Near the south entrance of Grand Teton National Park.

Jackson has come a long way from the days when its only visitors were Native American tribes hunting for summer game and later, mountain men seeking beaver pelts. From the humble settlements established in the 1890s, a thriving tourism hub has sprung, catering to everyone from outdoor adventurers to glitterati on holiday. Packed with opportunities for outdoor fun, fine dining and shopping, Jackson is unlike any other gateway town and well worth a stop. 
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You may have heard this area referred to as Jackson Hole, and that’s correct: In mountain man parlance, a “hole” was a high valley surrounded by peaks. Technically, the town itself is Jackson, while Jackson Hole is the surrounding valley. Jackson centers on the old-timey Town Square, a small park marked by four famous arches fashioned from antlers and ringed by art galleries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. 
Outdoor activities are the main game in town, and you’ll find no shortage of outfitters ready to set you up on your adventure. The Snake River provides easy access to whitewater rafting, float trips and trout fishing, and dude ranches can get you in the saddle. In winter, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort attracts black diamond skiers; cross-country ski trails also abound, and sleigh rides at National Elk Refuge are a classic winter excursion.

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But Jackson cleans up nice, too. Climbers and hikers can come in from a day playing outside and rub elbows with the high society that frequents the town’s five-star hotels, elegant restaurants, and ritzy jewelry and art galleries. If your dream national park vacation involves dropping 30 grand on a giant moose statue or indulging in elaborate spa treatments, Jackson is the place for you. More interested in microbrews beside the campfire? You’ll be right at home, too. 

Essentials
Getting There: If you’re coming south from Yellowstone, Jackson is an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from the South Entrance on U.S. 89. You can also approach from points west (such as Idaho Falls) via U.S. 26 or over Teton Pass on WY 22 (a gorgeous route if the weather’s nice). From the south, take U.S. 89, 189, or 191 north to reach town. For up-to-date weather information and road conditions, contact the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce (307/733-3316; www.jacksonholechamber.com), call (888/996-7623 (in state) or 511 (in-state mobile), or visit www.wyoroad.info.
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Visitor Information: The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce provides up-to-date info on lodging, dining, and attractions in the area; stop by 112 Center St. The Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 N. Cache St. is another great resource and is staffed by rangers from surrounding parks. Open 8am to 7pm in summer and 9am to 5pm from October through Memorial Day (307/733-3316). Jackson Hole Central Reservations (888/838-6606; www.jacksonholewy.com) can help book rooms at local hotels. 
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Getting Around: Cars are the easiest way around Jackson Hole (rental cars are available at the airport and in town), but you can get away with not having one if you’re flexible. The Jackson Hole Shuttle (307/200-1400; www.jhshuttle.com) and Alltrans (307/733-3135; www.jacksonholealltrans.com) provide service between the airport and Jackson or Teton Village (rates range from $20–$70 one-way), as well as private tours. Several taxis also operate in town; for a list, visit www.jacksonholeairport.com/airport-guide. Before you call a cab, remember that many of the hotels and car-rental agencies in the Jackson area offer free shuttles to and from the airport.

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The Southern Teton Area Rapid Transit system (START; 307/733-4521; www.startbus.com) offers daily bus trips around town and to/from Teton Village. Rides within town are free, and it’ll cost adults $3 for a one-way fare to Teton Village (free for children 8 and under). Buses come roughly every 30 minutes and run 
Whether you’re a raw beginner or a seasoned pro, Jackson can make you feel at home. There’s mountain biking, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and river running in the summer, and skiing, snowmobiling, and snowboarding in the winter.

