Though the current state of the world makes it difficult to plan a thrilling escape to the country’s biggest cities, quieter getaways to the wilderness might be just what the doctor ordered: fresh air, brilliant landscapes, and fewer tourists to contribute to the din overwhelming an otherwise peaceful trip.
Once you decide whether that’s the right kind of experience for you, the only thing left is to choose your ideal vacation. Jackson Hole, WY, and Park City, UT boast well-known attractions and find themselves on many people’s bucket list, but why is that, and most importantly, which spot is more deserving of the pennies you’ve been pinching throughout the year?
If you’re looking for an ideal retreat in the wilderness, Jackson Hole’s focus on outdoor activities and the tranquility to be found in its natural parks will surely appeal to you; on the other hand, if you want a healthy mix of nature and urban tourism, Park City offers tourists a greater variety of sights and diversions.
|Category||Jackson Hole, WY||Park City, UT|
|Cost of Stay and Lodging||Basic lodging: $200 or less per night|
Premium lodging: $500+ per night
|Lodging can easily be found for less than $200 per night—even themed lodges and resorts are relatively inexpensive.|
|Weather/Seasonal Focus||Year-round||Year-round with a focus on winter and summer|
|Food and Drink||All-American cuisine and bar food||A melting pot of cuisine, but most notably American, Asian, Mexican, and Italian. Wine tours and tasting are also prevalent in the area.|
|Notable Attractions||Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Teton Range, Grand Targhee, Jackson Hole, Mountain Resort, Snow King, Hit Town Square, Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, The National Elk Refuge, The Silver Dollar Bar, The Stagecoach Bar, The Jackson Hole Rodeo, and The Snake River||The Sundance Film Festival, Kimball Arts Festival, and a myriad of other music and arts festivals as well as over 100 restaurants, bars, and cafes|
To break it down a little further, Jackson Hole’s appeal is in the number of things you and your family can do without ever having to step foot in a more urban/populated area. Park City’s appeal is in its year-round calendar and variety—in activities, cuisine, and general atmosphere.
This article will elaborate on both vacation experiences to help you choose the best for you or your family.
Cost of Stay/Lodging
While the cheapest lodging in both locations is less than $200 per night, the difference between the two becomes immediately obvious when you start looking into their higher-tier hotels and lodges. On average, the premier spots to stay in Jackson Hole can easily run you upwards of $500 per night. The scenery is beautiful, to be sure.
As previously mentioned, there are much cheaper options if you and your family are the types to prioritize what you can do at a vacation spot over where you hang your hat, but this is something important to consider if you’re looking for a vacation with a premium package.
That being said, Park City is home to several lodges up the same vein as the ones in Jackson Hole, but at much more affordable rates.
If you’re the type of person to spring for whatever you can afford to have the best possible experience, Park City wins out on the cost factor by a longshot; if you’re the type of person who usually goes for the cheapest option regardless, however, cost really isn’t much of a factor. All “lower-tier” hotels are still rated favorably, and hotel chains are present in both spots to ensure consistency and familiarity.
It should also be noted that Park City offers free public transportation (accessible via its tourism website). Simultaneously, Jackson Hole doesn’t, so if you’re planning on flying into either of these locations, this additional cost will also be something to consider.
There are also multiple camping and RV resorts at both should you choose to go that route. However, information on the ones in Park City is more readily available (it has its dedicated section on the tourism site) if digging around for scraps of information online isn’t your thing.
Unlike the cost of each vacation spot, this is a bit more nebulous. Both have year-round activities with off-seasons, but Jackson Hole, being more of a natural retreat and the home of Yellowstone National Park, has a roster of outdoor recreation that transforms throughout the year:
In the summer, hiking, biking, rafting, camping, climbing, golfing, and fishing are commonplace, accompanied by dry, pleasant weather; in the winter, skiers from all over the world flock to its numerous ski resorts (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was voted no. 1 ski resort in the country by Forbes), the land blanketed with anywhere from 280-500 inches (7-12 meters) of snow depending on its elevation.
Spring and Fall are quieter but offer most of the same activities, supplemented with colorful vistas and some of the most consistent weather throughout the year (particularly in September and October).
Park City, on the other hand, has much more consistent weather overall. Still, because of this, the window for anything involving heavy snowfall is much narrower (it only gets below freezing from December to January).
That being said, Park City is much more arts-focused than Jackson Hole. It allows for the famous Sundance Film Festival, other arts festivals, and local wine tastings to flesh out what some might consider an inferior calendar.
Food and Drink
What you eat away from home is as much of the experience as to where you sleep or what activities you fill your itinerary with. Jackson Hole and Park City both have venerable offerings. Still, the food’s overall culture is completely different: Jackson Hole’s restaurants offer primarily American comfort food and bar food, which is a fitting choice for an area so steeped in cowboy/”wild west” aesthetics.
The Stagecoach Bar is the foremost example of this, hosting its own take on “Sunday church” in the form of bluegrass performances and costumed dancing. The Silver Dollar Bar in the Wort Hotel is another worthy landmark; the bar itself consists of 4,000 uncirculated silver dollars.
Park City’s dining experience is almost antithetical to Jackson Hole’s by comparison: While Jackson Hole is mired in romanticized notions of the 1800s, giving Hit Town Square a historical feel, Park City is home to a veritable melting pot of cuisine from all over the world in addition to traditional American fare—particularly Asian, Mexican, and Italian food, and with over 100 restaurants to choose from, narrowing down your choices will undoubtedly feel like a privilege.
Wine tours and tastings are also relatively commonplace, satisfying the need for both activity and unique experiences.
Ultimately, these two vacation spots are two sides of the same coin.
Both offer numerous outdoor activities, the majority of which can be found at either location. Park City has more variety if you like a blend of nature and more urban recreation like shopping or perusing the wares of local artisans.
On the flip side, this aspect may make Park City a little less peaceful if you’re trying to find your zen or just get away from it all.
Personally, given the variety offered, I’d recommend Park City. Suppose skiing is your primary motivation for this trip. In that case, however, Jackson Hole provides a much larger window of travel and massive ski resorts sure to please first-time skiers and veterans alike.