Before the littlest of our kids, Dan and I used to go snowboarding on the West Coast regularly. We’ve been to several resorts, but Park City, Utah, was one of the most memorable. We loved the bohemian feel of the town and the surreal snow that Utah offers skiers and snowboarders.
Here’s our perfect itinerary of things to do in Park City that your entire family is sure to love.
FLY OUT ON A WEDNESDAY
I certainly can’t guarantee a Wednesday fly-out will be better for you financially, but after months of playing with dates and combinations in the Delta reservation portal, a Wednesday flight date saved us hundreds of dollars. So much in fact, that it was significantly cheaper for us to get an extra day of hotel, rental car and meals than it would be to push closer to the weekend.
I packed in the morning, and we left before lunch. With the time change, we landed in Salt Lake City with plenty of time to grab our luggage and rental car before heading to dinner.
The SLC airport is small (only two terminals) and easy to navigate. The car rental company and cars are right on site.
Before heading for Park City (about a 45 min drive), we stopped for dinner at Red Iguana 2. I highly recommend it! The mole is out of this world. Expect to wait a bit (grab a seat at the bar if you can), but you won’t regret it. You’re in the west – eat some authentic Mexican cuisine, won’t ya?
Before you leave, take a picture with the red iguana in the parking lot – one of Salt Lake’s most Instagrammed spots. And from here, you have only about a 30 minutes drive.
There are a number of places to stay, but we are partial to Hyatt Centric Park City. So check in, give your skis to the valet, don your swimsuit for the heated pool and relax. A big vacation awaits!
Another tip! We’ve made snowboarding a lifestyle, but before we owned our equipment, Ski Butlers was our ski (and boarding) rental service of choice. These guys deliver to your hotel or condo – and pick up- for only a few dollars more than the jam-packed shops just down the road. And the equipment? Best in the business! Check out Ski Butlers on your next vacation!
SCHEDULE LESSONS ON THURSDAY
Wake up, stretch, and then head downstairs for a HUGE buffet. You’re going to need your energy. The breakfast buffet at Hyatt Centric is diverse, delicious and affordable.
Hopefully you read our logistics post about skiing and snowboarding with kids and you know the value of a good all-day lesson. You scheduled this ahead of time, too, right? Park City Mountain Resort is known for being the top ski and snowboard school in the state. Don’t take any chances – sign up as early as possible.
Head down and get them checked in…you’ll need to sign a few papers, get them fitted in their gear, and hug them bye until about 3pm.
Love this First Timer’s Guide to Park City from our friends at Trips with Tykes!
Now it’s time for YOU to explore. Park City Mountain is one of the country’s largest ski resorts, sitting grandly in Utah’s Wasatch Mountain Range.
For lunch, head to what is arguably the best place for lunch in Park City…Cloud Dine. You’ll need the fries and a donut… both are required for newbies. If you’re hungry, add a freshly made pizza from the wood burning oven. Get there via the DreamCatcher or Dreamscape lift. You’ll need to be able to tackle a blue slope for this, so it’s best to do without the kiddos.
After you pick up the kids, head back to the hotel to enjoy complimentary apres ski snacks in the main dining area of the hotel before dinner. That little hold-me-over allows you to take your time back in the room relaxing before grabbing your main meal.
For dinner, head down the mountain toward town. I know…you’re tired. Just do it. Versante is absolutely worth the effort. It’s connected to a hotel, but don’t let that turn you off. It’s delicious…and all the locals are here. I recommend reservations.
The cocktails are outstanding; we loved the Old Town Fashioned (but you know we always love the whiskey drink). The pizzas looks awesome, but we went for the special and could not have been happier. Chicken parm that I still have sweet dreams about! The boys loved their burger and pasta…and we finished with an amazing dessert and a HOT White Russian.
Alternative: Woodward Park City is a really fun alternative for kids who want to learn to “carve” (or advanced snow bums looking to get even better). It is the perfect launching pad for beginner skiers and snowboarders, whether kids, overgrown adult children or anyone in between. The benefits of convenience is difficult to overstate for any beginning skier or snowboarder, and Woodward’s 3-Hour Ski and Snowboard Lesson Packages are an unbeatable value.
