Thursday, June 13, 2019

5 Great Places to Enjoy Art House Cinema in Utah

5 great places to enjoy art house cinema in Utah

If you mention Utah to the average person, the first thing most will probably think of is gorgeous red rock, snow sports, or Mormons. The Beehive State is a popular destination for many. Outdoorsy types in particular flock to the area for the opportunity to explore the incredible landscape. Film lovers, on the other hand, likely consider Utah the capital of art house cinema. The Sundance Film Festival, America’s largest independent film event for the last 41 years, is held primarily in Park City. Just a short drive from Salt Lake, Park City has made Utah somewhat of an oasis for independent filmmaking.

Art house (independent) films are created outside the influence of Hollywood and the mainstream filmmaking system for a variety of reasons. Major studios are generally unwilling to finance projects with niche audiences or hyper-specific topics. It is difficult to make a profit on films few people will want to see. However, they have grown in popularity over the years. This rise in popularity can be partially attributed to the Sundance Film Festival, which has brought independent film not just to Utahns but Americans everywhere.

Here are some places in Utah where anyone can start their independent film journey:

Salt Lake City

One of the first places you should look is in Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah. The Salt Lake City Film Society is a nonprofit community for art house cinema that provides access to independent film, documentaries, and international film. Their goal is to use cinema to educate about cinema. They currently have two locations, the Broadway Centre and the Tower, each with their respective strengths.

old-fashioned photo of the Broadway Centre Theatre from the street

Broadway Centre Cinemas

Located in downtown Salt Lake at 111 E. Broadway, the Broadway Centre is known for showing films that may not be available anywhere else. You can always find a variety of interesting events on their calendar, including special guests, premieres, and celebrations like Summer Late Nights. If you are at all interested in an independent or limited release film, your best bet of seeing it in theaters is a visit to the Broadway Centre. Besides unique films, this theatre is also popular for its unique concessions offerings and quirky aesthetic.

You can find movie times and future releases at the Broadway Centre on the Salt Lake Film Society’s website.

Tower Theatre showing Sundance films

Tower Theatre

If you’re looking to shake things up, head on down to 9th East & 9th South and visit the Tower. This historic theatre is the oldest cinema still in operation in the Salt Lake Valley, making it a must-visit in more ways than one. While the Broadway Centre shows more traditional independent films, you might be craving something different. The Tower has you covered. Here you can watch titles a little more on the wild side, though that does not mean all its offerings are considered grindhouse. For example, it often offers classic films on weekends.

If you’re not interested in sticking around Salt Lake City, don’t worry. Try these other locations:

movie posters in the window of The 502

Cinema 502

Want to go even further away from the mainstream? Try visiting Cinema 502, on Historic 25th Street in Ogden. This cinema, named for its incredibly small square footage, is already marked by its choice to only show independent films. It goes a step further to distinguish itself by maintaining a cool, old school vibe and a cozy 27-seat theater. Cinema 502 can be rented out for private parties or visited for film screenings even the Broadway and Tower aren’t playing. Its showings primarily consist of independent animation, documentaries, and foreign films.

Utah Film Center

The Utah Film Center is an organization that brings independent movies to different venues throughout Utah including West Jordan, Ogden, Orem, and Moab. You can follow them on social media or simply visit their webpage to keep up with their latest offerings. Over 86% of their programming is free in an effort to bring local communities together through the power of film. Throughout the year they host two film festivals, Q&A sessions with visiting artists and professionals, and school programs to help students learn about storytelling. One of their most widely known events is Damn! These Heels, an LGBTQ-centered film festival that has been running for over 16 years. You won’t find another organization so dedicated to promoting arthouse films and the artistry of cinema anywhere else in Utah.

Still looking for more options? This last one might surprise you:

Mainstream Theaters

With the rising popularity of independent films, you will be pleased to find that you can sometimes catch a showing at non-specialty theaters near you! If you aren’t located near an art house cinema, don’t worry. Many large theaters are catching onto the trend of indie film and dedicating some of their early morning or late night showings to these movies. Be sure to regularly check showtimes near you in order to catch a showing or two without going too far out of your way.

While it might be more exciting to visit a unique specialty theater, you can rest assured that no matter where you buy your tickets, you are supporting the art of independent filmmakers when you go see an art house film. The importance of storytelling and representing the underdog, so to speak, has not been lost to the past. We are no longer relegated to only watching films produced by the mainstream film industry. There are still countless individuals and many organizations dedicated to letting artists speak their voice and promoting their work as widely as possible. On your next night out, lend them a hand and make an effort to find an art house showing near you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

The 9 Most Beautiful Small Towns in Utah

The 9 Most Beautiful Small Towns in Utah blog cover image

Utah’s beauty is often understated. With sprawling National Forests, breathtaking deserts colored red, and glistening lakes, a trip across the state will take your breath away. Big cities may attract large crowds of tourists, pouring over monuments and capitals, but in between these metropolises, there can be hidden gems with unique shops and lovely sights.

