These past five months in quarantine conditions have been an eye-opener. The travel bug has been biting us non-stop and the wanderlust is very real. However, if you are anything like our team, you are probably tempering your desire to hop on a plane and jet off into the sunset with doing your due diligence to help stop the spread of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Well, you are in luck! Our team at Your Concierge, NYC has found the perfect way to accomplish both! Just sit back, relax, and let us handle all of the details so you can take a much-needed break from reality with complete confidence that you will be able to keep yourself and everyone around you as healthy and happy as possible.
In case you are a bit skeptical of the logistics of this seemingly impossible promise, allow us to provide you with an in-depth review of one of our team member’s recent trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming:
Let’s start this discussion with the actual travel component of vacationing to a far off destination. For many of our clients, our private air charters are the most obvious choice to safely get you and your family from Point A to Point B. Rest assured that all of the jets we offer to our clients are thoroughly disinfected after each flight to ensure all current local and federal health and aviation regulations are being met. For those who prefer to travel via commercial airlines, purchasing a first class ticket can help put some distance between you and your fellow passengers. My experience flying commercial from Philadelphia to Jackson Hole via a brief layover in Chicago was that everyone in the airports and on the aircraft itself were extremely respectful, maintained at least six feet distance at all times, and only removed their masks to eat or drink. The airlines provided goodie bags to allow passengers to have a small snack and beverage, thereby eliminating the need for their in-flight service. All aircraft are being sanitized between each flight, which I personally witnessed, and all passengers were given disinfecting wipes to help us feel as though we had some control over our immediate environment while in the air.
With that being said, welcome to beautiful Jackson Hole, WY – where the airport is actually within Grand Teton National Park! This small hub offers only 9 gates and is the only domestic airport in existence to actually sit within the protected lands of a national park. (The only reason this exception was granted is because the airport was created well before the boundaries of Grand Teton were expanded.) Once disembarking directly onto the tarmac, travelers made their way through a small airport where it was easy to maintain distancing precautions while waiting for their luggage to arrive. We personally relied only on carry-on baggage and personal items so that we would not have other people handling our belongings. We also highly recommend arranging a private car service to transport you from the airport to your hotel – and then using this same service with the same driver and vehicle throughout your stay.
We opted to stay at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, which is a beautifully appointed luxury resort that went above and beyond to not only provide important protections for its guests, but also maintained the same level of impeccable service we have all come to expect from the brand. It is not hard to find solitude and relaxation among this sprawling resort nestled among the foothills of some of the best ski slopes in the region.
The first thing on anyone’s itinerary should be sitting down to an expertly prepared meal at Westbank Grille, the property’s American steakhouse that seamlessly blends local flavors into hearty, family favorites. I would make it a point to try the elk chili and Teton grilled cheese – splitting these for lunch was a welcome way to start our vacation.
The hotel really did a fantastic job implementing new health and safety protocols. All staff and guests were provided with masks daily and asked to wear them when on property, except when swimming or dining. Additionally, more than half of the tables were removed from all dining locations to facilitate a safe space between you and your fellow hungry hikers. A lot of dining options offered outdoor seating, which added another layer of safety to sitting down to a meal. The only amenity not available to guests was their outdoor bar area, as bars are not currently allowed to operate under current conditions. The last major protocol I want to be sure to point out is their handling of the pool area. Only 24 lounge chairs could be found surrounding the pool, providing ample space to relax in your own personal bubble. Additionally, the property offers 3 separate, sizable Jacuzzi areas to help melt the tension from your muscles. Only one family was permitted to be in any one spa at the same time, and all guests were incredibly mindful of these new rules.
Now, on to the fun stuff! We were fortunate enough to have found the most amazing local guide through Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris to take us on private tours of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Duane is a certified naturalist guide and wilderness first responder whose knowledge of the area literally knew no bounds. I am confident that without his expertise, we would not have seen ANY of the wildlife we were so fortunate to lay eyes on throughout these tours - nor would we have left with the level of understanding of the region’s rich history and unique geology that we did.