Sports Equipment & Rentals: There’s no shortage of places to gear up in this town. If you’re here to climb the Tetons (or other serious endeavors), Teton Mountaineering, 170 N. Cache St (307/733-3595; www.tetonmtn.com), can equip you with top-of-the-line backpacking, climbing, and backcountry skiing gear. Hoback Sports, at 530 W. Broadway Ave. #3 (307/733-5335; www.hobacksports.com), specializes in skis, snowboards, and bikes and also offers rentals. Skinny Skis, 65 W. Deloney Ave. (307/733-6094; www.skinnyskis.com), is a popular downtown shop carrying apparel and equipment for pretty much every mountain-related sport; it also rents gear, including ice axes and crampons. Its sister shop, Moosely Mountaineering, 12170 Dornan Rd. in Moose (307/739-1801), just outside the South entrance to Grand Teton National Park, carries a more limited selection of essentials for sale and rent from early May to Sept. Teton Backcountry Rentals, at 565 N. Cache St. (307/828-1885; www.tetonbcrentals.com), rents a wide range of summer and winter gear and even delivers to your hotel. Shop for quality used gear at Headwall Sports, 520 U.S. 89 (307/734-8022; www.headwallsports.com). 

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Summer Sports & Activities

Fishing: Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have incredible fishing in their lakes and streams; see the “Fishing” sections in chapters 4 and 6 for details.
The Snake River emerges from Jackson Lake Dam as a broad, strong river, with decent fishing from its banks in certain spots—such as right below the dam—and better fishing if you float the river. Fly-fishers should ask advice at local stores on recent insect hatches and good stretches of river, or hire a guide. Outdoor gear stores will provide all the tackle and more information on fishing conditions than you can likely process. JD High Country Outfitters, at 50 E. Broadway (307/733-7210; www.highcountryflies.com), stocks all the fishing gear and fly-tying supplies you’d ever need and also runs guided trips on six local rivers. For more in-the-know local insight into the best places to cast, book a trip with Grand Teton Fly Fishing, 225 W. Broadway (307/690-0910; grandtetonflyfishing.com), or Grand Fishing Adventures, PO Box 582 in Teton Village (307/734-9684). Both are licensed concessionaires with Grand Teton National Park. Expect to pay $450 to $575 for a half-day trip.
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Golf: It’s hard to imagine a golf course with more impressive views than the swanky Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club, 5000 Spring Gulch Rd. (307/733-3111; www.jhgtc.com), with its vista of the Tetons (not to mention the occasional grazing bison or moose). The 18-hole, Robert Trent Jones II course also offers fine dining at North Grille and a pool. Daily greens fees range from $165 to $190, cart included. The other public option in town, Teton Pines Country Club and Resort, 3450 N. Clubhouse Dr. (307/733-1733; www.tetonpines.com), is no slouch in the scenery department, either, and also features a tasty restaurant and tennis. Daily greens fees at the Arnold Palmer– and Ed Seay–designed 18-hole course are $140 to $160, cart included. 

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Hiking: Grand Teton National Park is a hiker’s paradise (see chapter 6), but the trails can get a mite crowded during the high season. Fortunately, the 3.4-million-acre Bridger-Teton National Forest extending north, south, and east of Jackson encompasses equally gorgeous mountain scenery—with a fraction of the people, and without the same permit red tape. The Shoshone National Forest, just east, and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, northwest, add to the embarrassment of riches in the area. Those who strike out to explore the Bridger-Teton trails will 13,000-plus-foot peaks, turquoise lakes, glaciers, and abundant wildlife. Options are nearly endless, but one standout is the Teton Crest Trail, a high-altitude route that winds for 40 miles between Teton Pass and Grand Teton’s String Lake. For details, other hike suggestions, and trail conditions, head over to the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 N. Cache St. to chat with rangers, or contact the forest service directly (307/739-5500; www.fs.usda.gov/btnf). 

Horseback Riding: Besides the stables inside Grand Teton National Park, several Jackson outfitters offer rides ranging from 2-hour jaunts to multiday trips. Try the family-owned Mill Iron Ranch (307/733-6390; www.millironranch.net) and A-OK Corral at Horse Creek Ranch (307/733-6556; www.horsecreekranch.com). Half- to full-day rides range from $85 to about $150.
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Kayaking, Canoing, & Paddleboarding: The Snake River attracts river rats from the world over, but several local lakes also offer excellent paddling. For lessons and guided tours in river and lake kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding, check out Rendezvous River Sports, 945 W. Broadway (307/733-2471; www.jacksonholekayak.com).

