National Park with Kids in Summer 2023

Old Sep 30th, 2022, 08:23 AM
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National Park with Kids in Summer 2023

Hi all,

We are a NY-based family of four looking to do our first national park visit. We are thinking of Summer of 2023 (June or July) and our kids, God willing, will be young - 4 and 2 years old. I am looking for recommendations for a great park to visit that is somewhat toddler friendly along with comfortable accommodations that has somewhat of a lodge/luxury feel. We are willing to fly a long distance if it means arriving to a place that is comfortable for the family and that has nature activities suitable for the kids.

For background, my wife and I have done Banff and Whistler without the kids. Banff was one of our favorite trips ever and we loved going up the mountains, taking hikes and enjoyed the good restaurants nearby. My wife had a spa day in the middle of the trip that just was perfect for her. She's a great wife and mom and deserves the break! I am hoping to find something similar in the US.

My first guess was to go to Glacier National Park. You can now get direct flights out of NY and was thinking of staying at a lodge there that had some comfortable amenities. I am hearing mixed things about Glacier given the time we are going - i.e. that the Going-to-the-Sun Road will be partially closed.

For those who have done this before, I could really use your detailed help! I am a novice at all things US national parks and have a feeling I am already late to the game for next year. Iff you suggest a park, please also put the lodging you would suggest. I would love something near or in the park, with good restaurant options and perhaps a spa option for my wife. Thank you in advance!
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 10:46 AM
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I've been to Yosemite with young kids that age and it was a great visit. We stayed at Yosemite Valley Lodge, or Yosemite Falls lodge, or whatever it's called now, right in the valley. You can take short / stroller walks many places, and without having to go very far at all see & play in Mirror Lake, splash in the river, see giant trees, find giant pinecones, lots of wildlife - the hit is usually the chipmunks right outside your hotel room, not the deer on the other side of the meadow....

I would not call Yosemite Vally Lodge a luxury feel. You are paying for the great location, and get a rather basic but clean and comfortable room. The luxury is in the surroundings right outside your door. Rooms are one of many stand alone buildings of 8 or 10 rooms spread across the grounds. Parking is usually right close by.

The logistics of getting to Yosemite mean either a non-stop flight into SFO, or a connecting flight in to maybe Fresno or Sacramento. A nice 1 week trip could be something like this:

Connecting flight in to Fresno, rent a car, drive to Yosemite.
A few days in Yosemite
Drive to Carmel CA for a few days
Return home from Monterey airport, or San Jose, or SFO (which has non-stop flights back to NYC).

Last edited by J62; Sep 30th, 2022 at 10:51 AM.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 11:40 AM
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Another top tier national park is Yellowstone. You can fly nonstop to Denver and then catch a connecting flight on United to Jackson, WY.There are nine lodges in the park but they are probably already booked up for next summer. Same with the lodge in Yosemite.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 12:33 PM
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A note that Canadian NPs are a completely different concept than American ones. Canadian NPs have large concessions inside the park, even large towns with schools, churches, and hundreds of year-round residents, and so a lot more is available in the luxury category. US NPs are sanctuaries with very limited inside the park concessions, and these tend to be rustic-not-nice, for example TVs are banned (as were phones when those were more common). There may be a few exceptions but I haven't seen them.

In any event any park will work for children. For Glacier I would point out that the prettier eastern slope is not as accessible as the western slope where the airport is, and where the waterparks and crowds are, if that makes a difference to you. Many Glacier is the classy lodge at Glacier but it is probably rustic. AFAIK there is no lodging at Rocky Mtn NP but the town outside, Estes Park, is quite pleasant.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 02:20 PM
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It's highly likely that this might draw hoots of disapproval, but nothing ventured and all that...

Obviously we don't know your kids and how they'll react to a trip like you're proposing. When our son was that age, I have to say he was pretty immune to scenery and outdoor adventures, despite the fact that we lived in Alaska at the time and all summer long we were camping, fishing, visiting scenic places and all that. Now yours might be completely different, and I can accept that the following idea might be a non-starter. But what if.... you cruised to Alaska, or back from Alaska? Okay, off the wall maybe, but consider the following.

