How can the holidays be anything but happy in Jackson Hole? A myriad of merry abounds from beneath the twinkling lights encircling the famous elk antlers in Town Square to the steep slopes of the area’s trio of ski resorts — Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain and Grand Targhee.
Country Living magazine recently named Jackson Hole one of America's "20 Best Small Towns for Christmas." Ranked No. 4, the article says of Jackson Hole: "No town lights up for the holidays quite like Jackson. The town at the base of the Tetons has a spectacular Town Square any time of the year, with monumental arches of elk antlers at the four corners. But around the holidays, the arches are wrapped in strings of lights to illuminate the nights with a festive glow. Stick around until New Year's Eve if you want to see the torch parade of ski instructors snaking down the mountain at the town's two ski resorts."
Here are a few activities to help make your seasonal vacation bright.
Horse-drawn Sleigh Ride, Anyone?
Oh, what fun you can have in a one-horse open sleigh, jingling and (slowly) dashing across the snowy expanse of the National Elk Refuge.
From December 14th and every day thereafter —except Christmas Day — visitors can get up close and personal with the thousands of wapiti who call the elk refuge home each winter. Rides are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Each red sleigh can carry up to 16 people. There are cushioned benches to sit on and cozy, colorful wool blankets to drape over your lap during the one-hour ride. Dress warmly and bring your camera. Tickets are sold at the Jackson Hole Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 North Cache Street. (Read More)
**NOTE: Due to precautions with Covid-19, tickets will be sold via an outside booth at the visitor center.
Jolly Old St. Nick normally holds court on Town Square every night starting December 15th, from 5 to 7 p.m. until Christmas Eve, when he then needs to depart to fly around the world. This year (2020), however, things will be a little different. Santa is being extra safe during Covid and has decided to make no personal visits to the Stage Stop building this year. However, thanks to local artist Haley Badenhop, local families and visitors can still take holiday photos in the traditional location. Badenhop will produce a Santa mural as a photo opportunity, available anytime between December 1 through December 24 for selfies and more.
Generations of Jackson families and frequent travelers have pictures with Santa during Santa on the Square. The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce is excited to keep the tradition alive in a safe, community-based manner. We ask that you don't gather in large groups while taking advantage of this experience.
Communicate with Old St. Nick through his direct mailbox outside the Stage Stop building on Town Square. Children and adults alike can bring their Christmas wishes to Jackson, drop them in the big, red mailbox, and sleep well knowing that they'll go to The North Pole with fast, 24-hour shipping. If you want to hear back from Santa, be sure to include a return address with your letter!
Your family can have breakfast with Santa at the Wort Hotel on Sunday, December 20th. It's first come seating and reservations are required by calling 307-733-2190. *Note: This event is cancelled for 2020 due to concerns with Covid-19. We will update as soon as possible.
Santa Claus will also be dropping by Jackson Hole Mountain Resort — he is literally scheduled to rappel out of the Aerial Tram! — on Christmas Eve at 4:30 p.m. And on Christmas Day, you and the kids can even ski with the big man in red on Teewinot between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Look for him near the base of the gondolas.
Hanukkah begins this year at sundown on Thursday, Dec. 10 and continues through Friday, Dec. 18. Here a few ways to celebrate the Festival of Lights in and around Jackson Hole.
Menorah lighting with Chabad Jewish Center of Jackson Hole at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of Amangani resort hotel; free; Hanukkah treats, dreidels and mini-menorahs available. *NOTE: This event is cancelled for 2020.
Giant menorah lighting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 16th on Town Square hosted by Chabad Jewish Center. Hanukkah treats including latkes and jelly doughnuts will be available for free as well as dreidels and mini-menorahs. *Please wear masks and socially distance.
Menorah lighting with Chabad Jewish Center of Jackson Hole at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Four Seasons Resort Hotel in Teton Village; free; Hanukkah treats, dreidels and mini-menorahs available. *NOTE: This event is cancelled for 2020.
The famous Jackson Hole Playhouse—named one of the "Top Attractions in Jackson Hole" by TripAdvisor—will present its annual Christmas show from December 17th through Jan. 2nd 2021; (No shows on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, however.) The dinner theater's musical comedy offering for the holidays is called "Christmas Survival Kit."
Tickets for dinner and the show in the Playhouse's Saddle Rock Saloon are $100 for adults, $80 for children ages 13 to 17, and $70 for children ages 5 to 12. The show only (i.e. no dinner) costs $35 for adults, $30 for youth and $25 for children. Seating is distanced and very limited, so act now! Call the box office at 307-733-6994 between noon and 4 p.m., or visit jacksonholeplayhouse.com.
New Year’s Eve: ‘Parades’ and Pyrotechnics
Start your New Year’s Eve off in an amazing way by viewing a mountain torchlight parade at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Snow King Mountain or Grand Targhee. Each parade is followed up by an equally awe-inspiring fireworks display.
Snow King hosts the oldest torchlight parade* in the valley. Since the 1950’s, intrepid, expert Jackson Hole skiers have ridden to the top of the mountain and then—torches in hand—made their way slowly down the town hill in dramatic, fiery fashion.
The parade starts at 6:15 p.m. and fireworks are at 7.
Over in Teton Village, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is set to host a “Glow Worm Parade” at 5:30 p.m. for children up to age 14.* Glow sticks substitute for torchlights as the kids traverse down the Eagles Nest run from the top of the new Sweetwater Gondola.
At 6 p.m. the resort’s employees will treat revelers to their traditional torchlight procession on Apres-Vous, with a fireworks show to follow in the Village Commons.
Over in Alta, Wyoming, at Grand Targhee Resort, the Kid’s Glowstick Parade starts the New Year’s Eve fun off at 4:30 p.m. The adult’s torchlight event fires up at 5:30.
*Please note: Due to an abundance of caution around Covid-19, the torchlight parades will not take place at the area's ski resorts. Fireworks displays will, however, still light up the skies!
Bonus Holiday Fun
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is hosting some family-friendly apres-ski events during Christmas week.
On December 26th, GLOW Nights begin. This is a month-long exhibit of original art installations that use colored and white light as a medium to celebrate the unique phenomena found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). On December 27th from 4 to 6 p.m., there will be a Virtual Raptor Night presented by the Teton Raptor Center where live birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, owls and falcons take the center stage. Weblink to tune in coming soon. A virtual Family Snow Sculpture Contest will be held on December 28th. The sculpture can be any subject matter you want. Submissions will be judged on originality and imagination for your chance to win prizes. This contest is FREE and open to all ages. Details on submission coming soon. Enjoy free ice skating with free skate rentals on Teton Village's ice skating rink from 4 to 5 p.m. on December 30th.