When my husband and I got married, gracious family friends loaned us use of their condominium in Sun Valley, Idaho, for our honeymoon. Although we aren’t skiers, it suited us just fine. We enjoy road trips, and since we were married in April, we arrived in Sun Valley during what is called “slack” season — that stretch between winter and summer activities. Although some restaurants and shops were closed, there were plenty still open and catering to us off-season visitors. We had a delightful and memorable vacation there, sans snow.
“Sun Valley” often refers to several locations within a fairly tight radius: Sun Valley resort and village, the adjacent town of Ketchum and even the town of Hailey, to the south. Sun Valley is among the oldest — and best — ski and snow sport areas in the United States, but for those who prefer to stay indoors in winter, there is plenty to eat, see and do. We chose just a few recommendations if you’re planning a road trip there, too.
You don’t have to stay at the Sun Valley Lodge to get a glimpse of its vintage grandeur. Just taking a stroll through the wood-paneled lobby and down its Hollywood “Hall of Fame” is enough to get a taste of the 76-year-old lodge’s fascinating history. Visited by celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper and Bruce Willis, the lodge’s hallway is lined with pictures of the rich and famous. Don’t miss the ice skating rink, too … it will transport you to the set of White Christmas.
Sun Valley resort includes two mountains (Bald Mountain or “Baldy” for short and Dollar Mountain). It also includes four main lodges, but we’re partial to Seattle Ridge Lodge on Baldy. Sitting at an elevation of 8,800 feet, its soaring ceilings, stone fireplaces — and even beautiful bathrooms — are unusually extravagant for a ski lodge. The food is good — if a bit pricey — and diverse enough to satisfy picky eaters. With the Sun Valley Children’s Center just across the way, Sun Valley’s newest eating spot, Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, caters to families, which makes traveling with kids a whole lot easier.
Grumpy’s is another burger joint that you might pass by if you didn’t have a tip. The fare is fairly inexpensive, and it definitely fits the bill after a long day of play. A multitude of beers are on tap, and the atmosphere is no fuss while keeping some interest. They even brag that since the restaurant opened in 1978, it’s never had a phone.
892 Warm Springs Road • Ketchum
Sun Valley has a reputation for ritzy retail, and it boasts a number of high-end art galleries, too. The Sun Valley Gallery Association hosts nine weekend gallery walks each year, where art lovers can take a look at newly installed exhibitions, drink a little wine and often get to meet the artists themselves.
If your idea of vacation is simply curling up with a good read, step into Iconoclast Books in Ketchum. After a career in “book scouting,” when someone finds used books to resell to a bookstore, Gary Hunt decided to start his own used bookstore, specializing in obscure titles. Iconoclast grew from there, adding new titles to its mix of inventory and eventually moving into the Christiana building on Sun Valley Road. The store now offers gift items, coffee and pastries, making any book lover’s trip more of an experience.
671 Sun Valley Road • Ketchum
We love any place with “saloon” in the title, and the Pioneer Saloon lives up to the moniker. The building in Ketchum has been, at different times, a casino, a meeting hall, a dry goods store, a bar and an antiques store. It has operated as a restaurant and bar since 1972. Bursting with taxidermy, the Pioneer has retained its historic feel, with low-slung booths that are perfect for dinners out with a group of friends. There can be tight fit for patrons, but the burgers are huge and that’s one of the reasons we love it.
308 N. Main St. • Ketchum