Family mentioned Park City endlessly when I visited Utah. Had I heard Park City was home to the Sundance Film Festival? That Robert Redford owns a resort in the mountains near Park City? And that Park City was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics?
They did take me to Park City for a few days, abandoning me while they skied. “You’ll find plenty to do, Mom, and the ski lift comes down into Main Street. We can always meet you for lunch.”
This was genuinely a relief. My preferred views of snow are from a balcony of an art gallery or over the rim of a fine cocktail rather than from the ground, where I have fallen on my butt.
And they were right. There’s lots to do in Park City for those who prefer to hit the slopes, but not so hard.
1. Enjoy The Greatest Snow On Earth
Relive the 2002 Winter Olympics through memorabilia and interactive exhibits at Utah Olympic Park's free museums. In summer, watch aerial skiers hurtle through the air, landing with a splash in the Olympic pool. Or be a passenger in a bobsled if you dare.
More my pace: a sleigh ride to a remote Viking Yurt. After being tucked in with warm blankets, a snow-cat pulls you up 1,800 feet through fairy tale forests, past looming mountains and views of Park City’s twinkling lights. This was expensive but worth it for the adventure and six-course gourmet Scandinavian dinner.
Take a Saturday Morning Snow Shoe Tour of Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter. It’s cheap and snowshoes are provided. Or let a pack of huskies and their musher whizz you through the forest. Snowmobile along miles of groomed tracks, or, for a slower pace, enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides at Park City Mountain or Deer Valley.
2. Luxuriate For The Day
For the luxury touches of herbal body products, fluffy robes, and soaking in hot water with mountain views, head to Stein Eriksen Lodge. Booking a spa treatment means access to other facilities, such as a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, and a heated indoor/outdoor infinity pool as well.
Or buy a day pass at Hotel Park City to use their heated pool, steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, meditation rooms, fitness equipment, and hydrotherapy tub. (Passes are available spring and fall, and sometimes summer. Call for availability.) At Montage Deer Valley, day passes include access to an indoor mosaic lap pool, a co-ed or separate women’s relaxation area, selected fitness classes, and locker rooms offering a steam room, sauna, whirlpools, and deluge showers.
3. Explore Main Street
Main Street feels like a Western movie set, as Park City was once a silver mining town with 27 saloons. But boom and bust happen, and by 1951, Park City was listed in Ghost Towns of the West. The township pulled itself up by the bootstraps, becoming the world-famous ski resort it is today.
Learn more about this history at Park City Historical Museum. The museum also offers summer walking tours during which you can learn more about some of Main Street’s 64 heritage-listed buildings. You’ll definitely want to book ahead.
You can also join a Last Friday Gallery Stroll (Monthly, June to December) for complimentary refreshments, music, and the chance to visit 19 local studios. To find Franz the Bear, an iconic bronze sculpture and photo-op sitting on a park bench (and an elusive Banksy mural) download the city’s Free Self-Guided Art and Sculpture Tour Map.
4. Hit The Shops
Once a mining town, these days Park City seems paved with gold. Stunning homes dot the hillsides and Main Street has many high-end shops. Personal favorites include Burns Cowboy Shop with hundreds of crafted designer boots, Alpaca International for wrinkle-resistant travel garments, and Cade and Co's for handmade leather baby shoes.
Dolly’s Bookstore showcases regional authors and Dolly the cat sunning herself in the window. Atticus Coffee Books and Teahouse offers comfy reading spots and pots of tea chosen from 65 loose-leaf varieties.
The street is steep, so catch the free trolley back up. My grandson adored this trolley. He was too young for skiing, so I wasn’t the only one hitting the shops.
Or catch a bus to Outlets Park City. All public transport is free (plan your route using the myStop app). Arrive and grab a free coupon book from Customer Service. Then it’s full-throttle ahead, foraging through 65 outlets including Old Navy, Levi, Gap, Nike, Vans, and Sun and Ski Sports. There are no onsite cafes, so fortify yourself with lunch beforehand.
