1994. My first trip to Yellowstone. I had just finished 1st grade and was greatly anticipating our adventure to a new part of the country. My parents, grandma, almost 5 year old sister and newly turned 2 year old sister were all coming along in our ancient Suburban. We dubbed that beast the “Zoo-burban” because traveling with us was quite like a trip to the zoo … wild and crazy.
My mama coordinated our trip in her organized teacher fashion. She recalls not sleeping much between my youngest sister and my grandma’s night time wakes. I remember everything about the trip being awesome! The extreme, hourly blasts of Old Faithful, a black bear eating a deer in a forest clearing off the side of the road and lots of prize bags pre-planned by my mom for our hours in the car.
Speed ahead 21 years and I made my way back to Yellowstone. This time with my mom, now a grandma herself, my science teacher sister, Jemma, Max and baby bump too :)
Before I share some of our favorite trip photos here are the specs of our trip in case an adventure to Yellowstone is on your radar. I’m thinking in bullets today so bear with me …
- Age 4-5 (and I’m guessing up according to some other moms I’ve chatted with) is probably the best age to fully grasp what Yellowstone is and endure the driving. Once you eventually arrive at Yellowstone, there is still tons of driving within the park so patience is key!
- We rented a cabin through AirBnB for the duration of our trip. It was easier to have one home base rather than packing up and moving to various Yellowstone sites every few days. It meant more driving, but the extra space, full kitchen and porch hot tub made it worth it. We loved The Pines and I totally recommend it if you’re traveling with a group and want to save money by eating more meals at home. And, a tidbit of advice, my sister totally negotiated our rates since we stayed for 8 nights. It never hurts to ask for a discount or deal!
- Yellowstone roads are laid out in a figure 8 (see this PDF for a good visual), definitely take the time to plan what entrance you plan to go through and what sites you want to see each day. We spent 8 days in the park and didn’t have a chance to see everything. It’s huge!
- My favorite restaurant was the Lake Yellowstone Hotel (located at the Lake Village dot on the map I linked above). You must try the duck and mushroom risotto … it’s drizzled with truffle oil!
- I thought Old Faithful would once again be my favorite stop, but this time Upper and Lower Falls won out. Totally worth the switch back hike.
- The best souvenirs are at the shops around Old Faithful so plan your shopping day there.
- The only paid Yellowstone tour we took was a Stagecoach Adventure. It leaves from the Tower-Roosevelt dot on the map, kids under 3 are free and I learned so much about the history of Yellowstone.
- If you do head towards Tower-Roosevelt I recommend not going through Canyon Village … it’s the windiest stretch of road and I hated it. Obviously, you’ll survive, but get to Tower-Roosevelt via Mammoth Hot Springs if you can manage it.
- The best place to see herds of buffalo is in LaMar Valley … at least if you’re visiting in late July. Hayden Valley is another winner for lots of animal viewing.
- Don’t plan to have much cell service or wifi in the park. West Yellowstone is even touch and go. Pretty much, prepare for the wilderness :)
- Yellowstone is full of amazing huckleberry treats … I’m partial to the syrup and the ice cream at Arrow Leaf in West Yellowstone was to die for!
- Speaking of West Yellowstone, this city right outside the entrance is hoppin’! Do not miss the Calamity Jane pizza at Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon.
I’ll confess, I forgot my DSLR’s telephoto lens! Yes, I went to Yellowstone and forgot the camera gear I needed most. Blah, #pregnancybrain. Being completely honest though, as lame as that was, I obviously got some fun shots and my iPhone came in quite handy. Mom, Katie and I categorized our favorite Yellowstone phone pics on Instagram with #theyellowstonefiveplusabump (see them all here with descriptions of more of our day to day adventures in the park). I’m working on a Chatbook to commemorate our trip and give the kids a fun memento. Did you know you can print Chapbooks by hashtag? You can! I did it for our Texas trip and it’s seriously one of the kid’s favorite picture books! Get your first Chatbook for free using code 27W93RHW at checkout!
Back to the trip … outside of Yellowstone, but in the general area, I highly recommend the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center, totally worth the admission! We also drove north to Bozeman (about 2 hours) to visit the Museum of the Rockies and loved it – another must. While you’re in Bozeman plan to eat at The Coffee Pot Bakery and Montana Aleworks Brewpub. Both were recommended by a friend who went to college in Bozeman and it’s obvious why she sent us their way – AMAZING FOOD!
I’ve mentioned THE DRIVE so many times in this post, so, next week I’ll be dedicating an entire write up to how we survived and thrived for hours in the car :) Stay tuned!
Questions about Yellowstone? Don’t hesitate to comment or send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org! I’d love to share more about our trip!