Published: December, 2017
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Sun Valley, Idaho (Corre Larkin)

Sun Valley is where the whole world comes together....No one cares who you are in the real world, in Sun Valley everyone is treated the same.
— Corre Larkin
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Mountains
  • Activity level: moderate

to & from

Sun Valley is notoriously hard to get to. (I think on purpose.)

  • The private airport in SV is huge but if you aren't flying direct on Wheels Up/private plane, be prepared for a few flights, delays, possibly a bus and who knows what else. This is true especially in the winter when your chances of getting bused in on a Sun Valley Coach from Boise or Twin Falls is over 50%.
  • Alternatively, you can pack up the car and drive... but it will likely be a long one depending on where you are coming from.

Where to Stay

  • While the Sun Valley Lodge has just been renovated and there is a new Limelight Hotel, most people who frequent SV own a home, stay with friends or rent a house. High season is Christmas, ski week, the Allen conference and a few weeks in the summer. Aside from these times, you should be able to find a decent deal on a rental. The Elkhorn neighborhood is about 15 minutes outside Sun Valley and is very reasonably priced.
  • While the Lodge is newly done and gorgeous, many people still prefer the Sun Valley Inn, which is also in the resort and still has its old world charm.
  • If you are a family, look into renting a 2-3 bedroom condo in Sun Valley. The Resort handles it, you have access to all the amenities are the hotel, but you have your own space. They are also very reasonably priced, due to the fact that they needed a remodel at least 10 years ago.

Where to Eat and Drink

Sun Valley, even though it caters to the congoscienti, is not a foodie town.

  • That being said, they do have some of the best lamb in the country. Head down to Atkinson's, the grocery store, and buy Lava Lake Lamb. It's from a nearby farm and it's the best lamb I have ever eaten in the States.
  • In the summer months, on Tuesday afternoons, there is a fabulous little farmers market in town.
  • My favorite place to eat is Grumpys. Pete runs the place and to be honest I could probably write an entire article on the do's and don'ts of Grumpys. Aka, don't sit at the bar. It's an unspoken rule that it's reserved for locals. I am loyal to the Fowl burger which is what they call a chicken burger. Or you can order an 'off menu' Spicy Bu' which is a chicken burger with cheese and grilled jalapenos. Order your beer in a schooner and sit back and enjoy the people watching. I have eaten in Grumpy's with John Kerry sitting to my left (with a baseball cap on backwards) and Drew Barrymore to my right. Next to Drew was a trucker with his crack hanging out. In Grumpy's everything goes. Just don't put Katy Perry on the juke box no matter how much your daughter wants it. At least not on your first visit.
  • For one of the best breakfasts in town go to the Konditorei in Sun Valley. Locals and tourists alike go there for the amazing breakfasts and lunches and gorgeous pastries.
  • Go to Raspberries or Esta also good for lunch.
  • Take the gondola up from the River Run side of the mountain and have lunch at the Roundhouse. The fondue is fine but the views are out of this world. Reservations are a must no matter what time of year.
  • Drink at Casino. Matt Gorby who bartends there, wins bartender of the Valley every single year. It's cash only and is the locals bar but don't let that scare you off. They have a great juke box, pour the strongest drinks in town and is true gem of a dive bar. I go to Casino wearing a mix of high end fur and 20 year old Sorels and no one gives me a second look.
  • After a few strong drinks at Casino, walk across the street to Whiskeys (no one calls it Whiskey Jacques) and see what bands are playing.
  • Start or end your night at Cellar, which is an underground pub about a block away on Sun Valley Road.

What to Do

  • Everything or nothing.
  • Our day will often start with a hike. We take our Westie with us but our kids are still too young. Head in to Elephants Perch or Google info on SV hikes. We love to do Proctor Mountain where you can hike up to North America's first working chairlift and get killer views of the mountain. We also do Adam's Gulch where 3 or 4 fabulous hikes start from. Hulen Meadows and Lake Creek are 5 minutes north of town and offer great hikes as well. Or, in the summer, you can hike up to the top of Baldy, the main ski mountain. All hikes except Baldy we do in summer and winter.
  • The Sun Valley Gun Club is another great way to spend an afternoon. You can take lessons and rent all the gear you need. Whether you are a champion clay pigeon shooter or have never shot a gun in your life, this place has something for everyone.
  • Zenergy Spa at Thundersprings - go for one of the best massages in North America. I mean it, they are the best. I don't even have anyone I request.
  • Sun Valley resort also has an amazing kids camp for kids 6 mos. old and up with great staff and access to all the resort amenities. A typical day will include a horse drawn sleigh ride, face painting, ice skating, hiking and more.
  • The Ketchum public library is a great place to take kids with an entire side dedicated to them. They have special activities going on all the time and in the winter when it's too cold to go outside for very long, the library is a godsend.

inside scoop

  • When people refer to "Sun Valley" they are referring to Ketchum and Sun Valley together. Sun Valley actually just consists of the Sun Valley Resort and a very few neighborhoods (namely the Fairways). Ketchum is the old mining town next door. The entire area is known as Sun Valley and there is no need to differentiate. "Town" is always Ketchum though, never Sun Valley. It's also "town" and never "the town" if you really want to get technical.
  • Many famous people have second homes in SV. If you do bump into Drew Barrymore or Clint Eastwood, treat them just like you would anyone else. Remember, if they wanted special treatment and attention, they would be in Aspen.
  • All the gas stations are owned by the Sun Valley Company so they sell the same wine that they sell in the resort. So we do all of our wine shopping in the gas stations. Expect to find bottles like Stags Leap Artemis. The Sun Valley Wine Company has great wines too and is a favorite place to wile away an afternoon. Atkinson's also has a strong selection of wine.
  • Note that Idaho is considered a 'dry' state so the only place in town that sells hard alcohol is the state run liquor store which is around the corner from Smokey Mountain Pizza. No one in town sells hard alcohol on a Sunday either... so plan ahead if you are vacation and you want a martini on a Sunday.

skip it

The Duchin Room. Back before the Lodge was refurbished, the Duchin Room was one of my favorite bars in the world. It was incredibly dark and you could never quite tell who was in there. They had and still do have a fantastic piano man who plays and sings and people would get up and actually dance together. It was a very very special place. Now it looks like an upmarket yet unmemorable hotel bar that could be any hotel bar anywhere in the world. It may be called the Duchin Room  but the name is the only thing that remains.

What to Pack


See Megan Havey’s Sun Valley Guide here.

See Beth Scheer’s Sun Valley Guide here.

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