January 1, 2014

Travel Itinerary: Jackson, Wyoming

The Western mecca of Jackson, Wyoming, attracts both skiers and history buffs.

  • By: Meghan Drueding

For thousands of years, the eye-popping natural resources of Wyoming’s Jackson Hole valley have drawn visitors who can’t stay away. Native Americans stopped there every summer to hunt buffalo and other wildlife, while fur trappers discovered the area’s snow-capped mountains, verdant forests, and mirror-like lakes in the early 1800s. (The 48-mile-long valley and the town of Jackson within it are both named after trapper David E. Jackson, according to local lore.)

Homesteaders and ranchers followed, as did the creation of Grand Teton National Park and world-class ski resorts. Those who came for the scenery left behind a trove of historic places, including authentic log cabins, an enchanting downtown built around a central square, and White Grass Dude Ranch, now a National Treasure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Preservation has gathered travel recommendations from three Jackson experts: John Carney, a local architect and board member of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort; James Wolfensohn, founder of Wolfensohn Fund Management and former president of the World Bank; and Sharon Kahin, executive director of the Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum and co-manager of her family's Dubois, Wyo., ranch.

John Carney
Founding Principal, Carney Logan Burke Architects


“Persephone Bakery is right off the square in downtown Jackson. They have good coffee and really nice pastry. And next to it is Cafe Genevieve, which is in a historic building. Another that has a wonderful atmosphere is Sweetwater in an old log cabin. It’s absolutely charming. One more log cabin restaurant is Nora’s Fish Creek Inn in Wilson. It’s a totally classic building and has a sign with a painted trout on the roof. Nora’s is a local treasure. The breakfast is great, and so is the elk tenderloin special at dinner. Rendezvous Bistro is really high-quality, and Snake River Grill is more for special occasions. It  was the first restaurant of high culinary art here. Couloir [part of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort] has the cool element of being 9,000 feet above the valley floor. You take a gondola to get to the restaurant.”


“The Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve (LRP) in Grand Teton National Park is kind of its own entity within the park. We designed the visitors’ center there. Of course, the park is known for having thousands of acres, but the LRP is giving you a much more intimate, get-in-touch-with-nature experience. You can take a network of trails that leads you up to Phelps Lake.”

James Wolfensohn
Founder, Wolfensohn Fund Management


“I have coffee quite often at the Wort Hotel [a Historic Hotels of America property]. And dinner at the Four Seasons. Both are good hotels.”


“A very small percentage of the land in the valley is private. The joy of the place is the access to public land, which is phenomenal. I like to read when I’m there, and fish on the Snake River. The Grand Teton Music Festival in the summer is terrific. It’s just wonderful. I go to about 60 percent of the concerts at Walk Festival Hall. We have a lot of the artists come and stay with us. The music director, Donald Runnicles, is fabulous. He brings great artists to the Festival because he is a great artist himself. You don’t have to dress up [in Jackson]. I haven’t put on a tie there in 24 years -- well, once
or twice. But in general you never wear ties. You don’t have to wear a jacket at dinner. It’s a gem -- an absolutely marvelous place.”

Sharon Kahin
Executive Director, Jackson Hole Historical Society & Museum


“The best place in Wyoming to have breakfast is The Bunnery on Cache Street. It’s been there forever. Another breakfast place is Shades Cafe, which used to be a local blacksmith shop. They have great coffee and incredible bran muffins. The Rusty Parrot Lodge has an absolutely fabulous restaurant, the Wild Sage. It’s got a nice big fireplace and is really quiet. The Blue Lion is another high-end restaurant that’s really good.”


“The Inn on the Creek and The Alpine House are good hotel options for people who want something that has ambience, but is not through the roof. The Rusty Parrot Lodge is another great place to stay. It’s a splurge!”


“Something that’s quite wonderful to do in the wintertime is the horse-drawn sleigh tour through the National Elk Refuge. To take a sleigh ride and be pulled by these beautiful draft horses is very special. You can get so close to the elk. The drivers throw hay off the sleigh and feed them. Another off-the- beaten-path special thing is the cultural resources in Grand Teton National Park, such as the Bar BC Ranch. We -- the Jackson Hole Historical Society -- are trying to preserve it. You can still see the corrals, tack sheds, cabins, and main lodge. You get a sense of what drew so many people to this area. It’s a beautiful spot; it’s like stepping into the past.”

Meghan Drueding is the managing editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee table books about architecture and design.


URGENT: Contact your Senators asking them to pass the Route 66 National Historic Trail Designation Act before 2019!

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