Between Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming boasts just under 4,000 square miles of National Park land. There are 1,250 combined miles of hiking trails, 290 waterfalls and 17 species of carnivore and every now and again, some lucky (or unlucky) soul stumbles across a wolverine. Last year, Grand Teton National Park received 3,270,076 guests and in 2015, Yellowstone broke a park record with 4,097,710 visitors. What the large majority of those millions of moose and geothermal enthusiasts miss, is that amid the gurgling geysers and grizzlies, is the town of Jackson Hole where a blossoming cultural and culinary scene makes this part of Northwest Wyoming as worthy of a visit as any craggy mountain range or bison herd.
The wildlife in and around Jackson Hole is amazing and perhaps the most unique way to experience it is not actually in park but by a visit to The National Museum of Wildlife Art. Perched on a hill overlooking the National Elk Refuge, The National Museum of Wildlife Art features fourteen galleries with works of art spanning 2500 years from such artists as Rembrandt, Picasso, Rodin, Warhol and O’Keeffe.
Jackson Hole’s town square is rich with public art and one can’t walk three storefronts without encountering galleries featuring local, national, and internationally acclaimed artists. No place, though, does Jackson Hole’s creative spirit manifest itself more so than The Center for the Arts. This 78,000-square foot facility, located just off the main square, is home to nineteen artistic non-profits ranging from state-of-the-art virtual reality concepts to local theater groups. Most impressive is the center’s theater which features intimate performances from world renowned entertainers, which include solo performances by Ben Folds and book readings by David Sedaris.
Visitors would be hard pressed to come to Jackson Hole and NOT explore the parks. For access to some of the park’s lesser known scenic routes and wildlife, try a tour with Jackson Hole Eco Tour Adventures. The conversation-minded group ensures a personalized and educational journey into the parks and surrounding areas.
Eat and Drink
Jackson Hole has long been a second home destination for wealthy entrepreneurs and entertainers. As a result, the culinary scene, from low end to high, has evolved to meet the needs of the sophisticated palates of the American elite. No dining experience is more original than Tuesday Tasting at Gather Restaurant and Bar. Booked two months in advance, owner Graeme Swain joins twelve guests to sample a newly created, locally sourced three course meal.
After each course, Swain leads a lively conversation about the virtues of each new dish and, at the meal’s conclusion, invites the chef to participate in an overall evaluation. The restaurant’s night-to-night menu is constantly in flux, featuring dishes designed with the guidance of Tuesday Tasting participants. Among the menu’s long stays and staples are the Beef Lengua, the Braised Lamb Ossobucco and the braised Utah Goat Tacos.
For casual fare, the southern influenced Café Genevieve features a stellar bricked chicken and the sweet and spicy candied bacon, known as “Pig Candy,” must be tried to be understood. For a burger and a beer, you could do a lot worse than Local and for baked goods and a damn good cup of coffee Persephone Bakery is the place to go.
Located just off Jackson Hole’s town square is The Rusty Parrot Lodge. This 32 room, family owned hotel is equal parts mountain rustic and luxurious. With spacious rooms, intimate common areas centered on wood burning fireplaces and The Wild Sage Restaurant, one of Jackson’s best breakfast spots, The Rusty Parrot feel as much like a home as it does a hotel. It is the ideal spot to stay to enjoy Jackson Hole’s up and coming cultural scene or, of course, the surrounding four thousand miles of National Park, two-hundred ninety waterfalls and the seventeen carnivores that call Wyoming home.
Photos by Matthew Payne