If you know me at all, you know it’s a tad ironic that I chose to go somewhere cold for vacation.
Yet when H, M, and I started talking about heading west to Park City, Utah around Thanksgiving, I knew it would be a can’t-miss opportunity. I’m so glad I went!
While I travel a lot, most of my trips are quick weekend escapes or return trips to places I’ve already been a few times. Traveling to Park City was really the first vacation where I felt like we were really adults. We sourced the best hotel deals, booked the flights, did research into ski passes, and made dinner reservations in advance, all without the benefit of having been there before or someone else—like a parent or teacher—to plan it for us. (Though, H’s Aunt and Uncle, who live in Park City, were an invaluable resource—definitely ask locals for advice!)
And you know what—planning the trip was half the fun! I loved reaching out to people who’ve recently been to Park City for advice and watering hole recs, using Yelp to find the best restaurants, and mapping the distance between our hotel and all our activities. It definitely helped give me the lay of the land before I arrived, and since we were so well-researched, I think we were really savvy tourists once we were there.
While we went towards the end of ski season, Park City apparently is equally awesome in the summer. I’ve put together a guide for you below based on what we saw, ate, and did, but feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if you’re planning a trip!
HOW TO GET THERE /
We booked our trip through an Orbitz Package, which included both our hotel and our airfare. We were able to get a four night, five day trip for about $700 a person, which when you think about how much flights across the country usually cost alone, was a steal. Because it was a package deal, we didn’t have a choice over our airline, which was Frontier. A lot can be said about discount airlines. They actually end up being more expensive than you anticipate because purchasing the ticket is really just the first time they hit you up for money. We paid $30 per bag per way per person, and ended up paying $16 to get an assigned seat on our boarding passes. If you’re traveling with little kids, I highly recommend paying to pick your seat ahead of the flight. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting in the leftover seats, and they will not be together. A mom on our flight learned this the hard way and it was not pretty.
We flew from DCA to Denver, and then from Denver to Salt Lake. Getting there, we had no problems, and even had a long enough layover in Colorado to enjoy a sit-down meal. Going home, I think we all learned our lesson on discount airlines—you get what you pay for. The night before we were flying home, we received an email from Frontier alerting us of a blizzard warning in Denver. Being the anxious person that I am, I asked every Park City local I could if they thought the airport would close, and the consensus was no since Denver is used to so much snow. Long story short, the Denver airport ended up closing for the first time in ten years and our flight from Salt Lake to Denver, and later our flight from Denver to DC, was canceled. Because Frontier has a smaller fleet than many major airliners and focuses on limited areas of the country, they were unable to offer us a flight home until Friday and were not willing to put us up in hotels or offer food vouchers in the meantime. So we made the tough decision to take the Frontier refund and buck up $800 each to get home the day we planned. A girl’s gotta work y’all.
So in the future, I would definitely pay more money upfront to fly on a major airline so if there are weather issues, they can reroute you home through another city. Because all Frontier flights go through Denver, we were screwed as soon as the blizzard blipped onto the radar, and their customer service is subpar at best. Not to mention, all the add-ons really add up. That being said, the Orbitz deal was easy to find and understand. Had our flights not been canceled, it would have saved us a lot of money, so I’d definitely book through Orbitz again.
GETTING AROUND PARK CITY /
One thing we wish we had done was rent a car. We flew into Salt Lake City, and it was about a 40-minute drive from the airport to Park City. The drive itself is absolutely gorgeous, the cost, on the other hand, is not. When we landed, we called an Uber and it ended up being about $175 total. On the way back, we asked the hotel if they worked with any cab companies and found a $100 flat-rate fare. When you add in the cost of the ubers we took, it would have made financial sense for us to just rent a car.
That all being said, it is super easy to get around Park City. Our hotel actually had a free shuttle than ran until 10 pm and would take us to and from Main Street. If the shuttle was busy, it was never longer than a few minutes for an uber. Main Street, where many restaurants, shops, and bars are, is super walkable, and our resort was ski-in ski-out, which meant commuting to the slopes with our ski gear was a breeze.
WHERE TO STAY /
The reason we picked the aforementioned Orbitz Package was because we had priced out the same hotel we stayed in and flights we took, but discovered when we bundled them, we saved nearly $400.
Picking our housing was probably the hardest part of the trip, just because there were so many options in Park City and we weren’t super familiar with its geography. We initially looked at Airbnb and some non-resort hotels, but ultimately decided we liked The Lodge at Mountain Village. Besides the fact it was in our budget, it was right on Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), meaning all the ski lifts were right outside our door. We knew this would be a huge advantage, and we were able to take advantage of all the restaurants and shops at PCMR for the times we didn’t want to go to Main Street to eat. Our unit also had a full kitchen, which meant we could save some money on eating breakfast out by cooking at home. Even though it’s an older lodge, everything was super clean, there was free wifi, the views were gorgeous, and the staff was great.
