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Best Things To Do in Park City

AOL PICK from our Editors
The great outdoors is the main draw in Park City, but what activities you choose to engage in depends largely on the season of your visit. While hitting the slopes of one—or all—of Park City’s three major ski resorts is perhaps the most obvious choice during the winter months, ice skating, tubing and or even a sleigh ride might be a less conventional way to appreciate this winter wonderland. During the summer months, hiking and mountain biking are the big draws, but you can also enjoy outdoor concerts, take scenic gondola rides or maybe spend the day fishing in the local streams. Park City’s historic Main Street is a year-round attraction, though its restaurants, nightlife and shopping take on a different vibe at different times of the year. During January’s Sundance Film Festival you’ll find a hipster crowd while you’ll find a more arty scene in August during the Park City Kimball Art show.

Utah Olympic Park

Neighborhood: Kimball Junction
You probably saw this $100 million, world-class sports facility on TV during the 2002 Winter Olympics, as it played host to 14 events during the Games. Today, the year-round facility is an athletic training ground, open free to visitors who want to watch tomorrow’s Olympians get prepared to go for the gold—or try a little sporting of their own. Aspiring bobsledders can take a spin on the 70 mph track with a trained driver, or in the summer months, you can whiz down the ski jump via a pair of ziplines or zoom around a stainless steel Alpine slide.  However, if you just want to be a spectator, it’s fun to watch the freestyle aerial training practice, landing their stunts in the park’s splash pool. The center also houses the Joe Quinney Winter Sports Center, which provides an interactive journey that chronicles Utah’s ski history, as well as the 2002 Eccles Winter Olympic Museum, chronicling Park City’s Olympic experience.

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Swaner EcoCenter & Swaner Nature Preserve

Neighborhood: Kimball Junction
To really appreciate the true beauty of Park City, head to this 10,000-square-foot environmental and educational facility overlooking the 1,200-acre Swaner Nature Preserve. The EcoCenter has the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rating and puts a modern spin on educational exhibits, like its two-story interactive wetlands climbing wall, which represent the ascent from the soil to the top of cattail. As you climb, motion sensors set off the sounds of wildlife you might encounter at that level. Or make a different climb up the EcoCenter’s observation tower and hope for a glimpse of real wildlife in the preserve outside, like foxes, moose, elk and maybe even the elusive Columbia Spotted Frog. The nature preserve is a lovely place for a free, guided tour of the surrounding wetlands (reservations are required for Wed. 10am nature walks), or make a loop yourself on the Glenwild Loop Trail path. During the winter months, you may need to strap on snowshoes for the trek, but they are available for rental at nearby Summit Cycles and Snow.

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Swaner EcoCenter & Swaner Nature Preserve  

Park City Historical Society and Museum

Neighborhood: Park City Mountain Resort
Park City was once the Wild West, complete with stagecoach travel, a get-rich-quick mining industry and its share of good old-fashioned outlaws. This newly renovated museum offers a historical look at the town’s raucous past in a variety of exhibits, including an interactive glimpse at the town’s mining operations, a recreated jail cell, artifacts and photos from the ski resort’s early days and tales of its colorful settlers. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids between the ages of 7-17. Admission is free for children under the age of 7.

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Kimball Art Center

Neighborhood: Kimball Junction
Opened in 1976 in a former garage, this non-profit arts center serves as a cultural hub for Park City. There are three galleries featuring exhibitions by established national and international artists, as well as local up-and-comers. The space is also used as a community arts center, where adults and children can get creative at photography, ceramics, painting and jewelry-making classes. The center hosts monthly Art Talks, and each August presents the Park City Kimball Arts Festival, a juried show attracting artists from around the country. The annual three-day event, which attracts around 45,000 visitors, includes art exhibits, live music, cuisine-related activities, art-focused film screenings and an opening night fund-raising gala that draw out the city’s most prominent residents.

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Park City Mountain Resort

Neighborhood: Park City Mountain Resort
Park City Mountain Resort is where the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Olympic team often comes to train. We think that’s a pretty good endorsement for the quality of this 3,330-acres ski mountain, which is the oldest of Park City’s three ski resorts. You’ll see the resort’s chairlift as soon as you arrive in Park City, as it runs through the center of town. Park City Mountain is known for its diverse terrain, which includes 104 runs. Snowboarders will appreciate the chance to make like Shaun White and take a run down Eagle Superpipe, which was the site of the 2002 Olympics. If you’re not a skier, tubing, ice skating and sleigh rides give you every chance to take advantage of this snowy winterland. The slopes generally open from the end of November to mid-April. During the summer months, you can enjoy the mountain from the vantage point of its toboggan-like Alpine Slide, which twists and turns down the mountain along a 3,000-foot-long track. If you’re feeling really adventurous, hook in and zip down the mountain on a 110-feet-above-the-ground zipline or set out on 30 miles of dirt roads and single-track trails for hikers and mountain bikers.

