10 Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Sundance Film Festival

With its celebrity-studded movie premieres, rollicking after-parties, and Utah's winter sports playground setting, the Sundance Film Festival is a bucket-list experience for film buffs, adventure lovers, and fashionistas. But for first-timers, Sundance can be a tad overwhelming: How do you score tickets? What do you wear to fit in with the chic film industry set (and not freeze)? And what do you do when you’re weary of sitting in a darkened theater? Here are the essential do’s and don’ts of attending your first Sundance, whether you’re headed to the film festival this year or already looking ahead to 2016.

1. Do your homework. A little prep work goes a long way in maximizing your enjoyment of the festival. Start off by figuring out which movies you want to see most (and remember that those starring A-listers will likely make it to your local theater, so now is a great chance to check out more under-the-radar titles). Check out the Sundance website to familiarize yourself with the schedule, venues (which are spread throughout Park City, Salt Lake City, the Sundance Mountain Resort, and Ogden), and ticket procedures (the easiest way is often via the online waitlist, which was launched in 2014 and eliminates the problem of waiting in line for hours).

2. Don’t forget about early-morning shows. While partygoers are sleeping off the previous night’s festivities, savvy film buffs can be sitting pretty in premieres of their choice—those that start as early as 8 am, that is. In addition, attendance drops off later in the festival, which means that lines and waitlists become even more manageable.

3. Do consider a home rental. Traditionally, rooms in Park City during Sundance have been notoriously expensive—if you can even score a reservation. But the rise of home-rental companies such as Airbnb open up a whole new set of options (and price points) for visitors. Another bonus? You can save money by cooking your own meals.

4. Don’t even think about renting a car. Forget driving (plus the traffic and $30 parking fees) and hop aboard the free Sundance shuttle, which runs regularly between Sundance venues. Taxis are readily available but can also be expensive, and Uber routinely hits surge pricing, meaning that the shuttle earns two thumbs up for the transit of choice.  

5. Do work the door wisely. Part of the fun of Sundance is the thrill of making it into an event you’re not on the list for. A few tips should you be up for the challenge: Drop names when possible, be nice, and accept defeat when it’s just not going to happen. Which brings us to our next tip…

6. Don’t even think about trying to talk your way into a gifting suite. You know those gifting lounges everyone is buzzing about? The ones that are bursting with swag from cosmetics to jackets to jewelry? Yeah, they’re strictly off-limits except for the celebrities on their guest lists.

7. Do hit the slopes. Park City boasts some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the country (and the world, for that matter). During Sundance, join the savvy powder hounds who take advantage of fewer crowds at the resorts. Park City Mountain Resort even has a run that ends right in town, meaning you can go from the slopes to the screen in a matter of minutes.

8. Do dress for the weather. So far, attendees at Sundance 2015 have enjoyed spring-like weather during the day. Even so, that doesn’t warrant breaking out stilettos, shorts, or even flip flops—all of which were spotted at this year’s festival both day and night. Bottom line: If there’s snow on the ground, keep your skin covered.

9. Don’t forget about musical and comedic performances. Of course, films steal the spotlight at Sundance. But the festival also boasts some rocking shows; highlights from this year include Diplo at Park City Live to Zoe Kravitz at a Skullcandy party to a packed comedy show at the Airbnb Haus, one of the many pop-up venues that transform storefronts along Main Street.

10. Do be courteous to the locals. By and large, Park City residents are a friendly, down-to-earth bunch, and those who don’t rent their homes out during Sundance don’t mind sharing their town with film-industry types and rabid movie buffs from all over the world for 10 days. That said, it’s hard to blame them for being annoyed with the traffic, overcrowded restaurants, and the occasionally overblown egos that invade their turf. Cutting them some slack (and offering a friendly smile) goes a long way in fostering good relations.