Photo: Historic Main Street in Park City Utah

Historic Main Street in Park City, Utah, plays host to movie fans during the annual Sundance Film Festival.

Photograph by Jill Richards

by Charles Kulander

From the November-December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler

Whether it’s the dryness of its powder snow (courtesy of neighbor Nevada’s desert and the Great Salt Lake) or the worldliness of its dining in a state that still celebrates Jell-O Week, this ski town transcends expectations. With the recent repeal of Utah’s arcane liquor laws, nightlife is thriving like never before. Well, almost. The bordellos of its silver mining heyday are gone, replaced by art galleries and shopping boutiques, but the clapboard storefronts still look like the Wild West. (Watch for paparazzi shoot-outs during January’s Sundance Film Festival.) It all plays out along a five-block stretch of historic Main Street. Just follow this rule: Start at the top, then work your way downhill.

1. Egyptian Theatre. Red-carpet mania can overwhelm this 1926 Egyptian revival theater, originally built for vaudeville, now a venue for the Sundance Film Festival. At other times, watch locally produced musicals, theater, and comedy.

2. The Sidecar. You might catch Park City Mayor Dana Williams and his Motherlode Canyon Band rocking the dance floor at this locals’ lounge. There are thin-crust pizzas by the slice (try the Fat Kid), sofas on which to chill, and the only heated deck overlooking Main Street. (Pedestrians: Beware of snowballs.)

3. Burns Cowboy Shop. Dude up at this sixth-generation family-owned saddlery. To gain instant cowpoke cred, purchase a hand-distressed Stetson for $300. Tilt for attitude.

4. No Name Saloon. Try Park City’s version of a Happy Meal at this rollicking 1903 watering hole: a half-pound buffalo burger washed down with a couple of locally brewed Polygamy Porters. (You can’t have just one.)

5. Park City Museum. Drill into bedrock at the interactive displays found within the oldest building on Main Street. In one of the original 1885 graffiti-scarred jail cells, a prisoner’s crudely drawn Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World) insignia honors the struggle of organized labor.

6. Wahso. Decorated like a 1930s Shanghai restaurant, this is the place for pot stickers, Kobe beef, and Asian pear-infused sake. A-listers hide in curtained booths.

7. Kimball Art Center. This 1929 garage and service station is now a community arts center with engaging workshops and MoMA-caliber exhibits (right now: “Ansel Adams: Early Works”).

8. Mountain Body Herbal Cosmetic Deli & Spa. Dry alpine air may be refreshing, but it is Death Valley for your skin. Stop for a free mini hand treatment.

9. High West Distillery. Ski or walk to Utah’s first distillery since the 1870s. Housed in an old livery stable, a 250-gallon copper still uses snowmelt to create blue-ribbon rye whiskey and the world’s only oat vodka. Chase with tapas.

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