Rafting: Rafting trips on the Snake River come in two flavors: wild and mild. The Grand Canyon of the Snake, a deep gorge about 20 miles south of Jackson, hosts the area’s classic whitewater trip—an 8-mile stretch of turbulent water, featuring up to 10 Class II and III (on a scale of I–VI) rapids. The mellower float trips take place in and near the national park and also west of Jackson on the Snake’s flatwater sections. Where whitewater trips are all about adrenaline and splashy action, float trips focus on scoping the banks for moose, bald eagles, bears, otters, and more aquatic wildlife. Several operators run float trips in the park.
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If you have to pick just one, go for the whitewater: The wild ride is great for older kids but still plenty thrilling for adults, and it’s great fun to grab a paddle and row like crazy through the rapids. Jackson is practically lousy with top-notch rafting outfitters, so chances are you’ll have an excellent time no matter which one you choose. Some of the very best are Barker-Ewing (307/733-1000; www.barker-ewing.com), Mad River Boat Trips (307/733-6203; www.mad-river.com), Sands Whitewater (307/733-4410; www.sandswhitewater.com), Dave Hansen Whitewater (307/733-6295; www.davehansenwhitewater.com), and Lewis and Clark River Expeditions (800/824-5375; www.lewisandclarkriverrafting.com). Eight-mile, 3-hour whitewater trips usually cost $75 to $85 for adults.
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Ropes Courses and Ziplines: Channel your inner Indiana Jones on one of Jackson’s aerial adventure courses: You’ll catwalk across hanging logs, scramble up rope nets, and zip through the trees (all securely clipped in to safety cables, of course). The Treetop Adventure at Snow King Resort, 400 E. Snow King Ave. (307/201-5666; www.snowkingmountain.com), features an adult course that gets progressively more challenging, plus a closer-to-the-ground kids’ version ($70 for adults and $40 for children 7–13). Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 3395 Cody Lane, Teton Village (307/733-2292; www.jacksonhole.com), has its Aerial Adventure Course, part of a Grand Adventure Park that also boasts a bungee trampoline, freefall drop tower, climbing wall, and mountain bike courses (admission prices were not final at press time).

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Winter Sports and Activities

Cross-Country Skiing: Though it’s best known for its superlative alpine ski resorts, Jackson offers fantastic opportunities for skinny-skis, too. Classic and skate skiers can hit groomed trails at several Nordic centers, while those with a bit more wanderlust can glide into the backcountry of the Bridger-Teton National Forest or Grand Teton.

Teton County Parks and Recreation (307/733-5056; www.tetonparksandrec.org) grooms several areas for free Nordic skiing from mid-December to mid-March, including Cache Creek Canyon and the Snake River Dike. A bit farther afield, just outside Wilson, you’ll find Trail Creek Nordic Center (307/733-6433; www.jhskiclub.org), an excellent spot for skate skiing. The Jackson Hole Ski and Snowboard Club maintains its 10 miles of groomed trails, and day passes cost $15. Also near Wilson, the Teton Pines golf course becomes Teton Pines Nordic Center (307/733-1733; www.tetonpines.com) in winter, with 9.9 miles of groomed, Teton-view trails; day passes are $15. On the other side of the valley, Turpin Meadow Ranch (307/543-9147; www.turpinmeadowranch.com) operates a Nordic Ski Touring Center with 12 miles of rolling terrain near Moran; day passes cost $15. And on the other side of the mountains, $10 grants access to Grand Targhee Resort’s (307/353-2300; www.grandtarghee.com) 9.3-mile Nordic Trail System. Check the Jackson Hole Nordic website at www.jhnordic.com for grooming details for these and other local areas.
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Looking for a guided experience? Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 3395 Cody Lane, Teton Village (307/733-2292; www.jacksohole.com), can take you on private half- ($210) and full-day ($335) tours in the valley and inside Grand Teton. 