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Deer Valley Mountain Resort

Neighborhood: Deer Valley
For skiers who curse the day they let snowboarders on the slopes, this swanky ski resort is for you. No snowboards are allowed on these exclusive trails, which are spread out over four mountains including 100 runs, 6 bowls and 21 lifts. Catering to the affluent snow bums and bunnies who like their trails impeccably groomed and serviced by ski valets and heated sidewalks, Deer Valley seems to be about more than just light, fluffy powder. There’s lots of schmoozing to be found on the lifts and over gourmet lunches. When it’s time for a little après ski time in the lodge, the people watching is fantastic. Deer Valley generally opens its slopes from early Dec. to early April. When the mountainsides are green, you can take the chair lift up to appreciate the scenery, or set out on one of more than 50 miles of trails for a lovely Alpine hike or mountain biking expedition. Deer Valley Music Festival, which takes place in July and August, features outdoor jazz, classical and popular music concerts.

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Sundance Film Festival

Neighborhood: Park City
For 10 days every winter, Park City becomes the epicenter of the independent film industry with this wildly successful Sundance Film Festival, featuring more than 200 dramatic, documentary and short films. Locals joke that it’s the time of year when PIB (people in black) descend on the mountain resort. Unless you are seriously connected, you’ll need to plan in advance to get screening tickets, which go on sale around the end of October / beginning of November. You’ll also need to figure out where you’re gonna stay pretty far in advance, too, as it’s almost impossible to find hotel vacancies during the festival. You may be able to get a little help by calling the festival’s lodging hotline (877- SFF-STAY), which was set up to help visitors find the most affordable housing available during the festival’s run. As far as getting in to the hundreds of parties and swag lounges, you’re on your own…but it might not hurt to wear something black.

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Eccles Center for the Performing Arts

Neighborhood: Kimball Junction
This performing arts center is Park City’s main major venue for touring musical artists, theater production and dance presentations. From “The Lion King” to the Utah Symphony to Willie Nelson, the 1,300-seat indoor theater is where visiting artists put on their show for Park City ticket holders. Attached to Park City High School, the center is also a hub for the Sundance Film Festival, which uses the venue for its bigger events. Not just for high-profile performances and events, though, the Eccles hosts community theater and such presentations as Pillow Theater, where families are encouraged to bring pillows, blankets and even favorite stuffed animals to kid-friendly performances by clowns, puppets and children’s singers.

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The Canyons

Neighborhood: Park City Outskirts
Located four miles north of historic Main Street, this 3,700-acre mountain resort is Park City’s largest, spread out over eight mountains.  Beginners will want to take it slow here, as only about 10 percent of the terrain is marked for skiing newbies. But with 17 lifts and 163 trails, there’s a powdery run for all levels, and snowboarders will appreciate the resort’s six natural halfpipes. An insider tip for skiers planning to hit The Canyons for more than one day: Purchase your multi-day lift tickets in advance through the Central Reservations Office (888-226-9667) and you’ll receive 10 percent off. Ski season runs late-November to mid-April. During the summer months, the mountain is open for hiking, mountain biking, weekly farmer’s markets and scenic gondola rides. There’s also an outdoor concert series in July and August, which unlike the Deer Valley concert series, is free.

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Park City Main Street Historic Walking Tour

Neighborhood: Park City Mountain Resort
Park City has a colorful history, filled with boomtown mining days, devastating fires and adventurous prospectors. To get your lay of the land and a little feel for the city’s lively past, pick up a Historic Walking Tour map at the Visitor Information Center (1826 W. Olympic Pkwy, Park City), and take a leisurely stroll for this self-guided tour. It will lead you to 45 buildings and historic sites and provide you with engaging anecdotes about many of the city’s landmarks that have managed to remain standing throughout the town’s more tumultuous times. During the summer months, the Park City Historical Society & Museum offers guided tours for $5, Mon.-Fri. at 2PM.

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