5. Head To Heber
A 25-minute drive away in Heber, you can experience an Ice Castle -- a magical winter fairy-tale world of caverns, tunnels, and fountains carved by artists and lit by magical lights. I recommend dressing warmly and wearing snow boots.
Utah is famous for its cheese, so stop at Heber Valley Artisan Cheese for tastings, tours, and cheese-making classes. Homestead Resort in nearby Midway has a geothermal hot spring in a 55-foot high beehive-shaped crater. Water bubbles up at 90 to 96 degrees. You can book dips (it’s deep) and even do paddleboard yoga in the crater.
6. Sundance All Year
Film fans flock to Park City in January for the Sundance Film Festival.
Some tickets are hard to score, but those on waitlists often get in. If this interests you, consider a Sundance membership to access special screenings and pre-sale tickets before the mad scramble begins.
You can also enjoy Sundance venues all year long. The Park City Film Series hosts films at “The Santy” (Jim Santy Auditorium). Film choices, projection, and sound quality are top-notch. Locals introduce films, popcorn comes with free refills and real butter, and local traders offer door prizes.
The Egyptian Theater has been associated with Sundance since the festival began in 1978. This 1926 Art Deco gem was built in the excitement surrounding the opening of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb in 1922. An Egyptologist supervised the theater’s decoration, which includes scarabs, lotus leaf motifs, and hieroglyphics. The venue offers famous musical acts and top stage shows throughout the year.
7. Explore The Local Food Scene
Park City has over 150 restaurants. Most have excellent ratings, making it hard to choose where to dine. For restaurant tips and deals, locals recommend the Park Record.
Queues indicate greatness. Five5eeds serves Australian-style coffee and avocado toast with whipped goats cheese. It’s easier to get seated here on weekdays.
I also recommend Park City Food Tours for reasons as multi-pronged as a fork. You’ll experience a number of restaurants, a guide offers other local recommendations, and, as Julia Child said, “People who love to eat are always the best people.” So good company is assured. No two tours are identical, but the much-talked-about Riverhorse and Handle restaurants are often on the itinerary. Note that drink pairings are extra.
8. Enjoy Drinking (In Moderation)
I bought my son a shot glass at the Salt Lake City airport that said: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may be in Utah.” Apparently, it’s an old joke, but mirth still surrounds some of Utah’s liquor laws.
Some tourists even fear not getting a drink in Park City. They shouldn’t worry.
Park City is home to High West Distillery and Saloon, Utah’s first legal distillery (opened in 1870!) and the world's only ski-in distillery. The food is excellent, but if you’ll be dining with under-21s, head out to their other distillery at Wanship, which is classed as a restaurant, not a bar. The 25-minute drive rewards with stunning views. All meals at the rustic-themed distillery are memorable, but the Sunday brunch is famous for its made-to-order omelets, yogurt station, decadent baked goods, and French toast with whiskey maple syrup. Both venues offer free tours and chances to purchase take-home bottles of whiskey. Even on Sundays.
Fox School of Wine has a Weekend Wine Series known locally as “the educational happy hour.” Their Saturday Mines and Wines Tours allow participants to take in six historic places with wines paired to each location. Mountain Town Olive Oil offers The Next Course -- an opportunity to cook gourmet recipes paired with wine. At Paint Mixer, you can create your next artwork in a social setting and enjoy an on-site wine service.
Even the local market, Park Silly Sunday Market (June to September) has a DIY Bloody Mary beer garden. The drink becomes breakfast once you top your glass with offerings including asparagus, olives, sausage, pickles, and crispy bacon.
Wasatch Brew Pub (established in 1986) is Park City’s first brewery since Prohibition. Check out the tongue-in-cheek beer labels, such as Polygamy Porter’s, which asks, “Why have just one?” Wasatch’s founder also convinced the Utah Legislature to allow brewpubs in the state, making it possible for you to enjoy good pub grub, including burgers, mac ’n’ cheese, and spicy buffalo wings. As it’s a brewpub rather than a bar, you can dine here with your skiing family.