Park City brings one of the highest ratios of transplants of any city in Utah, and once you visit, it’s not difficult to see why. Whether you’re here for the mountains, the skiing, the mining town history, the dining or the clean air, you have to start somewhere. Here I’ll share my top tips for getting the most of your time in Park City, whether it’s just for a weekend or for the rest of your life.
Hello, my name is Kristina, and I love pickled things.
I also love appetizers, so if I have a chance to sit on a patio munching on an appetizer, sipping a beer in the sunshine I’ll do it. Wasatch Brew Pub has a new chef and a new menu, including tater tots with truffle salt and fried pickles.
These are the fried pickles.
My recommendation? YES. So firstly, it’s a fried. pickle. A FRIED PICKLE.
The breading was full of dill and lovely. My batch was a bit soggy in places, but that will change from cook to cook, and it’s still a fried freaking pickle, so I’m just not concerned with it. The dipping sauce was a flavored ranch, which was fine and not a crutch, but the beauty of course is the pickle. Sharp, crisp garlic dill spear.
Hi Mountain in Kamas, Utah, is everything you’d want an old-timey drug store to be. Main Street frontage. Impossibly vintage decor. Hard-to-find soda fountain beverages and milkshake flavors. AND FRENCH FRIES THE WAY YOUR GRANDMOTHER USED TO MAKE THEM GOOD GRIEF THEY ARE TO DIE FOR.
Ah, the Sundance Film Festival. When our quiet mountain town gets its Vegas on for two weeks. I am not being facetious when I say there is no dream too big for Sundance. My office at 625 Main Street this year is turning into a lounge for Merrell shoes*, and according to the plans, they’ll be building some sort of mountain experience hallway with conveyor belts and maybe air jets? Listen, all of Main Street and other random parts of the town become a pop-up art installation. Remember, when you’re here on vacation, everything is fun and exciting. When you finally start living your life and move to paradise and live here full-time, it takes special effort to maneuver and enjoy the big events that put Park City on the map. This is my local’s guide to dealing with Sundance.
1. Do your research. Spend some serious time on this website: Sundance Film Festival. Know what is happening, when and where. You want to know what people are talking about, where they’re headed, and for logistics purposes, where the crowds will be headed and at what times. The first weekend of Sundance is the craziest. Yes, there are film, music and art celebrities and the star watchers and paparazzi that follow. For instance at Park City Live, on Friday night Skrillex is playing. Yes, that Skrillex. Consider yourself warned.
2. Plans will change. If you want to be a part of the festival–and I recommend it–be cool. Sundance has the inherent potential to dissolve into a crazy melee of scheduling disasters. Don’t get your heart set on anything. Adventures will find you in this space if you are open to them. Pop-up restaurants, musical performances and guerilla art installations literally erupt everywhere. Magical teams of contractors whip up living rooms on sidewalks one day and by the next morning they’re gone. Be open to the adventure. Open your mind and go check things out. Don’t try to understand the point of anything. In some ways, it’s like walking through a modern art museum. If you’re too stodgy there will be a lot of “this is art?” and “what the hell is going on here?” BE COOL. It’s an experience and if you go with the flow you will have an amazing adventure you never dreamed you would and also a great story to tell.
3. There will be traffic. So. Much. Traffic. What do you expect? There are movies and events and adventure and food trucks and all kinds of jazz everywhere. If you are going to attend any of the films or events, use public transit. It’s free, and these next two weeks look out for the Sundance Shuttle signs, offering extra stops, routes and drivers. Cabs or Uber are an option, but remember this is a quiet mountain town after all, so there is a limited capacity for the number of cars that can be on the roads. If you’re not headed to any of the events, be mindful of when the scheduled events are beginning and ending and when the lifts close. (Sundance is usually a good time to ski because most of the visitors are here for the festival, not the resorts). Don’t wait to get gasoline until your gas light comes on. Hit the restroom before you leave. Have water and a granola bar in your car so you don’t get hangry on the way home. And politely utilize backroads when you can.
Side note: last year the Waffle Love food truck popped up in Prospector near the Park City Board of Realtors building. Should that happen this year I will diligently report live from the scene.
4. All the purchasing. This is one of the great benefits of having Sundance here: grocery stores, the liquor stores, and restaurants will be packed. Profit for the businesses, revenue for the tax commission. It’s a good thing. However, this means if you’re on your way home and just need one thing at the grocery store, you will probably suffer for it. So plan ahead! Treat this weekend like Thanksgiving: shop early, and maybe go a little out of your way just to save your sanity. The Fresh Market at Pinebrook is a lovely and quiet experience, and for many stores in Salt Lake City it’s business as usual. If you need booze, hit the liquor store right away. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL FRIDAY OH MY GOODNESS SAVE YOURSELVES.