With the grand landscape in Utah, many of the small towns are brimming with beautiful natural structures, and that wonderful ‘home sweet home’ feeling waiting to welcome tourists:

quiet town Main Street line with shops and mountains in the background

1. Springdale
Springdale is a tucked-away town that helps welcome hikers to one of Utah’s most popular National Parks. The town is at the foot of Zion’s National Park, among red rock cliffs carved by the Virgin River.

Shops and restaurants make up a large portion of the small town, hoping to appeal to the backpackers and adventures traveling through. Most of the city’s revenue is brought in through tourism, which only creates a more welcoming atmosphere.

rows of purple lavender flowers growing with mountains in the background

2. Mona
Mona is a small town in Utah with a population around 1,500. Nestled at the very base of Mount Nebo, it is a great place for small climbing excursions. Their downtown has many locally-owned businesses to support and the entire town is pristine with bouquets lining street corners.

This town is rather famous for lavender-covered hills that make up violet paths up to Mount Nebo. There are multiple farms that all visitors can enter (most for free) for a relaxing day among beautiful, fragrant lavender.

mountains in the sunset behind a blue lake and fields

3. Torrey
The scenery of Torrey is truly amazing, framed by many natural and individual rock formations lining its silhouette. Most visitors come for the extended trails and sights of Capitol Reef National Park, or when participating in the Tour of Utah bike race. Between these two activities, thousands of visitors are warmly welcomed yearly.

Torrey houses less than 200 people, but their intricate pioneer past is obvious due to the various historic structures still standing throughout the small town.

4. Green River
The name of this small village says it all - a great river runs through the city’s majestic surroundings. Less than 1000 people call this Green River home, so it is truly a place that can take you away from the hustle of regular life. The fruit in abundance is melon, and some say you’ll never taste one as sweet than in Green Rivers rolling hills.

Featured in town is the John Wesley Powell Museum which is filled with boats that voyaged along the river. These river paths can lead through the Gray and Desolation Canyons, and planning an excursion is possible at most times of the year because storms are irregular in the area.

5. Midway
Midway is rich with Swiss immigrant heritage, and it's Midway’s Swiss Days which fills the streets with thousands of guests each year. This August festival showcases local food vendors and live performances.

Scuba diving is also a popular activity for the town, one of the few places this is possible so far from the coast. Standing towards the center of town is the Homestead Caldera, a geothermal hot pool. From the beautiful mountain views to the range of fun activities, Midway is a must see along your way.

cars lining the main street on an overcast day

6. Moab
Moab is one of the most visited small towns in Utah. The most notable sight is the rock formations found in Arches National Park. This small town is a great place to rest for those visiting the nearby Canyonlands National Park.

This is a true southwestern city. Though Moab has an old-timey welcoming feel, the downtown area is renowned for its modern dining and shopping. There are crowds of young people running homemade clothing shops and even specialty coffee shops.

7. Heber City
Right in the heart of Utah’s mountains is the town of Heber City. This is an area of Utah where all activities are centered on the outdoors. From boat tours and paddle boarding on the water to hiking and horseback riding through the surrounding wilderness, lovers of the outdoors will love Heber City.

Heber Valley Historic Railroad Line is a great option for a day excursion; at the top is a clear view of what people call the "Utah Alps." These beautiful views that surround Heber City are easily the splendor those experienced when first settling the Wild West.

8. Garden City
You can find Garden City along the edges of Bear Lake. The winters can be harsh and make the town a little less exciting, but in the warmer months many festivals and events spring up to take advantage of the huge lake. Known as the Caribbean of the Rockies, for the beautiful color of the water, the summer is all about spending time on and around the water, but the surrounding wilderness is something to see.

In August, there is a festival for the raspberry harvest, featuring more raspberry recipes than you’ll know what to do with. The Pickleville Playhouse is known all over Utah for its outstanding community theatre productions. The combination of an exciting day on the water, followed by dinner and a show, leaves nothing to be desired.

Brigham City welcome sign reads: Welcome to Brigham Gateway - World's Greatest Game Bird Refuge

9. Brigham City
Brigham City can give visitors enough activities to comfortably stay in town for weeks. The Wellsville Mountains are great for those looking for a nature escape, but in case the city life is missed, this town lies only 60 miles from the capital of Utah.

There is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge with many different species and learning information on the local habitat surrounding the river. If time allows, several monuments exist with the center of town, including the Golden Spike National Monument. Peach Days festival is a highlight of the city’s events, a multi-day appreciation of the town's famous peach harvest.

