When you are itching for a family vacation that includes snow and small town charm, make plans to head to Ketchum, Idaho. From the minute you land in the Sun Valley Airport, the scenery is absolutely gorgeous. Scroll through to discover all that you’ll find when you spend your winter vacation here.

photo: Kate Loweth

1. Idaho is a winter wonderland.

Whether your main reason to visit is to hit the slopes or you are looking for some off-mountain winter adventures, there's so much to do here. The small Sun Valley Airport majorly increases the number of direct flights during the winter months (from LA, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Denver) so that getting there is easy from wherever you live. Even the 20 minute drive from the airport to the adorable town of Ketchum is full of snow-topped mountains, rushing rivers and even elk. 

photo: Kate Loweth

2. The Limelight Hotel Ketchum is the perfect family home base.

A stay at the Limelight Hotel Ketchum is easy and that starts from your arrival at the airport. The hotel runs a shuttle to pick you up and you can take the shuttle from the hotel to the ski areas and pretty much anywhere around town that you'd like to go. This allows you to skip renting a car entirely. If you need to borrow a ride to go farther out of town, ask the concierge about their Audi e-tron test drive program

Families will love the amply-sized rooms at the Limelight that have room for all your winter gear and amazing views of the nearby mountains. They even have two- and three-bedroom residences on the top floor that have full kitchens, huge bathrooms, multiple balconies and room to spread out. 

Forgot your gloves or goggles at home? Sturtevants is the onsite ski and snowboard rental shop that can hook you up. Or, head to the massive (and amazing) Gold Mine resale shop a few blocks away where they have literally everything you might need for a snowy adventure. When you return from your day of skiing, store your gear in the ski locker on the first floor of the hotel so that you don't have to schlep everything up to your room. 

Warm up after a day on the slopes with a dip in the heated outdoor pool or grab some s'mores packs to get cooking on the outdoor fire pits. You can even peer up at the skiers on the mountains or the stars in the evening with the hotel's telescope located near the ballroom. 

Hotel stays come with a generous breakfast buffet in the lounge. Here you can also enjoy live music Friday through Sunday nights during peak season while you enjoy a drink and a pizza from their wood-fired pizza oven. 

The kid-favorite feature of the Limelight Hotel has got to be the game room that's right off the lounge. Here they can battle in a vintage game of Donkey Kong, read books, play with puzzles and more. Kids can hang out within eyesight of parents, giving parents the opportunity to relax and enjoy their meal and the live music. There's also a tabletop shuffle board in the lounge that's fun for all ages. 

The Limelight Hotel Ketchum
Online: limelighthotels.com

photo: Kate Loweth

3. Sun Valley Lodge offers dining, ice skating and shopping.

A visit to Sun Valley Lodge should definitely be on your must-do list when you head to Ketchum. The shuttle from the Limelight Hotel will get you there in about 10 minutes and you'll want to stay all day. Walk through the lobby and you'll see their outdoor ice rink with skates you can rent right there. Downstairs in the lodge you'll find their game room and bowling alley, complete with arcade games, appetizers and even adult beverages—perfect for a winter afternoon. 

Just a short walk from the main building is the Sun Valley Village—an adorable grouping of restaurants and shops with everything from ski gear to souvenirs to homemade chocolates. We especially love Konditeri for a family-friendly meal with an Austrian twist. Or better yet, swing by to take a glimpse of their massive case of sweet treats. The holidays bring the Winter Wonderland festival to the Village with carolers, sleigh rides, cookie decorating and more. Check out their events calendar to see what's happening when you visit.  

 

photo: Kate Loweth

4. Take a day away at Galena Lodge.

Borrow the Audi e-tron from the Limelight and head out of town for some cross country skiing or snowshoeing at Galena Lodge. This gem in the woods is about a 30-minute drive from Ketchum and totally worth the effort to get there. Gear is available to rent onsite or bring your own if you've got it. They have tons of snowshoeing and cross country skiing trails for every ability. Kids will love showshoeing on the Galena View Trail as it's a nice loop with minimal elevation change. The views are epic and even your dog can join you on the adventure. You can book a guided snowshoe hike if you'd like an expert to lead the way. 

After you've worked up an appetite, pick a spot by the fire inside the lodge and enjoy lunch. We recommend the grown-up grilled cheese and the chili of the day to get your warmed up. Everything is made in house and portions are generous and delicious! You won't want to get back in your car after you've had a chance to relax by the fire. 

While you hang out in the lodge, the kids can head outside to grab one of the sleds that are available for visitors. The hills right next to to lodge are perfect to get them going. 

For some extra-special adventure, Galena Lodge has yurts that you stay in for the night. They can only be accessed by skiing or snowshoeing! 

photo: Kate Loweth

5. Bald Mountain offers skiing and dining with an EPIC view.

Just a five minute shuttle ride from the Limelight Hotel will get you to the foot of Bald Mountain, the area's massive ski resort. Here you can do the usual skiing and snowboarding but we also have a recommendation for the non-skiers. Buy a "foot traffic" pass for the gondola and you can ride it up the mountain. At the top of the gondola, walk up the stairs to the Roundhouse where you can enjoy fondue with a view. Cozy up around the six-sided fireplace or grab a table at the window to watch the skiers hit the mountain. The lobster roll is another crowd favorite and the kids menu includes the usuals like chicken fingers and burgers. 

Skiers looking for some mountain time on a smaller scale can spend the day at Sun Valley's Dollar Mountain, perfect for beginners. 

photo: Kate Loweth

6. Ketchum is full of history.

Sun Valley is famous for its beautiful mountains and is also well-known as the final resting place of American author Ernest Hemingway. While you can't visit his former home, you can take the kids to the Sun Valley Regional History Museum to learn about his time in Idaho. The museum is located right behind the Limelight Hotel and also has a fun train exhibit that the kids can drive themselves. Check out the pelts of animals that live in this area of the country and then venture next door to the museum's second building to see how ski clothing has changed over the years. 

photo: Kate Loweth

7. There's no shortage of great places to eat in town.

In addition to the amazing dining at the Limelight Hotel and Sun Valley Lodge, the main drag in Ketchum is full of restaurants that are perfect for a cold winter's night. We highly recommend heading to Pioneer Saloon to try out their giant steaks and even more giant baked potatoes. This low-key and welcoming restaurant is perfect for kids as the service is fast and friendly. Ask for a table by the kitchen and they'll be entertained while you wait. The Jim Spud is a not-to-be-missed item on the menu—a massive Idaho baked potato topped with teriyaki beef, cheese, sour cream and butter. YUM. 

Despo's Mexican Restaurant is another family favorite with large portions and some of the best salsa we've ever had. They serve locally-sourced meats and are strongly committed to making environmental choices such as avoiding non-recyclable take out containers. We love that!

photo: Kate Loweth

8. Idaho has it all, and more.

Put Sun Valley and Ketchum, Idaho on your list this winter for a long weekend (or more) of family fun. You'll have all the great skiing you want without having to deal with the crowds and craziness that comes from some ski destinations. And if you are looking for some off-the-mountain winter adventures, this area of the country can definitely deliver. 

—Kate Loweth

This trip was paid for by the Limelight Hotel Ketchum but all opinions belong to the author.

 

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