5. Dining out is out. For the most part, dining out will not be in your cards for the next two weeks. Unless you’re eating at Karleen’s Uptown Fare**, at the base of the Star Hotel at the top of Main Street, that famously has a local’s-only policy during Sundance. It’s a good two weeks to cook at home or have friends over. If you do want to venture out, send some love to the restaurants off Main Street and away from the film venues. And if you can’t get those steamed pork buns at Wahso out of your head that’s fine, just don’t be a jerk to the wait staff when you can’t get a table quickly. Stay calm. And tip extremely well.
Remember, the Sundance Film Festival is an adventure. A big one. A multi-faceted one. There are parts of Sundance that are altruistic and legitimately concerned with giving unknown filmmakers and artists a platform to present their blood, sweat and tears to the world. A celebration of passion. Some truly beautiful works have come out of Sundance. (Like Super Troopers. And American Ham.) There are also parts, the louder and more visible parts of Sundance that seem so commercialized that it’s easy to get disenfranchised. But marketing happens in the most magnanimous of spaces. It’s fine. Seek out the unique experiences. Go looking for something you’d never have planned on.
Be ready for the adventure.
*625 Main will allegedly be the Variety Magazine Lounge.
**Uptown Fare is moving into their new space at 1401 Kearns Blvd with, the Kimball Art Center’s temporary new digs. The booze rule still applies though, go early and often!
Parkites love a party, we said. Twelve hundred pieces of candy is plenty, we said. It won’t be much larger than last year, we said.
We were wrong.
At 1 PM, the streets were still.
No sign of the coming bedlam. No whisper of a crowd. Nary a candy wrapper in the breeze. The only things that foretold the coming mania were road signs warning citizens not to park on the street. The city knew. The city knew all along.
We had prepared with light-hearted reverie. Amusing real estate signs and heads on stakes.
Soon, a boy arrived. Dressed as Harry Potter, innocent enough.
Children were the first to turn.
The adults presented more slowly, in isolated pockets of hysteria.
The affected banded together, bound to each other by some common theme. A similar strain.
Even the animals started showing signs of the madness.
Scuffles were inevitable.
The people coped as best they could.
Even inanimate objects showed signs of contamination. We were never able to confirm with the Montage at Deer Valley if they indeed were afflicted as their model appeared to show.
Communications were cut off; overtaxed bandwidth struggled, then faltered, then failed. Discarded phones lost in plastic caldrons of chocolate bars and hard candy. And then, they came.
In droves they came. Wave after wave descended upon Main Street. Masquerading as a “dog parade,” the infected, the spirited, swarmed from one shop to the next.
I, and others, tied balloons to children, hoping the helium-filled beacons might give our young a chance at being found, and fed.
When supplies had run low at the doorstep of the uprising, the storm began to break. Gently, quietly, an antidote crept in. Some brave soul dared distribute the only product that could possibly tame the epidemic.
Slowly, a calm settled. As the masses began to disburse, even the most active of rioters ran out of steam.
After the Great Outbreak, what came to be called Halloween on Main Street 2014, we gathered. In bars, in restaurants, on front porches and in parlors. Friends and strangers, bonded by our experience. We spoke in revered tones. We sipped cider and pondered the meaning of “fun size.” We watched Jack Nicholson chop through a door on television and boasted about how we might have skied out the window and down the side of that hotel.
Christmas in a ski town is particularly fun. The snow is Christmas-card snow, cartoon snow, piled up on rooftops and perched on pine boughs and glowing from the lights strung underneath. The town is generally very busy, and the evenings are full of exciting meals and entertainment. My Christmas tradition means going out to dinner. This year, we went to Wahso on Main Street.
Wahso, like many Main Street restaurants, is more on the fine dining side of the spectrum, though the dress code is “mountain casual.” Jeans and a mock turtleneck zip-top sweater are the norm but a suit jacket or heels aren’t at all inappropriate.
This time of year, all the lights at individual shops are lit, plus the town strings multi-colored lights from building to building the whole length of Main.
For starters, we had the steamed pork belly buns and potstickers. The buns were chewy and soft, the pork belly irresistibly crispy, and the homemade pickle, well, can you ever go wrong with a pickle? The pot stickers were also fantastic, nicely shaped, perfectly cooked, and an interesting fusion-y sauce of soy and balsamic vinegar.
For entrees, my husband opted for the New York with ginger fried rice.
