5 Days at Sundance 2013

Sundance is the world’s best independent film festival — but it’s so much more. Here are our secrets to making the most of your trip.

Getting There

January 17-21, 2013

This year’s festival started Thursday, January 17 and ended on Sunday, January 27. We flew Delta from LAX to Salt Lake City. Something to keep in mind: Delta charges more for each bag you book if you don’t have status — $25 for the first bag and $35 for each after. There is Wi-Fi on the Delta flights from LAX to SLC.

We strongly advise private transportation for getting from Salt Lake City airport to Sundance. When we arrived on Thursday, the lines for the shared shuttle services were all the way across the airport. Even the private cars are a mess to find. If you booked in advance, be sure you have their phone number to locate, as there are massive amounts of them. Private cars are usually waiting outside door 13 by luggage claim.

Book your car far ahead of time — if you don’t, you may end up in a regular car or SUV, not a black car or town car. The private cars get sold out for Sundance so they must call in backup drivers. We used Peak Transportation, about $140 up to Deer Valley. Arrive early in the day to avoid some of this congestion at the airport and also choose a better room when you get to the hotel.

Where to Stay

Almost all hotel rooms must be booked through the Sundance website. Sundance books out all the rooms except for some at the major high end resorts. Since the festival takes most of the rooms, the hotels don’t give much priority except on a first come first serve basis — get there early in the day to snag your room. You’ll pay for the lodging upfront, usually just the first night and then the balance before you arrive. Expect rates around $800-$900 per night.

We stayed at what we think is the best lodge in town, Stein Ericksen Lodge in Deer Valley. Call Stein’s directly and they usually keep aside a few rooms. It’s even better to do this a little later, as they get some cancellations from the festival they try and backfill. Stein’s boasts the best ambiance and service in the state (it’s Utah’s only five star hotel) and has an old school charm that is unparalleled. The well-appointed rooms are equipped with mini kitchens so you can keep groceries in the room for breakfast and snacks. Shuttles to and from town every half hour make getting around a breeze. Stein’s is the best if you want the best ski in/ski out spot in Deer Valley. The hotel has ski in/ski out access in the center of the mountain and sells lift passes — you can literally ski right on the lift from the hotel! The après-ski scene at Stein’s is also fun, with great food and drinks.

Two other popular hotels for Sundance are St. Regis and Montage. St. Regis has a younger vibe, and the hippest après-ski bar in the area. It draws a lot of non-skiers as well. Montage has a much sleepier feel and, in our opinion, not as much character.

Restaurants

Best restaurants in town in this order: Talisker on MainRiverhorse, Yuki Arashi and Shabu. Dinner reservations during the festival are a must so start booking them as early as possible — most reservations start on January 1. If you don’t want to handle it yourself, your concierge can book them for you. If you couldn’t get a reservation, try the sushi places. They’re the best spots without a reservation because they have bar and table space. Our favorites are Shabu and Yuki Arashi.

Nightlife

Each year brings pop-up bars, out-of-town bars that rent the actual bar and restaurant spaces on Main Street just for Sundance. This year’s pop-up bars were Nikki Beach, Tao, Gansevort and House of Blues among others. Tao operates every year and is the only place in town that can serve alcohol after 2 a.m. It’s by far the biggest and craziest party in town. It’s also very difficult to get in — this is the favorite party spot for all the celebrities in that scene — and you must know someone involved. Worth the effort though! Parties in Sundance wind down about Tuesday in the first week and town becomes much more mellow. Need a ride back to your hotel after a late night? Uber car service now works in Park City!  Make sure you download it on your phone before you go.

Skiing

The real secret of Sundance? The skiing is amazing. There are no lift lines at all since most people are at the festival. You can even get a free lift ticket at any of the ski resorts if you fly in and ski the same day.  Just make sure you keep your boarding pass! Deer Valley has the best skiing (and great food) but doesn’t allow snowboarders. If you’re with snowboarders you have to go to Park City or Canyons.

 

New Year’s Eve in St. Barts and 3 Days in Anguilla 2013

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St. Barts New Years Celebration

Party like a VIP in St. Barts. The favorite New Year’s Eve spot of the rich and famous is just as much fun for the less rich and non-famous.

