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The town of Ketchum had its own long and storied history well before Mr. Harriman and company set their sights on Sun Valley. This former mining town drew fortune-seekers in the mid-1800s who came looking to cash in on the land’s natural resources, including silver and lead. (In fact, the town was originally named Leadville, which was rejected by the post office on account of there being too many towns named Leadville; it was eventually renamed after a local trapper and one of its first residents, David Ketchum.) By the 1890s the mining boom was fading to black, and Ketchum’s local population of 2,000 needed another raison d’etre. It would come in the form of sheep, oddly enough, and the town quickly became the region’s sheep-shipping capital of the West thanks to a Union Pacific depot just outside of town. (The annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival, which takes place every October, pays homage to this quirky nugget of Ketchum history.)
When Sun Valley opened in 1936, the town began its final shape-shift into its modern-day form, a warm and welcoming burg where the locals live real lives alongside waves of visiting skiers and summer adventure-seekers. Main Street is lined with restaurants, shops, bars, and galleries, and the downtown absolutely twinkles on dusky winter evenings, especially around the holidays. A brand-new performing arts center that debuted last winter has helped to elevate the town’s cultural offerings, bringing in world-class musicians, dance troupes, and theater companies year-round. A rash of new hotels and restaurants continue to help put Ketchum on the map, but skiers who’ve visited are already smitten with the place. After all, down-to-earth Ketchum provides the perfect counterbalance to Sun Valley’s snowglobe charm. Here are just some of the highlights that await.
Read more: Sun Valley, Idaho
The Kneadery, Java on Fourth
For a sit-down breakfast, head to The Kneadery, housed in a cute cabin and serving hungry folks since 1974. The menu is built on fresh-baked breads and cage-free eggs; the Kneadery Benedict showcases the homemade Hollandaise, while the Kneadery French Toast uses organic Brioche. For a quicker option, Java on Fourth’s breakfast menu features egg sandwiches, burritos, and toasts plus fresh-roasted coffees, teas, and chai.
Grumpy’s, The Cellar, Enoteca
Ketchum has many bars with lovely ambiance and deep beer, wine, cocktail, and spirit offerings. Grumpy’s is not one of them, but it is an institution one should visit for a schooner of Coors and a burger. The Cellar is a subterranean pub with shuffleboard, games, sports on screens, and a menu of beer, wine, and late-night eats. Wine bar Enoteca has the line on vino plus an inviting menu to pair it with.
Sawtooth Brewery Public House, Rickshaw
What began with two guys who wanted a place for skiers to drink craft beer has grown into the Sawtooth Brewery Public House. Stop by for 25 taps plus sizable lunch and dinner menus with everything from chicken pot pie to gyros. Tucked a few blocks off Main Street, Rickshaw serves Southeast Asian fare in a converted house complete with bar and patio. The spicy KFC (Korean fried chicken) is a must-try.
The Covey, Cookbook, The Pioneer Saloon
The Covey opened last year in a cozy space behind Main Street. A giant hearth sits at the center, where meats such as bison and elk are cooked over applewood. Cookbook embraces family recipes—several of the owners’ recipes are on the menu—and the walls are lined with cookbooks. The Pioneer Saloon is a tried-and-true Western steakhouse on Main Street revered for its steaks and prime rib.
The Limelight at Sun Valley
The Limelight brand’s outpost in Ketchum is fun and quirky like the other two locations (Aspen and Snowmass), embracing a whimsical vibe in its lobby lounge space filled with low-slung couches scattered with colorful pillows and surrounding a three-walled glass fireplace. The mood continues into the 99 light and airy rooms and suites, with high ceilings, big windows, and spacious closet and storage spaces. An outdoor heated pool and hot tub, fitness center, mountain shuttle, and complimentary breakfast spread that rivals the $50 buffets at other hotels seal the deal.
Full Review: Ketchum in the Limelight
This fully renovated former Clarion Inn has been reimagined into a funky, light-hearted home base for adventurous visitors with King, Queen, Fireplace, and Balcony rooms and suites (some are dog-friendly), and an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. The Hotel Ketchum’s lobby lounge, called The Hangout, serves complimentary breakfast.
Knob Hill Inn
The European chalet–inspired Knob Hill Inn is an ideal option for skiers looking for a quieter getaway where service is king. The 29 rooms and suites are generous and well-appointed and the on-property dining at the Grill at Knob Hill is superb.
Thought-provoking and inspirational artwork is the focus at the Gilman, a contemporary gallery specializing in photography, sculpture, and paintings. The gallery is gaining a following for its cutting-edge installations and exhibitions.
Argyros Performing Arts Center
This new 25,000-square-foot complex opened last year with a full slate of events, from modern dance and ballet to concerts by Keb’ Mo’ and Branford Marsalis. This cultural venue has put Ketchum on the map as a mountain-town hub for world-class performances all year long.
Ketchum’s mainstay for live music year-round, Whiskey Jacques rocks with live music and karaoke several nights a week.