. Relax on a cozy couch to ponder works by legends like Picasso and current legends-in-the-making, like DeVon. The local pop artist, influenced by Andy Warhol and Steve Alan Kaufman, uses mixed media to capture both “loss and beauty” in the lives of the famous, be they Hollywood stars, superheroes or dreamers. Other featured artists include A.M. Stockhill, Colt Idol, Teshia and Jason Chytraus.
The fine art photography displayed in Bret Webster Images (312 Main Street) offers momentary treks into the natural wonders an internationally renowned photographer has masterfully captured. One piece gazes upward, through a canopy of sun-praising aspens; the next, attunes your every sense toward understanding the intricate beauty of a single snowflake; and the next, stares into the midnight ink, lit by what seems an infinity of stars. Webster’s crisp, often magical images, aim to inspire, reminding viewers of the divine beauty within and around us, in both the vast and the seemingly minuscule. Webster’s works are displayed in five U.S. Embassies, and many others have been featured in the National Geographic, Smithsonian, Backpacker, New Scientist, Travel and Leisure and elsewhere.
For a mix of art admiration and shopping, head to Artworks (461 Main Street). The fine craft gallery began as a co-operative in 1983, making it the first artist-owned gallery in the state. Inside, check out the handiwork of locally and nationally celebrated artists, as well as new talent. With jewelry, pottery, blown glass, sculptures and other crafty creations coming in from various artists, the inventory is far from predictable, much like whatever new highlight will pop up in Park City next.