I think we’re all in agreement that Jackson Hole is the best place on earth. But did you know that for kids, a visit here is a life-changing, outlook-expanding, spirit-electrifying experience?
Take an informal poll: walk around town asking people how they came to live here. They’ll tell you that they were either 1., Born here; or 2., Visited as a child or teen and loved it so much they just had to come back. Permanently.
It is never too young to introduce the kids to Jackson Hole. We take ‘em right from the cradle! Our littlest Clear Creek Group guest was four weeks old (cool mom, right?). Our oldest? I’m guessing 97 years… and he had a great time. Hot air ballooning, clay shooting… but that’s a story for another day.
What follows is a recipe for the most amazing trip your kids will ever take. Here goes:
Traveling with Kids.
First. In the car, or on the plane, bring along some things they’ve never seen before (or better yet, that they adore and can only play with when traveling), like magnetic puzzles and personal art boxes with paper, colored pencils, glue, etc – which could become keepsake journals. This will set the tone for the fabulous vacation to come.
Next, stay in a Clear Creek Group house.
“Well of course Betsy would say that,” you’re thinking; but wait! Here’s why: though YOU care about the architecture of the house, its view and location, the kids couldn’t care less. Let’s be realistic, here. What DO they care about? What does every kid, young and old, love? Presents!
Do we know what we’re doing, or what?
Clear Creek kids get their very own welcome gifts. Gifts customized with their names, gifts chosen especially for them. Walking into a Clear Creek house for the first time is, for a kid, like waking up on their birthday. Any lingering fatigue and crankiness instantly evaporates!
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll help you choose a home where there is some magical natural feature that will enchant them. Something that will keep them endlessly entertained while you’re having cocktails, enjoying the view, or getting ready to go to the rodeo. Perhaps a house beside a little creek, where they can build dams and wade through clear, cold water, or a house set against the woods, where they can climb trees and knock down old ones. Or a house with a wide lawn that calls for cartwheels and lawn games (supplied by the Clear Creek Group!) Maybe a house with a pond, for fishing in the summer and ice skating in the winter. And how fun it is to dress up one of the snow men we left by the door to greet you, along with boxes of snowman couture and accessories.
Think of it this way: the whole outdoors is the kids’ playground.
Photo by Henry Holdsworth
There’s tubing on countless streams, like Flat Creek, one of our favorites. You put in at Dairy Queen, float through and around town, and disembark just south of town at Smith’s Grocery. It’s easy, so much fun, and great for all ages. There’s one little waterfall – but the water is so shallow that if a kid gets dumped out of his inner tube, he can stand right back up again.
Have you ever painted rocks? While you’re at one of these mountain streams, take out your watercolors, dip your brush in the water and paint the rocks around you.
Take the kids canoeing, kayaking, or horseback riding.
Join a guided nature hike specially geared toward children (by The Hole Hiking Experience – holehike.com), with yummy snacks and lunches provided. They’ll learn the names of glaciers and wildflowers, how the mountains got there, and how to identify scat on trails. They’ll taste plants: mint, licorice, and violet leaves; and smell flowers and pine needles. They’ll apply natural sunscreen provided by the bark of aspens. Hole Hikes are often led by the wonderful Cathy Shill, who knows everything about everything Jackson Hole.
Cathy can lead your group to Granite Hot Springs, past beaver habitat, mountain springs, and waterfalls. You can catch a butterfly on the way, and Cathy will go get the car if you’re too pooped to hike back out. Huckleberry Hot Springs is another great trip.
You can’t miss with a trip to Phelps Lake, where the famous Big Rock is a launching pad for kids to hurl themselves into the water. Or what about a family mountain bike ride on the ski trails? A chairlift takes you up with your bikes, and you ride down at your own pace.
Watch the earth boil at Yellowstone. Swim in String Lake.
Watch for moose, bear (I saw another one yesterday!) eagles, elk, coyotes and wolves.
Go to the rodeo!
Learn to lasso.
Sign the kids up for cooking classes or fly fishing lessons.
The Town Square Shoot Out is a Jackson institution – don’t miss it!
The Jackson Hole Playhouse Dinner theater – Roaring fun! Cast sings to you during dinner, tots and young ‘uns sit on saddles and the Playhouse production of The Ballad of Cat Ballou is full of energy and belly chuckling laughs. I took a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old last week and they could not take their eyes off the show!
Kids (and adults) can also take acting lessons at the Jackson Hole Playhouse.
The Bar T 5 Chuckwagon is loads of fun. You’ll ride in a covered wagon, accompanied by singing cowboys on horses, up through Cache Creek Canyon, to the campsite. There you’ll have a hearty “dutch oven” dinner, and watch the Bar T 5 Band.
Listen to a storyteller spin Wyoming tall tales.
Ride the stagecoach around town.
Get hot dogs and ice cream at Moo’s.
Watch, as – over the course of your visit – your kids begin to forget computer games ever existed!
And, if you have to fire up the DVD player, try “Bear Tunes” for the younger ones. Teens and tweens love the intensity of the footage from the Yellowstone fire, and they’ll learn (happily! enthusiastically!) about why fire is such a vital part of the forest ecosystem.
Your kids will remember it always, their trip to Jackson Hole. And if, one day, they do decide to move here…. Maybe they’ll add on a room for you.
Come out and play!