Dog Sledding: No need to fly to the Yukon to careen over the snow behind a team of huskies—Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours (307/733-7388; www.jhsleddog.com) can make that happen right here in Jackson. Run by eight-time Iditarod racer Frank Teasley, the outfitter offers half- and full-day trips through the Bridger-Teton National Forest for groups of four, plus a guide, and yes, you get to try your hands at the reins. A half-day trip costs $245, covers 12 miles, and includes a light picnic lunch. If you can, go for the full-day option ($355), which cruises to Granite Hot Springs (a 20-mile round trip) for a soak and a hot lunch. 
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Downhill Skiing: Alpine skiers the world over dream about Jackson’s slopes: Three resorts within striking distance (two of them top-tier destinations), abundant snow, and a reputation for exhilarating black diamond runs make it a true skier’s paradise. No wonder locals and travelers alike turn ski-obsessed the moment the first flakes fall. 

The crown jewel of the Jackson ski scene is Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, 3395 Cody Lane, Teton Village ([tel] 307/733-2292; www.jacksonhole.com). Long known as an expert’s mountain, half of the resort’s runs are single or double black diamonds, and thrill seekers come to challenge themselves on supersteep trails such as the infamous Corbet’s Couloir, a daunting chute. But the resort has expanded and improved its blue runs in recent years, too. Twelve lifts grant access to 2,500 acres of in-bounds snow. The Sweetwater Gondola whisks you from base to peak in 7.5 minutes; also be sure to check out the iconic Aerial Tram, a 100-skier sky bus to Rendezvous Bowl. Adult lift tickets are $130/day, though you can sometimes pre-buy them online for a slight discount. 
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Grand Targhee Resort: 3300 Ski Hill Rd., Alta (307/353-2300; www.grandtarghee.com), offers a mellower experience over on the west side of the Teton Range. This much smaller ski area (5 lifts and 2,602 acres) is blessed with killer views and more than 500 inches of powder a year, and with lift tickets for $80/$85 holidays, it’s quite the deal compared to its ritzier neighbor.

Then there’s the locals’ hill, Snow King Mountain, at 402 E. Snow King Ave., Jackson (307/201-5464; www.snowkingmountain.com). The hill (the smallest of the area ski resorts) anchors the south side of town, and indeed, you walk there from downtown Jackson; the runs trend toward the steep end of the spectrum. Snow biking trails, an ice climbing wall, inner tube slide, and hockey rink round out the activities. Lift tickets cost a mere $55.
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Snowmobiling: Although West Yellowstone is the most popular base for snowmobiling in the Yellowstone area, Jackson has a growing contingent of snowmobile aficionados and outfitters keen on exploring Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail, and especially Togwotee Pass.

Several outfitters run guided day or multiday trips near Jackson and as far north as Yellowstone. Check out Scenic Safaris, 1255 S. U.S. 89 ([888/734-8898; www.scenic-safaris.com); Togwotee Snowmobile Adventures, 1050 S. U.S. 89 (307/733-8800; www.togwoteelodge.com); and Old Faithful Snowmobile Adventures, Jackson (307/733-9767; www.snowmobilingtours.com). Tours range from $250 to $395 per driver (passengers cost a bit less). If you’re just looking to rent your own sled, Leisure Sports, 1075 S. U.S. 89 (307/733-3040; www.jacksonholefun.com), provides a variety for $135 to $225 per day, plus helmets, suits, and other essentials. 
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A Bird's Eye View

Aerial Touring: The Tetons are gobsmacking enough from the valley floor—so imagine the view from high above. Get a vista even climbers don’t see with a scenic flight tour: You’ll glide over the area’s major peaks and the wild backcountry, gaining a perspective unlike any other. Fly Jackson Hole, 1250 E. Jackson Hole Airport Rd. ( 844/395-5499; www.flyjacksonhole.com), offers sightseeing and photography tours ranging from $295 to $395 per person. 

