Saturday, August 23, 2008

Foraging for Culture in Park City, Utah

By Guest Blogger Jessica McCleary

Note: This is the third installment in a series of posts by OTPYG Guest Blogger Jessica McCleary. Read her first and second post. She'll be sharing her firsthand experiences with moving to small town America in April 2008. How is the relationship faring? Stay tuned!

For anyone from a big city like LA, New York or San Francisco, any other city seems like a cultural wasteland.

To be fair, culture was only about half way up my list in terms of must-haves for a new city. But that is slowly changing here in Utah. What I’ve found is an amazing offering. Major concert acts stop here and the best part is that you can actually buy tickets because there aren’t 5 million people trying to get into the same venue. Deer Valley has a Utah Symphony Series in the summer in the outdoor amphitheatre. They also sponsor free concerts every Wednesday with a few thousand people in attendance. On top of that, there are free concerts in Park City almost every night during the summer.

One of my favorite bars in town, The Spur has great musical acts every weekend. Last weekend I saw Band of Heathens, who just won the South by Southwest award for best new band. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Park City Kimball Arts Festival – one of the biggest arts fests in the US. Not only was Main Street packed with booths, but there were three musical stages too. I’ve been to my fair share of so-called “Arts Fests” over the years and have found that it is usually a forum to sell a bunch of junk. But this fest featured genuine gallery-quality art. Here's a shot of the street scene at the arts fest.

Of course, the headliner is the Sundance Film Festival in January, which more than 45,000 people attend each year. Having premiered over 700 independent films since its inception, Sundance is considered the primary incubator of new and upcoming film talent in the US and abroad. Sundance films are shown year-round, usually for free at different locations.

Since Park City is a resort town, there is a vibrant social scene with restaurants that rival the best of San Francisco. Robert Redford owns a restaurant on Main Street, and it is one of the places to see and be seen during the film fest. The menu prices on Main Street equal San Francisco’s top spots, and while there aren’t as many restaurants of course, the ones that are here are all really good. So far, I’ve enjoyed fabulous Southwestern, French, pan-Asian and Japanese cuisine, as well as great steaks. The wine lists are fairly decent—not the variety that I am used to in the Bay Area—but no other city has that, in all fairness. There is even a Michelin two-star rated restaurant at the Stein Erickson Lodge in Deer Valley. Utah will never be on the culinary cutting edge, but it satisfies all my requirements.

So yes, there’s culture here in Park City, and it’s been a surprising plus in our fledgling relationship. It’s something I didn’t know I was looking for, but something I’ve enjoyed here more than ever.

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