If you’re looking for a historic Old-West-style town with a lively foodie scene, great shops and world-class outdoor activities, look no further than Jackson, Wyo.
Situated on the doorstep of Grand Teton National Park and 57 miles from Yellowstone’s South Entrance, Jackson Hole, a term that refers to the entire valley, offers lodging options for every budget, making it an excellent place to basecamp as you explore the two national parks.
“Jackson is a sort of renaissance town in that we still have our western heritage like Lockhart Cattle Co. (a sixth-generation, grassfed beef operation) in town, and you’ll still see men wearing cowboy hats at The Wort Hotel downtown,” says Elisabeth Rohrbach, membership director of Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “But we also have a modern scene with art galleries and great restaurants, as well as incredible nature around us.”
When you arrive, stop at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on North Cache for a really well-staffed center filled with a gift shop, Grand Teton National Park maps, camping supplies and staff who can offer great tips on the area. You can buy a Grand Teton National Park pass here. Home Ranch Welcome Center, also on North Cache and a touch closer to downtown, offers parking and a short walk to Town Square.
Things to Do in Jackson in Summer
Stroll through Town Square, home to four of Jackson’s famous arches made from elk antlers (built from antlers the local elk naturally shed at the end of every season). Stop for a delicious diner-style breakfast at The Bunnery where you can sit at a table or saddle up to counter seating and chat with the local or traveler sitting next to you. Or head to Persephone Bakery located in a historic white clapboard house for a gourmet breakfast with gorgeous patio seating.
On the streets of downtown, you’ll find dozens of restaurants, galleries, gift stores, and ice cream shops. A few blocks south, check out what’s playing at the Center for the Arts, Jackson Hole’s hub for music, theater, dance, and literary events from local and national performers.
The unique National Museum of Wildlife Art just north of downtown along the road to Grand Teton National Park. It draws both art and animal lovers with its eclectic collections of paintings and sculpture.
Then head to the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort for really fun summer activities. Spend a day in Teton Village climbing the Via Ferrata, riding the tram or tackling the ropes course or climbing wall. It's your ticket to fun. Closer to downtown is Snow King Resort, a smaller ski area, that offers alpine slides and more.
Jackson Hole’s peaks and rivers make it outdoor-activity heaven. A number of whitewater rafting outfitters base themselves in town, offering Snake River trips ranging from a few hours to a few days. The river here offers Class II and III rapids, making for exciting and family-friendly splashing. Mountain bikers will find a popular network of trails at nearby Teton Pass.
Bird enthusiasts should definitely stop by the Teton Raptor Center in Wilson, Wyo., a few-minute drive from downtown Jackson and the park. The center began in 1991 when two biologists working in Grand Teton National Park began caring for injured raptors in their house. It’s a non-profit dedicated to raptor education, research and rehabilitation, and its fun programs allow visitors to see native area raptors up-close.
See Jackson in the Winter
In winter, Jackson is legendary for skiing and snowboarding. Options include Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, renowned for its steep runs and fantastic snow; Grand Targhee Resort, a quieter mountain on the Tetons’ west side; and locals’ mountain Snow King.
And while wildlife abounds in nearby Grand Teton National Park, one of your best bets for an animal sighting in winter is the National Elk Refuge, which provides seasonal habitat for up to 7,000 elk.
Tips for Grand Teton National Park
A mile down the road from the resort is Grand Teton National Park. The best locals tip to the park? Arrive early in the morning or early evening to beat the crowds. Head to Jenny Lake where you can walk around the lake or take a boat to Inspiration Point. At the point, you’ll get a breathtaking panorama view of the valley.
You can also do a gorgeous 3.8-mile loop along String Lake, which is connected to Jenny Lake by a narrow stream. For the more adventurous, rent a stand-up paddleboard in town at Rendezvous River Sports or Leisure Sports and head to String Lake in the park, a shallower lake than Jenny Lake that attracts boat enthusiasts.
Eat & Drink in Jackson Hole
Jackson’s bustling tourist scene supports plenty of delicious restaurants and lively bars. If you’re around on a Wednesday during the summer, check out The People’s Market at the base of Snow King Resort. You’ll find local food and live music from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. late May through mid-September. It’s a zero-waste market, so make sure you bring your own cup and shopping bags.
Try Snake River Brewing for laid-back pub fare and local pints just five blocks south of Broadway Avenue. Thai Me Up, another local favorite, serves upscale Thai and craft beers. For something a little fancier, head to Rendezvous Bistro for seasonal flavors and fine wine. If you’re looking for a cowboy-style dinner, head to the Moose entrance of Grand Teton National Park where you can dine in a teepee or on picnic tables outside at Dornan’s. It’s right off of Teton Park Road before you get to the park entrance.
To hear live music immerse yourself in the local scene, head to The Wort Hotel on Tuesday evenings. While the hotel has attracted guests like Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Carrie Fischer and Dick Cheney, it’s the locals who show up Tuesdays for bluegrass music. Enjoy lively music and the scene, but don’t miss the bar counter, which is covered in silver dollars.
For the wall displays alone, stop for a drink at Jackson’s iconic Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, an Old West saloon with live music. Sit on a saddle barstool at the knobbled pine bar. This isn't your ordinary bar. It's like a Hard Rock Cafe for cowboys. The interior is filled with animal mounts, cowboy memorabilia, historic photos, and cowboy murals. You can't miss it; look for the neon bronco-rider sign on Town Square. milliondollarcowboybar.com
Festivals in Jackson Hole
This spirited corner of Wyoming hosts a number of festivals year-round. Kicking off the summer season is The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce’s Old West Days that takes place for 7-10 days near the end of May every year. It features live music, cowboy entertainment, a parade, stagecoach rides, shootouts, a brewfest and more.
Later in the summer, there’s the Jackson Hole Fourth of July Parade that kicks off at 10:30 a.m. and features mule trains from the national forest staff and Grand Teton National Park, rodeo queens, whitewater rafts, fire trucks and more. Fireworks at Snow King Resort and the Teton Village in Wilson take place in the evening.
In the fall, The Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Arts Festival attracts thousands of people for its 50 events that revolve around music, food and the works of nationally and internationally-known artists. In 2020, the Fall Arts Festival will take place Sept. 9-20.
Stay in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The Jackson Hole region is filled with resorts, guest ranches, and hotels, just 45 minutes from Grand Teton National Park and two hours from the south entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It’s assortment of lodging options, including glamping and camping, means there is something for every traveler.
For more information:
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
260 A West Broadway
Jackson, Wyo. 83001