RIDE AS A FAMILY ON FRIDAY
It’s your second day, and time to board with the kids. You’ll want to get them full-day lift tickets for this day, but don’t forget to plan for this before you head to Utah. Tickets purchased online and 7 days (or more) in advance will be the most affordable.
Get started with a great breakfast in Canyons Village. Murdock’s Cafe is popular…but that became obvious as we approached a long line. We headed a few doors down to Draft’s Burger Bar and loved it. No wait…sit-down service…and the bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns kept us satisfied until after the lunch rush.
If this is a first or second time for the kids, then just plan to take it slow. We spent all our time prior to lunch on the “bunny slope” — Sweet Pea. It’s at the top of the Red Pine Gondola, just to the right. It includes a gentle slope and magic carpet (uphill conveyor belt). This particular area is not just for people taking lessons; you’re free to use it as much as you want.
I also like it because it is close to the Red Pine dining area, so we were able to run to the restroom or take a hot-chocolate break with ease.
For lunch, we made our way back down the mountain to The Farm. The food here was superb, and we loved it so much that we ate here a few times on our trip (something I never do). The grilled cheese and tomato soup …it sounds simple and childish, but it was divine! Gourmet, in fact. And it truly hit the spot after being in the snow all day.
After lunch, the boys felt confident enough to try the super easy green lift back at the top of the gondola. They had tried it a time to two during their lesson the previous day, but needed the morning to build some confidence. I was so proud of them!
We boarded until the slopes closed, eating up every moment in the snow that we could!
After returning to the hotel room, we donned our swimsuits and headed to the pool. Yes, it’s an outdoor pool…and it was snowing…but the pool and the hot tubs (yes – there are two!) were warm and inviting. It was the perfect end to a great day.
But wait – the kids are going to be starving at this point…time for dinner. Use the shuttle and head to Wasatch Brew Pub. Pizza, burgers, steak – you can’t go wrong here. The kids loved the tater tots and the Bavarian pretzel (a theme we saw in most restaurants we visited.)
If you love beer, you have to plan an extended stay. The owner, Greg Schirf, hails from Milwaukee and brought their great natural resource (beer!) to Utah in the late 80s. Wasatch was the very first brewery in Utah, and he opened the first brewpub on Main Street. This man deserves all the gratitude.
Tasters are only 50 cents…you can try the Wasatch, the Snap Down, the Jalapeño Cream Ale. WOW! I’m a Porter girl, so I loved Polygamy – a Porter on Nitro. YUM!
REST AND EXPLORE ON SATURDAY
Get out of bed you sleepy head! Your muscles might be a little sore, but it’s time to get a move on.
Head to Historic Main Street for breakfast. There is something for every taste and budget.
At 10am the Park City Museum will open – be sure to take the tour. I’m just going to be honest here – it doesn’t sound like it will be fun…but it is! The boys loved it.
You start with a “ride” on a train, then head downstairs where you should not miss the ski subway. This was my favorite story…Park City began as a mining town, and only settled into its ski resort status a short time ago, relatively speaking. In the beginning, skiers were taken to the tops of mountains via a “subway” and “elevator” that utilized the old mining tunnels. You can sit inside one of these transports and get a feel for how it must have been.
Other interactive exhibits include a history of skiing in the area (loved seeing the evolution of skis), information on mining, and a really cool model of what happens underground, a general store model, a history of the Sundance Film Festival and so much more.
Kids will also enjoy the Park City History Detectives activity hunt. If they don’t offer it, just ask the front desk.
Once you’re done, explore the other incredible stores along Main Street. We adored the art galleries. I wish we had had time for a stop at Kimball Art Center – you’ll want to visit if you can fit it in. They are an amazing institution dedicated to art education, but they also bring exhibits to the community on a regular basis. In fact, in August they sponsor the Kimball Arts Festival on Main Street. It’s HUGE and wonderful: 200+ artists, live music and great fun for the family.
