Top 10 Things to Do in Park City, Utah
Ski season and Sundance will soon be underway, but they’re not the only reasons to visit this one-time silver mining town. Depending on the time of year, add art galleries, horseback riding and shopping to your next Park City trip.
Riverhorse on Main is arguably not just one of the best restaurants in Park City, but one of the best in the country. The buttery soft, macadamia-nut-crusted Alaskan halibut is a signature dish, and you’ll regret it if you don’t order it. Other standouts include the poached pear and burrata salad with figs and dates. There’s even a separate vegan and gluten-free menu, and the crispy tofu entrée in sweet chili sauce with a ginger citrus relish will instantly convert any skeptics. If it’s available, order the blueberry cobbler, filled with Maine blueberries, for dessert. The restaurant is also opening Riverhorse Provisions, an upscale market with a café and coffee shop located in the Imperial Hotel. It’s tentatively scheduled to open Thanksgiving week. Don’t leave Main Street before popping into Atticus Coffee, Books & Teahouse for a yerba mate latte, red velvet mocha, smoothies or healthy eats while browsing the used book selection. Other area favorites are Handle for New American small plates, and Glitretind at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Since it’s located at a ski-in/ski-out resort, Glitretind is ideal after working up an appetite on the slopes—especially the beloved Sunday brunch buffet.
Park City has plentiful apres-ski options for night owls. Start the evening by catching a performance at the Egyptian Theater on Main Street; tickets are still available for the Village People in January! Nearby, Park City Live hosts musical acts from Lil Jon to Elephant Revival. Keep the party going at High West Distillery’s saloon on Main Street, the state’s first distillery since the 19th century. Order the popular (and perfectly balanced) High West Lemonade, or a smoky Campfire Whiskey while kicking back to live music. (Limited-edition varieties such as Bourye or Yippee Ki-Yay are other musts.) Bonus: As the world’s only ski-in distillery, you don’t have to waste any time segueing into evening festivities. Cap the night at OP Rockwell for inventive craft cocktails, indie concerts and a Wild West speakeasy vibe.
For those seeking every amenity possible, Spa Montage Deer Valley is loaded with a lap pool, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, a full-service salon, fitness center and more. Oh, and don’t worry about it feeling too crowded, since the spa is a sprawling 35,000 square feet. If you're feeling the effects of functioning above 7,000 feet, opt for the altitude therapy service, which includes bathing in oxygen-rich water and a massage. Not to be outdone, the Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge is Utah’s only five-star spa, and offers an oxygen inhalation treatment. Beyond what can be found at Spa Montage, Stein Eriksen offers a heated outdoor pool, hot and cold plunge pools, and exceptional attention to detail, from disposable toothbrushes in locker rooms to plush, hooded spa robes. (If you’re lucky enough to stay on property, some rooms even boast an outdoor hot tub.) For the days when you simply require a solid massage or skin-clearing facial, Aura Spa & Boutique on Main Street delivers without sacrificing ambience. Align Spa is another affordable option, and also provides acupuncture, cupping, chiropractor services and more.
Park City’s historic Main Street easily conjures images from its frontier mining days, except ski shops and boutiques have replaced the one-time saloons. With more than 70 stores to choose from, bypass the few chains in favor of the many independent retailers. Dolly’s Bookstore has been around since 1972, and sells a well-chosen selection of literature, souvenirs and local guidebooks. This writer can also confirm that, true to its sign, a tuxedo cat does indeed roam the store. Satisfy your fix for Native American art, turquoise jewelry and moccasin shoes at Southwest Indian Traders. Numerous clothing boutiques are worth stopping into: Olive & Tweed for independent brands, Mary Jane’s for the latest trends, and Habit Park City and Flight Boutique for cute finds. Home décor lovers will flip over the modern bedding, furniture, pillows and so much more at Root’d. Just be aware that some stores close or have shortened hours during the off and shoulder seasons, so be sure to check ahead.
More than a dozen galleries line Main Street; make a day of it by starting at Prothro Gallery and Gallery MAR for contemporary fine art paintings and sculptures. Or head to Trove Gallery if you’re on the hunt for local artists. Bret Webster Images is a good bet for finding remarkable photographs of Utah scenery, while McMillen Fine Art Photography is another worthwhile stop for landscape images that could pass for paintings. Collectors of the unconventional and one of a kind will have a difficult time deciding at Silver Queen of Fine Art. Art glass paperweights, a mixed media koi sculpture and handcrafted jewelry are just a fraction of the covetable works for sale. As with some boutiques, a number of galleries close or have shortened hours during the off and shoulder seasons, so check ahead for any bucket-list stops. While strolling Main, keep an eye out for the framed Banksy. The artist created the image in 2010 while at Sundance for his film “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Its protective glass was shattered by a vandal in 2014, and remains as is to this day. Leave time to visit Kimball Art Center since it’s no longer on Main Street, but it’s only a five-minute drive away if you have a car. An upcoming exhibition features Holly Manneck, whose pop art pieces follow in the lineage of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
Although horseback riding is only available from spring to fall, it’s one of the best ways to channel frontier life. Trail options wind through rugged mountainous terrain, and the slow pace allows even greater appreciation of the clear blue streams and quiet valleys below. If possible, time this in the fall, before the end of October, for prime leaf peeping. Red Pine Adventures is conveniently located next to Canyons Village, and offers hour-and-a-half-long rides four times a day. Guided rides return in May 2017. Boulder Mountain Ranch leads rides from Deer Valley and Sundance properties, with three different trail options lasting between one to three hours. Don’t fret if you visit during the winter, since you can still fulfill your sleigh ride goals. One (and two) horse-open-sleigh rides depart in the evening from Goldener Hirsch Inn and Stein Eriksen Lodge. Rides last about half an hour and include toasty blankets. North Forty Escapes is about 20 minutes outside of Park City, but it provides free shuttles and offers rides lasting up to four hours, including lunch.
