Anyone new to Jackson Hole  should be sure to visit the spacious Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center (532 N. Cache Dr., 307/733-3316, www.jacksonholechamber.com , daily 8 a.m.-7 p.m. late May-early Sept., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. the rest of the year) on the north side of town. (The phone is answered only on weekdays, but on weekends you can leave a message and you’ll be mailed an information packet.)
The information center is a two-level, sod-roofed wooden building—jokingly called the “little prairie on the house”—with natural-history displays, a blizzard of free leaflets extolling the merits of local businesses, a gift shop selling regional books and maps, and a covered upstairs deck overlooking the National Elk Refuge . Ducks and trumpeter swans are visible on the marsh in the summer, and elk can be seen in the winter. Downstairs, the “bear cave” is a big kid draw.
The information center is staffed by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, along with Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and other agency personnel in the summer. Free nature and history talks are generally given several times a week during the summer, or you can watch a video about the refuge.
In addition to the main information center, you’ll find brochure racks at the airport, the stagecoach stop on Town Square, next to the public restrooms at Cache and Gill, and the Mangy Moose in Teton Village.
In 1932, the local Rotary Club planted trees in the center of Jackson , adding four picturesque arches made from hundreds of elk antlers in the 1950s and 1960s. Today the trees offer summertime shade, and at any time of day or night you’ll find visitors admiring or posing for photos in front of the arches that mark the corners of Town Square. During winter, the snow-covered arches and trees are draped with lights, giving the square a festive atmosphere. Surrounded by dozens of boardwalk-fronted galleries, bars, restaurants, factory outlets, and gift shops, the square is the focal point of tourist activity in Jackson.
During summer, stagecoaches wait to transport you on a leisurely ride around town, and each evening “cowboys” put on a free shoot-out for throngs of camera-happy tourists. The shoot-out starts at 6:15 p.m. Monday-Saturday nights all summer. They’ve been killing each other like this since 1957. With stereotypical players and questionable acting, the “mountain law” system seems in dire need of reform. Most folks love the sham; Canon and Olympus love it even more. Warning: The sound of blanks is surprisingly loud and can be frightening for small children.
Summertime bus tours of Grand Teton  and Yellowstone  national parks are available several times a week from Gray Line of Jackson Hole/Alltrans (307/733-3135 or 800/443-6133, www.graylinejh.com ). Yellowstone tours last 11 hours and cost $115, while eight-hour Grand Teton tours are $100; rates for kids are half-price. Add a $12 park entrance fee to both tours. During winter, Gray Line/Alltrans has daily bus runs to Flagg Ranch Resort  for $106 round-trip, arriving in time to meet the snowcoach departures for Yellowstone. Reservations required. Jackson taxi companies also offer shuttle services within the park and guided tours.
Operated by Teton Science School, Wildlife Expeditions (307/733-2623 or 888/945-3567, www.wildlifeexpeditions.org ) leads an array of wildlife-viewing safaris throughout the region, from four-hour sunset trips for $125 to four-day tours through Yellowstone and Grand Teton for $1,995. Their trips change seasonally—depending upon which animals are visible—and are offered in customized vehicles with multiple roof hatches for better wildlife viewing.
Get a geologist’s perspective on the area from Earth Tours (307/733-4261, www.earth-tours.com ), with outstanding tours and hikes led by Dr. Keith Watts. He also guides full-day trips into Yellowstone and longer trips to southern Utah parks.
Other companies with guided van tours of the area include:
307/739-9443 or 800/642-8979
307/734-4454 or 800/700-1558
307/690-4453 or 866/733-4453
The small Jackson Hole Museum (105 N. Glenwood, 307/733-2414, www.jacksonholehistory.org , noon-5 p.m. Sun., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. late May-mid-Sept., closed the rest of the year) has a surprising homespun charm. Inside are displays and collections illustrating the days when Indians, trappers, cattlemen, and dude ranchers called this magnificent valley home. Check out the rock-encrusted flintlock musket, the old postcards, and a replica of the “Colter stone.” Admission is $3 adults, $2 seniors, $1 ages 3-18, and $6 families. In the summer, the museum sponsors free hour-long historical walking tours of Jackson ’s downtown on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.
Also managed by the local historical society, the Jackson Hole Historical Center (105 Mercill Ave., 307/733-9605, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Fri. year-round, free) is a small research facility housing photo archives, a library of classic regional books, and rotating exhibits throughout the year.
Teton Raptor Center (307/203-2551, www.tetonraptorcenter.org , noon-4 p.m. Tues. and Thurs., 8 a.m.-noon Wed. in summer) is housed within the historic red barns of the Hardeman Ranch, seven miles from Jackson in the little town of Wilson. The center rehabilitates injured birds of prey and offers tours (by appointment, $10) several times weekly in the summer. This is a great chance for an up-close view of a golden eagle, red-tail hawk, and various falcons. The center also offers free weekly evening talks at Teton Village; their website features an osprey cam for live summer action on a nearby nest.
If you’re a fan of the National Enquirer, check out the weird and wacky collection at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (140 N. Cache, 307/734-0000, www.conceptattractions.com , daily 9 a.m.-10 p.m. in summer, and noon-6 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. the rest of the year; closed Tues.-Wed. Nov.-Dec.). Here you’ll discover a shrunken head, six-legged buffalo calf, six-foot-long cigar, antique bedpan collection, and even art created from dryer lint. Who says art is only for the elite? Entrance costs a steep $11 adults, $9 ages 5-12, free for kids under five.
For more foolishness, have the kids drag you to the Teton Maze (307/734-0455) across from the Snow King chairlift. As the ads proclaim, it’s a-Maze-ing.