No adventure goes entirely according to plan. That (and your attitude) is what makes it an adventure.
That’s the lesson I’ve taken from travels with my mom, Sheri. Our adventures include getting lost in South Carolina, finding tucked-away destinations in Hawaii, and traipsing through a drizzly New York City.
And adventure is what we did as we jetted off to Park City, Utah, for four days in August.
Less than an hour away from Salt Lake City International Airport, we arrived at our temporary home base: The Goldener Hirsch Inn. The modern architecture is literally married to old-world charm, as a skybridge connects newer units with the original building. In one part, we found ski storage that lit up as you walked by, while we found the other decked out with alpenhorns and an antler chandelier.
We immediately set out to explore.
“You think you know Park City, and then you get there and there’s all these hidden gems,” Megan Skiles with Visit Park City said.
And she’s right. We found everything from cute boutiques like Mary Jane’s, libation spots like No Name Saloon, and art galleries galore (Prospect Gallery was a favorite).
We got ourselves into a “Mine Trap” at Escape Room Park City. Solving puzzles across three rooms, we ‘dynamited’ our way out with 11 seconds to spare. I was particularly proud of snagging the key for an enormous old-timey padlock I’d eyed since we were locked in.
Then it was off to Riverhorse on Main for a delicious filet mignon (me) and macadamia nut-crusted Alaskan halibut (Sheri). I’m still dreaming about the goat cheese appetizers.
Day two started with a quick breakfast at Goldener Hirsch, followed by a stroll around the Deer Valley Resort property. Chairlifts abound across Park City, waiting to whisk you into the mountains. Adirondack chairs also abound – perfect for soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying a to-go latte.
Down the mountain, I tried Alpen + Hyde’s Massage’s deep tissue massage. Getting into a vacation is a lot easier when you don’t wince every time you move your neck to look at something cool.
In need of sustenance, we took in the locally sourced options at the lakeside Deer Valley Grocery~Café. I love when folks know how to utilize ingredients, and the café’s turkey panini perfectly paired crisp apple with gooey cheese for a lovely lunch.
Then it was back to home base for a quick swim. I was both nervous and excited to take a dip in the hot tub. Why? It’s perched six stories up on the Goldener Hirsch’s front, sporting a clear side wall so you can truly see you’re on the edge. It makes for a thrilling soak!
Adrenaline pumping, I joined the Friday Afternoon Club. Pairing nibbles, Alpine Distillery libations, ice cream, and tunes, the Goldener Hirsch’s seasonal event offered a great chance to unwind.
The main evening festivity was the Deer Valley Music Festival, which transformed the ski slopes into a concert venue for The Utah Symphony and The Beach Boys. It might sound like an odd combination, but it clicked as the Symphony played an overture of familiar songs, then joined the band as they swung into “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” and “Be True to Your School.”
From the concert, we could see a strange vehicle making an endless trek up and down the mountain. Our spirit of adventure led us to its base, where we discovered it was a funicular (a cable railway), and that it led to The St. Regis Deer Valley.
Naturally, where could we go but up? We checked out Park City from on high, then picked up a nightcap to cap off our night.
Day three saw us at The Eating Establishment, owned by actor Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” fame. We enjoyed French toast and a fruit-topped Belgian waffle before heading out onto Main Street for the 52nd Annual Kimball Arts Festival.
Filled with more than 200 jury-selected artists, this open-air celebration included everything from the gorgeous to the downright stunning.
“A lot of people like to support local artists,” Cary Henrie, of Bountiful, Utah, said when I paused to admire his metal art. “There’s a real trend toward mountain contemporary, where they want something with the flavor of the mountains, but something new as well.”
Wanting more art, we visited the Kimball Art Center, which holds the outdoor festival and its own rotating exhibitions. I was fond of Adrian Esparza’s works, which use unraveled sarapes for new creations.
We stopped for lunch at Twisted Fern. This chic little spot uses seasonal ingredients. It was also where I tried my first crispy chickpeas, which make a tasty appetizer.
Park City Mountain Resort was our next stop. Summer offerings include a scenic chairlift ride, biking, ziplines, and a mountain coaster.
We started off on the chairlift, taking in the mountain air and making a game out of spotting the various black diamond runs that will soon be covered in snow. Rustling aspens wove beautifully soft melodies with the swaying chairlift as we peacefully ascended our way to the top. Once we had our fill of gorgeous panoramic views, we headed back down.
Something that caught my eye from the chairlift was the Alpine Slide (one of the longest slides in the world). Sheri and I hopped back on the chairlift, ready for more fun. Grabbing our bright yellow sliding sleds, we picked the “Last Chance” track, one of four paths down the mountain. You set the ride speed as you push your control stick forward, or pull back to brake. I whipped down so fast I had tears in my eyes, while Sheri had time to admire a whistle pig gamboling by the track.
Deciding we needed a pre-dinner cocktail, we dropped by Alpine Distilling’s Pie Bar. In its speakeasy atmosphere, we sampled pie-and-cocktail pairings. My favorite was Preserve Liqueur: a blood orange, black tea, raspberry, lemon balm, and ginger spirit.
From there, we cruised our way through the Arts Festival to reach our final dinner location: Nelson Cottage by High West.
The cozy atmosphere inside made the cool evening feel pleasantly warm. Although, to be fair, that might have been the whiskey paired with our prix fixe meal. Each plate offered new tastes like squash blossoms and sweet corn gougere, along with favorites like New York strip steak. Each new whiskey was stronger than its predecessor, and watching other diners react to every sip was a hoot.
Then it was on to our final day, which meant brunch. I have a deep and abiding love of brunch. No early wakeup calls, you can eat breakfast or start on lunch, and mimosas are a given. For our brunch, we snagged reservations to the Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley’s Glitretind. The elegant buffet offered a bevy of choux swans, elegantly plated fruit platters, an omelet bar, and more. My food dreams now include chocolate raspberry macarons and maple bacon.
From brunch, it was straight to the airport, where we spent just a moment admiring the new terminal before hopping a plane back home.
Another successful adventure in the books for the Gray girls, and one I’d love to repeat.
Top Three Trip Tidbits
1. Food: Foodies rejoice! There’s plenty of savory and sweet things to nosh on in Park City. Plus, the dress code everywhere seemed casual, with restaurant patrons sporting everything from shorts to suit coats.
2. Altitude: Our trip motto was “It’s the altitude!” (Said often when we were huffing and puffing our way uphill.) If you’re not used to hiking around so high above sea level, drink lots of water and rest when you need it.
3. Activities: Whether you’re the active type or the mosey-around type, you’re set. For explorers, there’s hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddleboarding, and other excursions to tackle. For the relaxing vacationer, check out Park City Museum, take in an art gallery, or spend time spotting historic details from the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.