Yellowstone is the quintessential National Park that most people associate immediately with the great outdoors, plentiful wildlife, and acres of natural wonders. Let me personally assure you, it did not disappoint. You can literally close your eyes, randomly point your camera in any given direction, and end up with a National Geographic quality photo. The scenery is simply so perfect that it makes photography almost effortless. The highlights of our tour were seeing Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, and many natural geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. Did you know that the entire area of Yellowstone is actually believed to be sitting on one giant volcano? The surrounding mountains that encircle you when viewing Old Faithful are thought to be the rim, meaning you are quite literally standing in the mouth of an inactive volcano while watching the underground heat spew mist and steam high into the sky. You’ll certainly learn about this and much more on your privately guided tour!
While Yellowstone is a national favorite, our personal favorite was actually the much smaller and much closer Grand Teton National Park. It only took 15 minutes for us to gain access to this region, and because it is smaller, there is significantly less driving to get between points of interest. The foliage is not quite as dense within Grand Teton when compared to Yellowstone, which provides an ideal setting for some incredible wildlife spotting. Overall, Yellowstone has a much more massive wildlife population, but the foliage can be dense in places making it harder to actually put eyes on the elusive critters. Other than the wildlife, some of the highlights of our day within Grand Teton were Antelope Flats, Mormon Row, Jenny Lake, Signal Mountain, and the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River that provides the most awe-inspiring vantage point of the Tetons one could ever hope for.
Duane was particularly helpful with spotting wildlife and bringing us directly to the most likely locations to photograph the animals we hoped to see while on vacation. I was particularly interested in bears – and we boy did we see them! At one point in Grand Teton National Park, we saw a mama grizzly bear (known as #610) with her 3 cubs hiding out in some tall grass. Every few minutes a cub would pop its head up out of the grass, survey the surroundings, and sit back down out of sight. It was practically like watching whack-a-mole, but with live bears meandering unseen through grass only 30 yards in front of you! In addition to these gorgeous grizzlies, we also had the opportunity to spot brown bears, elk, bison, moose, pronghorn antelope, osprey, blue herons, pelicans, marmots, ground squirrels, and bald eagles. The list could continue to go on and on, but I think you get the picture. If not – see above!
There are so many other great activities to experience in this region of the world. One of our favorites was white water rafting through Class III rapids along the refreshingly chilly Snake River. It was our first time trying out white water rafting and it was exhilarating! We chose to raft with another family, but you could also purchase a privately guided tour, to help maintain complete social distancing protocols while exploring the great outdoors.
In addition to sailing across these rough waters, you’ll find shooting ranges, horseback riding opportunities, hot air balloon rides, and jaw-dropping star gazing opportunities right outside your hotel door. In fact, while relaxing by the fire pit at the Ascent Lounge, we could clear spot some common constellations without requiring an expert’s assistance – and we are by no means astronomers, so that should tell you how minimal the surrounding light pollution is.
If there is one other place for you to make sure to stop at before returning home to reality, its taking the Bridger Gondola up the mountain right outside of The Four Seasons Jackson Hole up to Piste Mountain Bistro. I highly recommend securing reservations ahead of time, given the limited in-door capacity of the restaurant at this time. There is outdoor seating, but given the high altitude it did get pretty cold – and we visited mid-July. The views are phenomenal and unobstructed by floor-to-ceiling glass window encasing the eatery. But even more impressive was the cuisine – the fruits and vegetables are locally grown via hydroponics giving them a unique burst of flavor and freshness that when paired with Rocky Mountain flavors and meats is a feast for your palette.
Well, that’s all folks! If you think this type of adventure might be for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced and health conscious team at Your Concierge, NYC here. Our city was hit particularly hard at the onset of this pandemic, and it is of the utmost importance to us that we do our part to help our clients live their lives to the fullest while also preventing any negative impact on the health or happiness of our neighbors. Stay tuned for more updates on how to keep you and your families safely entertained as we continue to navigate these unchartered territories of our new normal.