My stay was hosted by Motel 6. Opinions are my own.
Nestled in a valley and surrounded by the majestic, snow capped Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyoming is a gateway to the wild. A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, this inviting winter destination radiates adventure and is the perfect cocktail of sophistication and wild west. Whether you have an appetite for adventure, powder, fresh air, or want to sip a Snake River brew next to a roaring fire, this unique holiday destination is a winter wonderland.
While Jackson Hole is known to be costly, the best part is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to lap up the fun. I spent some time here discovering tips for enjoying Jackson’s incredible alpine scenery and vibrant après ski scene without breaking the bank. Here is our ultimate travel guide for spending a winter vacation in Jackson Hole on a budget.
Where to Stay
Winter is one of the more expensive times to visit Jackson Hole, but, if you know where to look, it’s possible to get a comfortable room with easy access to the beautiful scenery.
With a great location right in the town of Jackson, Motel 6 offers a budget-friendly and convenient lodging option for families, couples, solo travelers and just about anyone in between. The newly renovated comfortable and unpretentious rooms provide a clean, cozy space to unwind after a long day outdoors. With affordable rooms, you can save more for the fun adventures you travel for. Plus, kids 17 and under stay for free (with an adult family member), and pets are allowed!
Grab a cup of free morning coffee (or tea) to start your day and take advantage of the free local area shuttle (see below), with a stop just next door at the Kmart parking lot. The updated rooms also come equipped with a fridge and microwave so that you can stock up on a few groceries and snacks ahead of time.
Pro Tip: The National Elk Refuge and Snow King Mountain Ski Resort are both within 3-ish miles of the Motel.
Motel 6 Jackson Hole
600 S US-89, Jackson, WY 83001
How to Get Around
Those who don’t have a car (or who want to cut down on parking costs at the ski resorts) should consider riding the START bus. The START bus is an excellent public transportation system funded by the Town of Jackson and Teton County. The bus offers a FREE town shuttle that runs every half hour within the Jackson city limits and from the Village Road Transit Center to Teton Village. Another free ride you can take is to the Travel and Leisure acclaimed National Museum of Wildlife Art Museum.
Additional rides (from Jackson to Teton Village) are budget friendly (~$3, and half off for kids!). The bus system is so clean and convenient it has virtually wiped out the need for taxis, Uber, and Lyft in the area, so whether you need to pick up some groceries, grab a meal out, or get outdoors, this is an efficient and easy option.
For a full START Bus schedule see: https://www.jacksonwy.gov/404/Schedules
What to Do
Indulge in a Post-Ski Soak at Granite Hot Springs
Nestled in the Gros Ventre Mountains just south of Jackson, the Granite Hot Springs are a local favorite — and a must-do to reawaken cold mountain muscles. During the winter, the springs are open from 10am-6pm and are only accessible via snowmobile, dog sled, cross-country ski, or fat bike, making this trip the ultimate outdoor adventure/reward pursuit. The pool itself was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and sources its brilliantly clear water from the nearby natural hot springs. The cost to enter is the Hot Springs is $8 for adults $5 for kids.
Pro Tip: Rent snowmobiles or cross country skis to access the hot springs and combine the day with a visit to Granite Falls, where scenes from “A River Runs Through It” were filmed along the picturesque icy falls, and where the locals bathe in a secret natural spring.
Granite Hot Springs
Ice Skate in the Town Square or at Teton Village
Whether you want to practice your triple axel or simply want to scoot around for an hour on the ice, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in Jackson. If you’re staying in town, head on over to the main square to rent some skates and glide beneath the holiday lights. Afterwards you can warm up with a hot chocolate at Cowboy Coffee or head on over to Snake River Brewery for a post-skate drink. The benefit of skating right in town is that there are so many dining options you can take advantage of after!
If you are staying out in Teton Village closer to the park, the Teton Village Rink (located just outside of Hotel Terra and Teton Mountain Lodge) is the way to go. You can rent skates there for a small fee.
Pro Tip: If you have your own skates and prefer a quieter setting, check out the baseball field at the corner of Powderhorn and Maple or the Rodeo area on Flat Creek Road.
