Sundance Film Festival attracts a global audience of roughly 100,000 people every year. Charming and historic buildings nestled at the bottom of snow-covered mountains provide a magical backdrop for the festival. The best part is that it’s for more than just celebs, anyone can attend!
The Sundance Film Festival is the event for cinema buffs, creatives, and aspiring actors or writers, alike. Or just those who wish to mingle with A-listers and enjoy a taste of fame and prestige.
All the essentials you need to know about attending get covered in this complete Sundance Film Festival guide. Plus, all the insider tips to ensure you get the most out of this remarkable event!
What is the Sundance Film Festival?
The Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States. It has captivated and entertained audiences for over four decades. The aim of the festival is to highlight and showcase the best American and international independent filmmakers in the industry.
Sundance is renowned for thought-provoking and cutting-edge projects that inspire and provoke audiences. This is where many of the more artistic and creative films are showcased for the first time!
There are several film categories. Documentaries, short films, dramatic films, and episodic content, to name a few. Regardless of your film preferences, there’s something interesting and engaging for you to enjoy.
During the Sundance Festival, filmmakers compete to win one of the festival’s coveted awards. They hope to receive recognition and appreciation for their unique cinematic projects. Many films showcased at the Sundance Festival go on to achieve wide acclaim and success in the mainstream movie industry.
The Sundance Film Festival also features educational programs, exhibits, and discussion panels for festival goers, industry leaders, and filmmakers to enjoy. Even if you’re just a little bit of a film fanatic, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to add to your bucket list!
When is the Sundance Film Festival?
The Sundance Film Festival takes place every year for ten days in January. Sundance 2023 will be held from Thursday, January 19 to Sunday, January 29. The festival is unofficially divided into two five-day periods.
The first five days are generally considered the most popular and busiest. Not to mention some of the best parties take place the first weekend of the festival!
The second half of the festival is as much, or even more exciting. In fact, the end of the Sundance Festival boasts a lively awards ceremony and screenings of the festival’s winning films.
Where is the Sundance Festival Held?
The Sundance Film Festival location is in Utah in three popular locations. Screenings and festival events are spread out among Salt Lake City, Park City, and the Sundance Mountain Resort.
Park City is generally considered the hub of the festival and where you want to spend most of your time. You can find the official list of venues for Sundance 2023 on the event website.
How do I get to the Sundance Festival?
Those foreign to the area need to fly into Salt Lake City International Airport. Learn more about finding cheap flights before booking! Or if you're already a pro, book your cheap flight after comparing prices on sites like Skyscanner!
Once arriving, you can stay in Salt Lake City for a night or two to attend festival events.
Alternatively, you can make your way to Park City, where most of the action will be. The bustling hub of Park City is less than an hour from Salt Lake City.
To get to Park City, you can arrive via bus, shuttle service, or rideshare if you’re traveling with a group. That said, the best way to get around in Park City is to use Sundance’s free shuttle service. You can find information about shuttle services and the festival map on the official Sundance website.
A rental car may be a bother for Sundance because there’s no parking at the festival venues. If you miss the free shuttle, rideshare services like Lyft and Uber are better options.
Remember, this is a busy event. So you might have to get used to longer wait times if you’re using public transportation or car shares. Planning ahead is crucial for arriving on time and experiencing the Sundance Film Festival in all its glory.
Where to Stay for Sundance
Park City is a popular destination any time of year. That means there’s no shortage of places to stay, although I recommend booking early so that you book before the rush.
If you’re willing to splurge on this iconic event, you should look for accommodation on Main Street. Why? Main Street hotels are right in the middle of the action! Just a quick reminder that hotels in hot locations will cost you a pretty penny during a hot event like the Sundance Festival.
During the Sundance Festival, they do come at a high price. That said, many celebrities opt to stay at these downtown hotels. If you want to increase your chances of bumping into famous people, booking a Main Street hotel is a must!
However, if you want to immerse yourself in the opulence of the event, feel free to stay anywhere. Park City is relatively small and easy to navigate. Free festival shuttles also make it very convenient to navigate.
Budget Accommodation Options in Park City
Looking for cheaper accommodations? Vacation rentals like Airbnb and Vrbo are the way to go! There are plenty of options close to downtown Park City, which is a big bonus!
Renting through these peer-to-peer sites are much more affordable than Main Street hotels. Plus, if you’re traveling with a group, such rentals become even easier on the wallet! There are also a select few hostels in or around Park City, including Park City Hostel.
Other festival goers choose to stay in Salt Lake City, where accommodations are even more affordable. Salt Lake City is another budget-friendly option but requires more planning.