We arrived a few days before New Year’s Eve for one of the most famous parties in the hemisphere. St. Barts completely dies after New Year’s Eve and only starts to pick up again just after Christmas, when all the mega yachts arrive in Gustavia Harbor. Consider Gustavia Harbor the center of everything there is to see and do. The party culminates with a fireworks show in the harbor on New Year’s Eve. Either rent a villa or come via boat. Taxis are horrendous on the island so call way in advance to have a driver set up or rent a car. Don’t expect to be able to hail a cab at all that night, but you may be able to hail one during the day.

Best Spots for Dinner
Reservations are a MUST for fine dining in St. Barts. Here are our favorites:

Maya’s
French-inspired Caribbean cuisine. Not within walking distance of the port, but it’s on the water and has a great view of the harbor.

Bonito
Fantastic seafood spot with incredible ceviche. It’s within walking distance of the port and has great views.

L’Esprit
Expensive, but the best Italian food on the island. It’s not within walking distance, so you’ll need to take a cab. It’s close to Gouverneur Beach.

L’Isola
Expensive and the highest-rated restaurant in St. Barts. Within walking distance and in the harbor.

Bagatelle
Located in center of Gustavia Harbor, this spot serves amazing truffle pizza and other Mediterranean cuisine. The location is the best but watch dinner service as it gets overwhelmed — turns into a nightclub each night.

Baz Sushi
This is the best sushi on the island, with a great location and casual atmosphere.

Lunch Spots
Nikki Beach
This trendy beach spot also has the best lunch scene. It’s right on the sand on St. Jean beach, so must take a cab here. There’s even a DJ during lunch.

Taiwana
This is the best spot for brunch with great views. Must take a taxi here.

Nightclubs
The nightlife in St. Barts is exciting and fun. For something completely different, take a cab to Le Ti. Tucked away up in the mountains, Le Ti has a must-see cabaret show at midnight and guests dress in costume. You can also have dinner there but we didn’t hear good things about the food. Yacht Club is where everyone ends up every night except New Year’s Eve. It’s within walking distance from the harbor and right on the water. The party starts about 1 a.m. and goes until 5 a.m. Bagatelle is a chic dinner spot that turns into a table dancing nightclub (the table dancing is encouraged!) The club atmosphere starts around 10 p.m. and goes until about 1 a.m.

Best Beach Scene
Do Brazil  is a fun place on Shell Beach in walking distance from the main port. It has a very cool, laid back atmosphere. If you’re really feeling adventurous, there is cliff jumping into the ocean if you swim about 100 meters out to the left. The main beach scene in St. Barts is Nikki Beach. You must drive here as it’s in St. Jean, but it’s worth the trip. Sunday is the main party day which includes champagne spraying, saxophone players and live dancers and often includes a fashion show. You’ll need to buy a lot of rosé or Champagne here so be prepared to do so if you want a table on the beach. La Plage is nearby and offers a similar feel to Nikki Beach, but it’s not as fun.

Best Beaches
Gouverneur Beach is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich but he allows the island to use it. It’s the most beautiful beach on the island, with perfect sand and water with amazing rock formations. You can visit by car or by boat. The beach is a must for a day trip. A bit more secluded is Colombier Beach. This beautiful beach is only accessible by boat or by long hike. Most people go by boat here and it’s very close to the main harbor. There are some great hikes up through the rocks above and good snorkeling along the sides of the bay. Sea turtles roam throughout as the sea grass has grown back in this bay. St. Jean Beach is the party beach. You can take either a car or the boat depending on the swell and party on pristine sand.

New Year’s Eve Parties
The biggest, best and most famous party on the island is the Abramovich party, hosted by billionaire Roman Abramovich. Everyone who is anyone will be here — so good luck getting an invite. Kings of Leon played this year and Jay Z and Beyoncé the year before.

Nikki Beach usually has some performance and dinner followed by a full club atmosphere, but the dinner is outrageously priced at close to $20k Euros. Just come after dinner for the party. Bagatelle offers another outrageous dinner but you can just come after the fireworks for the party for free. Le Ti also hosts a big New Year’s Eve dinner, but it’s the most reasonably priced of the rest at around $2k Euros per person.

