Park City, Utah's Down-Season Thrills

by  Tommy Burson | Jul 7, 2014
Old Town Park City
Old Town Park City / Don Miller/iStock

Star-studded Olympic training and gravity-defying air shows, free public transportation and toasty weather without the humidity -- Park City sounds like a perfect summer destination, doesn't it? Still, tourists flock to the resort town in droves during the winter to ski the Rockies and leave by spring. Next time, we suggest lingering a while longer to enjoy the affordable thrills of summer. Here are four ways to enjoy the lively "down" season:

1. Consume the arts.
Robert Redford reserved Park City a spot among America’s top artsy cities when he helped form Sundance Film Festival in the heart of town. While this headliner even is held in January, Park City’s arts scene thrives throughout the year with an array of galleries like the newly renovated Park City Museum ($10 admission). Time your visit to the last Friday of the month, when the institutions keep later hours and invite guests to gallery hop, for free, from 6-9 p.m.

Museums aside, music is also huge in summer. For starters, there's the free Grand Valley Bank concert series at Deer Valley Resort, held every Wednesday. More no-cost music programs abound on Thursdays at Newpark and Saturdays at Canyons Resort. Through August 9, the ticketed Deer Valley Music Festival presents one of the season's premier events, bringing the Utah Symphony's soothing sounds to an outdoor amphitheater and surrounding green lawn. You might hear the symphony playing hits from U2 or performing alongside Kenny Rogers. Daily passes range from $18 to $42 depending on the performance.

2. Taste the mountains.
Populated with two breweries and one whiskey distillery, Park City’s food and beverage scene bursts with Rocky Mountain flavor (no Coors Light here). A summer must is the Park Silly Sunday Market, a free eco-friendly street festival filled with art, food, and music, taking place through September 21 on Historic Main Street. For the true foodie, the Grub Crawl August 16 discusses the country’s emerging food trends and ventures into the kitchens of Park City staples, including Wahso, Reef's, and The Sky Lodge. Tickets are scarce and currently can only be purchased through hotel packages -- but Park City Food Tours offers a similar summer experience for $65 with an equally delectable itinerary.

3. Explore the wilderness.
Considering that Park City is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and the reflective Mirror Lake, there's no better place to explore the wilderness. The region is home to more than 400 miles of hiking trails, waiting for active travelers at all fitness levels. These paths are generally free to meander, but you can also opt for a few enhanced experiences: An easy way to hike involves a quick ride up Silver Lake Express chairlift ($23), which takes visitors to grand views of the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains. Or try mountain biking as a viable substitute. Private tours, beginning at $70, traverse the Historic Union Pacific Trail and the Beaver Creek trail.

For an adrenaline rush, head over to Park City Mountain Resort, whose luge-like alpine slide clocks in at 3,000-feet-plus in length and features four different tracks for repeat fun. If you'd rather pretend you're flying, the alpine coaster zips you through loops and curves in two-person cars at up to 30 miles per hour, while the zip lines let you hang 110-feet-high over the resort's ski runs. Activities range from $7 to $20 each, with combo and day passes available.

Looking for less adventure and more relaxation? Hop into a hot spring in the Homestead Crater to enjoy a truly serene paddle board yoga experience (from $65, depending on group size), or become a cowboy for a day at Blue Sky Ranch -- where visitors learn horsemanship, ride through the Antelope Valley, herd cattle, and end with a taste of High West rye whiskey from the High West Distillery.

4. Enjoy luxury for less.
With fewer crowds, hotel prices drop -- and not just a little bit. To give you a taste of the deals to be had, Montage Deer Valley's rates fall about 60 percent from $845 during the winter season to $345. Both Park City Waldorf Astoria and Washington School House reduce their rates by well over $1,000 ($3,000 to $179 and $2,250 to $395 respectively). Nothing says "vacation" like luxurious digs, and now their yours to sink into for relatively tiny prices.

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