How to be treated like a star at Sundance Film Festival

A crowd waits outside The Egyptian Theater in Park City, Utah.
The Egyptian Theater in Park City, UT. Photo via Jemal Countess.

This month, the cozy mountain town of Park City will once again unfurl its red carpets for the return of the Sundance Film Festival. Since 1978, Sundance has reigned as the largest independent film festival in the United States, and over the decades it has gifted queer cinephiles with such gems as Paris is Burning, Wigstock: The Movie, and The Celluloid Closet. For all our LGBTQ+ in the entertainment industry flying in for this year’s festival, we’re taking you behind the velvet rope of Park City’s premiere dining and drinking establishments that will treat you like the star you are.

Going Down in Park City

Fair warning, Park City does suffer from a dearth of gay bars and nightclubs, so if you are looking for a wild night of drag queens and go-go twinks, you’ll have to schlep 40 minutes into Salt Lake City. But for those looking for a local watering hole, be sure to hit up Downstairs. This upscale lounge serves as the venue for the Film Festival’s Closing Night party, featuring the talents of DJ Scooter. As will most situations you’ll experience during Sundance, reservations are highly recommended.

Sippin’ on Gin (with or without juice)

Bartender pours tonic water into a glass of gin decorated with a candied orange slice and a sprig of rosemary.

High-end gays looking to elevate the Sundance nightlife experience should strut over to Alpine Distillery. Open Tuesday to Sunday, this self-described “social aid and pleasure club” offers award-winning gin, curated cocktails, and private tasting events. The establishment also endeavors to actively aid its local community by providing space, time, and resources to local entities. So, when you are sipping on gin this January, it’ll be for a good cause.

Italy by Way of Utah

A Slice of traditional meat and cheese lasagna on a white dinner plate.

Many Sundance participants flying in from the sunny industry of Los Angeles may not be accustomed to Park City’s chilly weather. Thus, some carbo-loading may be necessary to add much need insulation. (Don’t worry man-orexics, those heavy snow jackets will hide any potential “snow-besity.”) For quality Italian dining, the cozy Cortona Cafe offers a reliable menu of traditional pasta and entrees. The potato gnocchi is highly recommended, as is the house-made lasagna, which boasts alternating layers of bolognese and bechamel sauces. The restaurant is quite small, so as with most Park City dining establishments, reservations are highly recommended.

Featured rolls

When one thinks of cuisine in landlocked states like Utah, fish-based cuisine isn’t the first to come to mind. But for bicoastal Sundance tourists looking to devour some dragon rolls, Yuki Yama Sushi is your best bet. You need not worry about the quality of the seafood since its founders Kirk Terashima and Matt Baydaya fly in fresh fish from around the world on a daily basis. Highly recommended is the nigiri, which offers 6-12 unique pieces of sushi, each with an individual garnish and sauce.

How the (High) West was Won

Italian and Japanese cuisine are also reliable go-to’s, but let’s be honest, when you are in cowboy country, you may want to lean into the western vibe. Dripping in history, the High West Distillery became Utah’s first distillery in 1870. In a Mormon-centric state like Utah where sodas are still taboo, this is a significant distinction. We’d suggest starting your meal with one of their house-made pretzels, served with beer cheese, homemade mustard dip, and pickles. American comfort food is High West’s calling card, so be sure to order one of their burgers as your entree, complete with rosemary crinkle-cut fries.


SoCal out-of-towners accustomed to tank tops and flip-flops may be lacking when it comes to their winter weather wardrobe. Fortunately, Gorsuch has got your back (literally). This luxury clothier offers a wide selection of men’s and women’s ski fashion staples, from knit hats and jackets to pants and dress boots, that will zhuzh you up from head to toe. And if you have extra time between screenings and want to crush some powder, this shop also offers gloves, goggles, and offer accessories to help you look stylish on the slopes. Otherwise, you have a sweet new look for the next Elevation Ski Weekend.

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