Jackson Hole with Kids
Note: Capital One and Hotels.com sent us to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to promote their 10x miles hotel partnership – which unfortunately expired January 31, 2020. I’m therefore deleting information about the deal, but keeping this post up since we loved Jackson Hole, and everything else here is still relevant. And I continue to love Capital One Venture for earning miles and hotels.com for booking hotels.
Why did we choose Jackson Hole for this trip? A few reasons. First, growing up in Colorado I loved traveling to the mountains when I was a kid and skiing/playing in the snow. Living in Southern California, my kids aren’t growing up with that same experience. It was time to fix that! And Jackson Hole has had more snow this year than a lot of the US. Second, I’d always wanted to visit. With two National Parks nearby, the landscape looked stunning. Third, it wasn’t too far away. If I was going to travel with my 7-year-old daughter for an extended weekend, I didn’t want to spend too much time on planes.
We departed Santa Barbara early, connected in LA and arrived in Jackson Hole by noon. So easy! It was snowing when we landed (perfect), and near the baggage claim there was a stand with free mimosas for adults, juice for kids, and stickers. Why can’t every airport have that? 🙂
We picked up our luggage and went to find the rental car agency. We didn’t see the company we booked with at the airport, so we went outside to catch the shuttle to their off-site location. It was REALLY off-site! Half the rental car companies have their locations in town, which I didn’t expect but it works out well – instead of driving between the airport and town, and paying for the fuel, the rental companies essentially do it for you. We picked up our car and drove the one mile or so to our hotel.
Our first two nights were at Hotel Jackson, which we found through Hotels.com. We loved the location, only a block from the main square, and the rustic luxury vibe. And we loved the hotel itself. The wood throughout the hotel was all recycled from old barns – so cool!
Service at the hotel was excellent. A valet was always standing by when we pulled up, and it never took more than a couple minutes to get the car when we wanted to go somewhere. And the front desk and concierge staff had answers to all of our questions.
I loved that at check-in they gave my daughter a stuffed bison! I wish all hotels did that – little check-in gifts always make kids feel welcome. The coffee in the mornings off the lobby, and the apples throughout the hotel, were nice touches as well.
Our room was perfect – comfortable beds, a gorgeous bathroom, and same rustic feel as the lobby. My daughter thought it was great that we had a (gas) fireplace in the room, and she camped out in front of it with a book several times during our stay.
What We Did
A Wildlife Safari
My daughter wanted to see animals, and I wanted to see Grand Teton National Park and specifically the Teton Range, so a half-day wildlife safari through the park seemed perfect for both. Jody with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris picked us up at 7:30am sharp our first morning, and just a few minutes later we were in the park. The safari was moderately successful. We saw bison, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, a fox, and several types of birds. There weren’t many animals close to the roads, but Jody was great at seeing them in the distance and setting up the spotting scope. The weather unfortunately worked against us. There wasn’t much snow, so fewer animals had come down from the mountains this year to graze, and there were low clouds the entire morning, so I never saw the magnificent Tetons. Plus it rained on us – not what we were expecting in early February! I’d love do another safari with Jody on a future visit and hopefully see a lot more.
Flashback to my childhood! Right behind Hotel Jackson is Judge Roy Bean’s Old Time Photos. My daughter didn’t want to go in – I think she gets tired of all the photos I take of her when we’re traveling – so I had to bribe her with a souvenir from the toy store. However, Andreea the photographer was amazing, and it turned out to be my daughter’s favorite activity of the weekend. She loved dressing up, and her eyes lit up when she saw the final photos.
It was raining! In February! So we talked to Colleen at the Hotel Jackson concierge desk and she suggested bowling – nice and warm and indoors. She called Hole Bowl and got us a lane reservation, and we drove right over – maybe five minutes away. It was a fun hour. My daughter hasn’t bowled more than a few times ever but she did great. And Colleen gave us fresh-baked cookies too. We liked Colleen.
While we were in the town of Jackson (as opposed to Teton Village, 20 minutes away at the base of the slopes), we walked a lot and explored. We loved the town – one of my daughter’s new favorite places. What’s funny is that not everything was open. I’ve always associated Jackson Hole with winter and skiing, but the vast majority of visitors arrive in the summer, making this the off-season. There was still plenty to do. The candy store was a hit, as was the toy store. And we spent time in the park, behind the famous elk antler arches.
What We Didn’t Do
If you read my planning post, I mentioned all sorts of things that we wanted to do, like a sleigh ride, ice skating and tubing. Unfortunately those didn’t happen.
