An ode to the ultimate small town: Jackson, WY
Size isn’t everything
Sure, you might love your hometown. Claps for your local pizzeria or watering hole, but it’s no Teton County, Wyoming. Yeah, I was sheltered. Yeah, Jackson is it’s own strange eco-system that combines working class people with the super rich with a sprinkle of ski bums thrown in. But, that makes my hometown irreplaceable.
The small town vibe
This one is obvious, and not entirely unique to Jackson, but it’s worth mentioning that small towns are great. They feel more secure, there’s a cohesive atmosphere and feeling of belonging, and everyone knows everyone. I totally understand that a lot of people feel suffocated by their small towns, and they might feel like they’re stuck in a dead end place they’ll never leave. I never felt that way in Jackson.
Why did I never feel suffocated in middle-of-nowhere-Wyoming? Because of the diverse population. I’m not going to pretend that my town is necessarily super culturally diverse, because that would be lying. Not that there isn’t any cultural diversity (about a third of the population is Latino and there’s a nice representation different religions in the valley, it’s just not super diverse in that way). What we do have is diversity of opportunity. For example, there are four high schools to choose from, and a large enough tourist presence that every high school student finds a job to occupy their time.
The (gorgeous) surroundings, flora, and fauna
When I was between four and seven years old, I couldn’t use my kiddie pool during the summer because there was always a large bull moose lounging in it. It was only after I moved to New York State for college that I realized “being bear aware” isn’t a standard part of the elementary school curriculum. I love that I couldn’t go to school and back without seeing foxes, moose, elk, deer, or bald eagles. A respect for animals and a knowledge of how to behave around wildlife is an integral part of who I am, purely because of where I’m from. Wyoming is also home to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. This lends itself to long days on the lakes, day long hikes, and backpacking trips with your best friends. I love that ‘hanging out with friends’ doesn’t mean just wandering around a mall for hours on end, it means bonding over fulfilling activities.
For a town of only about 10,000 people, Jackson really pulls it out in the restaurant department. World class chocolatier? Check. The best burger around? Check. Vegan and gluten free cafes? Check. Homemade ice cream with flavors so unique you aren’t sure they should actually be ice cream flavors but they end up being awesome anyway? Check. For ice cream, try Moo’s and get something eccentric, like chai tea flavored ice cream. For a good slice (or four), go to Pinky G’s Pizzeria. For upscale asian fusion, go to The Kitchen and make sure you order the luxury shrimp and some truffle fries. For awesome Italian, go to Nani’s for noodles and Il Villaggio Osteria for full dinners. For organic breakfast, go to The Lotus Cafe and try a smoothie bowl. To get me to stop listing restaurants, you probably shouldn’t have started me on this subject.
The amazing resorts
Oh heck yeah. The resorts are amazing. Five floor spa at a ski resort? Yes please. For one of my friends’ birthdays we rented a room at the surprisingly adorable hostel in Teton Village and snuck into the Four Seasons Resort to swim, sit by the fire, listen to Jazz Night music, and pretend we were the children of the rich. And it wasn’t even difficult. So maybe this is a commentary on how resorts should probably police themselves better to keep marauding locals out, but hey I’m ok with that.
The Holiday season
You don’t know Christmas and winter charm until you’ve been to Jackson around the holidays. My fondest memories of my hometown involve this time of year. Belle Cose, a local kitchenware shop, is Christmas Cheer Central. The store decorates about 5 trees with beautiful, whimsical, charming, expensive ornaments and fills the store with wintery confections and provides warm cider and cookies to holiday shoppers. The town square lights up it’s gigantic pine trees and grooms an ice skating rink in the center of the town. Walking around the town square drinking free hot cider, rosy cheeked, and excited for Christmas is my peak state of being.
Alright, every other part of the United States, sit down and take a lesson from Wyoming. No, southern states, put your hand down, being so hot that literal dinosaurs still live in your swamps is not a good thing. I know, Wyoming is cold, the average low is 20 degrees and that’s not great. But western cold isn’t as bad as eastern cold because humidity is barely a thing in the west. Wyoming snow is fluffy and fun, not wet and heavy, so it doesn’t sink into your bones and make you wonder if you’re becoming a human icicle. The summer is bucolic and breezy, the highest monthly average high in Jackson is only 83 degrees, and that’s beautiful folks.
Overall, it’s safe to say the west coast is the best coast, and my heart will always be in Jackson.