National Elk Refuge Sleigh Ride
Thousands of elk congregate in the National Elk Refuge during the winter, and there’s no better space to observe them in their wild element than at the refuge. Climb aboard a horse-drawn sleigh ride and be whisked away into a landscape of sunny alpine-meadows, pine tree forests, and pristine wilderness. With the Tetons visible to the west and wild elk roaming freely throughout the reserve, the ride is a magical experience. The refuge is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who ensure that conservation remains the top priority. Rides depart from the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.
Pro Tip: If you want to see Elk, this really is the best way to do it. Elk are afraid of humans and have evolved to run at the sight/silhouette of humans. However, the slick design of the sleigh provides an open-topped blind of sorts so that visitors to get up close and personal with Elk (and snap the shots of a lifetime).
Peruse Mind-boggling Artwork and Sculptures at the National Museum of Wildlife Art
Recognized by Travel and Leisure as one of the best small-town museums in America, the National Wildlife Museum in Jackson Hole is the perfect place to spend a snowy afternoon. The museum opened its doors in 1987, and if the artwork alone isn’t enough to convince you to go, the building’s award-winning architecture will win you over. Pop on by to see realist and impressionist works by famous artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol, and John James Audubon, or to peruse the collection of Native American stone sculptures dating back to 2500 B.C.!
If you’re a National Park lover, you won’t want to miss Thomas Moran’s landscape artwork (the very pieces of art that convinced congress to fund Yellowstone National Park in the first place). And if you only have a few minutes, do a drive by and check out the amazing bronze sculptures outside.
The museum’s current exhibit, featuring the works of wildlife photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen, is on display through April 2019, and already has rave reviews!
Pro Tip: The art gallery overlooks the Elk Refuge. Combine your visit here with a Sleigh Ride at the park for the ultimate day trip.
National Museum of Wildlife Art
Closed on Mondays
2820 Rungius Rd, Jackson, WY 83001
Get Your Eagle Fix at the Teton Raptor Center
If you’ve ever dreamt about hanging out with an owl-like Hedwig from Harry Potter or seeing a Bald Eagle up close and personal, this is your chance to hang with wild birds (in a safe and ethical setting)! The Teton Raptor Center is a rescue facility and rehabilitation clinic for Yellowstone’s injured birds. The center takes in abandoned and injured raptors in order to nurse them back to health and improve their quality of life. Founded by two of the National Park’s field biologists back in 1991, the center also focuses on raptor research and provides exceptional educational tours.
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Teton Raptor Center recently admitted a dark morph Rough-legged hawk into rehab after he was hit by a car. He is undergoing treatment for head trauma and for mild congestion in his lungs. Rough-legged hawks get their name due to the feathers that go all the way down their legs and stop just above the foot. These leg feathers are really important as they provide insulation in cold temperatures and allow them to thrive in chilly arctic conditions. Rough-legged hawks spend a majority of their time living and breeding in the arctic and typically will migrate down to southern regions of Canada and the northern United States. These hawks are the most common hawk in Jackson Hole in the winter time and we hope to be able to release this bird back into the wild before spring. To see what other patients that Teton Raptor Center is treating right now, check out our website! #roughleggedhawk #arcticbird #raptor #birdofprey #hawk #buteolagopus #wildliferehab #raptorrehab
Stop by the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center on Fridays for the free Feathered Friends events, or pop by the raptor center for an up close and personal opportunity to learn about every kind of raptor (from the tiniest Saw-whet Owl to the grandest Golden Eagle). The interactive tours, friendly staff, and incredible wildlife will make it worthwhile and you may even learn about the national Poo-Poo project (started by the Teton Raptor Center) or catch an older owl teaching an owl chicklet the rules of the road.
Pro Tip: Definitely call ahead before you go, just to make sure the staff are there (the winter can be a little slower). Also, be sure to ask if the center has any bird releases scheduled — so that you can watch a rehabilitated bird flap back into the wild.
Teton Raptor Center
5450 WY-22, Wilson, WY 83014
Strap on some Snowshoes or Cross-Country Skis and Hit the Trails
Winter is arguably Jackson’s most magical season. It’s a season where fresh powder, frosty trees, and alpine vistas dominate the scenery and local wildlife rest and recover.
One of the best ways to soak up the scenery and bask in pure winter glory is to hit up the local cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Cache Creek Trail, a 9.4 mile out and back trail, is a local favorite and is one of the best routes to see wildlife on. The trail is well trafficked and well-groomed (every Mon, Wed, Fri). It is located just 1 mile east of the main square.