The Provo and Weber Rivers near Park City are considered some of the best in the country for trout fishing, and both possess the blue-ribbon designation (a sign of high quality for fishing). Brown, rainbow and cutthroat are among the trout that populate Provo River, while brown trout are the main attraction in Weber. Rocky Mountain Outfitters is a popular option for fishing Provo and Weber, and uses guides approved by Orvis. Half and full-day excursions are available, as is an introduction to Utah fly-fishing lesson. (Newbies will appreciate the “no fish, no pay” policy.) The motto of Park City on the Fly is “Fly Fishing Made Easy,” which is hard to argue since the cost includes transportation, gear, equipment, and even snacks or a meal. In addition to half and full-day options, the company also offers float trips. If you have the time to spare, these journeys head a few hours south to the Green River, and overnight in Flaming Gorge, Utah. Fins & Feathers is a membership-only club, however, guests at Stein Eriksen Lodge can arrange year-round, half, or full-day fly-fishing on the club’s private waters. Knowledgeable guides help with line casting and provide equipment. Access to a cozy rustic lodge with snacks, drinks and bathrooms doesn’t hurt either.
For something truly different, this 10,000-year-old geothermal hot spring is just a half hour from Park City. The spring is concealed by a limestone dome, but a ground-level tunnel leads to the inviting mineral water, which stays in the 90-degree range. Guests can simply soak, swim or snorkel in the crater, or, for an elevated experience, even take a standup paddleboard yoga class. In fact, Homestead is the only crater in the world to also offer warm-water scuba diving. Just be aware that the water is about 65-feet deep, so life jackets are required (and provided). Reservations—even to just soak—are also required, although it’s free if you simply want to take a self-guided tour. Whichever you choose, all of the activities are available year-round.
We’d be remiss to not include this annual institution founded by Robert Redford, which attracts A-list celebrities promoting their independent films. Locals have a love/hate relationship with the festival, but it’s certainly worthwhile if you’ve never partaken. The fest occurs during a two-week period every January, and films are screened at venues around town and in Salt Lake City. Various packages are available; prepare to shell out as much as $3,500 for all-access screening passes with priority entrance. Other advance options include 10-ticket packages and individual tickets at more reasonable prices. A limited number of individual tickets also go on sale at 8 a.m. daily during Sundance at the main box offices, which can work if you’re at the front of the line and aren’t dead-set on seeing the hottest movies. Alternatively, there’s also a daily online waitlist for individual films. Be prepared to book lodging as far in advance in possible, and to pay a premium to boot. It’s also a good idea to make restaurant reservations in advance, or better yet, rent a condo and prepare your own meals. Leave the car at home since parking becomes pricey and limited; anyway, the Sundance Shuttle gets you where you need to go.
Of course you visit Park City to ski, too. As the host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City’s reputation as one of the world’s premier ski resorts is hard to dispute. The ski areas consist of Deer Valley Resort and Park City; the latter merged with Canyons Resort last year, making it the largest ski resort in the U.S. Which area to pick? Well, the town, the Park City base area and Canyons Village anchor Park City (the resort), making it ideal if you want to be close to all the action. There’s even a lift at the bottom of Main Street (next to High West Distillery, conveniently enough). The Canyons area is nearby and connected by a gondola—or ski between the two. Otherwise, families, snowboarders and all ski levels flock here for the varied terrain. Ski-in/ski-out condos and hotels are readily available on this side too.
Deer Valley attracts the jet set thanks to numerous four- and five-star properties, including The St. Regis Deer Valley, Goldener Hirsch Inn, Montage Deer Valley and Stein Eriksen Lodge. All four also offer ski-in/ski-out access if you prefer to maximize your time on the slopes. (Just note snowboarding isn’t allowed in Deer Valley.) A good 41 percent of runs are geared toward intermediate skiers, with the rest divided between beginner and advanced levels. Intermediate and above skiers staying on this side can take advantage of the Ski With a Champion program. This one-of-a-kind offering pairs participants with Olympic athletes, from longtime U.S. Ski Team member Heidi Voelker to U.S. Ski Hall of Famer Trace Worthington. Speaking of Olympics, make time to tour the Utah Olympic Park training center, where you can watch athletes train year-round. The more adventurous can channel their inner Olympian by braving the Comet Bobsled ride, which runs on the official track and exceeds 60 miles an hour as it zooms down the curvy course. The bobsled reopens Nov. 25. As for ski season, Park City opens Nov. 18, Canyons Village on Nov. 23, and Deer Valley on Dec. 3.