By William Triplett
There’s a new hotel in Park City.
Well, not entirely. The Washington School House Hotel is a 19th century schoolhouse that’s been renovated into an upscale, boutique pension that sleekly fuses the historical architecture with a decidedly cool, modern look.
Only 12 rooms are on offer. But what rooms they are. Some are on two levels, connected by an iron spiral staircase. Chairs, armoires and settees flow along the lines of antique French provincial, usually set against a backdrop of stark white walls soaring upward of 16 feet in some places. The 9-foot double hung windows (with shutters) let light fall on reclaimed oak barn wood flooring, which adds a warm touch particularly just outside the top-to-bottom white marbled bathrooms. The king sized beds? Couldn’t be more inviting or welcoming.
Every room has a pied-a-terre feel to it – apropos enough, given that you’re a block away from Main Street, a.k.a. the main drag, where dining that ranges from carry-out to reservation-only is available. Not to mention the various watering holes that await.
If you’ve got the wallet for it – when I was there in early February rooms started at $675, including an impressive breakfast and apres ski nibbles – the Washington School House Hotel is a lovely, posh base camp from which to launch all manner of expeditions in and around Park City. First off, hotel staff will get you to and from any of the three world-class ski meccas in the ‘hood – Park City Mountain Resort, Deer Valley and Canyons, all of which made it into Ski magazine’s Top-10 list of best places to carve turns this season.
Second, the staff will also clue you into other fun you can have. I went dogsledding one morning and then snowshoeing in the afternoon, both under glorious sun and blue sky. I’d never mushed before, but I definitely will again, and the snowshoeing was a welcomed aerobic after a possibly too-satisfying lunch.
Thus, third: You can dine at the Washington School House with a private chef preparing a private meal ($45-$65 per person, depending on protein, wine included). If my experience is any indication, you’ll feel spoiled. But the staff is happy to suggest eateries nearby, such as:
High West Distillery – The world’s only ski-in saloon, featuring its own brews and whiskeys and some great takes on American dishes.
Vinto Pizzeria – Wood-fired pizzas and some contemporary twists on fresh seasonal Italian cuisine.
The Riverhorse – Among the oldest restaurants in Park City, recently renovated, offering hearty fare that has won accolades such as the Forbes Four Star Recognition and the DiRoNA Award.
Talisker on Main – Extremely fine dining in a cozy atmosphere. The seasonal menu changes daily, and everything seems to have a unique touch. Presentation, especially of appetizers, can be dramatic.
If, like most people, you’re going home from Park City via Salt Lake City airport, you might consider tacking on a day or two on for checking out SLC itself, which has sprouted some interesting stuff of late. Yes, the slopes of Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude are within easy reach. But there’s plenty to do/see in downtown.
For instance, the recently opened Natural History Museum of Utah – “a superior museum” designed with “powerful impact,” the New York Times said – features numerous interactive displays and exhibits on everything from dinosaur fossils and geology to DNA and astronomy and even an artifact, found in a Utah desert cave, dating to 7,000 BC.
Centrally located in downtown is the new City Creek Center, a shopping mall that can open its glass roof on pleasant days or otherwise keep it closed keeping things nicely climate-controlled. Running down the center of the mall is a stone creek – complete with fish – and it adds considerably to the not-your-standard-mall atmosphere. Stores lean toward the well-branded – Tiffany & Co., Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and the only Salomon sporting goods retail shop outside of corporate headquarters in Ogden.
A privately-owned bookstore I visited ranks with anything similar I’ve seen in Seattle, New York or Washington, D.C. Eborn Books, offering both new and used volumes, on South Main Street, also includes a café offering homemade entrees and desserts. (Try the apple pie.)
With over 20 new eateries having opened in recent months, dining in general is pretty impressive around Salt Lake City – from Takashi restaurant (known for sushi) to the Lion House Pantry Restaurant (homestyle cooking in what used to be Brigham Young’s home). Just want a drink? Any number of bars are around, and no, you no longer have to become a “member” to imbibe.
Plenty of lodging available, too. I stayed at the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton boutique located in the heart of downtown. Large, spacious rooms and a renowned restaurant (try the signature blue cheese potato chips). But the city sports all manner of hotels, many offering rooms for under $100 a night.
One other thing: Check out the Salt Lake Temple, the spiritual center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You don’t have to be Mormon or even religious at all to be awed by the gothic grandeur. We should all look so good when we’re 160 years old.
For reservation, visit Washington School House Hotel
For more on Salt Lake, go to Visit Salt Lake
William Triplett is a contributor to The Daily Beast and the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in the The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.