If you’re up for a bit more adventure and perhaps some true solitude, head into the park and try the Cottonwood Creek to Jenny Lake Trail, which can be done as a loop around the lake or as an out and back depending on how much time you have. This trail has some of the best views of the Tetons’ tallest peaks.
For trail tips, tricks, and weather updates check out http://jhnordic.com/ and for a list of local gear rental shops click here.
Channel Your Inner Scientist on a Stargazing Tour
If you happen to be in Jackson on the second Friday of the month, you HAVE to take advantage of this free opportunity. Join local astronomy educators at Wyoming Stargazers to learn about the planets, nebulae, and constellations above. The public sessions are sponsored by a NASA grant and remain totally free (though there is a $10 suggested donation). The star sessions take place just outside the Center for Arts, and telescopes are provided.
If you’ve never been to Jackson, you’re going to want to spend a hot minute staring up at that freckled night sky. It’s worth your time! For more information visit: http://www.wyomingstargazing.org/calendar/
Yellowstone – Grand Prismatic Spring
Winter weather and snow only add to the majestic colors at Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. If you’re up for a day trip, consider driving up to Yellowstone to see the iconic rainbow colors at Grand Prismatic (Yellowstone’s most photographed geological feature).
The vibrant oranges, blues, and yellows (created by the microorganisms who live in the hot water), will win your heart (and Instagram following) over. The microorganisms here are responsible for inspiring several scientists and doctors over the years — providing the resources to sequence the human genome and search for life on other planets. You never know what ideas this spring will give you.
Pro tip: The best way to see all of the colors is from above. If you don’t mind a bit of a scramble, the Fairy Falls trail offers a better vantage point for photographs than the boardwalks at ground level.
See a Jackson Hole Moose Hockey Game
If you’re traveling with a squad of hockey-loving northerners, you’ll want to pop by Snow King Center to see The Moose play. The Jackson Hole Moose Hockey team is a non-profit organization that plays in the Senior A division of the U.S.A. Hockey Division. The team plays on Fridays and Saturday nights throughout the winter at the Snow King Center — and teens will get a kick out of the full-check rules.
Escape the Cold, and Challenge the Family to a Round of Bowling
When the winds are whipping, and you need a rest day, it pays to have an indoor activity or two up your sleeve. Hole Bowl in Jackson is the perfect, family-friendly destination. Don’t let the outside of this place fool you, the inside is decked out in chic booths, rustic wooden decor, inviting lighting, and games for days. Stop by for an hour or the entire day — there are free shuffleboard courts, air-hockey tables, ping-pong tables, a video game arcade, skee-ball adventures, and a full-service restaurant to keep the whole family occupied. It’s one of the best deals in town, and the restaurant serves up a mean burger.
Pro Tip: Call ahead to make reservations (for bowling) as it can fill up quickly. Stay after 10pm for glow in the dark bowling.
980 W Broadway, Jackson Hole, WY 83001
Get Your Heart Racing with a Ride on the Snow King Mountain Cowboy Coaster
If you’ve ever wondered if it was possible to ride a roller coaster in the winter — straight through fresh powder — it is. The Cowboy Coaster at Snow King Mountain is an adventure that thrill-seekers won’t want to miss. This roller-coaster takes riders 456 feet up the mountain, before turning them loose on a winding, speed-machine adventure through the snow! After zooming down the mountain, you won’t be able to wipe the grin off of your face. Snow King Mountain also has some of the most affordable skiing in the area, so if you want to combine the adventures, this is a great (and affordable option).
Snow King Mountain Winter Cowboy Coaster
Tickets available at Snow King Mountain Sports just under Haydens Post in the Snow King Hotel.
402 East Snow King Avenue.
Where to Eat and Drink
Tijuana Authentic Mexican Restaurant
It’s hard to beat the Mexican food found in Southern California, so whenever I stumble upon something claiming to be “authentic,” I’m skeptical. Located right next door to the Motel 6, in the Kmart strip mall, this taqueria did not disappoint. You can usually judge an establishment by their carne asada tacos, and Tijuana wins my vote for best tacos in Jackson Hole.
Tijuana Authentic Mexican Restaurant
520 US-89, Jackson, WY 83001
Thai Me Up
Half brew-pub, half Thai restaurant, this hipper-than-thou joint plays kung-fu movies on their TVs, pours excellent craft brews, and serves up some mean Thai grub. Pop on by to sample one of their 30 craft beers and unwind in a casual West-meets-Asian-fusion atmosphere. You’ll also want to check out the artwork on their bottles (curated by local Jackson artists and mountain athletes).
