Wyoming is for the kind of people who like to have “Type 2 Fun,” which is a category of recreation that has been recently introduced to me.
“Type 1 Fun” is the most ubiquitous, the kind of fun you might have by going on vacation or to Coachella. It’s about pure enjoyment and unadulterated joy. “Type 2 Fun,” on the other hand, is about slogging through a strenuous activity that may or may not be miserable in the moment but, if you come out on the other side of it, you can evaluate it as fun.
As a destination, Wyoming contains the kind of environment that not only fosters both types of “Fun,” but also offers “Type 3 Fun,” which is loosely defined as the kind of fun you might die having.
I primarily prefer the Type 1 variety, but as I got settled in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a three-week stay, I realized I might inadvertently be converting to a Type 2 kind of girl.
For starters, Wyoming is home to the famous mountain range within Grand Teton National Park, which is a Type 2 playground — but also Type 1, if you don’t make physical exertion (to the point of your limbs screaming in agony) a regular habit. There’s still plenty of Type 1 Fun to do. One of the first things I noticed after landing in the beautiful (truly beautiful) Jackson Hole Airport was that people in Wyoming are...fit. Really, really fit. This is because it is almost impossible to live a sedentary lifestyle in a place that offers such a stunning invitation to adventure.
The weather is perfect in the summertime, providing a dry, mountain air balm to my ravaged city soul. It’s sunny until 9:30pm, with a temperate climate that makes outdoor activities desirable and necessary. I quickly began to feel guilty about spending any time indoors in Wyoming. Even as I type this, I am itching to join my friends who are soaking up some rays on the deck while staring at one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world. It’s heaven.
It’s also...quiet, well, relatively speaking. For some people, Jackson Hole feels like a big city, but for me, a born-and-raised New Yorker, it can feel like perfect solitude. It’s lovely that you can turn up or turn down your isolation based on your social capacity and, at this moment in time, I am appreciating being left alone. If you’re like me, you only have to see people if you want to and there are many big-box stores and local businesses to frequent; there’s a Whole Foods complete with Tesla recharging stations, a pet store called Teton Tails and, rumor has it, a Target is coming. Some people might have problems with this overt display of wealth, privilege and capitalism juxtaposed with the serene natural landscape of Wyoming, but as we’ve become more and more aware over the last few years, peace comes at a price and it doesn’t stay untouched for long.
That said, there are plenty of affordable ways to enjoy Wyoming. For example, road-tripping in an RV is extremely popular here and requires no flight or hotel accommodations. If you want to experience Jackson Hole in a luxurious way, resorts like the Four Seasons and Amangani are a stone’s throw from Jackson Hole’s town center. I’d also recommend driving here and looking into renting an Airbnb. Wyoming has a lot of space, so properties are often spread far apart and larger than what us city folk might be used to. Even a moderately sized house can feel huge.
Here’s a quick guide to how I’m spending my three weeks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming:
Eat — Virginian Restaurant
Here you can enjoy a feast for four, for less than $50. Trust me, we had the Sunday brunch and were full well into the evening hours. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day, and the pancakes are bigger than should probably be legal. The restaurant itself has all of the original decor and kitschy feelings of home.
Ride — Introduction to Rodeo
As a horse girl, the idea of riding horses who are on downers through a trail that I could walk myself does not appeal to me. No judgments if you like trail riding, but know that it’s a boring life for the horses and they are usually quite medicated so that nothing bad happens to any inexperienced riders. So, our group opted to hike all the trails on foot, and instead, I found a ranch that offers introductory rodeo lessons like barrel racing, lassoing and steer roping. Don’t worry, it’s not a real steer. In my opinion, this is a better alternative to trail riding since you and the horse are happier. I recommend some riding experience before embarking on this journey because you get thrown right in, so it might feel kind of crazy if you don’t know what a horse’s gait feels like. The lesson takes two hours and costs $175 per person. Hurry! The owners are retiring this program after 2021.
Hike — Grand Teton National Park
I know, I know. As advice goes, this one is a “duh!” but hear me out. There’s no way that you will be able to cover the entire park. What’s really nice about having the natural landscape somewhat managed for you is that there are a variety of maintained trails, so you can get your hiking heart’s desire fulfilled no matter your level of athleticism. We oscillated between easy (low elevation) and medium-hard (high elevation and diverse terrain) hikes, and never did any of the views or destinations disappoint. Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and direct sun exposure and, no matter what, invest in bear spray. You are walking into the wilderness and, yes, there are animals — a lot of them, even dangerous ones. We saw elk within the first few hours of touching down in Wyoming. Over the course of the next few days, each and every Wyoming wildlife bingo square was filled as we encountered moose, deer, foxes, coyotes, chiselers, grouse and, yes, even a bear. Do your research on what you want to see since there are a lot of beautiful overlooks and lakes in Grand Teton National Park, and make sure you download maps before you set out. There’s definitely no cell phone service.
Relax — The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole
The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole is a premier relaxation destination. To recover from challenging hikes, we booked massages here on the recommendation of a friend who has frequented Jackson Hole. It was truly one of the best massages I’ve ever had in my life. For over a year, I have been heavy on the pursuit of a good massage, to no avail, but after 60 minutes on the table at this spa, I found the salvation I had been searching for. My therapist declared that my “hamstrings were wild,” but he still got in there with the deep tissue release that I desperately needed. Afterward, we did the cold plunge and lounged in the hot tub. (The sauna was currently closed as a COVID-19 precaution.) The Spa is located in the Teton Village, a ski destination outside of Jackson Hole, so it might feel like a hike if you stay somewhere else but, in my opinion, it is well worth the trip. Also, valet is complimentary.
Donate — Indigenous Mutual Aid
I would be remiss to pretend that this enjoyable vacation did not come at the expense of the suffering of many people. The land known as Wyoming and the territories now protected under the federal government as National Parks belonged to someone else. For this, I believe we owe the Indigenous People of the United States a great debt. For my own attempts at personal reparations, so I wouldn’t feel like a colonizer myself, I researched the tribes of Indigenous and Native peoples of Wyoming and landed upon information about the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes. Though there are reservations that are not too close to Jackson Hole, I still feel that it is imperative to make an attempt at learning and sharing information to aid these communities. To that end, I also located the mutual fund to support the Wind River Reservation. In terms of community support, mutual funds do more to directly serve individuals than non-profits, so if you want to put donations directly into the hands of those who need it most, a mutual fund is likely your best option. The Wind River Reservation fund is “focused on long-term solutions to restore our homelands by regenerating our soil and cleaning our water. Our goal is to remind our people of our power and what is possible when we show up for our healing and each other.” If possible, whenever you travel to a new place where the dominant industry is tourism, I would recommend looking into ways to aid the local population in immediate and acute ways as a gesture of gratitude and respect for the privilege of enjoying their homeland. To donate to the Wind River Reservation, use this link.
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