I opted for the seared duck breast and duck confit. We both cleared our plates. Even my pomegranate teriyaki sauce, which is saying something because I’m usually not a fan of pomegranate seeds.
For dessert, we had the coconut creme brulet, which was brulete-d and served in an actual half coconut shell. The tower you see is a beautiful macaroon and chocolate-dipped pokey sticks. We also sipped a whiskey and a sherry, because we are old-timey like that.
One bottle of wine and two spirits in us, we bid goodbye to our excellent server and walked out onto the cold, crisp air of Main Street in December. People were still out and active, the neighborhood still alive and vibrant.
And of course, the Main Street trolley was running (have I mentioned how fabulous our free city bus system is lately? It’s fabulous. Also free.) so we hopped on and rode it for a few blocks to get us closer to our home in the historic district of Old Town.
The whole town turns out for Halloween. When we say that, I can see how you might think we’re puffing just a little. I mean, it’s just Halloween, right? Like it’s just the 4th of July or just the start of the ski season? Never underestimate the Parkite ability to have a party for any reason at all. Thus, Halloween being a legit holiday and all, Halloween in Park City is a big event. Adults, children, and dogs dress up in fabulous costumes and wander Main Street. The road is closed to cars, music is playing, each shop and restaurant is giving out candy. We call it a parade but frankly, parades have a direction.
I’m up on the deck of the Treasure Mountain Inn here, and as I look to the very top of Main Street there’s a good crowd. Aww look at the pair of angels and doctors. And the brew pub, naturally.
Last night we stumbled on Wasatch Brew Pub’s Oktoberfest celebration. No, really. We went in for a beer and a burger because a barley pop and some beef fat are rarely a bad decision and started noticing bearded men with music stands coming through the door. And lots of blue and white flags. And the specials were bratwurst or beer-breaded chicken. Oktoberfest! (Oktobeer Fest, actually.)
Sundays are meant for takeout. I don’t know how else to say it. I’ve usually held an open house or taken a client on a property tour in the morning, and in the afternoon I like to stock up on groceries and finish errands and by Sunday night all I want is a cocktail and for food to magically come to me. This is how I ended up at Park City Pizza Co. I’d finished two trips to Home Depot, one trip to Smith’s at the Junction (and two stops along the way to take pictures of the gorgeous fall leaves), and it was already 7:30.
Firstly, they have an excellent online ordering system. Not as charming as going in and smelling all the smells while you wait but great when you’re standing in the grocery store with a cart full of dubious choices, starving, dying for a beer. You can order, they can cook, you can get checked out, loaded up, then pick up your dinner and bail.
Secondly, it’s in a particularly cute strip mall. (Stick with me on this.) The building is relatively newer, but something in the horizontal lines, the brown, and the font of the sign feels like the late 70s/early 80s. “Vintage Ski Town” design, which is a soft spot for most of us. Inside was very family-friendly, including a stack of board games in the corner. They also had an impressive beer selection (including beers from Moab Brewery), so fun for everybody!
The garlic cheese bread is the stuff of memories, just exactly what you’d remember garlic cheese bread from any late 80s pizza shop. Nice chewy bread, buttery garlic underneath a stringy layer of chewy mozzarella. Even the foil sleeve for takeout felt comfortable. Nostalgic even.
The house salad was nice. I’m a fan of more fun stuff than lettuce but they had other salad options and I chose what I chose. Be warned though: if you don’t care for diced sweet red raw onion ask them to hold it. Also the salad is ample but if you opt for a creamy dressing like I did (normally I’m a vinegar gal but ranch or bleu cheese always tickles my fancy with pizza) it will be on the sparse side.
Wanting to stick with something less adventurous than their delicious-sounding specialty pizzas I opted for Canadian bacon and black olives. I know most pizza porn shows you a browned cheese topping, pools of pepperoni grease and giant bubbles. And I know that this looks a little, well, anemic. But don’t be deceived by appearances! The crust was thick and chewy, crispy and brown on the bottom. There was a lot of sauce, and that’s a personal decision, but I love it when they smear it all over the crust and let it brown. My only complaint about the pizza is that it wasn’t as salty as I like, but let’s face it, my diet tends on the “fast track to gout” side of things, so it was probably just perfect.
Quite inexpensive: all of the above came to $27. All in all? A very pleasant, comfortable, tasty experience.
Every month the Park City Board of Realtors holds a luncheon at a different location with informative speakers. This month’s luncheon was at Tuhaye Golf Course, part of the Talisker country club. Ryan Winther, long-drive champion, hit a few drives for us after lunch that had everybody feeling a little, erm, INADEQUATE.