Many families are planning ski trips for the new year, taking advantage of the winter weather in January and February. If you are planning a trip like this, I encourage you to look at the museums and historical societies at your ski destination to take in some history on a break from the slopes. Many destinations have small but educational museums that help your children understand the history of the area, from Native Americans to the pioneers. This summer, we visited a popular skiing destination, Jackson Hole, WY, and discovered the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum. This museum has two locations in Jackson Hole and is a great way to explore the region’s history.
The two locations of the museum are focused on different topics and can be easily explored in under an hour. The main museum location, just a few blocks north of the picturesque downtown square, is focused on homesteading, ranching, and exploration in Jackson Hole’s history. The second location is just a block off of the main square and focuses on the American Indians of Greater Yellowstone. Note that this location is only open in the summer. To help you prepare for your visit, explore the extensive online exhibits from the museum.
The main location is very quaint from the outside. Don’t miss the statues leaning on the posts!
After buying your tickets, you will enter into the museum. While only one room, it contains a lot of things to see and explore.
Don’t forget to pick up a scavenger hunt for your kids. With so many objects on display, this gives kids a fun and educational focus.
As you tour around the room, you will see displays on ranching and its economic effects on Jackson Hole’s history.
I was especially interested in learning what life in Jackson was like for those early women pioneers who followed their husbands out west. I can’t imagine how hard life was for them! Their ability to rise above the hardships, however, garnered such respect that in 1920, Jackson elected an all-female town council, including the town marshal! It was one of the first all-female governments in America – read more about it here. You can find out more about these women, including the female postmaster who named the town, before your visit here.
This room of interesting exhibits and artifacts is a great place for kids to explore and includes several hands-on activities. It is always fun to see what gets their attention! Most kids will love the taxidermy that is scattered throughout the room. Mountain lions, horses, bison, elk, and bears are just some of the many animals that you can see.
While most of the exhibits cannot be touched, be sure to check out the “please touch” table with your kids.
Also don’t miss the many videos that you can watch about Jackson’s history. There is a TV in the middle of the room where you can view these videos or you can watch them before your visit here.
Before you leave, be sure to check out the stuffed bison in the gift shop! The gift shop also has lots of books and souvenirs that your kids will enjoy.
A short 5 minute walk from the main location is the museum’s original building, which now houses exhibits on the American Indians of Greater Yellowstone.
This museum has three small rooms that contain many artifacts, including impressive taxidermy and Native American housing.
One of the most interesting exhibits is about how Native Americans trapped big horned sheep using a ramp and pit. The display explains how they camouflaged the ramp and pit so the sheep would funnel into the enclosure, not knowing they were walking into a trap.
This museum also has a small gift shop and is centrally located to the rest of the town. Your kids will love wandering the wooden boardwalks and watching the nightly Wild West shootout performance by the local theater (summer only). Be sure to explore the well-known Jackson Town Square and don’t miss the elk antlers which decorate the archways into the park!
The museum also gives guided historical tours of the downtown area so be sure to inquire about those at the main location. If you want to do a self-guided historic tour of downtown, download the Travel Storys app.
To learn even more about the Jackson Hole area, I also recommend visiting the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, just north of the history museum. It has several exhibits about elk migration and an excellent gift shop.
While Jackson Hole is known for its thrilling skiing and outdoor pursuits, the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum is a great place to learn more about the area’s important history. In 2020, with the 100th anniversary of the election of the all-female town council, this is a perfect year to visit!
- Cost: $6/adults; $4/children 5 and up; free/children 5 and under
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 1 hour includes both locations
- Transportation: Jackson is a very walkable town. Parking is abundant on the side streets and a parking lot across the street from the main location.
- Nearby dining: The Bunnery Bakery and Restaurant (stop in for pastries even if you don’t eat there!), Liberty Burger, Jackson Drug, and The Merry Piglets. A family-friendly option that your kids will never forget are the numerous summer chuckwagon dinners!
- Nearby hotels: There are many hotels in Jackson, including a kid-friendly Homewood Suites by Hilton and the historic Wort Hotel. If you’re looking at ski lodges, look at the hotels in Teton Village, about a 20 minute drive from Jackson. The Four Seasons and the Snake River Hotel and Lodge are luxurious kid-friendly options.
- Nearby attractions: A trip to Jackson pairs well with a vacation to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. While in Jackson, other sites to see include the National Museum of Wildlife Art (worth a drive through the parking lot to see the sculptures!), Jackson Hole resort activities (from skiing to hiking to a rodeo!), and the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum.
Books to read:
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