Sundance Like a Local in 5 Easy Steps

The Sundance Film Festival is about to unleash Hollywood levels of glitz and glamour into Park City, which will unfortunately be accompanied by major metropolitan area levels of crowds, exclusivity and general confusion/panic about where to find an affordable cup of coffee from January 23 to February 4. Ditch your FOMO at the door, people. Catch an arthouse film, gawk at freezing celebrities, take a few ski runs and get something to eat and drink without waiting all while avoiding Utah’s zany .05 BAC DUI laws! Sundance like a local this year.

Step 1. See a Weird Film Unless you planned ahead or are outrageously—let’s face it: you didn’t and you aren’t—you probably aren’t going to get into that future indie blockbuster with your favorite megastar. Don’t worry, that movie’s going to be on your streaming service of choice soon enough. Take the opportunity at Sundance to see something that’s truly independent, like an intensely metaphorical horror film or a heady documentary that leaves you tossing and turning at night while confronting your unearned privilege. Get back to the festival’s roots. These are the types of films Sundance was built on. Plus they’re much easier to get into, especially during the festival’s second week. Browse the NEXT, Short, Documentary and World Cinema sections to find a title that intrigues you.

Look how sad Jim Gaffigan looks in “Light from Light.” Now that’s some indie-movie magic.

Alternate Step 1: See your Weird Film in Salt Lake City Sundance has theaters beyond the claustrophobic confines of Main Street, and the venues in Salt Lake City are often far less crowded than their Park City counterparts. The Tower Theater, Broadway Theatre, The Grand Theatre at SLCC, Salt Lake City Library Theatre and Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center all offer an engaging festival atmosphere and are conveniently surrounded by fantastic restaurants like the Copper Onion and bars like The Beerhive that won’t be bursting at the seams with out-of-town film buffs dying to try the hors d’oeuvres at a quaint mountain hot spot.

Step 2: Go Mobile 

Get in line from your couch with eWaitlist

To get tickets for your weird film of choice, it helps to be technologically literate with a smartphone. Sundance uses eWaitlist to assign placeholders for tickets a couple hours prior to each screening, so download the app and have it teed up well before it’s go time. If you’re close enough to the virtual line you think you may get in, show up to the venue with cash in hand for a ticket. Download the Sundance App for festival info and to help choose which film is right for you.



Step 3: Never Drive Do not drive a car to the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. Public transportation in Park City is outstanding, and once you pass Canyons Village, you’ll never find a place to park. Fortunately, there’s an environmentally guilt-free electric express bus which runs every 10 minutes from Kimball Junction to Main Street and back with stops at Canyons Village and the A-Fresh Market. Public parking is free at Kimball Junction and Canyons Village and approximately $10 million per vehicle anywhere else. Local law enforcement is on the hunt for even slightly inebriated drivers, so ditch your vehicle and enjoy the free ride.

Step: 4: Go Skiing

There’s powder during Sundance too.

You can’t spend all day at the movies, especially when there are mountains right outside. Despite the crowds in town, Sundance is an excellent time to go skiing. The slopes are largely devoid of skiers as most visitors are in town for an artistic experience, and cold January temperatures make for the best version of that famous Utah snow. Ski all day and then check out a late night movie. It’s the best of both worlds.

Step 5: Avoid Lines and Covers 

Davanza’s: food, beer, cans all over the walls and no cover!

Main Street is largely unrecognizable during Sundance. Restaurants and stores get converted into temporary private clubs and your favorite dive bar will have an inexplicable $20 cover to get in. Forget that noise. Park City has wonderful dining and drink options outside of the immediate Main Street area in Prospector, Kimball Junction, and Pinebrook. The O’Shucks in Pinebrook has all the free-peanut-locals-only ambiance of the Main Street location with the addition of a sushi menu and the subtraction of a moody bouncer. If you eat early—I’m talking 5 p.m. early—you can get in many restaurants without much fuss. If you don’t want to vacate Main Street, grab a slice and a beer at Davanza’s or hit up the bar at Butcher’s for a drink and some appetizers. Both can be accessed from lower Park Ave by the ski bridge and in the past have served as safe havens for locals.

Tony Gill
Tony Gill
Tony Gill is the outdoor and Park City editor for Salt Lake Magazine and previously toiled as editor-in-chief of Telemark Skier Magazine. Most of his time ignoring emails is spent aboard an under-geared single-speed on the trails above his home.

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