Lodging. Unlike national parks where the concessionaires shoot for mass market appeal and can (and do) charge the world, the cruise lines are incredibly competitive and offer very comfortable accommodations. Most cabins have views (and what views!) and many have verandahs where you can sit and listen to the hiss of the water as you travel through the Inside Passage, surrounded my forests and mountains and maybe a whale or two.

Amenities. Spa, check. Movies and games for the kids, check. Babysitting services so if parents want a night on their own, check. Kids' clubs and specific kid-related activities, both on shore and on board, check and check.

Food. Enough choices for even the pickiest of eaters.

Cost. Surprisingly affordable considering it includes lodging, food, entertainment and transportation. If you hold back on overpriced shore excursions, and stay away from the casino, even better. No need to rent (very expensive) rental cars.

Nature and scenery. Obviously this is a major highlight. If you cruise round trip from Vancouver, (not Seattle, in order to stay on inland waters) you can day visit Misty Fjords National Monument and Glacier Bay National Park. If you choose a one-way cruise to or from Seward, (the other end also being Vancouver) you can add Kenai Fjords National Park to that list. But even the parts of the cruise that aren't in some kind of national designated scenic area are pretty damned scenic anyway. Gawk at the Hubbard Glacier, or hike up to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. In historic Skagway, rent a car and drive up into the Yukon, visiting the Carcross Desert or maybe the Robinson Roadhouse ghost town. If you choose a one-way cruise to/from Seward, in addition to whales and seals and otters in the Kenai Fjords, you can take the kids on a dogsled ride, or visit the Alaska Sea Life Center, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on the way into or out of Anchorage (where you'd fly to/from.) And that doesn't even scratch the surface.

The chances of the kids being bored would be (in my view but of couse YMMV) much reduced compared to a lodge-based holiday in some big national park. And needless to say the logistic challenges would be reduced hugely: unpack once, no cars or hotel bookings to wrangle, room service available all the time... it's remarkably easy.

Both the round trip cruises and the one-ways are typically for seven nights. If you choose the one-way option you'd need a few extra days in Alaska to make the most of the opportunities. Or if you choose a round trip, then you could add some time at the Vancouver end for visits or excursions. You've been to Whistler, but you could cross over to Victoria, then cross to Port Angeles for a few days in Olympic National Park, or travel south to Seattle for visits to Mount Rainier. Many options.

Again, just throwing out what might be a curve ball, but maybe worth some thought.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by J62 View Post
I've been to Yosemite with young kids that age and it was a great visit. We stayed at Yosemite Valley Lodge, or Yosemite Falls lodge, or whatever it's called now, right in the valley. You can take short / stroller walks many places, and without having to go very far at all see & play in Mirror Lake, splash in the river, see giant trees, find giant pinecones, lots of wildlife - the hit is usually the chipmunks right outside your hotel room, not the deer on the other side of the meadow....

I would not call Yosemite Vally Lodge a luxury feel. You are paying for the great location, and get a rather basic but clean and comfortable room. The luxury is in the surroundings right outside your door. Rooms are one of many stand alone buildings of 8 or 10 rooms spread across the grounds. Parking is usually right close by.

The logistics of getting to Yosemite mean either a non-stop flight into SFO, or a connecting flight in to maybe Fresno or Sacramento. A nice 1 week trip could be something like this:

Connecting flight in to Fresno, rent a car, drive to Yosemite.
A few days in Yosemite
Drive to Carmel CA for a few days
Return home from Monterey airport, or San Jose, or SFO (which has non-stop flights back to NYC).
Thanks! Those activities sound fun. I may have overstated the luxury ask. By luxury, I just mean a nice lodge with spa services/pools or a sophisticated hotel. Comfort at the hotel is the most important and really i just want to go to the best park for kids. I have been doing some googling and found Tenaya lodge. It seems like a good option - decently priced and has spa services my wife could take advantage of. thanks!

