In a few short days, Park City becomes, arguably, one of the coolest and most talked about places in the entertainment world. Lucky are those of us who get to live here, but even longtime locals can use a few refreshers on how to enjoy this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Here are Sundance tips for locals–or for tourists who want the local experience.
10 Sundance Tips for Locals
No tickets? No problem! There are a number of ways to catch a film or two, even if you’ve missed the locals’ ticket sales window.
First, check to see if tickets for the screening you’re interested in are available by clicking here. And don’t discount theaters in Salt Lake, Ogden and at Sundance Resort, especially if a screening is a premiere, which typically indicates the screenwriter, director and/or cast will be there for the Q & A.
If the film you’re looking for is sold out, you can still swing by the Main Box Office in The Gateway at the corner of Swede Alley and Heber Avenue in Old Town. At 8 a.m. each morning, a limited number of tickets are released for that day’s screenings. The waitlist option has also come a long way over the past few years, with the welcome transition to an electronic eWaitlist opening two hours prior to the selected show time. Gone are the days of waiting for hours in the bitter cold, only to be turned away because all of the waitlist tickets have already been handed out.
There are still a few pass options available, including the Grand Theatre Pass for $300, which provides access to all screenings at the Grand Theatre at Salt Lake Community College on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the festival. The Grand is located just 20 minutes from Park City on State Street in SLC, so this could be a fun option for true fans of film. Also available for the second half of the Festival – Jan. 27-31 – are the Eccles Theatre 2nd Half Pass for $1,500, and the 2nd Half Express Pass for $3,000, which gets you access to all screenings at all locations (pretty sweet deal).
To Bring or Not to Bring? (This Should Answer the Question)
As a general rule of thumb, nothing brought in from the outside world is permitted in the theaters other than water. This is especially true of the Eccles Theatre, where volunteers will confiscate that $7 venti non-fat soy half-caff in a heartbeat. Build in time prior to screenings to nosh at theaters offering bites to eat, but know that a refillable water bottle is your best bet.
Of all the Sundance tips for locals, the cardinal guideline is don’t drive. The best way to get around town is on foot or via city bus. End of discussion. There is NO parking by the theatres for regular folks, and Main Street’s completely blocked off, unless you want to pay through the nose to park in Main Street’s China Bridge parking structure (provided spots are available).
Take a breath and take the bus – it’s running later than ever, and you can plan your route via the Bus Tracker on Park City Municipal’s site. Fat tire bikes are also making their debut this winter at Sundance. Call White Pine Touring for rental information.
Just as the real estate adage of “location, location, location” remains relevant, so does the local recommendation of “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.” Since Park City’s a high mountain desert, water is your friend, so drink your customary 64 ounces, then add a few for good measure. With millions of germs also coming to visit, be sure to keep that pocket-sized hand sanitizer with you at all times, and incorporate Emergen-C into your daily diet.
To Ski or Not to Ski
Locals know that the ski area are practically deserted during the Festival, making it the best time to hit the slopes while the town’s visitors are cozily ensconced in theaters while you’re getting in first tracks. If it’s a powder day, call in with the legendary Wasatch Flu and remember – there are no friends on a powder day. Given our recent snowfall and 10-day forecast, this is my best bet!
Though many restaurants are rented out by private companies during the festival, most parties don’t start until late in the evening, so early reservations are often available. Suddenly, a 5:30 p.m. booking can seem appealing as long as you’ve got a seat somewhere on Main Street. Lunchtime is also a great time to get into the hottest spots, and be sure to download the OpenTable.com app for use as your own personal concierge.
Do not discount dining in areas away from Old Town. Easy access to Prospector Square means El Chubaso, Este, Fuego or Sammy’s Bistro, while Kimball Junction offers Shabu Shabu House, Sushi Blue and Maxwell’s East Coast Eatery. Furthermore, some of Park City’s most celebrated restaurants – including Blind Dog Restaurant & Sushi (Kearns Boulevard), The Farm (Canyons Base Village) and Silver Star Café (Thaynes Canyon) are all a few miles from Main Street, but absolutely worth the effort. Check out info on these restaurants, plus a host of others, at the Park City Chamber’s site.
Catching the first, or premiere, screening of a film is one of the best bets for star gazing, as this is when the Q & A with cast and crew typically goes down. Wandering Main Street also provides opportunities for spotting celebrities, as does visiting the many product lounges set up throughout Old Town. But don’t take our word for it – check out this informative piece recently published in Huffington Post.
Taking in the Music (and other free activities)
While the Sundance ASCAP Music Café is only open to credential holders ages 21 and older (though absolutely worth it if you do, in fact, have a credential), the Salt Lake City Festival Café at Sicilia Pizza Kitchen (35 W. Broadway in downtown SLC) is free and open to the public daily.
Other sponsor venues and activities are available – including the Live at The Montage Music Series, SundanceTV HQ, Chase Sapphire on Main and LUNA Lounge – are open to all, though some require RSVPs. Learn more here.
Anyone who’s been to even a handful of Sundance films knows the content can be – ahem – questionable for anyone aged 18 or younger. That’s why the Festival has identified the films selected for its Student Screening Program as those appropriate for broader audiences. Of course, no one (and I mean NO ONE) is looking forward to sharing their intimate film-going experience with little kids, so keep in mind that these are considered OK for middle and high school students:
- How to Let Go of the World (and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change)
- Life, Animated
- Little Gangster
- Maya Angelou and Still I Rise
- Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall
- Notes on Blindness
- Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny
- The Eagle Huntress
- The Fits
What to Wear
Back in the day (i.e. the ‘90s), before Sorels (not the current, cute incarnation) and UGGs were fashion staples, locals would watch Sundance visitors from L.A. and New York slip and slide down Main Street in stilettos, chuckling at their lack of preparation for the inevitable snow and slush. These days, the rule of thumb is simple – wear something filled with down (not the color black if you’re a local), put on a hat and make sure your soles have treads. Sunglasses for the blue-sky glare, along with layers to account for minus-4-degree weather at 7 a.m. transitioning to 40-degrees and sunny at 4 p.m., are also de rigueur.
No matter your take on Sundance – pro, con, lover or hater – it’s part-and-parcel to living in Park City, and one of the reasons our quaint mountain town is on the international map. This translates to increased property values, and is yet one more reason to Choose Park City, whether as a second homeowner, or as someone who realizes there truly is no place like this town to call “home.”