Inside the Idyllic Celeb Haunt of Jackson Hole, its Rising Arts Community and Locals' Scene

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The western ski haven, which has long been a winter hideaway for A-listers, just kicked off its first international film festival

<p>Danny Holland</p> Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Danny Holland

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a well-known winter hideaway for ski-loving celebrities, but it's also establishing itself as a noteworthy creative community — luring musicians, filmmakers and yes, movie stars.

The Wyoming town is as authentic as it is stunning, with locals cultivating an impressive arts scene in the mountain community of picturesque peaks and vast wildlife.

Nestled between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, the idyllic town just kicked off its inaugural Jackson Hole International Film Festival (JHIFF) held at the National Museum of Wildlife Art on Dec. 8-10.

The 51,000 sq. ft. building — built into the hillside of a National Elk Refuge — held eight screenings throughout the weekend, keeping its prominent display of animal artwork open for guests to enjoy.

<p>Juliet Adelman</p> Jackson Hole wildlife

Juliet Adelman

Jackson Hole wildlife

Filmmakers and festival-goers from around the world were given a special Wyoming welcome by board members and local staff, who showed off highlights of the valley — and village — during their stay.

The Virginian Lodge, which features fire pits, outdoor spas, a diner and bar, hosted an array of activities, including live music each night.

Finn Taylor, writer and director of the festival's closing night film, Avenue of the Giants, even joined a local band on stage to play his mandolin, while I'll Be Right There actress Kaylie Carter, who co-stars in the comedy-drama with Edie Falco, showed off her singing skills and director Brendon Walsh cheered her on.

<p>Alexandra Munger</p> Writer-director Finn Taylor and JHIFF artistic director David Nugent discuss Taylor's 'Avenue of the Giants' film on closing night Dec. 10, 2023

Alexandra Munger

Writer-director Finn Taylor and JHIFF artistic director David Nugent discuss Taylor's 'Avenue of the Giants' film on closing night Dec. 10, 2023

Artist and musician Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe who serves on the board with his wife, lifestyle entrepreneur Courtney Sixx, shared how much the new endeavor means to him as he continues to venture more into the film scene.

"We love the idea of bringing arts and culture to Jackson," Nikki, 65, told PEOPLE of working with JHIFF chair Stuart Suna and executive director Marni Walsh.

"We've been talking about this for the last year and a half or so it’s been in motion. There's a lot of really fantastic people involved. It's the first of many years. A great kickoff."

<p>Amrita Beverages</p> The JHIFF crew of filmmakers and festival staff

Amrita Beverages

The JHIFF crew of filmmakers and festival staff

Related: Courtney Sixx Kicks Off Bouquet Box Flower Bar at Lela Rose Ranch in Jackson Hole (Exclusive)

"We love calling Jackson Hole our home," added Courtney, who showed guests how to arrange roses at her Bouquet Box Floral Bar while they sampled Wild Common tequila and mezcal with Amrita Beverages.

"It's the most magical and perfect setting to not only showcase films, but our skiing, fine dining and spectacular hotels make it the most gorgeous and pristine winter wonderland that's out of this world."

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One of the must-see stops recommended in Jackson is Dornans Chuckwagon, established in 1922. Located along the Snake River, this bar and restaurant lies on a privately owned patch of land at the base of Grand Teton National Park. The family establishment's prime views give a front-row seat to one of Jackson's many fine landscapes.

Related: Nikki Sixx Shares About His Peaceful Life in Jackson Hole: 'I'm Very Grateful' (Exclusive)

In the "village" or town square, a newcomer right of passage is a visit to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which may be frequented by tourists but is also a favorite of Reba McEntire when she's in town, according to sources in the live music scene.

The Silver Dollar Bar inside the historic Wort Hotel is another Western-themed live music hangout, more favored by locals, who enjoy telling the history of Charles J. Wort, a "homesteader" who came to the town in 1893.

The site, which "boasts 67 years of outlaw history" was once an illegal, "but tolerated," gambling hall, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

<p>Vincent Ledvina</p> Local wildlife in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Vincent Ledvina

Local wildlife in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Modern-day visitors who want to look the part of an outlaw can stop into Grit General, which has been visited by Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. It's one of the top shops in town to score high-end menswear and accessories. Nearby, Mountain Dandy stocks eclectic, hand-made home goods.

Though there may be a flock of celebrities — and billionaires — sauntering through the unique town at any given moment, Jackson Hole doesn't take itself too seriously.

The rugged locale recently held a "Ski in Jeans" weekend where skiers tried to break the Guinness Book of World Records for "the most people skiing and riding in jeans," per Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's website.

<p>Karsten Winegeart</p> Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Karsten Winegeart

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

At another distinctive gathering held in late summer, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen joined some fellow percussionists in Jackson Hole for a series of events hosted by Mindy and Glenn Stearns for the Raven Drum Foundation, which aims to heal and empower trauma survivors, Veterans and first responders through music and storytelling.

Whether visiting in summer or winter; seeking rest and rejuvenation or an A-list star sighting; visitors are sure to enjoy exploring Jackson Hole's magical surroundings.

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