Picnic Lunch At Whisky Flat Picnic Area
Surprisingly, there are a few places to eat within Yellowstone National Park, however, I recommend bringing a picnic lunch with you to the park. This will help you cut down on driving time to get to the areas that have food, especially on this first day of exploring the geyser basins where there arent food options close.
Whisky Flat Picnic Area is a great picnic area with 12 picnic tables spread out through beautiful trees. Plus, its located right near all of the stops on day one of this itinerary for Yellowstone.
You can have a great relaxing picnic here and the kids can run around and play on rocks etc if they need to get a little extra energy out after having to walk so carefully on all of the boardwalks .
Picnic At Hard Road To Travel Picnic Area On Lake Yellowstone
Again, I recommend picnicking on day two of your itinerary in Yellowstone. There are various picnic locations to choose from that are on the shores of Lake Yellowstone. The Hard Road to Travel picnic area is where we stopped and has 5 tables right along the water with pretty lake views. Another great picnic stop would be the West Thumb Picnic area and you could visit the West Thumb Geysers as well.
Staying Outside Yellowstone With Kids
If the accommodations in the park are full or it is too expensive, the next best place is in West Yellowstone near the West Entrance or Gardiner near the North Entrance.
We have stayed in short-term rentals in West Yellowstone as well as the Lionshead RV Park and Campground. Lionshead was a great campground and had very nice facilities. There are also lots of great hotel options in West Yellowstone. If you do want to stay in a hotel in West Yellowstone, it is best to make those reservations four to six months ahead of time.
In most cases, we enjoy staying in VRBOs or short-term rentals over hotels. We usually have way more room for relaxing, we can cook food a lot easier in the full kitchens, and we like having multiple bedrooms. Some of the rentals in the area have extra amenities like community pools and hot tubs. Short-term rentals can also be cheaper if you have a large family or you are splitting the cost with another family.
If you are visiting during peak times, you will want to make your reservations early! Yellowstone is very popular during the summer.
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Midway Geyser Basin And Grand Prismatic Spring
Midway Geyser Basin is small but mighty. It nowhere near as big as Upper Geyser Basin but it is still worth visiting to view the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, Grand Prismatic Spring.
Grand Prismatic Spring can be 330 feet in diameter and over 120 feet deep. Yeah, its big! It is also incredibly beautiful. The various colors are caused by micro-organisms that live in different water temperatures.
You can also view Grand Prismatic Spring from above by hiking to the overlook on the way to Fairy Falls. It is about 0.6 miles from the Fairy Falls parking lot.
Learn more about Grand Prismatic Spring to make the most out of your visit.
How To Spend 3 Days In Yellowstone With Kids
We spent about three days in Yellowstone and West Yellowstone. Plan on spending about a half-day in West Yellowstone. There are yummy places to eat as well as great shopping. The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is also in West Yellowstone.
On our first day in Yellowstone, we explored the northern half of the park. We entered the park through the West Entrance. At the first turnoff, we turned left and explored from there. We covered Gibbon Falls, Norris Geyser Basin, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Tower Fall, and Mammoth Hot Springs. This will take you in a loop that leads back to the West Entrance. We saw the best wildlife in the northern part of the park.
On our second day, we explored the southern part of the park. This included the Mud Volcanoes, the Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb, Old Faithful, Upper Geyser Basin, Fountain Paint Pots, and the Lower Geyser Basin.
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Best Time To Go To Yellowstone National Park With Kids
Deciding what time of year to visit Yellowstone National Parkwith kids is your first big decision. If you love snow and dont mind cold temperatures, winter allows you to escape the crowds. However, the park will only be accessible from the Northern Entrance. Also, during the winter, many park facilities are closed and roads could be treacherous. Still, theres a calm beauty between November-March. Most people visit Yellowstone National Park during the summer months . The weather is great for exploring and kids are out of school. Also, the park is fully open. While the weather in Spring and Fall is less predictable, these are great times to visit. Most facilities are open and youll avoid crowds. But know that roads to some favorite spots dont open until the third Friday of April and sites begin to close in mid-October.
Upper And Midway Geyser Mystic Falls Trail
Just north of the visitor center, or if you enter on the West Yellowstone entrance, you will see the Upper Geyser Basin and Midway Geyser Basin.
These are the first two stops we made. Our first stop was the Mystic Falls trailhead. There is a parking lot where you can get out and take a short hike. I will say parking is really hard in the busy season!
