Considered America’s first great ski resort, Sun Valley is a beautiful mountain escape. We love the Austrian influence felt throughout the resort’s village, the bustling town of Ketchum, and the variety of things to do year round – from skiing and ice skating to hiking, biking, and fly fishing.
Sun Valley became a ski resort because the surrounding mountains looked like the Austrian Alps. Between its unique Austrian inspiration, and direct train route to Los Angeles, the resort quickly became a star-studded escape throughout the mid 1900’s. Today, Sun Valley and Ketchum offer plenty of high-end ski resort options for dining, hotels, and shops. Plus, Sun Valley still maintains the glimmer of history and rustic charm that makes it unique from other ski resorts.
Where to Stay in Sun Valley
The resort’s valley consists of four main towns: Sun Valley (the resort), Ketchum (the primary ski town), Hailey (the primary locals town and where the airport is), and Bellevue. All four offer hotels, but we suggest staying in Sun Valley to maximize your visit.
Our Favorite Place to Stay in Sun Valley: The Sun Valley Lodge
Located in the main resort village, the Sun Valley Resort’s main Lodge is elegant and historic. Boasting amenities such as a spa, pools, bowling alley, and outdoor ice skating rink, the Lodge is the gathering place of the Valley. We love enjoying our evening in the Lodge’s lobby, which is filled with comfy living room-like seating arrangements, and is always full throughout the winter. In the summer, we love to eat lunch on the Lodge’s terrace, which overlooks the ice skating rink. From the Lodge, guests can rent bikes to explore, walk through the Sun Valley Village, or take a bus to Ketchum and the ski lifts. Sun Valley Resort offers two different hotels in the Sun Valley Village: the Lodge, and the Inn. We prefer to stay in the Lodge, but they are both very close together, and the Inn often offers much lower rates, so be sure to check both.
Where to Eat in Sun Valley
Sun Valley Village Restaurants
- Located in the heart of Sun Valley Village, this Tyrolean inspired restaurant offers a fun breakfast and lunch menu. We love the Konditorei’s specialty salads, schnitzel, and nutella crepes. Plus, the restaurant offers a large case of pastries one can choose from, and a cozy fireplace guests can sit by to enjoy coffees and treats.
- This saloon style steak restaurant is a staple of Ketchum. Pioneer offers steaks, fish, prime rib, and pork ribs on a nightly basis, all served with rice pilaf and the optional Idaho baked potato. Plus, guests can wait out the restaurant’s waitlist in the pioneer inspired bar (complete with a canoe, plenty of taxidermy for the walls, and arrowhead displays). Beware: get there early. While Pioneer is easy to eat at during the off-season, in the winter and summer, the wait can last hours. For example, they open at 3:45 p.m. for dinner during prime ski season, and you must be on the waitlist by 6:00 to get in. No, they don’t take reservations, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this Ketchum favorite.
- Very similar to Pioneer’s rustic environment, the Kneadery is Ketchum’s best breakfast and lunch restaurant. The rustic restaurant always has a crowd, but guests are offered fresh brownies while they wait for a table. The menu offers all of the breakfast staples, as well as a sampling of sandwiches and salads for lunch. In fact, famous visitors to Sun Valley often frequent the Kneadery (i.e. Tom Hanks and Arnold Schwarzenager), reflecting its popularity.
- If you are looking for a quick but tasty lunch, head over to Burger Grill. This quick service restaurant offers a wide variety of fresh soups, burgers, chicken fingers, and other fun items. The soup is amazing, and the bread bowls are extremely fresh.
- This Asian fusion restaurant is a specialty of Hailey. The restaurant offers Asian inspired dishes such as sushi, tempura, and a variety of main courses. This is definitely a go-to place, even if you need to drive south from your hotel in Sun Valley. (Do make sure to make a reservation though if you plan to go during high seasons).
- This burger joint has a fun summer-time patio that offers a great atmosphere, including an outdoor bar, oversized chess pieces to play with, and evening concerts once a week. Locals often bike to Wicked Spud for lunch, and burgers are cheap ($5.00 for the basic burger).
- Located on Main Street, Bruce Willis helped start Shorty’s Diner to provide a 50’s Diner for the town while he was living in Hailey. Shorty’s is filled with comfy booths, jukeboxes, and a fun menu that includes milkshakes and burgers. Shorty’s serves breakfast and lunch, and always has a special in addition to their lengthy menu.
Things to Do in Sun Valley
Sun Valley is known as an outdoor activity center for both locals and tourists. From hiking to biking, skiing to fishing, and everything in between, there are countless activities to keep you busy while in the Valley:
- Take to the slopes! Sun Valley offers two hills: Dollar Mountain (for beginner skiers and special terrain snowboarding), and Bald Mountain for intermediate to advanced downhill skiing. We suggest renting equipment from a ski stores in Ketchum, rather than at the mountain, to save money.
Cross Country Skiing:
- In the winter, the Valley’s golf course turns into a massive cross country ski park, giving both novices and advanced cross country skiers the opportunity to have fun. Check with your hotel for details regarding where to rent equipment and where the best trails are for you.
- Sun Valley Resort offers an outdoor ice skating rink that is open year-round. Public skating sessions and private lessons from skating professionals are also offered year round, although many of the skating professionals only live in Sun Valley seasonally.
- When the professionals are in town in the summer, weekly skating performances (July – Labor Day) are a must-see event. Each week, the resident skating professionals will skate, as well as a headliner skater (the headliner can be anyone from Olympic medalists to nationally ranked skaters). Plus, for an additional cost, you can buy tickets that include dinner before the show, which is provided on the terraced back patio that overlooks the rink. Buy tickets (both dinner and general admission tickets) through the Sun Valley Resort for the best price and seating options.
- The Big Wood River, which runs the length of the Valley, is a prime fly-fishing spot. Rent gear to go yourself, or hire a guide from one of the fishing shops in Ketchum or Hailey. While most fishing happens in the summer, fly fishing is a year-round activity in Sun Valley.
Hiking and Biking
- The trails in and around the Valley are great for hiking and biking. Rent a bike in the Sun Valley Village, Ketchum, or Hailey, and then explore the trail that runs from the Village all the way to Hailey (along a well paved path that follows what was once the train tracks leading to the Resort). Bald Mountain (the primary ski hill) turns into a hiking paradise in the summer, with plenty of trails. Plus, the gondola helps whisk visitors up and down the hill through most of the summer. North of Ketchum, there are a series of trails that are based out of the Galena Lodge (a small restaurant and parking center that is used as a cross country ski lodge in the winter and a hiking day lodge in the summer).
Located at the resort’s golf course, this fun golf course offers the family-friendly benefits of a small mini golf course without the frills of obstacles. The course is a series of putting greens, set over rolling hills, and is constantly adjusted to create new challenges. After a round, grab an early dinner at the golf course’s restaurant, which boasts a large dining terrace that overlooks the golf course, Bald Mountain, and Dollar Mountain.