Yellowstone Family Vacation Planning
One of the great joys for many of us is experiencing national parks both as children and as adults with our families. It is remarkable to bring our kids to the same astounding places our parents shared with us when we were younger. Or, maybe you are creating fresh new traditions for your family! Whether you are returning or visiting for the first time, your family vacation to Yellowstone will be one of your favorites!
The best way to plan Yellowstone vacations for families is to learn more about the park so you can enjoy it to its fullest. You can find all the best resources to learn more in our article, The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Trip to Yellowstone. This article adds a few more options specific to families.
To get everyone in on planning your family trip to Yellowstone, read our article, Joyful and Educational Trip Planning for Families. It is a guide for how to follow your children’s interests to kindle their curiosity. For your trip to Yellowstone, they may be most interested in animals, geology, or history. Here are some other recommendations specific for kids.
The best ways for kids to learn about Yellowstone National Park from home
Yellowstone National Park Website
The site is great for educational trip research. If you are traveling with a larger group of kids, consider Yellowstone Distance Learning. These need at least 10 young people for a live class.
They also have about 25 recorded lessons available for everyone on a wide range of topics including history, microbes, the night sky, and bison. They are 20-minute recorded ranger lessons, similar to what you can enjoy in person.
If you are looking for something more formal, there is a collection of about 25 lessons you can enjoy from home. Curriculum ranges from activities for pre-k through 12th grade. They include both science and history projects. These are perfect for homeschooling and world schooling families, but all curious travelers can enjoy them.
Whether you take a virtual tour from home to help better plan your trip, or you want to enjoy Yellowstone tours from your couch, the park’s website also offers some free virtual tours. In addition, you can also watch the webcams in Yellowstone. The Upper Geyser Basin is live-streamed, and the other webcams are static and cover the entrances and some major sites.
North American Forest Animal Figurines
There is nothing like open ended exploration in play and these animals invite curiosity and discovery. They are safe for ages three and up and are a wonderful addition to many of the documentaries, activities, and books shared on this site. Bring them outside, add them to your box of blocks, or take them into the bath to invite joy and natural conversations about the animals you will be seeing on your trip. Then be sure to pack them for the road trip to add some adventure to long stretches of the drive.
This is an excellent choice for any budding naturalist. Get it before your trip so they can learn Yellowstone facts for kids, including more about the animals, geology and history of the park from home. Then bring it along so they can track what they see and take notes about details of their finds. Let them teach the rest of the family what they have learned while you are walking the trails and boardwalks. It includes park activities for kids. When they return home, it serves as their personal journal of your trip.
Trekking the National Parks is a lively and engaging game for families who enjoy visiting the national parks in the United States. Players collect stones representing different national parks and learn a little about them in the process. It is intended for ages 10+ and games usually last less than one hour. For more ideas about games to inspire travel, including a few more specific to our national parks read, Games For Globetrotters: The Best Games for People Who Love to Travel.
Yellowstone: kid friendly tips
Top things to do in Yellowstone with kids
- Watch the animals in Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley
- Visit the geyser basins
- Go for a hike
- Become a Yellowstone Junior Ranger
- Become a Yellowstone Young Scientist
- Take pictures of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
- Eat ice cream in the historic Old Faithful Lodge
- Look elk for when you visit the travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs
- Stargaze in the park and look for planets and constellations
- Be the lookout for your family as you drive and try to spot animals in the distance
Is Yellowstone safe to visit with kids?
Many people ask if Yellowstone with toddlers is safe and there isn’t a universal answer. We have visited with babies, toddlers, and young children (and they all survived just fine!), but it is more relaxing to visit with older kids. The boardwalks over geothermal features don’t have safety rails and the wildlife is, indeed, wild. If your little one is in an especially independent and defiant stage, you might want to wait for a different year. But if you are carrying them in a backpack or they old enough to comfortably understand and follow safety directions, you can have an amazing time enjoying the many family things to do in Yellowstone!
The best places to stay in Yellowstone for families
Depending on your preferences, budget, and when you make your reservations, family lodging in Yellowstone can be an integral part of the trip, or simply a place you sleep each night.
Yellowstone is also home to historic lodges and modern lodging managed through YNP Lodges. If you are fortunate enough to stay in one of the historic lodges, your family will enjoy reading the Yellowstone section of Great Lodges of the National Parks.
Most in-park lodging fills many months in advance. If it is already full, or if you prefer access to more amenities, stay in one of the towns outside the park. If you are not sleeping in the park, I recommend West Yellowstone for your home base. It is a charming town with plenty of perks for families. You’ll have access to many lodging options, multiple restaurants, banks, stores, and tourist attractions. The biggest plus is the location. It is off the center of the Grand Loop Road, allowing multiple easy day trips without as much backtracking as the other towns right outside the park.
Yellowstone for families
We hope you have discovered some useful resources to help you plan your trip to Yellowstone National Park with kids. Even though your time in the park will be brief, you can enjoy months of enjoyment before and after your trip. Be sure to read more in our full article, The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Trip to Yellowstone where we have gathered the best documentaries, audio tours, games, books, websites and more to help you enjoy months of learning and entertainment before you leave.
Have you been to Yellowstone with kids or do you plan to visit in the future? What were your favorite activities that you enjoyed, both before you left and while you were in the park. Please let me know in the comments!
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