Thai Me Up
75 E Pearl Ave, Jackson, WY 83001
This might be one of our favorite coffee shops anywhere in the world. Located just off the main square, this down-to-earth coffee joint serves up fresh-roasted blends and delicious lunch sandwiches (try the Grazer!). Settle in for the afternoon to connect to wi-fi and get work done or pop through to enjoy the local art (ceramic mugs, paintings). Regardless of your mission, we promise you will appreciate the rustic wild-west elements and delicious coffee brews in this cute little Jackson shop.
125 N Cache St, Jackson, WY 83001
Snake River Brewery
Snake River is Wyoming’s oldest brewery — and it shows in the quality of their beer and food. Stop by this casual, family-friendly, down-to-earth microbrewery to fuel up and unwind after a day on the slopes. The industrial-meets-cozy setting is as inviting as it is trendy.
Grab a seat by the fire, order up a bison burger or veggie pizza and chat about your day in alpine bliss. We recommend the Snake River Pale Ale or Alpha Prime IPA (both of which also make great gifts for craft beer lovers).
Pro Tip: Visit on Sunday for “Sunday Funday” to get a John Daly or Bloody Mary Special.
Snake River Brewery
265 S Millward St, Jackson, WY 83001
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
When visiting the Cowboy State, you should definitely make a pit stop to this watering hole. Established back in 1937, this wild-west establishment pays homage to the region’s wild west history.
With horse saddles for bar stools, line-dancing lessons, and true Western tunes, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Music typically starts at 9pm — Saturday nights are typically popping so be prepared for a crowd.
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar
25 N Cache St, Jackson, WY 83001
As the story goes, Arnold Schwarzenegger walked out of Bubbas after they refused to seat him ahead of the line. This no-frills BBQ joint serves up classic BBQ dishes and an expansive salad bar. They’ve been in operation for over 40 years, and to make a long story short, they know what they are doing.
Pro Tip: Ask about the Workers Special, the Mayor’s favorite Jackson staple. For $6 you can get 2 eggs, 2 sausage links, home fries, a biscuit that covered half the plate and coffee! And be sure to stop in on Thursdays for free cookies at noon.
100 Flat Creek Dr, Jackson, WY 83001
Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Bar
Located one block west of the town square, the Silver Dollar Bar at Wort Hotel is a great place to grab a drink or a meal. Nestled inside the Historic Wort Hotel, this casual establishment offers saddles for bar stools and bluegrass music on Tuesdays. The s-curved bar is decorated with 2,032 uncirculated 1921 Morgan Silver Dollars — paying homage to earlier, wilder times. The only way to find out the answers to questions like: 1) are their secret tunnels between silver dollar and million dollar cowboy? And 2) What WWII Japanese internment camp survivor ran the hotel’s finances for 30+ years? Is to pay a visit and ask for yourself. The windows by the street also offer excellent people watching opportunities.
After grabbing a bite, pay a quick visit to the hotel to experience the magnificent artwork.
Pro Tip: Visit on Tuesdays for Bluegrass music by the 6-piece progressive band, One Ton Pig.
Silver Dollar Bar
50 Glenwood St, Jackson, WY 83001
Pinky G’s Pizza
For a quick and inexpensive slice, head to Pinky G’s (Jackson’s local choice for pizza since 2011). You’ll find a mix of ski bums, Jackson locals, and pizza connoisseurs putting back slices and gabbing about the weather.
Pro Tip: You can grab a copy of the Jackson Daily (the local paper) here for free!
Pinky G’s Pizza
50 W Broadway, Jackson, WY 83001
Smith’s Grocery Store
If you are looking to save on food while in Jackson and cook more of your own meals, Smith’s Grocery Store typically has the most affordable food and produce. It’s a bit off the beaten path, but offers a more budget-conscious alternative to the Albertsons.
1425 S, US-89, Jackson, WY 83001
Ready to Go?
Jackson’s welcoming, down-to-earth energy radiates winter excitement and adventure. Catch a fine wine next to a roaring fire or escape into the mountains for some fresh air. However, you choose to spend your vacation, we hope you take advantage of our budget friendly tips and recommendations!