Originally Posted by tom_mn View Post
In any event any park will work for children. For Glacier I would point out that the prettier eastern slope is not as accessible as the western slope where the airport is, and where the waterparks and crowds are, if that makes a difference to you. Many Glacier is the classy lodge at Glacier but it is probably rustic. AFAIK there is no lodging at Rocky Mtn NP but the town outside, Estes Park, is quite pleasant.
Thanks for the tips about Glacier. Many Glacier looks beautiful but I did get a chuckle when I saw "heat" and "telephone" under amenities.

Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
It's highly likely that this might draw hoots of disapproval, but nothing ventured and all that...

Obviously we don't know your kids and how they'll react to a trip like you're proposing. When our son was that age, I have to say he was pretty immune to scenery and outdoor adventures, despite the fact that we lived in Alaska at the time and all summer long we were camping, fishing, visiting scenic places and all that. Now yours might be completely different, and I can accept that the following idea might be a non-starter. But what if.... you cruised to Alaska, or back from Alaska? Okay, off the wall maybe, but consider the following.

Lodging. Unlike national parks where the concessionaires shoot for mass market appeal and can (and do) charge the world, the cruise lines are incredibly competitive and offer very comfortable accommodations. Most cabins have views (and what views!) and many have verandahs where you can sit and listen to the hiss of the water as you travel through the Inside Passage, surrounded my forests and mountains and maybe a whale or two.

Amenities. Spa, check. Movies and games for the kids, check. Babysitting services so if parents want a night on their own, check. Kids' clubs and specific kid-related activities, both on shore and on board, check and check.

Food. Enough choices for even the pickiest of eaters.

Cost. Surprisingly affordable considering it includes lodging, food, entertainment and transportation. If you hold back on overpriced shore excursions, and stay away from the casino, even better. No need to rent (very expensive) rental cars.

Nature and scenery. Obviously this is a major highlight. If you cruise round trip from Vancouver, (not Seattle, in order to stay on inland waters) you can day visit Misty Fjords National Monument and Glacier Bay National Park. If you choose a one-way cruise to or from Seward, (the other end also being Vancouver) you can add Kenai Fjords National Park to that list. But even the parts of the cruise that aren't in some kind of national designated scenic area are pretty damned scenic anyway. Gawk at the Hubbard Glacier, or hike up to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. In historic Skagway, rent a car and drive up into the Yukon, visiting the Carcross Desert or maybe the Robinson Roadhouse ghost town. If you choose a one-way cruise to/from Seward, in addition to whales and seals and otters in the Kenai Fjords, you can take the kids on a dogsled ride, or visit the Alaska Sea Life Center, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on the way into or out of Anchorage (where you'd fly to/from.) And that doesn't even scratch the surface.

The chances of the kids being bored would be (in my view but of couse YMMV) much reduced compared to a lodge-based holiday in some big national park. And needless to say the logistic challenges would be reduced hugely: unpack once, no cars or hotel bookings to wrangle, room service available all the time... it's remarkably easy.

Both the round trip cruises and the one-ways are typically for seven nights. If you choose the one-way option you'd need a few extra days in Alaska to make the most of the opportunities. Or if you choose a round trip, then you could add some time at the Vancouver end for visits or excursions. You've been to Whistler, but you could cross over to Victoria, then cross to Port Angeles for a few days in Olympic National Park, or travel south to Seattle for visits to Mount Rainier. Many options.

