Insider Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of Your Sundance Film Festival

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© 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Alan Mark

It’s official—we’re only three weeks away from the start of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. And while you’ve probably glanced at the program, booked your lodging, started looking at your outerwear options, and cleared out your biggest suitcase in anticipation of your flight to Park City, we know from experience that there are plenty of things people tend to overlook in the lead-up. For that reason, we’ve enlisted our veteran staffers and volunteers to provide tips and tricks for making the most of your time on the mountain.


Prepare for the Weather

Temperatures in Park City this time of year tend to hover around 12°F and 33°F during the day, so don’t be tempted to pack light.

“Put a pair of gloves in each of your jackets/coats (and bring extras). You will lose a glove or two,” says Rosie Wong, our director of industry relations, who’s coming up on her 16th Sundance Film Festival. “And if you live near a Uniqlo, I swear by their Heattech thermal leggings and undershirts. They’re thin, but they really work.”

Don’t overlook the smaller details when it comes to your wardrobe choices. “Change your socks once a day—you’ll feel like a whole new person,” says Ashley Hoyle, assistant to our director of programming.

Our director of producing and impact strategy, Brenda Coughlin, had some of my favorite advice on the subject of staying warm: “Two words: Hot. Toddy.”


© 2019 Sundance Institute | Photo by Shannon Segura

Eat Well and Stay Energized

As several colleagues have pointed out, when you’re rushing between screenings, it can be hard to find time to eat—which is probably fine on the first day of the Festival but won’t feel so great by the end. Some words of wisdom?

Do stock up on food when you arrive—that way you won’t be tempted to subsist on sugary snacks and caffeine as the Fest wears on. But don’t go overboard: “That pot of lentils? Not going to get cooked or eaten,” notes Brenda.

“Don’t drink [alcohol] on your first day; the altitude is a huge game changer,” says Ashley. “Drink as much water as you can. When you think you’ve had enough, drink some more!”

“Put some protein or snack bars in your coat pockets for those times you forget to take time to eat (because who has time to do that???),” Rosie says.

As for dining recommendations in and around Park City? “For all the Brits out there, the mushrooms on toast at Five5eeds is delish,” Brenda advises.

Plan Out Your Schedule

There’s an art to planning the perfect Sundance Film Festival schedule for yourself, and to master it, you’ve got to think about the distance between venues (“Allow at least 45 minutes to get anywhere,” says Brenda), sprinkling in a good amount of variety into the mix, and knowing your limits in terms of how late you can stay up (or how early you can wake up).

Luckily we’ve got an app (available in the App Store and Google Play) that can make things way easier, especially when you’re on the go. “The Sundance app’s eWaitlist works,” Ashley says; just make sure to show up to the venue at least 30 minutes early once you get your waitlist number.

And make sure you check out all of the things we have going on outside of the theaters. One highlight we hope you’ll join us for? “The Imagined Futures bonfire following Power of Story on Thursday, January 30,” Brenda says. “It’ll make for an amazing afternoon of rabble-rousing inspiration and warm contemplation as we head into the end of the Festival.”


© 2019 Sundance Institute | Photo by Alan Mark

See the Sights in Salt Lake City

Locals are already hip to the fact that we host a ton of our screenings and events in Salt Lake City (as well as at the Sundance Mountain Resort). In fact, buying our Grand Theatre Pass is one of the most economical ways to experience the Festival; it offers you admission to every screening at the Grand between January 24 and February 2.

“Experience the Festival in Salt Lake,” advises Michaela Buccola, assistant director of operations for artist programs. “Great theaters, amazing restaurants and bars, the same movies, and the same buzz! And if you want to ensure you have an experience like being on Main Street in Park City, be sure to select the Rose Wagner or Broadway theaters, and go to my favorite restaurant and next-door bar combos, such as Takashi and Post Office Place or Current and Undercurrent.”

Avoid the Festival Flu

Yes, it’s a thing. That’s why our volunteers recommend staying hydrated and starting a vitamin regimen ahead of your arrival at the Festival.

“Don’t touch doorknobs or elevator buttons with your bare hands!” Rosie cautions. “Use your elbows—do you know how many germy fingers touch those things every day? And carry antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer; you WILL encounter someone who is sick.”

And Finally, a Few Things You Might Not Have Thought to Pack …

Courtesy of our volunteers, who come from all over the country (and even all over the world) to help us put on the Festival every year. If you see a volunteer, remember to thank them, and note that Wednesday, January 29, is Volunteer Appreciation Day!

  • Lotion (your poor chapped hands will thank you)
  • Altitude-adjustment pills (FYI, Park City is about 7,000 feet above sea level)
  • A phone battery pack
  • A small flashlight (so helpful late at night)
  • A good thermos (good for eating in line)

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© 2017 Sundance Institute | Photo by Alan Mark