By mid-summer of 2018, I couldn’t ignore the itch to head West much longer. I had been to some of the surrounding areas, places I couldn’t get out of my head for their vastness and beauty, but never Utah itself. It remained a bucket list item to cross off, so I made the plans and hastily packed my bags. However, without having experiencing the state, I wasn’t entirely sure that I knew what to expect as I boarded the plane out of Charlotte-Douglas to Park City, Utah.
A short plane ride later, and I could already begin to see just how unique this area was: Our flight path took us directly over Salt Lake with the ridges of the Wasatch range in the distance. Breathtaking, just like my other experiences in this region of the country
I disembarked from the plane, quickly grabbed my bags, and then heard someone call out my name. Although we had never met, my Park City host Dan Howard recognized me nearly immediately. How’s that for hospitality?
With all my things in tow, we headed out of the airport and to his car — a convertible with the top rolled invitingly down. It was warmer than expected, and what better way to soak in a new scene. As we drove the short 45 minutes to Park City, talking and taking in the views, I was impressed, to say the least, with the wide open spaces in high summer time.
Upon arrival, I checked into my home base for the next few nights, the Newpark Resort. It’s a beautiful new boutique hotel in the up-and-coming Newpark area, sitting on the fringe of Park City and poised at the edge of the scenic 1,200-acre Swaner Nature Preserve and Ecocenter.
Newpark Resort is a blend of luxury and hominess, with stunning large suites that feature hot tubs, heated floors, full kitchens, and gorgeous balconies overlooking the preserve. The room was rustic, with an appropriately mountain-y vibe. The hotel boasts all the amenities, including an indoor-to-outdoor modern pool and full gym, all with their sustainable/eco-friendly philosophy.
From the moment I touched down, the Park City team had a full itinerary planned for us; our group of travelers congregated to find out what was in store. The plans for the next few days were split into two main categories: activities and eating and drinking. Here are some of my very favorite experiences and eats, and the ones that I’d highly recommend to any Park City, Utah traveler.
Outdoor Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley Resort: This summer-long program includes Disney in Concert and a picnic supper under the stars. It’s family friendly and easy to attend, making it an entertaining way to spend an evening outdoors.
The Dejoria Center: This beautiful event venue and conference center in the Uinta foothills includes the Park City Horse Experience’s horse meditation. It was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had ever: Seated in a circle, we practiced our breathing and meditation with horses with the renowned Alejandra Lara.
Provo River fly fishing: This was an opportunity to catch some truly stunning trout in the great wide open. Wading and searching for small rainbows in beautiful riffles of the middle section of the Provo, with the expanse of foothills and mountains in the distance, was an unforgettable way to see the nature of this state.
The Oakley Rodeo: This is a Western experience you practically have to take advantage of: Oakley is a small town rodeo packed with attendees. Set against a beautiful sunset, we took in some crazy-fun, authentic bull and horse riding. It’s a nail-biter of an evening, but so worth it.
High West Distillery: Take a tour of their facility and imbibe in a bourbon, rye, and whiskey tasting. The bourbon was my personal favorite at this world-class facility with epic views.
Park City Farmers Market: This was one of the most unexpected treats of my trip: The downtown market is huge, filled with people shopping, eating, and catching up. You can get the freshest fruits and vegetables to bring home, or eat lunch at one of the many food trucks and vendors.
Mines and Wines: Learn about the history of Park City while you explore the various mines in the area and sample wines. With wonderful, knowledgeable hosts leading the tour, this is a different but great way to learn about the town.
Park City Mountain Chair Lifts: Ride up through the Aspen trees to the top of the mountain and take in the incomparable views.
Where to eat/drink
The Spur Bar & Grill: The Spur Bar and Grill offers delicious, quick food, like the classic “Spur Burger” and their beloved brick oven pizza. Their signature cocktails are all made from only local spirits. The Spur offers live music every night, with genres ranging from rock, country, celtic, folk, bluegrass, cover bands, and blues to singer/songwriters.
Bridge Cafe and Grill: The Bridge Cafe & Grill serves American food with a Brazilian Flair. Located directly at the bottom of the Town Lift on Main Street, it has one of Park City’s best patios for spectacular outdoor dining. You can ski-in to the front door in the winter, or hop on the Town Lift for a scenic after-dinner chairlift ride in the summer.
The Eating Establishment: Opened in 1972, The Eating Establishment is a beloved diner, part of the town for three generations of locals and visitors to Park City. In 2017, it was purchased by a small group of locals who spruced it up a bit and added a bar. Under the guidance of chef Brendan Kawakami, the menu preserves the original spirit of a “breakfast all day” restaurant while adding a few new comfort food elements.
No Name Saloon: One of Park City’s most popular bar and grills, No Name is a casual spot with a year-round heated rooftop. They’re also home to their world-famous buffalo burger.
Woodland Biscuit Company: The go-to spot for breakfast, Woodland dishes up delicious takes on the classic Southern biscuit. It’s a quirky, homey little spot, and the waitress who graciously brought us our food was, no lie, named “Chicken.”
In this unexpected small mountain town, I was greeted with open arms and smiles at nearly every turn. It was a trip that allowed for a lot: We were able to enjoy the outdoors and the warm weather while eating biscuits and gravy, going to the farmer’s market, sipping on bourbon, fishing for trout, and learning about wildlife and livestock.
Park City, you might be far from the South, but y’all sure know how to make someone feel right at home.