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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Guidebook Doesn't Do Jackson Justice

If you've never driven to Yellowstone Park via Jackson Hole, Wyoming, you should start planning a trip. The landscape ranges from dramatic (the Grand Tetons) to serene (Yellowstone itself) to jaw-droppingly beautiful (Jenny Lake). Sightseeing isn't the only thing to do in the area, though - there's fishing, skiing, hiking, snowmobiling, white water rafting and so much more. After a full day outdoors, travelers can also enjoy museums, nature talks, and dining choices that range from gourmet to bistro fare. How do I know all this? Is it because of all the time I've spent in the region, consummate traveler that I am? Well, no. I read all about it in Nina Lary's Jackson Hole: A Comprehensive Guide to Jackson and the Grand Tetons.

Now, I have been to (or rather, through) Jackson Hole a few times. I've also visited Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. So, while I'm no expert on the area, I can at least vouch for the scenery. Gorgeous. As for hotels, restaurants and entertainment, well, that's where the guidebook comes in. Lary breaks her book into sections on the city of Jackson, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, with Jackson getting the bulk of the attention. The information is further broken down into sections on lodging, dining and activities. Under each heading, Lary lists local offerings. The lists are not exhaustive and don't offer "best-of-the-best" recommendations - they simply give a sampling of what is available. Phone numbers, website addresses, general price ranges, and interesting tidbits are also given.

Besides basic trip information, the guide also gives a little bit of the area's colorful history. Especially in the Yellowstone section, it also delves into ecology and geology. Despite Lary's lackluster prose, I found these areas of the book fascinating.

I'm no expert on travel/guidebooks - since the dawn of the Internet, I haven't seen the need to buy or read one - but I think Jackson Hole: A Comprehensive Guide to Jackson and the Grand Tetons is only average. The guide holds only basic information, a few grainy black and white pictures, and no really out-of-the-ordinary suggestions. I didn't sense any real enthusiasm in Lary's writing, which is probably why Jackson's IRL charm just didn't come through well enough in this book.

So, while I think Lary's guide is useful, it just doesn't do justice to Jackson and the surrounding areas. To really show travelers what the area is all about, the perfect guidebook would need lots of full-color photos, lively writing, and the kind of recommendations that make you jump up and down with excitement. This one was good, just not that good.
For more information on this title and guides to other U.S. destinations, check out the Tourist Town Guides website here.

Grade: C
(Book Image from Barnes & Noble)

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE Jackson Hole! My family used to take us every few years when I was younger. I'm looking forward to taking my hubby and little ones sometime in the near future!


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