Park City has two distinct personas. The first, a legendary mountain town home to sunny, snowy slopes, apres ski locales, and a charming downtown with an energetic nightlife; the second, stage for one of the world’s most premiere film festivals, bustling with activity, celebrities, and art installations. Visitors who have been to Park City before will note a distinct difference in the town’s culture during the festival, which takes place this year January 18-28, 2018. The rustic buildings of Main Street change from cozy quiet cafes to experiential hot spots rented out by major brands in conjunction with artists to showcase something new and different the world hasn’t seen before.
The Sundance Film Festival is a unique experience and definitely worth the trip. Here are some insider tips you should know before your visit.
First things first: how to get tickets. The best place to go for film tickets is straight from the source, the Sundance Film Festival box office, which is conveniently online. You can purchase tickets in a variety of ways including passes, packages, or individual tickets. Passes are pricey, but you get priority access to all screenings and a credential that gets you into most Sundance events. A package will get you 10 tickets to films of your choice and access credentials that will get you into the ASCAP and BMI music cafes, the New Frontier art exhibit, and more. Then of course, there are individual tickets. They are available online, or if you’re in town, you can pick them up at the actual box office.
One thing the Los Angeles crowd brings with them to Sundance is traffic. Any local will tell you to avoid driving during Sundance at all costs. Luckily, Park City has a robust citywide bus system that is absolutely free to everyone, all the time. During the festival, the city beefs up on frequency and stops at each of the theater venues and Main Street, making getting around easy. In addition, travelers can use services like Uber to get rides around town.
The demand for lodging during Sundance skyrockets. Expect higher rates, especially in the Historic Downtown area. To save on your lodging, try staying in areas away from Main Street like Canyons Village, Park Meadows, or Silver Lake in Deer Valley. Each area is on the free citywide bus line, so you can still avoid driving in the bedlam.
Another pro-tip for lodging is planning your visit on the “back half” of Sundance. The festival lasts 10 days, but the first five are the busiest and most requested. During the last five days, you can still catch any of the films being screened, visit art venues, and likely have a better chance of getting into hot restaurants downtown. You’ll also find more availability when it comes to lodging, and oftentimes fewer restrictions on length of stay.
The locals know that Sundance is one of the best times to ski. Many festival-goers do not ski, so while the town is humming with activity, the slopes are wide open for the taking. You probably won’t hit lift lines, and you’ll often find you have the run to yourself. You may even share a chairlift with an incognito celeb who wants to get in a few runs before a film premiere!
Health & Comfort
Have you ever heard of altitude sickness? Depending on where you are in Park City, the elevation ranges between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above sea level. The key to preventing the malady that can come with these heights is to drink a ton of water. Start hydrating as soon as you get on the plane, and keep it up throughout your visit. If you’re skiing, try not to go to the very top of the peaks on your first run.
Sundance also brings people together from all over the world, which means the town attracts crowds. Wash your hands often, keep up on your vitamin C, and try to get enough sleep.
There also tends to be a lot of standing in line or waiting for buses outside in the cold during the festival, so pack a warm jacket, hat, and good shoes or boots with tread for navigating the snow and ice.
There are over 100 restaurants in the Park City area, and not all of them are on Main Street. You’ll have better luck getting into restaurants that are away from downtown. However, you should definitely download an app like OpenTable or call ahead to make your dinner reservations in advance if you can. Also, take advantage of the kitchen in your rental home to whip up leisurely meals with family and friends.
The secrets are out! Use these tips and you’ll navigate the festival like a local. Whether you’re a skier or film buff or a little bit of both, the Sundance Film Festival is an unforgettable experience.
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