Where to Stay in Salt Lake City
If you stay in this neighboring city, you will need to know the festival and transportation schedules well. You want to make sure you get to Park City in time to enjoy the festival, after all.
There are even great hostels and hotels that will make your stay both comfortable and budget-friendly. If you’re okay with spending around US$100 per night, you can look into booking a room at Hampton Inn Salt Lake City Central or Tru by Hilton Salt Lake City Airport. Even if this is a bit of a stretch for your budget, these hotels are great because they provide breakfast!
Overall, there are enough accommodation options in and around Park City to satisfy any budget and travel style. Again, the most important thing to remember is to book early.
Many festival goers start to book their accommodations roughly one year in advance. When you find a hotel or rental that meets your needs, book immediately!
How Do I Get Sundance Tickets?
Sundance tickets are in high demand, but there are various options to suit your preferences and budget. Tickets go on sale on October 17, 2022.
Packages and passes range from US$200 to US$3,500 and include a variety of access levels.
Buying a package will increase your chances of getting tickets to the screenings of your choice. Aside from the Award-Winners Package, most include access to at least ten screenings.
There’s even a discounted SLC Youth Pass package for attendees aged 18-25!
Got a Shoestring Budget?
Want to attend less than ten screenings? If you’re looking to save money, then single tickets are the budget-friendly option!
Single-film tickets are only US$20 online and US$25 offline, and go on sale on January 12, 2023. However, it’s important to remember single tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. An Explorer pass for select Indie films only is also available online for US$25.
How to Book?
As you plan your winter getaway to Sundance, ensure you review ticket packages and options thoroughly. You want to make sure you attend the parts of the festival most important and interesting to you. You can do so and make your purchase on the official Sundance ticketing website.
Alternatively, for travelers unable to buy tickets in advance, download the Sundance app and take advantage of the waitlist!
Waitlist tickets are available at the last minute for the same price as single tickets. Note that if you decide to use the e-waitlist, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. You need to arrive at the screening location just in case your number is called.
Getting the Most Out of Sundance
The Sundance Film Festival is such a popular and exciting event! You want to ensure you get the most out of this unique and entertaining experience. The following tips and tricks will help you to be prepared and enjoy everything the festival offers.
What to Bring and Wear
Believe it or not, the Sundance Film Festival is a relatively casual event. Even though Park City and surrounding areas are bustling with celebrities, everyone prioritizes warmth and comfort over fashion and style.
Yes, it’s wiser to dress for the weather than for the films!
Warm Clothes and Sensible Shoes
January temperatures in Park City rarely exceed 35°F, and snow is everywhere. Remember to pack warm and comfortable clothes with lots of layers. Hats, scarves, and gloves are a must!
In addition to warm clothing, you also need comfortable shoes for walking around. Waterproof insulated boots are best since you will likely be walking through snow and slush.
Jump-start your winter shopping with the top-reviewed winter brands like Patagonia, Rab, and Marmot!
A Roomy Bag
Most festival goers also carry a large tote or bag while walking around. You are almost guaranteed to find free swag and merch as you explore festival events and you’ll need something to stow all of your goodies!
Plus, you will want a place to put your extras. Yes, including a portable charger, water bottle, hand warmers, lotion, chapstick, and maybe an extra pair of socks.
Park City is well-known for its stunning ski resorts and pristine slopes. If you think you might enjoy squeezing in a ski or snowmobile adventure, pack your ski clothes too!
Most slopes aren’t very busy during Sundance since most people are at the festival. So you might even have the slopes to yourself.
Insider Sundance Film Festival Preparation Tips
Sundance film festival insiders know a thing or two about getting the most out of Sundance.
Here’s the inside scoop:
- Arrive at least one day early to familiarize yourself with various event venues.
- Be adaptable to changing circumstances, including being flexible regarding screenings.
- Read the theater rules before attending a screening to ensure access.
- Get an early start if you’re taking advantage of waitlist tickets. Most morning screenings are easier to get into.
- Be patient because long lines are the norm at Sundance.
- While you wait, use the opportunity to meet people around you.
- Network your way into a party or another exclusive event in lines and at events.
- Be respectful of celebrities and try to contain your excitement.
- Remember to ask permission before trying to take a picture and refrain from following high-profile guests around the festival.
Is Attending Sundance Worth It?
Are you a fan of creative expression? Do you consider yourself a great film fanatic? Loving the idea of cozying up with celebs during the daytime and near a warm fire at night?
Then, yes! VIsiting the Sundance Film Festival will be worth every penny for you to experience. That said, attendance and accommodations in the area over the Sundance Film Festival won’t come cheap. So be sure to plan smart and ahead of time.
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