1) Take a hike
Jackson has some of the best hiking trails in the country. If you aren’t in the mood to buy a park pass, (after all this is a free guide) try hiking up to Goodwin Lake, or if you’re in the mood to go far, Jackson Peak. You will need a vehicle to get there, but the hike has stunning Teton views, and Goodwin is totally doable for the older kids.
For the little kiddos I recommend a hike in Grand Teton National Park, like Bradley-Taggart (pictured above) or Phelps Lake. They both have great views with beautiful, quick destinations! The key to hiking with kids is to keep it short, with an awesome destination (preferably something with water at the ‘end’).
2) Ride up the Bridger Gondola
Between 4:30-8:00 on Sunday-Thursday the gondola is running (check here for any additional closures) and rides are totally free. At the top, you’ll find refreshing temperatures, cocktails, and free music. The view… that’s not too bad either! Bring some friends for an extra good time.
3) Have a campfire
And bring supplies for some o’ these!
Note: As the weather gets hot and dry a fire ban may be in effect. Check with the Forest Service before lighting things up. Also be smart, fires can get out of hand quickly in the wind. Be sure, very sure, that your fire is totally out before leaving the area.
4) Spend an afternoon in Teton Village
The creek that runs through the base of Teton Village is actually a mountain stream that’s been enhanced. In summer it provides the BEST place in Jackson to let your kids play in the water. The water is cold, but not impossible, and it’s shallow and running just enough to make you feel like it’s totally safe, and yet, not stagnant. This is a total gem.
Driving around looking for wildlife might not sound like very much fun, but trust me, when you or your kid sees an American Bison walk 5 feet in front of your car, you will never forget it. Other wildlife to be on the lookout for are moose, elk, and of course, the bears.
Once you’ve had enough driving around, check out the Visitors Center at the Moose entrance to Grand Teton National Park. This is no ordinary visitors center… you could spend hours here!
6) Free concerts at Snow King & Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
The town concerts are the base of Snow King, you can find the lineup for 2014 here. These concerts are a total blast, but can be pretty packed. There is plenty of food to buy from trucks and other vendors on site, or, bring your own.
The concerts at Teton Village are also at the base area, and you can find the lineup here. These tend to be smaller gatherings than Snow King, and I would say are a little more family friendly, including noise level. Bring a picnic, or indulge in some Thai food from the local vendors.
Pick your favorite band, or attend them all! Either way, free music in a beautiful place is pretty hard to beat!
7. Go Bouldering
At the base of Snow King, Phil Baux Park houses not only a kiddie playground but also 2 beautiful new Bouldering rocks. Some of the routes are pretty tough, but little creative climbers will be delighted!
8. Hit up the playground
Jackson Hole is home to at least 10 ridiculously cool playgrounds. Especially on weekends or in the summer when school is out, these babies are free reign. If you’re in the mood to drink a smoothie and chill while your kids burn some steam, check out Miller Park, Phil Baux Park, or Owen Bircher Park in Wilson- my top 3 favorites.
There’s nothing wrong with a freebee to get your Jackson Hole vacation or weekend going. Enjoy the ride!