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Trip Report Young Kids in Yellowstone

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We just got back from our kids' first trip to Yellowstone. We have 2 kids--6&8. Here was our itinerary:
Day One: SLC (home) to West Yellowstone
We stopped off in Idaho Falls (sort of the half way point) to see the Museum of Eastern Idaho. They get some great traveling exhibits. We saw the Bodies exhibit. The 8 yo loved it, the 6 yo said no thanks. There were some nice permanent exhibits and a really great kids room. This was a really nice place to break up the drive. In West, we pretty much just hit the pool, they got to watch CABLE TV (whoo hoo), and we got some pizza. I love the 2 book stores in West--they are both awesome.

Day Two: West to OF
This was geyser hopping day. First, we visited the Madison River Ranger station to get the Junior Ranger books (an absolute MUST in ANY National Park or monument). We heard a great talk about wolves and walked along the Madison River. The kids loved watching the Uintah ground squirrels. We stopped at Fountain Paint Pots and Midway Geyser basin and took the Firehole River drive and the drive to Ojo Caliente spring. We got to OF and looked around the Inn. Then we went over to the new visitors center which is really, really cool. Got to see OF erupt--fun. Then we walked around to see the Lodge and then check in at the Snow Lodge. We had dinner at the Snow Lodge and it was ok. Nice kids menu.

Day Three: OF to Grant Village
We started the day by walking around the OF geyser basin. Tip for parents--you can rent bicycles and ride the bicycle route along the basin, then walk over the river to look at some geysers. I thought this would be a good idea--our kids were really tired of geysers and walking by this point :-) Then we went to West Thumb and walked that basin. At Grant, we looked around the visitors center--lots of neat stuff on the 87 fires and a good movie too.

Day 4: unplanned side trip to Cody, stayed in Canyon
It was POURING rain. We stopped at Fishing Bridge visitors center which was neat. But there was no way we were hiking in that deluge just with rain jackets. So we decided to go to Cody. 2 hour drive--kind of long but very pretty. We hit the McDonalds there for lunch--play land is always good after that kind of a drive! The Buffalo Bill museums were AWESOME. We spent 3 hours there. Just so much to see. We all really liked it. We drove through the Hayden valley in the evening, which was great for wildlife watching. Make sure you bring binoculars (even better, a spotting scope) to Yellowstone!!!! The kids really liked all the bison.

Day 5: Canyon to Jackson
First stop Canyon visitor center to get the Junior Ranger badges. They have a really great display on the Caldera. I learned a lot. Then we went to ARtist Point. I had intended to hike some of the rim trails but everything was closed due to a recent fatal grizzly mauling. Fine with me--bears and kids, not a good mix!!! We did do a forced march around the mud pots where we saw a bull bison 15 feet from the trail. Yikes. Then we drove straight to Jackson. We were all tired by then and DONE after all the driving. The kids hit the pool in Jackson. My husband walked around town with them and the BEST thing ever was the stage coach ride--and they got to ride on top AND--they got to watch the horse PEE. Seriously. 900+ miles on the road the peeing horse will be their number one memory. That night we got awesome pizza from my fav, fav place--Mountain HIgh Pizza Pie.

Day 6: Jackson to home
We started with breakfast at my fav spot--the Bunnery. Then they HAD to have another carriage ride. At that point, I figured we would do Jackson on a long weekend trip, so I consented to go to the Ripleys Believe it or Not museum. The kids loved it. Me? PASS. Then we hit the road for the 5 hour trip home.

Lodging: In West Yellowstone, we stayed at the Clubhouse Inn. Very nice--one block off the main drag, close to visitors center, pool, fridge, microwave. For Yellowstone--I had called in October 2010 and still could not get 2 nights in the same place!!! At OF, we stayed in the Snow Lodge cabins. I had never stayed in any of the cabins in Yellowstone--always the hotels. Well, I like the cabins! They are roomier than the hotel. They are quieter and there was a deer outside our window in the morning. At Grant, we stayed in Lodge A--small room, only a shower/no bath (not good for my kids). At Canyon--we stayed in the Beaver Creek cabins--very nice, very new. Best place we stayed in Yellowstone. In Jackson, we stayed at the Painted Buffalo Inn. Good enough. Close to town so an easy walk. I think the Antler Inn might have been better--about the same price/locale but a block off the main drag. Things were a bit noisy for us.

Planning: I am OCD about planning. I spent a lot of time on the www.nps.gov site. I downloaded the park newsletter and the Junior Ranger books so I could really plan each day--e.g. Ranger presentations etc. I made up bingo cards for each day (e.g stuff to look for--raven, marmot, pine tree, etc) based on where we were in the park. The best game in Yellowstone is the License Plate game. We got every state but Hawaii, Vermont, and Maine!

On not hiking: This is hard for me. I am a pretty hard core backpacker and I grew up in Idaho spending lots of time in Yellowstone. But the 2 mile geyser basin hike was a lot for the kids. And the geysers really do stink. So I sucked it up and we really did the hop in and out of the car tour of Yellowstone. When they are older we can do more trails. I just want them to have fun and love the park as much as I do.

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