Ballooning: Add an extra shot to your latte for one of Wyoming Balloon Company’s (307/739-0900; www.wyomingballoon.com) 6am “float trips” over a private ranch with in-your-face Tetons views (winds are calmest early in the day). The hour-long hot air balloon rides soar up to 4,000 feet. Prices are $325 for adults and $285 for children ages 6 to 12 (kids 5 and under not allowed).
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Wildlife Watching

National Elk Refuge: In summer, when green vegetation blankets the landscape, Jackson Hole’s elk scatter throughout the high country of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks and the Bridger-Teton National Forest. But as cold temps and snow arrive, they creep down from the mountains and gather on the lower-elevation plains of the National Elk Refuge in a kind of 7,000-strong elk family reunion. You can watch thousands of the antlered animals tussle, forage, and most often, just hang out in this protected space measuring 10 miles long and 6 miles wide at its fattest point. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service keeps the population happy by feeding them alfalfa pellets when deep snow makes grazing difficult, a tradition dating back to 1910. Besides essentially guaranteed elk sightings from late fall to April or May, you might spy bison (who like the elk’s alfalfa, too), coyotes, bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and the occasional wolf. 
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You can drive the Refuge Road yourself, but the most fun way to see the refuge’s wintering elk is on one of Double H Bar’s winter horse-drawn sleigh rides ★. Bundle up for the hour-long rides, which will get you up close to thousands of the majestic animals. Pick up tickets at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center at 532 N. Cache St. ($21 adults; $15 for children 5–12; 4 and under free), then hop the free shuttle to the departure point. Rides depart from 10am to 4pm daily and are first-come, first-served. 
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Area Attractions

Jackson

One could almost be forgiven for neglecting the actual vacation destination—Grand Teton and Yellowstone—and getting caught up in all of Jackson’s activities, shops, restaurants, and attractions instead. That’s how lively this upscale mountain town is. (We did say almost: Don’t let Jackson’s charms divert you away from the parks entirely.)

Town Square is a fine place to begin your Jackson explorations; show up at 6pm in summer and you’ll be treated to a free Old West shootout reenactment from the Chamber of Commerce and Jackson Hole Playhouse. History buffs can dig even deeper into the lives of the Native Americans, ranchers, and homesteaders of Jackson Hole’s past at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum, 1 block north at 225 N. Cache St. (307/733-2414; www.jacksonholehistory.org). Admission is $5 for adults, free for children under 10. Also worth a stop: the three-story hydroponic greenhouse at Vertical Harvest, 155 W. Simpson Ave. (307/201-4452; www.verticalharvestjackson.com), an innovative approach to urban farming. Free tours Weds, Fri, and Sat at 1pm.
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Art Galleries

Jackson is home to more than 30 galleries, most of them clustered around Town Square. And while the town’s reputation as a hotbed for Western art is well-deserved—you’ll find soulful mustangs, romanticized cowboys and Native Americans, and bronze moose in droves—more surprising works pop up in some of the edgier galleries.

Rare Gallery, 60 E. Broadway (307/733-8726; www.raregalleryjacksonhole.com), features modern paintings, sculpture, photos, and jewelry. Tayloe Piggott Gallery, 62 S. Glenwood St. (307/733-0555; www.tayloepiggottgallery.com), exhibits contemporary work from noted artists in a sleek space. Cayuse Western Americana, 255 N. Glenwood St. ( 307/739-1940; www.cayusewa.com), specializes in antiques such as Native American beadwork and weavings, vintage belt buckles and spurs, and early national park photography. The Jackson Hole Gallery Association (www.jacksonholegalleries.com) is a great resource.
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Where to Stay

The good news: There’s no shortage of excellent places to lay your head in Jackson and Teton Village. The bad news: It’ll cost you. In high season, rates at even the mediocre hotels soar into the high $200s and the finest properties can set you back thousands. Book rooms as early as possible, and ask about reduced rates in spring and fall. 

