From its gritty days as a silver-mining town and then its arrival on the resort scene during the 2002 Winter Olympics, this mountain community has inherited a vibe that is both laid-back and lively. Just 30 miles from Salt Lake City, the destination ski scene includes three mountain resorts within an eight-mile stretch of road. On historic Main Street with its charming Victorian architecture, visitors can enjoy music and art, shop for designer threads, and pick from 100 restaurants. Or you can venture out to find hiking and biking trails, spring wildflowers, or even herds of elk bugling during rut season in the fall.
Park City is known for 350 annual inches of the "Greatest Snow on Earth," so winter sports enthusiasts enjoy skiing and snowboarding from about mid-December through early April. The local adage, though, is “I came for the winters but stayed for the summers.” This might have something to do with the many miles of trails for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding, temps in the comfortable 80s with no humidity, fly-fishing in nearby blue-ribbon streams, hero golf (the ball really flies here at 6,900 feet), and live music in parks and resorts most nights of the week. June through August is prime event and festival time.
Salt Lake City International Airport is 35 minutes away via Interstate 80. Four-wheel-drive rental cars are the way to go, or grab one of many airport shuttles for around $78 round-trip. Only movie celebs during the Sundance Film Festival feel the need to take taxis from Salt Lake City to the mountains of Park City.
A free public bus system runs daily, with peak service from about 7:30 a.m. till midnight, from one end of town to the other and to all three resorts. Taxis are also available, but you have to call; they don’t roam the streets here.
The summertime Flying Ace All-Star Show at Utah Olympic Park shows off the town’s natural beauty with its gorgeous setting high in the hills—not to mention athleticism and Olympic legacy. Freestylers-in-training glide down massive ski ramps and pull tricks like quadruple-twisting, triple-flipping somersaults into a 750,000-gallon splash pool with full ski gear on. The extremely entertaining show lasts a half-hour.
Local restaurants are as delightfully diverse as the people who settled this town, with as-fancy-as-it-gets locales in Deer Valley, like Apex at Montage, to cozy and cluttered pull-up-a-stool joints like the No Name Saloon (famous for its bison burgers) on Main Street. A must-stop is the High West Distillery, the first distillery allowed in Utah since Prohibition (take a tour, then enjoy drinks and dinner). Find pretty much anything you desire in any price range, from sushi to Mexican, Italian, French, Thai, and Indian. Main Street offers the largest cluster of walking-distance eateries, but nice choices exist at each of the three resort villages and in the Newpark business neighborhood. Summer brings farmers' markets (Wednesday at Canyons, and Sunday on Main Street) and food festivals like the Park City Food & Wine Classic, and the iconic Savor the Summit, with the longest dining table in town running the length of Main Street.
Two dozen galleries in this relatively small town speak to a local devotion to art. The recently renovated Park City Museum highlights local history, with an old territorial jail you can step into. Also entertaining are the Alf Engen Ski Museum and the Eccles Museum up at Utah Olympic Park, where the bobsled, luge, skeleton, and Nordic jumping events were held during the 2002 Winter Games. And all year long, Park City Institute brings renowned international acts to the state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center adjacent to the local high school.
The granddaddy of Park City festivals is, of course, Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival in January. Other standouts are the summer Deer Valley Music Festival—with Utah Symphony performances on the resort's lawn nearly every Saturday in July and August, as well as chamber music performances around town—and free weekly music at Deer Valley (Wednesdays), Newpark (Thursdays), and Canyons (Saturdays). And summer 2014 marks the 45th anniversary of the Park City Arts Festival, with more than 200 artists and craftspeople on Main Street.
You never need to dress up in Park City. Nice jeans are accepted everywhere. And good footwear is required for snowy, sloping streets.
Kristen Gould Case is a writer and editor. She served as the editor of Park City Magazine for 16 years.