City Guides » Wood River Valley Summer Guide

A Day for Families

Keeping everyone happy


If past trips with the kids have been set to the nasally soundtrack of "We're boorrred," you likely won't hear that when you visit the Sun Valley area. With its sunny days, cool nights, rushing rivers, mountain trails and excellent dining, a trip to the Wood River Valley has enough to keep kids--and adults who want to act like kids--happy and busy all day long.

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at one of the cozy Ketchum eateries. Suggestions include the rustic Kneadery or Bluebird Day Cafe, known around town as the home of the bottomless mimosa. Breakfast and a good cup of Joe can also be had at local coffee shops Java and Tully's, located conveniently in the Ketchum Sun Valley Visitor's Center, as well as The Coffee Grinder.

There's nothing like a good mountain hike to start the day, and there are a multitude of trails to pick from. Adams Gulch is an easy family favorite, with its Sunnyside Trail that takes you up and down rolling hills through aspen groves and sage, and Shadyside Trail, which winds through pine trees and forest. There also are cold-flowing creeks for dunking your toes.

Biking is also big, and the miles of paved bike paths and countless single-track trails in the hills make it a cycling heaven. There are even a couple pump track parks in Ketchum and nearby Hailey.

If you're more about catching fish than catching air, check out the free flycasting classes on the front lawn of the Sun Valley Lodge. You can also get your younger kids a rod, reel and bobber, and head over to fish-planted Penny Lake, where they are likely to have some angling luck.

Lunch in Ketchum is as easy as climbing the little hill on Main Street and getting a hot dog or polish sausage with the works at Irving's Red Hots, or as entertaining as lunch at Gretchen's Cafe on the Sun Valley Lodge terrace, where you can watch the ice skaters on the outdoor rink. Or, simply pack a sandwich, wrap or other take-out meal, and cop a squat by the river, in a park or at a nearby lake. Don't forget dessert--Leroy's Ice Cream Shack in the Ketchum Town Plaza serves locally made Toni's Sun Valley Ice Cream, and all profits are donated to local schools, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department.

After you cool your innards, take the kids to cool their outers with a splash in the fountain in Memory Park on Main Street.

The valley is full of history, so be sure to visit the Ketchum Sun Valley Ski and Heritage Museum, where ancient ski equipment, vintage skate costumes and historic photos of local past Olympic and world-class skiers and skaters tell the history of winter sports in the area.

At the Ore Wagon Museum, get up close and personal with the Big Hitch ore wagons, which have 7-foot-tall wheels and carried up to 12 tons of ore. There is also a fascinating exhibit on local legend Ernest Hemingway.

Speaking of Hemingway, visit the Ketchum Cemetery just north of town on Highway 75 and take part in a longstanding tradition by tossing a few pennies onto his grave. Some say it's for luck and favor, and others say, with a wink and a nod, that the pennies help pay his bar bill in heaven.

There is plenty to do in the evenings as well, including free music concerts each Tuesday in Ketchum's Forest Service Park; Thursdays in Town Plaza across from Atkinsons' Market; and Sunday jazz in Rotary Park at Warm Springs and Saddle Road.

And don't forget the free Sun Valley Summer Symphony, a full orchestra featuring 100 of the nation's finest classical musicians, performing nightly on the grounds of Sun Valley Lodge. The lodge also hosts the star-studded summer ice skating shows, which are great family fun and feature Olympic medalists and national- and world-champion skaters.

Finally, when the day is done and the kids are passed out, step outside into the cool night air, look up at the sparkly Milky Way splashed across the sky, and realize that there's plenty more to do tomorrow.