Again, just throwing out what might be a curve ball, but maybe worth some thought.
I am VERY intrigued. I am a bit daunted by the long flight to Vancouver and then the long flight back from Alaska (if I do one-way) with two young kids. Other than that, this sounds really ideal. I am not a big cruise guy but I wasn't a big all-inclusive resort guy until I realized how convenient it was for kids. This seems to combine the nature trip I want to take with some of the comfort of an all-inclusive. Thanks very much for this top. I'll do some digging and would gladly take more of your advice.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 09:00 PM
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Check out the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite - it is more upscale than the Yosemite Lodge without being fussy or pretentious.
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Old Sep 30th, 2022, 10:17 PM
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I will probably get some flack for this, but I agree with Gardyloo. A cruise to Alaska would be ideal. Your kids would be pampered by the cabin and dining stewards. Loads of activities, spa for your wife and going ashore gets you closer to the grandeur of Alaska. Alaska cruises tend to be multigenerational. We took our 3 & 4 year old granddaughters on a cruise and they had a blast. No need to take the ship's very expensive shore excursions. You can DYI or book a private excursions for your family. On board we watched whales follow our ship, cruised close to glaciers and saw dozens of bald eagles in the trees on shore.

While Yosemite is beautiful (I like Alaska better), I'm not convinced that is the best place for 2 & 4 year old's. Teneya Lodge is over an hour from the valley floor where all the action is. I have yet to visit a US National Park that has the kind of accommodation you are requesting in or very close to the parks. Most are more rustic. And, in the summer they are very crowded. I live about 3 hours from Yosemite and do not visit in the summer. Even in the fall it is crowded.

Airline journeys at 2 & 4 years old are tedious. But NY to Sacramento or Fresno would probably take just as long (or more) as getting to Seattle. Just saying...

Gardyloo's advice is spot on.

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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 12:41 AM
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I live commute distance from Yosemite (well, a 3.5 hour commute) have been there more than 20X starting at age 5, and have visited most of the National parks in the western US (never been to Glacier) and I 100% agree with Gardyloo's suggestion.

"By luxury, I just mean a nice lodge with spa services/pools or a sophisticated hotel." You aren't going to get spa services or 'sophisticated' hotels in or even near most NPs There are a few exceptions but not many like some of the more upscale properties near Zion, but summer it would be too hot. Even the Ahwahnee, which I love -- is quite overpriced for the quality of accommodations (worth it IMO due to the history and location). Yosemite Valley Lodge is more family friendly but its main food offerings are at a food court-ish cafeteria and its moderately 'upscale' restaurant is only open in the evenings.

With a flight to Vancouver, seven day inside passage Cruise, a few days on the ground in AK, flight to Seattle, a day or two in Seattle both to visit the city itself and to break the long journey back to the east coast . . . that would be a combo of accommodations, myriad dining options, spas, fabulous scenery, fun activities on board and in each port of call.

Now . . . If it didn't have to be a National Park -- a trip to the Monterey CA area would be a terrific family destination. Gorgeous scenery, beaches (more for wading, sand castle building because the Pacific is really to cold for swimming), the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, kayaking, redwoods, Santa Cruz and its boardwalk, . . . and LOTS of sophisticated/upscale accommodations, fine dining, spa services, etc.
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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 12:48 AM
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Oh -- didn't see you mention of Tenaya Lodge . . . No - just no. It is a 90 minute drive from the Valley floor . . . over an EXTREMELY twisty/turny mountain road which for little ones stuck in car seats would almost certainly induce upset tummies or worse.

To give you and idea, Tenaya Lodge is little more than 35 miles from Yosemite Village yet due to road conditions, strictly enforced speed limits, and traffic -- you'd be lucky to make that 35 miles in 90 minutes . . .
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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 03:43 AM
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In case janisj wasn't clear. Hell to the no with Tenaya Lodge. It's in middle of nowhere, and 90min drive to get to a parking lot in Yosemite Valley. Then you have to find parking, then get a bus to where might want to go.
...
Both Yosemite Valley Lodge and Ahwahnee have the 3 most important things about lodging at Yosemite. Location, Location, and Location. Personally, I like the location of YVL better, right near the base of the majestic falls.

To me comfort at the hotel equates to the comfort of the bed, and I find YVL to be just fine. Given your stated hotel preferences, you may not want to consider Yosemite Velley Lodge. To some, the older rustic looking buildings scattered among parking lots, room decor, and simple towels and soaps may feel like a Motel-6.

