Yellowstone National Park: Plan the Perfect Visit

Yellowstone national park black bear

Bison and elk and black bears, oh my! Are you planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park with your family? Check out our helpful family guide below.

About Yellowstone

Officially dedicated in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park.  And, it is perhaps one of the most notable. Featuring famous geothermal features such as Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, as well as impressive wildlife like bison, grizzly bears, elk and wolves, the park is a bucket-list item for many, especially families. Astonishingly, Yellowstone welcomed over 4 million visitors in 2018 alone. 

How Should I Plan My Visit to Yellowstone National Park?

Start your planning by deciding your method of travel and lodging. At 3,471 square miles, Yellowstone is big! Get used to the fact that you’ll be doing a lot of driving to explore the main sights. For families with kids, that means thinking ahead to plan car activities. Seek and find books, coloring, movies, and other games are a must! But, beware: cell service is incredibly spotty. Download shows, podcasts, music, and driving directions before you leave your house. 

Yellowstone National Park lodge

Where Should I Stay at Yellowstone National Park?

We recommend staying in the park if you can. You’ll see so much more and you’ll cut drive time if you are already in (as compared to driving from outside the park). We loved Canyon Lodge, a newer accommodation that includes 5 lodges and over 400 guest rooms along with three dining options. Great for families, Canyon Lodge offers a number of room typesincluding some family suites for larger groups traveling together. And, they say location is everything: from Canyon Lodge, your family can easily access Hayden Valley, Norris Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and more by car. 

The Old Faithful Inn is a historic, must-see landmark (even if you end up staying elsewhere) that your children will remember forever. Built circa 1904, it offers views of Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin. Fun fact: it’s one of the few remaining log hotels in the United States. 

If you prefer to stay outside the park, there are hotel and camping options in West Yellowstone or closer to Gardiner. Both are outside the park, in Montana. There are even limited home rental options via Vrbo and Airbnb. 

And, we can’t say this enough: no matter where you stay, book as early as you can. Whether camping or staying in a hotel, lodging in and around the park goes fast, so don’t count on finding a place to sleep once you get there. (Visit the official website of Yellowstone National Park to review and book accommodations.)

Where Should I Eat in Yellowstone National Park?

The Eatery at Canyon Lodge offers something for everyone and it’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We love the dinner options: with a fresh wok station as well as a rotisserie chicken option, your family is sure to find something. But get there early… seating is first-come, first-served!  

If you can get a reservation, the Canyon Lodge M66 Grill is a slightly more upscale option near Canyon Lodge. It is still casual and offers alcohol and dining with servers.  

What Is There to Do in Yellowstone National Park?

We’re glad you asked! Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series on Yellowstone which will cover fun activities in the park, including Old Faithful geyser, Mammoth Hot Springs, wildlife spotting, and other kid-friendly activities.

Have you been to Yellowstone National Park? What were your favorite activities there? Tell us in the comments and your relatives via FamilyApp!

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