Last summer provided some epic travel opportunities for me with work and family time interspersed. At the time, I had intended to blog about one particular trip as friends were interested in our route and where we stayed as we journeyed to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I haven't gotten around to it until now as we're planning a return trip for the summer of 2013. Here's our intinerary from last year:
Stopped at Whitey's Ice Cream in Bettendorf IA as recommended by Foursquare (I then remembered that I had visited this place before in college as my tennis team often went to meets at Iowa colleges such as Cornell and Grinnell)
Had dinner at a steakhouse in Omaha and more wonderful ice cream (homemade) at Ted and Wally's.
Drove through Nebraska to Laramie WY
Stopped at a Pony Express Office in Gothenberg, NE en route
Stopped in Cheyenne and had a great meal at this Mexican restaurant, Hacienda Guadalajara.
Visted Cheyenne's Frontier Days
Watched a parade, attended rodeo events and visited the Frontier Days carnival midway
Drove northwest through Wyoming to Jackson Hole
Checked in at our rented condo in the Aspens, Wilson WY
Had dinner at Sweetwater's off the Jackson town square
Swam in Jenny Lake
Took the tram up Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Hiked around the alpine area at the top of Rendezvous and played on snow
Had dinner at Calico, Wilson WY (very family friendly; kids can play on an exansive lawn while parents watch from tables on a wrap around porch)
Took part in a riding/rafting package through Jackson Hole Whitewater - rode horses in the Teton Wilderness area in the north part of the valley in the AM; took a rafting trip on the Snake in the afternoon just south of the town of Jackson (Note: I would not try to do two activities like this in one day again; I'd spread them out over two days if possible).
Had dinner at Rendezvous Bistro
Visited the new location for a camp that both my mother and I attended as kids. Looks like my daughter will be attending there the summer of 2013.
Dinner at Mountain High Pizza Pie
Spent the day in Yellowstone
Saw Old Faithful and valleys full of bison
Dinner at the Old Faithful Inn (food was okay; not spectacular)
Shopped in Jackson
Attended the Bar J Chuckwagon (totally touristy, terrible food, but fun entertainment... I could only take so much of this)
Before leaving the Teton Valley, I spent time at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, contemplating life. I then drove north, staying in Livingston MT with a friend for a couple of nights before moving on to Big Sky to stay with a friend of my husband's. I stopped in Bozeman along the way. I then arrived in Missoula for a conference and flew home from there.
Meanwhile, Peter and the kids drove home stopping at every cheesy tourist attraction you can think of: Bear Country USA, Flinestone Land, Repile World, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. They also stopped at Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial, and the Badlands.
You can see exactly where I was according to Foursquare as I've enabled a setting that posts my check ins to a Google Calendar (you have to scroll back to July 2012 to see check ins from this specific trip). Foursquare was a huge hit with my social media shy husband and the rest of my family. It was a fun way to document our trip and to get tips on places we visited. Our kids particularly liked earning badges.
Speaking of technology, I usually try to find related content to put on my kids' iOS devices whenever we are traveling. I lifted this idea from David Pogue who, during a visit to the Illinois Computing Educators conference, mentioned that his local library would assemble personalized reading lists for his children based on where his family was vacationing. In the case of our Wyoming trip, we had apps for the major tourist stops on our itinerary including Mt. Rushmore and Cheyenne Frontier Days, maps of Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, photos apps for documenting our experiences, and playlists of related music and stories. An example of this latter category would be audio recordings of Robert Services stories which were often told me to me as a camper at Teton Valley Ranch back in the day. Providing multimedia for your children enhances learning experiences on the road.
Anyway, back to Foursquare. Make sure to set the calendar to July 2012 to see all of our stops.
And, you can see where we went on this Google Map:
View Our 2012 Summer Trip in a larger map
We're going to do a modified version of this trip again this summer, as we'll be taking our daughter to camp mid-July in Wyoming. Our plan is to stay two nights in Dubois WY at this motel as the camp is located near there and we're coming for its 75th anniversary celebration, and then another 5 nights will likely be in a condo in the Aspens (Wilson WY) again. For those of you considering a similar trip, the Longhorn Ranch might make a good place to stay if you're visiting this region, but keep in mind that it's fairly long drive to the Teton Valley and Yellowstone from there.
Friends have told us that KOA has nice affordable cabins for rent, and we checked out this option. The KOA in Dubois has really cheap rates, but the one near Jackson charges more than our daily rate for renting a condo, believe it or not. We've also looked at Dornan's cabins located in Moose WY and the rates there are still not a bargain in comparison to renting a condo. These cabins probably are rented quickly as Moose is conveniently located at one of the entrances to Grand Teton National park .
If money were no object , without a doubt I'd stay at Jenny Lake Lodge or Jackson Lake Lodge. The bottom line for us is that most traditional accomodations seem to be $200-250 a night at least, and it's possible to find rentals that are cheaper or that can be negotiated. Try Vacation Rentals by Owner or look at Rental Properities in Trip Advisor for leads. Of course, you could always camp or stay at a cut rate type of hotel, but my guess is that a lot of the camp grounds book early. And, keep in mind the fact that many bargain hotels such as Super 8 are priced much higher in Jackson than in other areas of the country.
Hope you'll find this useful as you start to plan for your summer!