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Visiting The Waterfalls Of The Yellowstone River
When planning to visit the Upper and Lower Falls of Yellowstone River, I would advise you get there as close to 9am as possible. Not only will you beat the main crowds, but youll find plenty of parking too. We arrived at the Lower Falls before 9.30am and they were bathed in the most beautiful light from the sun. Any later in the day and we would have missed this photo opportunity.
Explore Old Faithful Lodge
When people investigate where to stay in Yellowstone with kids, Old Faithful often tops the list. However, to secure a room beside the most famous of all geysers, you need to book in advance, at least a year in advance.
However, if you cant secure a room there, fear not. There are daily tours of Old Faithful Lodge which you can join, in which the guide can share some fun Yellowstone National Park facts for kids. These tours are free and are one of the best things to do on a rainy day with kids in Yellowstone.
If youve missed an eruption of Old Faithful and no tours are available, explore the lobby, gift shop and stop for a drink and snack in the restaurant. Then head outside to catch an eruption.
Top Tip: Pre-book your tour if you really want to do it as these are popular and places are limited. Note that tours are not operating in 2020, dates are only being offered for 2021. See this link for more details.
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Over 25 Amazing Things To Do In Yellowstone With Kids
Yellowstone National Park is a bucket list vacation for many families. Why? Because there are so many great things to do in Yellowstone with kids!
From epic wildlife spotting opportunities to geysers, waterfalls, and so much more, we have put together a comprehensive guide filled with amazing activities and attractions you wont want to miss on your Yellowstone family vacation.
Since Yellowstones weather is harsh most of the year, the bulk of visitation occurs from late May through early September. This condensed season can definitely lead to crowds, but if you start your days early and try to arrive at major attractions by 9am each day , you will be able to enjoy these special spots without the massive traffic jams.
This is much easier to do if you are staying inside the park, and I highly encourage you to do so whenever possible. Lodging and campgrounds book up many months in advance, so book your trip ASAP. You can always cancel or adjust it later if you need to.
If you are staying outside of the park, especially in crowded West Yellowstone, you will want to try get inside the park entrance by 7:30 each day. If you wait until 9 or 10, expect to sit in miles and miles of standstill traffic.
Yellowstone National Park Lodging For Families
Yellowstone National Park is huge, and there are tons of lodging options in the summer. Lodging is more limited in the spring and fall, as places inside the park open and close on a staggered schedule. And in winter, the only open lodges inside the park are Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, though some lodges outside of the park remain open.
If you want to stay inside the park, be prepared that it will be expensive and that people often book their stay at least a year in advance. Staying outside the park is the most affordable option and allows for some flexibility if you’re booking last minute. Choose your lodging depending on what park entrance you plan to use. Check out some of our top lodging picks below.
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Visitor Centers And Junior Ranger Programs
You will find Visitor Centers at all the major villages and areas in Yellowstone NP.
They are a Yellowstone attraction in their own right.
Spend time in the visitor centers and watch a film and check out the interactive displays. Each center will have park ranger talks and guided walks. They are a wealth of information.
Its great to get up to date information on geyser eruption times, closures, hiking tips, safety, wildlife spotting tips, sunrise and sunsets and bear safety etc.
Trails are often closed due to the volatility of this land and wildlife threats.
The is a must for all those visiting Yellowstone National Park with kids.
The book is packed full of activities that will help the kids learn more about the importance of Yellowstone and the crazy environment they will be walking amongst.
They will love earning their Junior Ranger badge from Yellowstone, the worlds first national park.
Where To Stay In & Near Yellowstone For Families
Yellowstone is a big park and accommodation inside the park is quite expensive. This is especially the case if you are visiting with a family of more than 4 people and cant use the standard rooms. That being said, if you want to check places inside the park, we recommend Canyon Lodge as one of the best options with kids.
Good to know! Yellowstone lodges dont have Wi-Fi, swimming pools, and other family-oriented facilities. So if you are looking for cheaper accommodation and better facilities when visiting Yellowstone with kids, you may want to consider staying in one of the nearby towns.
For the northern side of Yellowstone, Gardiner is a good option too, with several hotels, cabins, and cottages, and many private rentals as well. This side of Yellowstone is quieter and a bit cheaper but is actually just as easy to get to/from the main sights as West Yellowstone.