You will have a lot more flexibility if you decouple spa & national park in the same few days. My suggestion above to add a few days in Carmel after Yosemite would enable plenty of spa time.
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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 07:36 AM
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If you do choose Glacier NP, shoot for after July 15 when the Going to the Sun road will be open all the way through. Normally they have the rotary plow work done by July 1 but you may see a lot of snow at the edge of the road and the parking lot at the top of Logan Pass. On the west side of the park if the road is not open, the gate is closed near the Lake McDonald Lodge. I was there in early November one year and took a picture at the same spot along the south side of the lake that Ansel Adams took one of his famous pictures.
On that anniversary trip with my wife, we stayed in a condo which had a hot tub in the room at the Meadow Lake Resort in Columbia Falls MT. We arrived in Whitefish on the Amtrak Empire Builder and someone from the resort came and picked us up at the train station. The next morning Enterprise brought us a rental car from the Kalispell airport. We were allowed to leave our rental car at the train station since we were leaving by train all the way to Chicago.
On another trip coming from Chicago, we got off the train on May 31 about 6PM and had a rental car waiting for us at the station parking lot in Cut Bank MT. We were the only 2 that got off there and no one got on. The next day we left our motel in Cut Bank and drove up through St. Mary on the east end of the Going to the Sun Road up as far as a locked gate about 2 miles below Logan Pass. We had an interesting delay on US 89 when we had a small herd of horses licking the winter salt off the highway. We left that rental car back at the train station lot and went west on the Empire Builder to Spokane where our car was parked.
Always check with the NPS website about 10 days before you go to any national park to see if there are restrictions including timed entry to the park. Several parks have limits on the number of vehicles allowed in the park during peak hours and you can register to get an entry pass a day or two in advance.
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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by tonygabe View Post
I am VERY intrigued. I am a bit daunted by the long flight to Vancouver and then the long flight back from Alaska (if I do one-way) with two young kids. Other than that, this sounds really ideal. I am not a big cruise guy but I wasn't a big all-inclusive resort guy until I realized how convenient it was for kids. This seems to combine the nature trip I want to take with some of the comfort of an all-inclusive. Thanks very much for this top. I'll do some digging and would gladly take more of your advice.
Regarding travel time, as somebody said, the actual total travel time from, say, NYC to Vancouver is likely to be less than the time needed to get to either Yellowstone or Yosemite, or pretty much any other western national park, when you add in surface transport from the airport to the park. And next summer United is flying a redeye nonstop from Anchorage to Newark - around 60-90 min. longer in the air than flying from the likes of San Francisco or Seattle (or Vancouver) so while it's long, it's not necessarily a deal breaker. Alaska Airlines offers a free stopover in Seattle on any Alaska (state) itinerary, so flying to Vancouver via Seattle on Alaska then flying back to NYC from Anchorage with a Seattle stopover would be another solution to the flying plan.

I'd also mention that there are few cities in North America that are more fun for kids than Vancouver. Whether it's the terrific local parks like Stanley Park, the great aquarium, playing on the sand on one of the city's scenic beaches, the Granville Island market, all the tropical birds in the (wonderful) Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park... fab. If you had two weeks and did a round trip cruise rather than a one-way one, you might think about taking the BC ferry over to the BC Sunshine Coast, an area not well known outside of Canada where there are forests, beaches, farmers markets, picturesque little towns.. all of it in stunning natural settings. It's worth investigating.

As for the cruise itself, I'd recommend focusing on the ports of call, and how long the ship will be there. Some destinations can be very impacted by multiple ships being in port on the same day; you might want to consult the CLA's calendar for which ships will be in which ports on any given day. 2023 Schedules | Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska (claalaska.com) As for personal preference, I'd shoot for an itinerary that includes a nice long port call in Sitka, which IMO is not only the prettiest town in SE Alaska but also offers some of the best family excursion options, including a couple of wildlife rehab centers, the Fortress of the Bear and the Alaska Raptor Center, both worthy causes as well as excellent destinations for visits.