GRAB FOOD & DRINKS AT HIGH WEST DISTILLERY AND SALOON
With all the fun, it’s time to fill your belly. Head over to lunch at High West Distillery and Saloon. This was such a fun treat for everyone. The food was dynamite, and we loved the ambiance – and the drinks!
Dan and I enjoyed a cocktail while the boys chatted over appys – popcorn, a Bavarian pretzel and a charcuterie board. Yes, we were still amped up and starving from all the skiing yesterday.
So let’s discuss those cocktails. High West is known for their premium, top-shelf spirits – and boy are they good. I’m partial to the Double Rye and the Bourbon – and honestly, I ordered the Rye at almost every restaurant we visited during our stay. It was divine…and I learned recently that it’s also available here in Georgia.
While you are there, order a flight so that you can sample the wares…but then grab a cocktail, too. The Marooned Miner was my favorite – Double Rye, Plantation Rum, Crème de Cacao and Blueberry Cardamom Bitters. You’ll only need one. Trust me.
Pro tip: We were so excited to take a distillery tour, but they were completely booked! Bummer. Don’t make our mistake…you can make tour reservations before hand, and you’ll want to!
Ok – let’s not leave without talking about the food. This isn’t “bar food” friend…this is gourmet and delicious! Let me tell you the best bite we had: Braised Bison Short Rib. OMG. It was sitting on a corn and sweet pepper goulash…I can still taste every mouth-watering bite. If you are not super hungry, add a side of cheddar, bacon and jalapeno mac n cheese…and then split both between two people.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN PARK CITY
The Olympic Park includes ropes courses (all levels,) tours, and an exciting splurge for older kids – a bobsled ride! You might also be interested in the ski jumping here if you are visiting in the off-season.
The Alf Engen Ski Museum celebrates the art of skiing, especially in Utah. I love the “Peak Conditions” display that explains how weather created this amazing American ski location, the science of snowflakes, and the virtual ski experience ride.
Before it got dark, we also took in Woodward Park City, formerly Gorgoza Park, for the kids. There are tubing hills ( a little smaller than those at Snow Mountain), a toddler area and…what brought us here…snowmobiling for kids. It was really fun, and I’d recommend it if you just had an hour and wanted to try it out. The boys LOVED it!
BUT…of you have time, this is ideal. Take the 2-hour tour with Thousand Peaks. It will be tricky if you have more than 2 young kids, but for us…one driver and one kid on the back works perfectly.
Time for dinner. We loved the pizza pie and casual, family-friendly ambiance at Main Street Pizza & Noodle. A pizza and beer round out the day perfectly (even the boys had beer…root beer)!
SNOW PLAY AGAIN ON SUNDAY
It’s your last full day of fun…no matter where you spend it, make sure it’s on the slopes. We opted to check out of Hyatt Centric and head to Solitude Mountain (staying at the bottom of the mountain at Hyatt Place Salt Lake City).
You could, of course, add a day to Park City Mountain. If you ski then round out your trip at Deer Valley Resort. It’s in Park City also, so it gives you an opportunity to try another mountain without the extra hour of driving to get to Solitude (though the scenic drive is amazing)!
Deer Valley does not allow snowboarders, so we were out. Honestly, I’ve boarded my whole life and have never donned a pair of skis…so this didn’t work for us. If you do ski, then this is a great place for families.
Another way to get out in the snow without being on the slopes is to head out for some winter horseback riding. Rocky Mountain Outfitters offers winter riding options in Soldier Mountain (as of this writing, they are the only outfitter to offer winter riding).
If you prefer to explore the area on foot, then consider heading out on one of Park City’s amazing winter hiking trails. Throw on some snow shoes or nordic skis for a true winter experience. Here is a link to some of the most popular locations.
One final option for kids that might not be anxious to get back on their skis (or if you only want to purchase a half-day lift ticket): The Alpine Coaster! The mountain coaster cars sit on an elevated track, with loops, curves and turns taking you through the snow. You can reach over 30mph on this amazing alpine slide!!