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Day : Old Faithful And Grand Prismatic
For your first day, focus on the Old Faithful section of the park. This is where youll see the highest concentration of geysers, and colorful hot springs. There is a lot to see here, we had a hard time fitting it into one day after driving from Grand Teton. Youll want to either split it into two days or plan to sleep in the park the night before to get an earlier start to your day.
Drive into the park and head straight to the Old Faithful area of the park. This is a very busy part of the park, but there is also a lot of parking available.
Start at the Visitor Center to get Junior Ranger packets and to ask any questions you may have. There are detailed trail maps available at the gift store for 50 cents. There is also a large map of the Upper Geyser Basin, which may help you plan. I like to take pictures of maps like these for reference when we are on the trail.
Behind the Visitors Center, youll find Old Faithful, the most famous geyser in the park.
Anticipated eruption times for the largest geysers are posted on whiteboards in multiple locations including outside the Old Faithful Inn, Visitor Center, and Lodge. If you are waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, check out the lobby and gift shop of the Old Faithful Lodge. We arrived close enough to lunch that we grabbed food from the cafeteria in the Inn and took it outside to the benches to wait for the eruption.
Upper Geyser Basin Trails
Midway Geyser Basin
Fairy Falls Trailhead
Stop At The Visitor Center To Get Junior Ranger Booklet
There are 10 different visitor centers across Yellowstone National Park, which is amazing as you may not be able to explore all the areas inside the park.
We highly recommend visiting at least one visitor center to talk to a ranger so you can discover more about what you can do in the park and orientate yourself.
If you want your kids to learn about this beautiful national park, get them the Junior Ranger Booklet. In most national parks, the Junior Ranger booklet is complimentary, but at Yellowstone National Park they are sold at $3 each
The self-guide is suitable for children aged 4 years old and up. After they complete the activities described in their booklet, take them to review the work with a ranger and theyll be awarded an official Yellowstone Junior Ranger patch.
Some of the requirements to get the patch are to attend a Ranger-led program, go on a hiking trail and, of course, complete the activities inside the booklet to enhance their learning.
Its a great and fun way to engage children with nature, and you can imagine their excitement when they receive this! Our children loved the Junior Ranger program at Yellowstone.
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Where To Stay In Yellowstone National Park
Choosing where to stay in Yellowstone is as difficult as deciding what to do. You have so many options and it depends on how much time you have and what you want to do.
As driving times can be long, choose accommodation that is close to the area you will be exploring the most. As we stayed for five days, we knew long drives were inevitable as we explored most of the park. We based ourselves near Yellowstone Lake, which we felt was a great location to access everything.
If you are staying longer than three days, you want want to consider staying in two locations. Reservations book out far in advance so be prepared. There are places to stay just outside Yellowstone at various towns near the entrance gates. It will not impact your stay!
Explore Fountain Paint Pots Boardwalk
The Fountain Paint Pots Boardwalk is one of my favorite spots because there are multple varities of hydrothermal features all exhibited on this one short walk. There are geysers, springs and mudpots!
Mudpots are basically exactly what they sound like- large areas of mud that bubble and spurt. Its so fun and seems like it is straight out of a childrens book.
The walk is similar to the Grand Prismatic Spring Boardwalk in that it is a wooden walkway that wraps around and is about a 0.5 mile loop. Its an easy walk and you get to see 13 different pots!Sometimes there are bison hanging out in this area that youll get to see if you are lucky .
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When To Visit Yellowstone National Park
Summer is by far the best time to visit Yellowstone National Park with kids. The weather is at its best and the kids are out of school. All the park roads and facilities are open during the summer. Because this is the best and most popular time to visit, expect crowds and expensive prices on lodging.
Other great times to visit weather-wise and crowd-wise are April, May, and September. But do your research, because not all roads and facilities may be open during these months.
TIP: Plan and book your lodging EARLY! Start your day EARLY to avoid crowds!
Best Time To Go To Yellowstone With Kids
The most popular time for families to visit Yellowstone is in the summer months, specifically July and August. Kids are out of school and this time of year has the best weather by far. However, this is when the park is the busiest. Accommodations can be expensive and hard to come by. There will also be long traffic lines and full parking lots.
If you have some flexibility in when you visit, you may consider visiting in early June or September after Labor Day. You will still have great weather most days, the animals will be out, and the crowds will be smaller. All the roads in the park should be open as well.
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