Here are a couple of video teasers...




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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 03:16 PM
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We visited Glacier National Park in September 2021 for a family wedding. The scenery is absolutely stunning! We were also in the French Alps in August 2021, and we think GNP rivals the French Alps in scenery.

I will give you a brief recap of our trip. We are in our 70's so we weren't traveling with young children. However, because we are no longer avid hikers, I purchased the Best Easy Day Hikes at Glacier, and found some beautiful and easy hikes for us, which might be good for you and your family, too. The entire park is beautiful, but IMO, Many Glacier is the most beautiful, dramatic, and rugged part of the park. You should go there even if you don't hike. The drive to Many Glacier is worth it. We hiked/walked the Bullhead Lake trail, but didn't go all the way. Hiked as far as Redrock Lake and the falls. This was our longest hike, about 2.5 miles. Two Medicine Valley on the eastern side is beautiful, too.

We spent 3 nights at St. Mary's Village in St. Mary, literally right outside the St. Mary's entrance to GNP. I recommend staying here.
https://www.glacierparkcollection.co...-mary-village/

We also spent our last 2 nights at the Tamarack Lodge in Hungry Horse on the western side of the park. It is very rustic, inexpensive, and would not appeal to everyone. I wouldn't recommend it to a family of 4. Very basic amenities.

We also spent 5 nights in Whitefish at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, which is where the wedding was held. This was our most luxurious accommodation. It has a pool and hot tub. Is right on the lake. I actually think the Lodge would be perfect for a family, but Whitefish is 27 miles from the entrance to GNP. Some people stay in Whitefish to visit the park. Not sure if it is too far for you. But we had the best meals in Whitefish.
https://lodgeatwhitefishlake.com/

Regarding meals, we were there in September and it was during the pandemic, so many restaurants on the east side had closed early. We did like Two Sisters Cafe near St. Mary's. Were disappointed in other places. Most lodges in the park had closed by the time we arrived, so we weren't able to try any of their restaurants.

If you go, you should visit Polebridge Mercantile. They have the best huckleberry bear claws.

While staying in Whitefish, we visited Big Mountain. Took the chairlift to the summit and hiked the Easy Rim Trail. Most of the trail is flat so an easy hike. We took the alpine slides down the mountain. We visited the National Bison Range in Moiese, which is awesome! It's a 2-hour drive from Whitefish, but well worth it. We also had a lot of fun at the rodeo in Columbia Falls, located right behind the Blue Moon Night Club. Locals are in the rodeo. Very inexpensive. $14.00 each.

FYI, our daughter and her husband visited GNP a few years before us to attend a different family wedding. They traveled with their less than 2-year old daughter, and my daughter was pregnant at the time. They managed quite well with their toddler. Took easy hikes, visited Polebridge Mercantile, and the Bison Range. They rented an AirBnB.

If you wish, you can click on my name to read my trip report of GNP and Whitefish.

Want to add that if you decide on GNP, you do have to reserve a pass for the Going to the Sun Road. This rule was instituted in 2021. After Labor Day, you don't need a pass. Not sure how far in advance you should do this.
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Old Oct 1st, 2022, 04:31 PM
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If you have at least a week, Olympic National Park. Beaches, mountains, rainforest.

https://travelmadmum.com/things-to-d...ark-with-kids/
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Old Oct 2nd, 2022, 03:16 PM
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[QUOTE=tonygabe;17403378

I am VERY intrigued. I am a bit daunted by the long flight to Vancouver and then the long flight back from Alaska (if I do one-way) with two young kids. Other than that, this sounds really ideal. I am not a big cruise guy but I wasn't a big all-inclusive resort guy until I realized how convenient it was for kids. This seems to combine the nature trip I want to take with some of the comfort of an all-inclusive. Thanks very much for this top. I'll do some digging and would gladly take more of your advice.[/QUOTE]

I have taken my kids to many national parks at various ages. Most National Parks do not have spa amenities. Some of the hotels can be beautiful but are old. My kids did better in the cabins or staying in nearby towns when possible. I would say that for what you are seeking--an Alaskan cruise would be awesome. Truly ticks all of your boxes. I know several people who have done this with young kids and had a great time. I have never cruised in my life and really don't want to--but even *I* would consider an Alaskan cruise.