On the western edge of town, the Pony Express Motel, 1075 W. Broadway (307/733-3835; www.ponyexpressmotel.com), is a step up from the average motel, including some rooms with full kitchens. Doubles go for $217 and suites for $327 in high season. A couple of blocks off Town Square, Antler Inn, 43 W. Pearl Ave. (307/733-2535; www.townsquareinns.com), is a good bet, with a big hot tub and knotty wood bedframes. In summer, doubles range from $170 to $200 (some have fireplaces). Sister property 49er Inn & Suites, 330 W. Pearl Ave. (307/733-7550; www.townsquareinns.com), is similarly well-kept, with a stylish rusted exterior and an indoor pool, plus a hot tub; expect to pay a high-season rate of $219 to $269 (pricier rooms have fireplaces) for a double. 
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On the north side of town, The Lexington, 285 N. Cache St. (307/733-2648; www.lexingtonhoteljacksonhole.com), has a wide variety of rooms, from standard doubles to suites to a full apartment. Complimentary hot breakfast is served on a mezzanine, there’s a pool and hot tub, and you get free use of cruiser bikes during your stay. Doubles start at $350 in summer and mini-suites at $370. Inn on the Creek, 295 N. Millward St. (307/739-1565; www.innonthecreek.com), is a cozy, country-style B&B on Flat Creek; room amenities might include fireplaces, patios, Jacuzzis, or kitchens. Summertime doubles cost $289 to $359 and studio suites $359 to $668. And Rustic Inn, 475 N. Cache St. (307/733-2357; www.rusticinnatjh.com), sits on its own aspen- and evergreen-shaded property against Saddle Butte and Flat Creek; the 12-acre space includes fire pits, a teepee, plus a pool, sauna, and hot tub. Guest rooms ($349–$499 for doubles) and stand-alone cabins ($439–$569) are luxe.

 

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Where to Eat

Unlike some of the other gateway towns, Jackson has more quality restaurants than you’d ever fit into a single vacation. Like most everything else around here, options tend to be upscale and pricey, but you can also find a few gems in the casual category. This is a meat town, so expect all kinds of steak, elk, and bison to grace local menus, plus seafood and locally sourced ingredients. For a quick breakfast, try Cowboy Coffee Co., 125 N. Cache St. (307/733-7392), for egg sandwiches and huckleberry espresso drinks, or the charming Persephone Bakery, 145 E. Broadway (307/200-6708), a purveyor of delicate pastries, rustic breads, and hot sandwiches.
 
Jackson After Dark
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Jackson packs a whole lot of culture into a small mountain town. It’s always worth checking out what’s going on at the Center for the Arts, 265 S. Cache St. ( 307/734-8956; www.jhcenterforthearts.org), a collaboration between 19 local and state nonprofits. The campus includes a 500-seat theater and puts on dance performances, art shows, plays, live music, comedy shows, and lectures—Reggie Watts, Willie Nelson, and David Sedaris have all dropped by in recent years. 

In summer, the Grand Teton Music Festival (307/733-1128; box office during the festival; www.gtmf.org) showcases talent from all over the country, plus Canada. The classical music celebration extends for 7 weeks, with performances taking place in an amphitheater in Teton Village. Tickets range from $25 to $55 (students are free). Find still more live music at the Pink Garter Theatre, 50 W. Broadway (307/733-1500; www.pinkgartertheatre.com), host to local and national touring acts, or at the summer weekly free Music on Main shows in Victor, Idaho ([tel] 208/399-2884; www.tetonvalleyfoundation.org). Jackson’s START bus can take you straight there for about $8. 
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As for more traditional nightlife, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, 25 N. Cache St. ([tel] 307/733-2207; www.milliondollarcowboybar.com), is Jackson’s quintessential watering hole. The bar stools are saddles, the pillars knotty pine, and the scene raucous, thanks to frequent live country music shows and dancing—what’s not to love? Fuel up for the night at the excellent Million Dollar Cowboy Steakhouse located directly under the bar. For a more chilled-out vibe, Sidewinders Tavern, 945 W. Broadway (307/734-5766; www.sidewinderstavern.com), is the town’s favorite sports bar, with 30 flat-screen TVs and 28 beers on tap. Thai Me Up, 75 E. Pearl Ave. (307/733-0005; www.thaijh.com), pours 20 different pints from the award-winning nano-brewery Melvin Brewing and plays kung fu movies over the bar. And you can’t go wrong at the Stagecoach Bar, 5755 W. Hwy. 22 ([tel] 307/733-4407; www.stagecoachbar.net), Wilson’s favored place to party since 1942. Thursday nights bring a disco dance-a-thon, and every Sunday, the Stagecoach Band gets an enthusiastic crowd dancing to country western tunes. 
 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.