New Year’s Eve Tips

  • Eat dinner in or on the boat and then watch the fireworks show
  • Depending on where you are, St. Jean beach or the main harbor, we recommend staying there for the night
  • Getting around the island is almost impossible that night
  • If you meet a lot of people the week before, you should have plenty of places to just hang out right where you are

Anguilla
After a few days of parties on St. Barts to ring in the New Year, we made a stop on the exclusive island of Anguilla. The only place to park a boat and clear customs here is Road Bay. It’s a nice little port and has a great beach with fun low key beach bars. All the dive shops are located here if you want to do any diving. If you ask around, they can call a taxi for you if you want to go to any of the resorts for dinner.

The two must-see places for dinner and sunset views on the island are the Viceroy Resort and Cap Juluca. The Viceroy Resort is newly built with the most stunning design on the cliffside. The restaurants feature great food and wine, but expect to pay a lot for taxis and for the food. However, we thought the experience was worth the price. You have two different options at the Viceroy, the formal dining room called Cobà and Sunset Lounge. Sunset Lounge had great sushi and is outside with amazing views. Cobà is located off the cliff, but depending on the swells they need to cover the open air walls with curved protective plastic that disrupts the view. It was still an amazing atmosphere if you are looking for a more formal dining experience. The wine list is extensive.

Cap Juluca is a beautiful resort at Maundays Bay with interesting architecture. Beachfront villas open onto gorgeous white sand beaches. The sand on the beach was the finest on the island and the resort was very welcoming to guests coming off a boat. Cap Juluca has several award-winning restaurants with excellent food, but we found Blue — with beachfront dining — particularly hard to beat.

Day Tours
Sandy Island and Coral Island
It’s very tricky to take the boat here — we actually saw a wrecked catamaran on the island. The food here was great and definitely recommend it as a good lunch spot — the lobster was delicious. They also have beach volleyball and all sorts of games.

Prickly Pear Cays
You need to make a reservation here if you want the restaurant open, but it was nice to have it quiet and all to ourselves. You can’t park a boat in front, you can only park on the other side of the island and dinghy in. Prickly Pear has a great remote feeling and the beach is quite long and perfect for a walk.

North Point
One of the best beaches we saw was at the northern tip of the island on a little unnamed island across from the mainland. It’s hard to miss if you are circling the island and we highly recommend stopping here.

Jacksonville Golf Trip

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Jacksonville Golf Trip, October 2012

You can fly into Jacksonville and most flights connect from the west coast in Atlanta or Texas.  There are many direct flights from the east coast.  It’s about an hour drive from the airport to the resort where we stayed. Take a taxi, as the private cars and shuttles can be much more expensive given the distance.

We stayed at the Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. If you can find a member of the beach club to refer you, you can get a pretty substantial discount off your stay here. Or if you buy the golf packages, the rooms can be pretty reasonable as well. Get a room by the ocean and you can walk right out your back door onto the sand and swim in the ocean. The water was quite warm in the fall when we went and warm enough for swimming into the early evenings.

There is no shortage of dining options at the resort, from a casual lunch with an ocean view at Seahorse Grille to an elegant dinner in the Seafoam Dining Room. Grab a drink at High Tides Bar or sip afternoon tea at The Lodge. Also at the resort is a little concession stand to grab Starbucks in the morning and other small breakfast items.

The resort also boasts a huge sports facility that is great for working out. Definitely plan on using the gym as it is comparable to a huge Equinox state-of-the-art facility with great views of the water.

There are two golf courses at the resort, the Lagoon Course and the Ocean course. The Ocean Course is by far a better course and the Lagoon Course isn’t worth playing given all the other great courses in the area. We recommend a warm-up day on the Ocean course, perfect for using your golf package from the hotel.

Plan to play a couple of times at TPC Sawgrass. Be careful of weather depending on the time of year. It’s better to play in the morning as you might not be able to finish in the afternoon due to lightning and thunderstorms. Hole 17 on the championship course is quite impressive and one-of-a-kind. Bring plenty of golf balls.

We recommend playing at the Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island on your way back to the airport as it’s close by. The course was made through the swamp/jungle and was in great condition.

One that we didn’t play that is also a must is Pablo Creek in Jacksonville. This Tom Fazio-designed course is a private club so you must know a member.  However, if you’re a pro at your home country club they can probably get you on if you want to play.

For dinners, we recommend the Ruth’s Chris by the resort, Bonefish Grill, any of the options at the resort or head up to Jacksonville Beach for a more lively evening. There are many places with live music here on Friday and Saturday nights. Check out Jax Live for where the best local and up and coming bands are playing.