When your kids get a wee bit older--4 and 6, say, then things start to open up. If you click on my user name, you will find trip reports for all of the parks in Utah with kids plus other national parks as well. You would need to do these trips over spring break because it's just too darn hot in the summer. Yellowstone is a kid's paradise-truly!--and is good in the summer with kids. But it is not a luxury experience in any way. Jackson, Wyoming--gateway to Grand Teton National Park can be very luxurious. You could do several days in Yellowstone and then end in Jackson at a luxury lodge (and see Grand Teton National Park as well).

Last edited by StantonHyde; Oct 2nd, 2022 at 03:23 PM.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 06:36 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
Oh -- didn't see you mention of Tenaya Lodge . . . No - just no. It is a 90 minute drive from the Valley floor . . . over an EXTREMELY twisty/turny mountain road which for little ones stuck in car seats would almost certainly induce upset tummies or worse.

To give you and idea, Tenaya Lodge is little more than 35 miles from Yosemite Village yet due to road conditions, strictly enforced speed limits, and traffic -- you'd be lucky to make that 35 miles in 90 minutes . . .
Originally Posted by J62 View Post
In case janisj wasn't clear. Hell to the no with Tenaya Lodge. It's in middle of nowhere, and 90min drive to get to a parking lot in Yosemite Valley. Then you have to find parking, then get a bus to where might want to go.
...
Both Yosemite Valley Lodge and Ahwahnee have the 3 most important things about lodging at Yosemite. Location, Location, and Location. Personally, I like the location of YVL better, right near the base of the majestic falls.

To me comfort at the hotel equates to the comfort of the bed, and I find YVL to be just fine. Given your stated hotel preferences, you may not want to consider Yosemite Velley Lodge. To some, the older rustic looking buildings scattered among parking lots, room decor, and simple towels and soaps may feel like a Motel-6.

You will have a lot more flexibility if you decouple spa & national park in the same few days. My suggestion above to add a few days in Carmel after Yosemite would enable plenty of spa time.
Thank you both re: Tenaya lodge. I am glad I didn't make that mistake. I didn't realize how long it would take to the park and often I see it advertised as "just outside." That's good to know.

I really have my heart set on a National Park. For one, I haven't done it myself and have always wanted to. Secondly, it's just something I thought good to expose my children to early. The idea of us slowing down in a park, taking in the sights as a family is very appealing to me. I'm hoping we can still do it. I will check out Carmel. I am not opposed to staying at a traditional lodge and then taking a few days at a nicer hotel there to stretch out before the journey back home. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 06:43 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
I live commute distance from Yosemite (well, a 3.5 hour commute) have been there more than 20X starting at age 5, and have visited most of the National parks in the western US (never been to Glacier) and I 100% agree with Gardyloo's suggestion.

"By luxury, I just mean a nice lodge with spa services/pools or a sophisticated hotel." You aren't going to get spa services or 'sophisticated' hotels in or even near most NPs There are a few exceptions but not many like some of the more upscale properties near Zion, but summer it would be too hot. Even the Ahwahnee, which I love -- is quite overpriced for the quality of accommodations (worth it IMO due to the history and location). Yosemite Valley Lodge is more family friendly but its main food offerings are at a food court-ish cafeteria and its moderately 'upscale' restaurant is only open in the evenings.

With a flight to Vancouver, seven day inside passage Cruise, a few days on the ground in AK, flight to Seattle, a day or two in Seattle both to visit the city itself and to break the long journey back to the east coast . . . that would be a combo of accommodations, myriad dining options, spas, fabulous scenery, fun activities on board and in each port of call.