Because H’s uncle works at the Montage Deer Valley, we were able to check that hotel out as well. Talk about a bucket list resort! It is absolutely gorgeous, has the best views, and has a lot of restaurants right on site, too. Part of the Montage is condos, and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank owns a whole floor. Ski season is peak season in Park City, so the Montage is much more affordable in the summer. Even if it’s a splurge for a night or a sunset dinner to enjoy the views, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone!
WHAT TO DO /
The obvious thing to do in Park City is to ski! We skied at both Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort, and I have nothing but great things to say about both. Snowboarding is also allowed at PCMR if that is more your speed. Both resorts have ski schools, gear rental on-site, and trails for all levels. Definitely buy your lift passes online ahead of your trip. Lift passes are always cheaper online, and during peak ski season, lift passes might sell out. In the summer, there are ample hiking trails, screen-on-the-green events, and festivals to take advantage of!
Since we were beginners, we only skied two of the days we were there as not to over do it. Thus, we had a lot of time to take advantage of everything else Park City has to offer. Since it’s a resort town, there’s definitely something for everyone. One of the highlights for us was taking the tour of the Utah Olympic Park in Park City. The hour-long guided tour was only $10, and we were able to see the top of the bobsled and luge tracks, the top of the tallest Nordic jumps, and the swimming pool which they use to practice jumps in the summer. There was also a museum on-site—it was nothing to write home about, but you could see some of the 2002 Olympic Medals up-close which was pretty cool.
And if all else fails, swimming at the hotel pool is always an option, and really helps with the soreness skiing causes! Most Park City pools are heated so you can use them year round, and all the hotels have hot tubs. I didn’t bring a bathing suit, and it was probably my biggest regret of the trip.
WHERE TO EAT /
For breakfast, we bought a bunch of bagels and coffee at the market at PCMR to save a few bucks on eating out. Not to mention, eating out gets old when you’re doing it for five days straight. That being said, Park City has no shortage of cute coffee shops if you don’t have an eat-in kitchen like we did.
For lunch, we opted to eat at the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe when we were skiing there, and when we were at PCMR, we ate at Baja Catina at base camp one day and skied up to a BBQ restaurant on-mountain another. We didn’t make any lunch reservations prior to our trip, and I don’t think you need to. Resorts are equipped to handle hundreds of patrons at lunch, and it’s easy to find restaurants right on the mountain or at base camp. Main Street is also less crowded during the day since there are so many people on the mountain, meaning its easier to get into restaurants there, too!
For dinner, I highly recommend getting your reservations in order before you depart for your trip, especially if you’re going during ski season. Nearly every Park City restaurant is on Open Table, so it’s easy to compare and figure out what restaurants have the best time slots for your party available. Our first night, we ate at The Eating Establishment on Main Street, which is the oldest restaurant in Park City. It would be a great place for kids or if you have picky eaters in your party, since they are one of those restaurants that does a lot of things well. That being said, if we did it again, I’d probably skip out on this place and opt for Handle, Zoom, or Fletcher’s instead. Our favorite place we ate on Main Street was Bodega on Main, an excellent Spanish-style tapas place. They had the best red sangria, and our crew shared five tapas and a paella. I’ve never left a restaurant so full before! Definitely don’t skip the patatas bravas or the brussels sprouts. If you want to branch out from Main Street, I’d recommend going up to Montage Deer Valley and eating at Burgers and Bourbon. I tried a bison burger a few years ago for the first time, but it’s definitely something you have to do when you’re in Utah and this is the place to do it! Don’t skip on the fry sampler—they have truffle aioli, sweet potato, and rosemary fries, and they are all delicious. They offer flights of local bourbon and have some of the best bartenders in town.
We never made it to El Chubasco, but it came highly recommended to us by everyone we talked to. Not only that, they offer takeout in case you just want a chill night in your hotel and a break from the restaurant scene.
WHERE TO DRINK /
Hands down, our favorite watering hole in Park City is No Name Saloon, located right on Main Street. You have to be 21 to enter, so this would not be a place to bring kids. They have plenty of televisions, and we watched many March madness games here. Don’t forget to check out the roof, which is completely heated, so it can be enjoyed year-round. We never tried them here, but they are known for their bison burgers.
Another must-drink-at for us was High West Distillery. They have three bars and a full-service restaurant, but they don’t take reservations. We arrived before 4 pm one day for happy hour and were able to snag seats at the bar, but if we went much later it would have been standing-room only. This is definitely a whiskey-lovers paradise, and fun for anyone who wants the true frontier experience.
If you’re planning a trip to Park City, and have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to reach out!