Leave the city life behind by becoming entwined with nature at one of the many beautiful small towns Utah has to offer. Small places like these offer stunning secluded scenery and a secluded comfort the big cities will never be able to compete with.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nine Defining Reasons to Stay at a Bed and Breakfast

nine defining reasons to stay at a b&b blog cover image

Whether you're on a journey, a staycation, or a weekend of self-care, a B&B is about the whole experience, not just the space.

If you've never tried a B&B, here are a few reasons to make the switch:

1. The people who own and operate these establishments care that we are spending time with them.

We can all recall hotel stays where we had a hard time getting anyone’s attention, especially if the request is out of the ordinary. Most of the time we simply give up if we need a different pillow, a knowledgeable restaurant recommendation, or a warm sticky bun before bed. Innkeepers at bed & breakfasts view travelers as their houseguests and are available to ensure that a visit to their establishment is superior. Many visitors become long-time guests over time due to this kind of attention.

striped kitten sitting in a windowsill

2. The small touches that make the stay superior are included in the cost of the room.

Guests are often assigned parking space, some establishments provide car service, and Wi-Fi is free throughout the B&B. There are sometimes discounts and special offers for local attractions. Owners are often long-time residents of the area themselves and can offer a wealth of behind-the-scenes information about their town. Many inns allow pets so the whole family can enjoy the time away from home. Guests won’t be charged for local or toll-free phone calls, either, compared to hotels that charge just to pick up the phone in the room. How about complimentary drinks and snacks? Many B&Bs offer goodies to tide over their guests. Check for luxury items like fluffy bathrobes and high-quality linens provided to guests during their stay.

plate of fresh fruit and glasses of juice

3. Personalization!

Going hand-in-hand with all these small touches is the willingness of innkeepers to personalize a stay in many ways. Honeymoons, anniversaries, wedding parties, birthdays, reunions, and other special events provide opportunities for the B&B owner and staff to pamper and cater to guests to create the experience of a lifetime.

4. A B&B stay can be as private or as social as guests wish.

In a typical hotel, customers come and go with little interaction, travelers passing in the hallways. If privacy is desired, a B&B can provide that, but guests more often become a small community. A social hour, complete with warm cookies or wine and hors d'oeuvres, is the norm. This provides a time when guests can mingle and get to know each other and share information.

5. Many inns are historic or otherwise unique buildings.

There are inns that were previously the homes of famous figures or an important piece of the area's history. Often, the buildings are unique designs, such as plantation homes or castles and palaces in Europe. Each has a character of its own, unlike most hotels that are built in cookie-cutter fashion. The owners of these buildings are proud to share the history and information about the architecture with their guests.

clean, white room with lots of natural light

6. The rooms are also unique.

Many B&B’s are themed and offer rooms that reflect the theme in various ways. Some transport guests to cultures around the globe through the use of artifacts and art displayed in each room. Or picture a room with a claw-foot tub overlooking a relaxing ocean or majestic mountain view. To take it one step further, some inns revel in singular experiences like sleeping in a teepee or log cabin. Over time, guests may come to prefer one room over another and can request that specific room when they return, and owners are happy to accommodate these requests.

fresh breads, eggs, and morning cocktails

7. The food!

Even a B&Bs “breakfast buffet” will far exceed the typical hotel complimentary breakfast fare. The food is sometimes the most well-known attraction at a bed and breakfast, and it often starts the moment guests check in. Freshly baked cookies or other sweet treats can be available throughout the day, and breakfast is a full, home-cooked meal to send guests off on a day of relaxation or sightseeing. Many B&Bs offer a guest pantry, open 24/7, stocked with everything from wine and sherry, an assortment of sodas, coffee and teas, snacks, and fruit. Along with those items, the thoughtful owner may provide candles so guests can create their own romantic evening on the veranda or in their room. Some inns are owned and operated by classically-trained chefs who stand ready to create a personalized meal for guests. Many B&Bs pride themselves on using only locally-sourced, fresh foods, whether that is veggies and fruit or the catch of the day.

8. Security is better in a B&B.

This is an issue that is a growing concern for travelers. The inns are smaller and often contained in one building with few entrances, especially in out-of-the-way locations on the property. Many are located away from busy highways (although some are in urban areas). Overall, there are fewer people on the grounds at any one time and innkeepers are more familiar with all guests than would a front-desk person in a hotel. The owner is often the same person that cleans the rooms, so there are a limited number of people with access to personal belongings of guests.

9. Value.

Many travelers have the mistaken idea that a B&B is much more expensive than a hotel in a similar location. However, once all the amenities that are part of the B&B experience are taken into account, the value becomes apparent. Remember the free phone calls, the sodas (and other goodies) that don’t show up on the bill, the parking, the expert concierge service provided by the owners, and the superb food? The comfy robe and high-thread-count linens, along with all the other luxuries, create an experience that far exceeds the price quoted by most hotel chains.

The next time a trip is in your future, or you’re looking for a quick getaway, consider a B&B. Inquire about the amenities important to you and then book your experience.