Now . . . If it didn't have to be a National Park -- a trip to the Monterey CA area would be a terrific family destination. Gorgeous scenery, beaches (more for wading, sand castle building because the Pacific is really to cold for swimming), the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium, kayaking, redwoods, Santa Cruz and its boardwalk, . . . and LOTS of sophisticated/upscale accommodations, fine dining, spa services, etc.
Originally Posted by BarbAnn View Post
I will probably get some flack for this, but I agree with Gardyloo. A cruise to Alaska would be ideal. Your kids would be pampered by the cabin and dining stewards. Loads of activities, spa for your wife and going ashore gets you closer to the grandeur of Alaska. Alaska cruises tend to be multigenerational. We took our 3 & 4 year old granddaughters on a cruise and they had a blast. No need to take the ship's very expensive shore excursions. You can DYI or book a private excursions for your family. On board we watched whales follow our ship, cruised close to glaciers and saw dozens of bald eagles in the trees on shore.

While Yosemite is beautiful (I like Alaska better), I'm not convinced that is the best place for 2 & 4 year old's. Teneya Lodge is over an hour from the valley floor where all the action is. I have yet to visit a US National Park that has the kind of accommodation you are requesting in or very close to the parks. Most are more rustic. And, in the summer they are very crowded. I live about 3 hours from Yosemite and do not visit in the summer. Even in the fall it is crowded.

Airline journeys at 2 & 4 years old are tedious. But NY to Sacramento or Fresno would probably take just as long (or more) as getting to Seattle. Just saying...

Gardyloo's advice is spot on.
Thank you, both. I am definitely looking into it. The flight to and from California with kids these age can be stressful but certainly is doable. I think it is just the combination of all the travel to and from that gives me a little pause. And I hear you re: accommodations at the parks. Perhaps I need to adjust expectations there and couple a park stay with a stay somewhere else nearby so I get both aspects of the trip.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by tomfuller View Post
If you do choose Glacier NP, shoot for after July 15 when the Going to the Sun road will be open all the way through. Normally they have the rotary plow work done by July 1 but you may see a lot of snow at the edge of the road and the parking lot at the top of Logan Pass. On the west side of the park if the road is not open, the gate is closed near the Lake McDonald Lodge. I was there in early November one year and took a picture at the same spot along the south side of the lake that Ansel Adams took one of his famous pictures.
On that anniversary trip with my wife, we stayed in a condo which had a hot tub in the room at the Meadow Lake Resort in Columbia Falls MT. We arrived in Whitefish on the Amtrak Empire Builder and someone from the resort came and picked us up at the train station. The next morning Enterprise brought us a rental car from the Kalispell airport. We were allowed to leave our rental car at the train station since we were leaving by train all the way to Chicago.
On another trip coming from Chicago, we got off the train on May 31 about 6PM and had a rental car waiting for us at the station parking lot in Cut Bank MT. We were the only 2 that got off there and no one got on. The next day we left our motel in Cut Bank and drove up through St. Mary on the east end of the Going to the Sun Road up as far as a locked gate about 2 miles below Logan Pass. We had an interesting delay on US 89 when we had a small herd of horses licking the winter salt off the highway. We left that rental car back at the train station lot and went west on the Empire Builder to Spokane where our car was parked.
Always check with the NPS website about 10 days before you go to any national park to see if there are restrictions including timed entry to the park. Several parks have limits on the number of vehicles allowed in the park during peak hours and you can register to get an entry pass a day or two in advance.
Thanks for the info. This is great color and I will look into it. I previously had booked a condo at the Whitefish Lodge which is roomy and near the park, but I canceled it for the reason you mentioned above. It was too early and the road wasn't fully open. Thanks.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2022, 07:37 AM
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Thank you so much for this info! GNP was top of my list and I actually booked a condominium there until I realized I had booked for too early in the season. What would you say about the commute from the lodge into the park? A quick look at St. Mary's and I think it looks nice too. Perhaps we can do as you did and couple it with a stay at Whitefish. I will check out your trip report.
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