The Sleigh Ride: We tried to book a sleigh ride dinner. It sounded perfect – a sleigh ride over fields of snow through the Elk Refuge followed by a Western-style dinner. The first night, however, they were closed for a private party. Our second night in Jackson they were closed for the big game. And there was no snow on the Elk Refuge anyway, so the sleigh ride actually would have been a wagon ride.
Ice Skating: As far as I could determine, Jackson Hole has three places to skate – an indoor rink at the Snow King Sports and Events Center, an outdoor rink in the town square, and another outdoor rink in Teton Village. On Sunday when we had free time, however, there was no public skating at Snow King. And both outdoor rinks had partially melted because of the warm temperatures.
Tubing: We actually got dressed up to go tubing…but then the snow changed to rain. Snow tubing is far more fun than rain tubing. We cancelled our plans.
But I never mind when things don’t work out, since it’s an excuse to return. Plus we went bowling instead of tubing, and saw the Elk Refuge on our wildlife safari, and had a couple of excellent meals in town (below), so no complaints.
Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
After two days in Jackson itself, with some fun adventures and some scrubbed plans, we checked out of Hotel Jackson, drove up the mountain, and checked into the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole for our final night. Given the hotel’s guest reviews on Hotels.com I was expecting an excellent stay, and it didn’t disappoint. We loved the setting – right in front of the ski lifts – and the outdoor heated pool. And it snowed when we were swimming, which made it even more fun. Plus there are heated towels when you get out – a very nice touch.
We played a little foosball in the resort’s kids club, but we spent most of our non-pool time outside. Whereas my daughter wasn’t loving the temperatures when we were on our wildlife safari, just a day later she was having a blast playing in the snow, throwing snowballs, making small snowmen, and exploring the snow sculptures/castles near the hotel. Given how much I loved the snow when I was a kid, I was glad that she came around quickly!
We also jumped on the Aerial Tram and rode 10 minutes or so up to the summit. We were the only sightseers on the tram – packed in with 98 skiers and snowboarders! The view from the tram is gorgeous, and at the top we saw the sun for the first time since Saturday. We had waffles at Corbet’s Cabin (the traditional brown sugar was our favorite) and walked around a little before riding the Tram back down, this time alone with the operator. A little more breathing room!
Where We Ate
Our Capital One Venture card got a workout! We had fun dining in Jackson and Teton Village, and found a few places that we loved:
Rendezvous Bistro. Our favorite meal. We started with alligator and frog legs, then I had the black cod and my daughter had the very southern fried chicken. We finished with beignets. Perfection!
Snake River Grill. The place most recommended by family and friends prior to our trip didn’t disappoint. Our meal was excellent – especially the cauliflower soup, bison steak and seared ahi. We didn’t get the famous onion rings, since there were only two of us, but they looked amazing. A definite splurge.
Westbank Grill. The Four Seasons’ all-day restaurant serves probably the best Mac & Cheese that I’ve ever had. I’d go back just for another plate!
Summary and Pricing
We loved Jackson Hole and wouldn’t hesitate to return, in summer or winter. Even with disappointing weather there was plenty to keep us occupied for three full days. And the airport couldn’t have been easier to fly in and out of.
Capital One and Hotels.com sponsored our trip. I checked winter dates for both hotels on Hotels.com and found rooms at Hotel Jackson for as little as $344/night and at Four Seasons Jackson Hole for $649/night. Our rental car was $67 total for three days. Meals ranged from $30 for lunch at The Bunnery to $159 for dinner at Snake River Grill. The Aerial Tram for sightseeing is $33 for adults and $17 for kids. Bowling was $33 for an hour. The old time photos were $105, which included a sitting, three prints, and three paper frames.
My daughter’s favorite activities were bowling, the old time photos, and swimming at the Four Seasons. And she loved the animals she got at check-in at both hotels – a bison at Hotel Jackson and a moose at the Four Seasons. Yes, she can be easily bribed with stuffed animals! I liked the wildlife safari and the trip on the Aerial Tram to the summit, and I loved all of the childhood memories that kept flooding back – from the old time photos to playing in the snow to the salt water taffy at the candy store. I found myself picturing my daughter taking her kids to the mountains in 30 years and having to try to convince them to take old time photos!
I’d stay at both hotels again. If I had to choose one it would be the Four Seasons because of the setting, but it’s also a splurge. There are plenty of less-expensive Jackson Hole options at Hotels.com.
Take your kids everywhere! And use your Venture card! With 2x miles for everyday purchases, we earn miles we can use towards our next vacation.
Have you been to Jackson Hole? What should we add to our itinerary next time?