After all those thrills, it’s time to call it a day. We at dinner in SLC at Porcupine Pub & Grill (delicious)! Then a soak in the hot tub and an hour spent drying clothes and packing up ended our whirlwind adventure!
Again, the best financial situation for us was flying out early Monday morning. We were back to Atlanta before dinner – all smiles!
We hope we’ve convinced you to visit Park City for your next ski vacation, but if you’re still undecided then keep reading. We’ve got the scoop on WHY Park City is the best option and how to pinch a penny when you come.
WHY TO SKI IN PARK CITY
- It’s Fast and Affordable. Salt Lake City is only 35 minutes from the ski resorts, and the airport there is another Delta hub. That means you’ll find frequent, affordable direct flights on a regular basis. Total win!
- It’s Family-Friendly. Park City and the surrounding ski resorts are exceptionally friendly – it’s just part of their culture. You’ll find family-friendly lodging and dining, ski and snowboard schools, plus TONS of exciting things to do in Park City.
I’m very excited to ride the scenic railroad, try out kids’ snowmobiles, visit the Olympic Park, take on dog sledding (what?!? how cool!) and even bobsledding! And that’s just winter…there are even more amazing things to do when the snow melts!
- It’s Easy For Beginners. Yes, there are ski schools for both kids and adults. But here is what I love – the snow! There is just something special about the Utah snow…it is exceptionally soft and forgiving. This means that young kids (and grandparents) can feel a little more confident about getting on skis. Teens and adults can also push themselves a little harder, knowing there is a cushion (not an ice block) to catch their fall.
BEST TIMING TIPS FOR AN AFFORDABLE VACATION
Anytime you can head west and play in the snow or climb the mountains, it’s a good day – right? But here are some tips we pried from Visit Park City that can help make your vacation memorable and affordable.
- Come Early. Ski season begins mid-November, but most families are not going to be hitting the slopes until after Thanksgiving. If you want to avoid the crowds, then come early in the season. In fact, consider ending your vacation over Thanksgiving, when Park City provides some great resources for celebrating the holiday (including multi-family lodging!)
- Avoid Christmas. I know- you want snow on Christmas. So does everyone else! Christmas is the peak time for Utah’s resorts, and consequently, it is the most expensive. Unless you love hitting the slopes with half the western coast for peak prices, then give the gift of a ski vacation…just don’t take it until later in the season.
- Avoid Sundance Film Festival Week. For 10 days in January, the rich and famous head to Park City for this world-famous film festival. Granted, the slopes are usually desolate…but hotels and more are priced for the luxury traveler. Need the scoop on which days to avoid? Check out info on their website here.
- Come Late. In late season, the crowds begin to thin out, but the snow is still great. In fact, you can sometimes ski in March with short sleeves (that’s what we want to do!) Prices also go down during this time, so you’ll get the best bang for your ski-vacation buck. Plan for late February to mid-March for the best prices.
- Don’t Skip Summer. Don’t forget that affordable and easy flights are available all year round, and there is SO MUCH to do in Park City during the warm months, too. Hiking, mountain biking, zip-lining, paddle boarding…it’s endless…the breathtaking views at every turn!
- Come Back In Fall. Autumn in Park City happens much earlier than here in Georgia, so a short trip west is great way to escape the end-of-summer heat and humidity. Once the kids are settled into school, leave them with the grandparents and take a couples’ vacation.
Because of the elevation, the leaves change colors in September. Plan your trip right, and you can see one of country’s rarest and most beautiful weather phenomena – brightly colored foliage covered in a blanket of the season’s first snowfall. Enjoy sweaters, scarfs, pumpkin lattes and blue-ribbon fly fishing.
Rates are low during the Fall and Spring ‘shoulder’ seasons, even though the vistas are breathtaking…it’s a little-known local’s secret (and you heard it here!)
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO UTAH
- YOUR UTAH VACATION
- SLC: 20 Fantastic Things To Do In Salt Lake City
- UTAH NPS: Utah National Parks Road Trip
- ZEBRA SLOTS: How to Hike the Beautiful Zebra Slot Canyon with Assurance
- UTAH ROAD TRIP: All 5 Utah National Parks & More
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