At the time, Sun Valley has the perception of being too expensive to enjoy. But like anything in life, there are usually affordable or free ways to find a good time, even especially in Sun Valley. And while we’re not saying you’re a dirtbag, the following are tips on how to live the most…money averse couple of days in Sun Valley in the summer.
Flying directly into Hailey’s Friedman Memorial Airport can be pricey over the 4th of July week but there are often deals run at various points throughout the year. We recommend checking out our Getting Here page or scoping airfarewatchdog.com for your best and most affordable options. Flying into Boise or Twin Falls and renting a car is also a viable route.
Places to Stay
Summer is full of inexpensive or free options to stay, the cheapest being camping. There are campsites out Sun Valley Road at both Boundary Campground, a traditional campground with bathroom facilities and grills that costs $10/night. This is a great spot as it is located close enough to town to bike if you’re really looking to cut costs. North of town by the SNRA is the North Fork Campgrounds for $16/night and have water and bathroom facilities. For more camping suggestions, check out our story Best Places to Camp Around Sun Valley.
photo: Sara Sheehy // Visit Sun Valley
If the camping thing isn’t for you, check these hotel options in town Hotel Ketchum, Tamarack, the Best Western Kentwood, and Best Western Tyrolean; you might score a room for less than you’d expect. If you’re up for a bit of a drive, the town of Hailey just 12 miles south has some great options as well. And of course, there’s always Airbnb.
You’ve made it to town, now it’s time to score some food. Ketchum certainly has gourmet options but its cheaper options are no less tasty.
Java on Fourth, serving up classics like Eggs Benedict, Avocado Toast, or Oatmeal, all for less than $10.
The Kneadery is another cheap breakfast option with their own take on breakfast like the Eggs Blackstone or a daily Chef’s Choice Burrito, all for a slightly higher price point of between $10-$12.
While the day is cool is the perfect time to head outside where activities abound and the price is right. Plenty of mountain bike trails abound as well as fly fishing spots, rock climbing, and so much more. The outdoors is always free!
photo: Mountain Humane
Adam’s Gulch is a fun, easy area to hike and is located just north of town. On Wednesdays from 9am-3:30 pm, Mountain Humane hosts Hikin’ Buddies at Adam’s Gulch where hikers can take a dog with them on their trek. Proctor Mountain is another fun, easy hike in town located out Sun Valley Road by the Hemingway Memorial.
On Saturday mornings at River Run Plaza, take advantage of free yoga in the sunshine. Sunrise Flow starts at 8:45 am and Gentle Yoga starts at 10 am.
Now that you’ve gotten some outdoor exercise and the sun is starting to peak, it’s time to cool off in one of Ketchum’s numerous river spots.
photo: Greg Randolph // Visit Sun Valley
Behind Church of the Bigwood is a popular spot to jump into the river and join the other locals drying off on the large grass lawn.
Ask a local where to find the Sheep Bridge on River Ranch Road, it’s a great spot for those feeling daring enough to jump off the bridge into the cool water.
Ketchum also has numerous signs around town displaying public access to the river; spot one and follow it!
For lunch, there are numerous delicious options for less than $10.
Irvings, located on a grassy mound on Main Street, serves up hot dogs: original, chili cheese, kraut, and polish sausage, all for under $5.
Once again, Wrapcity is a Ketchum mainstay serving wraps like their famous Chinese Chicken Salad or others like Chicken Ranch Club or Just Veggies. At $7 for a whole one and $3.75 for a half, it’s hard to beat.
photo: Johnny G’s
Another cheap favorite of Ketchum is Johnny G’s Subshack which offers a range of subs in sizes 6”, 8”, 10”, and 12” for $7-$11. Grab a pint of Bud, Coors, or Coors Light for a dollar aka “the coldest draft in town.”
Get Back Outside
If you thought the only free things to do outside involved getting into the mountains, think again! There’s plenty of fun outdoor activities located right in town.
photo: Sara Sheehy // Visit Sun Valley
Head to Sun Valley Club House for some putting on their putting course; it’s free if you bring your own putter and ball.
Grab some friends and head to Sun Valley Lake for some volleyball on the sandy court that’s free for anyone’s use.
Atkinson Park in Ketchum also has a free volleyball court as well as tennis courts open for use (just bring your own racquet and ball), soccer fields, baseball diamond, and basketball courts.
Catch Some Tunes
Free music abounds in the Wood River Valley in the summer.
Check out Ketch’em Alive on Tuesdays in the Forest Service Park for free tunes of all genres.
Jazz in the Park is Sundays in the Rotary Park in Ketchum for jazz aficionados.
photo: Tal Roberts // Visit Sun Valley
The Sun Valley Summer Symphony has lots of free concerts in their summer series and are a great spot to take the family for a picnic on the lawn. During any concert at the Sun Valley Pavilion, take a free seat on the lawn and enjoy the sounds of a free concert.
Sun Valley also puts on free movies on the lawn that are projected on their big screen several times during the summer.
On Thursday nights, check out the outside of the Hangout, Hotel Ketchum’s bar which hosts free music and has a mobile trailer for ordering drinks.
Now that you’ve worn out your body, time to work on your mind.
The Community Library has a host of free events from lectures to workshops and other great events.
photo: Dev Khalsa // Visit Sun Valley
Gallery Walk takes place one Friday a month and is a great way to see some art and get some free drinks in the process.
If trivia is your game, check out free trivia at Sawtooth Brewery in Ketchum on Tuesday nights or at Hotel Ketchum on Wednesday nights.
The Sun Valley Center for the Arts also often has free events from guided exhibitions at their Center to lectures and more.
Grab a Drink
For a pre-dinner drink in the afternoon sun, two spots come to mind: Grumpy’s and Lefty’s.
Head to Grumpy’s for a classic schooner of beer (32 oz) and a burger and to see inside the place that has made such a name for itself in Ketchum with its memorabilia- and beer can-lined walls.
Lefty’s deck is the perfect spot for soaking up rays and offers cheap beer and pub food as well.
If you haven’t filled up on beer, head to a number of cheap dinner spots in Ketchum.
Wise Guys pizza is a classic pizza-joint in town where you can get a slice and a soda for $3.95 or two slices and a soda for $6.25.
Next door to Wise Guys is KB’s Burritos, serving up cheap California-Mexican cuisine in the form of burritos, tacos, and salads.
Enjoy the Night Life
Ketchum’s bar scene is comprised of only a few spots, namely the Cellar Pub, the Casino, and Whiskey Jacques’.
On Sundays and Tuesdays, check out Dollar Night at Whiskey’s where a $5 cover fee gets you inside and well drinks and select beers are only $1 all night. Most weekends, Whiskey Jacques has concerts as well, often for free or as little as $5-$10 a cover.
photo: The Casino
Other Tips for Dirt Bags
- If you’re looking for WIFI but don’t want to pay to sit somewhere and use it, both the Community Library and the Visitor’s Center (home to Starbucks as well) have free WIFI available to all.
- A day pass to the local YMCA is $16 for adults and will give you all-day access to showers, free coffee, workout classes and equipment, the pool, rock climbing, and often other community events like movie screenings
- Hemingway’s grave is located in Ketchum and is a fun sight to see and tell your friends you’ve been to; make like the locals and leave an offering to Hemingway in the form of a bottle of Whiskey
- The Gold Mine thrift store is a great spot to grab some new threads or to find gently used sporting goods. The inventory changes daily so be sure to check back regularly