I originally titled this “10 Things to Do with Teens in Park City and Beyond” but quickly realized my mistake. Teens don’t want parental attention or intervention 24/7, especially on vacation.
What about a compromise? Parents, if honest, don’t want hostage release-style negotiations for every activity the entire time either. Luckily, a Utah “family” vacation might have something to satisfy everyone or, at least provide a brief detent.
Before getting to the Hot Tips, text your teens or ask them in a moving car (where you can avoid direct eye contact, and it’s difficult for them to escape) what they’d like to do.* When one declares loudly, “I hate skiing!” (there’s always one) after you’ve just booked flights and slopeside lodgings, you’ve got them! In Utah, skiing is only the beginning. There are plenty of other things to keep every type of teen busy — and even amused — for hours and provide memories for all of you for years to come.
1. For the Wanderer
Suggest the Snow Globe Stroll on Main Street in Historic Park City. From November 21-January 8, seven life-sized snow globes will dot the sidewalks of Main Street. Teens can snap selfies alongside the holiday song-themed orbs and enjoy window shopping among those ranging from bookstores to baubles to backslapping tees. A trolley runs up and down Main Street throughout the day and connects to the Park City Bus that can transport them (for free) from most hotels and condos areas throughout Park City and Deer Valley.
2. For the Adrenaline Junkie
There are many things besides skiing to entertain teens off the slopes. For those 16+, a bobsled ride at the Utah Olympic Park will give them the thrill of a lifetime and, hopefully, get any thoughts of over-the-speed limit hijinx out of their systems. With a professional pilot, young passengers will fly down the same frozen track used in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
3. For the Clever
Let them plan their getaway from Escape Room Park City. Although an adult must accompany participants under 18, teens will love outsmarting (and, if you don’t remind them, working with) their parents, siblings and others through interactive puzzles and mazes that reward problem-solving and communication.
4. For the I’m-not-afraid-of-anything adolescent
Check out Park City Ghost Tours, where you can watch them squirm hearing about the apparitions that apparently still inhabit this historic mining town. Researched and led by former local teachers and a filmmaker, these stories and prop-filled (think “Ghostbusters”) strolls will bring a chill down your back from more than the cold air.
5. For the sports fan or athlete-in-training
Utah is the home of numerous sports events and teams. From various World Cup alpine events to professional basketball, including the world-famous Utah Jazz, spectators of any age can satisfy their adrenaline urges off the slopes during their stay. Tip: Tickets to the pro hockey team, Utah Grizzlies, are not only a great deal but a lot of fun for a group of teenagers and their families.
Teen athletes themselves can complete their varsity workouts at one of the numerous public gyms around the state, including the Park City Municipal Athletic & Recreation Center (PC MARC). Open for non-residents and drop-ins, teens and their parents can shoot hoops, lift weights, run indoors and burn off calories or steam in various ways at this well-appointed facility enjoyed by Olympic hopefuls and out-of-towners alike. Crossfit more your style? Check out Park City Fit run by a Park City local and professional crossfitter.
6. For the artistic
The Kimball Arts Center offers classes exploring every type of medium throughout the year. Parents and their teenagers can throw some clay on a wheel, not at each other, creating not only memories but souvenirs to adorn their shelves for years to come.
7. For the pampered
Teens can enjoy an afternoon in real spa-like waters, such as the Homestead Crater in Heber Valley, a mineral hot spring hidden under a 55-foot limestone dome. More than some kitschy-looking attraction, the Crater has been popular for…eons for a good reason. Guests can spend an hour floating, snorkeling or if they’re certified, diving in the 95+-degree clear water. Teens can chill, zone out, ignore everyone, whatever…,but will eventually dry off and dismissively declare, “That was cool.”
8. For the secretly sentimental
Utah’s Ice Castles will melt the shell of the toughest teen. What first looks like a life-size set of the animated movie, Frozen, is actually a winter wonderland for folks of all ages. Constructed and operated during the coldest months of the year, these towering structures of solid ice at Soldier Hollow allow bemused guests to wander, slide and hide around corners waiting for friends and family to find them. This place is also Instagram and holiday photo gold.
9. For the gamer
They and their families (up to 8 people, ages ten and up) can take part in the Gold or Silver Olympic Biathlon Experience at Soldier Hollow, the venue of the 2002 Winter Games. Biathlon is Europe’s most popular winter sport combining Nordic skiing and shooting. After brief instruction in both, participants will use precision .22 Caliber Anschutz rifles similar to those used in competition to hit five targets. Let the games begin!
10. For the grommet
Ice skating or tubing are must-dos. Outdoor ice skating is extremely popular in Utah, and just about every town has one, but the newest and largest is in Millcreek, minutes from the Cottonwood Canyon resorts (Alta Ski Area, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude Mountain Resort). With over 11,000 square feet of ice featuring a regular rotation of lights and DJ-fueled tunes, Millcreek Commons is the place for teenagers (and parents, who likely spent many of their weekends growing up at ice and roller rinks). Instructions and rentals are available.
Finally, no instruction is needed for tubing. Teenagers (ok, parents love to do it, too) just sit on a giant inner tube and slide down the hill. Some of the best and biggest include Woodward Park City, Brian Head Ski Resort, and Wasatch Parc at Nordic Valley. If you have your own tube or sled, there are free public hills throughout Utah, including the one near Donut Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Rock Canyon Park in Provo, Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City and Rohmer Park in South Ogden. Just remember that tubing on Utah's ski slopes is prohibited at most resorts.
In Utah, there is no shortage of things (I didn’t even mention fat tire biking with White Pine Touring, dog sledding, ice fishing and snowmobiling) to keep teens from bemoaning the dreaded, “I’m bored!” Like most things, knowing your kid and listening to them are the keys to unlocking what activities they’ll enjoy and experiences — with or, perhaps, without you — they’ll remember. Regardless, now or years from now, they recall, “That time we went to Utah…,” and you’ll both smile.
* Author’s Note: I’d like to acknowledge and thank my team of researchers for this article, my three kids. I texted them, asking for their favorite winter activities. Many are listed here. While I appreciated their input, I loved the conversation that ensued. Many smiling emojis 🥰