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Family Vacation Ideas for Yellowstone Park, Grand Teton, Wyoming and Montana

Things to do / Travel Guide

Many would consider a visit to Yellowstone a rite of passage when it comes to the family vacation experience. As such, area attractions and services make sure to cater to every age range – from the young to the young at heart.

Family Vacations in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

At the campgrounds and visitor centers of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, rangers and park naturalists lead special programs designed for the whole family. These activities include slide shows, films, guided walks, kids programs, campfire talks, and “activity afternoons” for kids eight through twelve years old.
On a typical summer day you can find over 20 different activities being offered in Yellowstone alone, all of which are generally free of charge. Visitors' centers also tend to stock a wide variety of kids games and activity books, including kid-friendly wildlife spotting guides.

For a small fee, children ages 5-12 can attend nature programs and hike trails. They can also complete other activities through the parks' Junior Ranger/Young Naturalist programs. At the end of a day or two worth of activities, children are awarded a junior range patch during a swearing-in ceremony. Another great option for families is available via the non-profit Yellowstone Association, whose “Yellowstone for Families” program is an extremely popular way to experience the park. The program provides a mix of activities for both parents and kids, including animal tracking, wildlife watching, photography, painting, and hiking.

Wild West Family Vacation Ideas in Montana

When gun slinging cowboys and Indians top a region's historic highlights, even ‘educational' attractions are kid-pleasers. The Yellowstone region has countless historical sites and attractions, many of which provide activities or programs that cater to the whole family.

The Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site and frontier cattle ranch takes visitors on a trip through time back to the 1860s, when its stables, barns, workshops, and elegant 19th century home marked the heart of a Montana cattle empire. In addition to touring the site, during the summer months the ranch offers a variety of ranger programs for both adults and children, like the junior rancher program. Kids can try on cowboy clothes, practice roping a wooden steer, read cowboy stories, or try walking on stilts. They can even visit horses, cows, and chickens on the still working cattle ranch. Grant-Kohrs Ranch is located directly off I-90 between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park in Deer Lodge, Montana, not too far from Butte.

Wild West Family Vacation Ideas in Wyoming

Every year more than 200,000 people visit the Buffalo Bill Historic Center. Cody's most popular attraction, it is said to be one of the finest western museums in the world. With exhibits ranging from western style art galleries to kid-friendly teepees, every member of the family will find something to enjoy. The center houses five separate museums covering Buffalo Bill, the Plains Indians, Western art, firearms, and natural history. Visitors can even check out the childhood home of Buffalo Bill. Children under six get in free, and special events throughout the year will attract additional smiles – demonstrations, cowboy singing and storytelling, the Plains Indians Powwow, and the Old West Show and Auction in June.

For a family who enjoys a little hands-on history, roaming the streets of “Trail Town,” two miles west of Cody, is a great activity for visitors of all ages. The site hosts a unique collection of more than 20 historic buildings, many moved to the spot from their original location to form a convenient cluster of educational and recreational opportunities. The buildings date from 1879 to 1901, including an 1883 cabin from Hole-in-the-Wall country which was the rendezvous spot of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The oldest salon, complete with bullet holes, can also be seen, in addition to 100 wagons.

One of the most exciting elements of the region's history is certainly its wild west traditions. The whole family will enjoy reenactments of western style shoot-outs in Jackson's town square every summer evening or a night at one of countless summer rodeos. Some rodeos even have kids only calf chases and classic horseback or wagon rides. The region's rendezvous events are also pleasers at any age, and a visit to one of the region's ghost town gold rush centers – Virginia City, Bannack State Park, or Meteese – are fun for everyone.

Family Adventure Vacation Ideas in Yellowstone National Park

Adventurous activities like hiking, fishing, rafting, and horseback riding are all great things the family can do together as long as visitors keep in mind the skill level (and exhaustion point) of each family member. Remember that children must generally be at least eight years old for horse back riding and six years old for scenic floats. Some recommended hikes if you are traveling with kids are Wraith Falls on Mammoth-Tower/Roosevelt road, Ribbon Lake near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, String and Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Natural Bridge near Bridge Bay, Mystic Falls, Upper Geyser Basin, Artist Paint Pot near Norris Junction, and Storm-Point Nature Trail on the north side of Lake Yellowstone.

Family Vacation Activities near Yellowstone National Park

Practically every Greater Yellowstone town or attraction caters in some way to the kids in the family. The alpine slide at Snow King Resort and the aerial tram up Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole Resort are a couple of area highlights. West Yellowstone's Imax Theater shows wildlife, wild west, or Yellowstone themed films on a huge 60-by-80 foot screen complete with draw-dropping effects and a taste of the region on the big screen. Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies is host to huge dinosaur skeletons that the kids will love.

If the strange, unusual, and unbelievable strike your fancy, a visit to Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Jackson Hole should certainly be included on the family's itinerary. These aren't exactly the natural wonders of the Yellowstone area: A six-foot-long cigar, art created from dryer lint, and an upside-down room are just some of the highlights. Open daily, Ripley's has a family rate for entrance, and kids under five get in free.

For kids who associate Yellowstone with the fictional Jellystone Park, home to the loveable cartoon character Yogi Bear, a grizzly sighting is an itinerary-must. While wildlife viewing is possible along park roads and attractions, sightings are more likely at one of West Yellowstone's primary attractions – the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. The center is home to ten Alaskan and Canadian grizzlies and seven captivity-born grey wolves. Visitors to the center are bound to spot at least one or two of the creatures in their quasi-natural habitat.

Yellowstone has a tradition of being a family destination, so visitors can rest assured that every member of the family will be entertained – whether they're earning a ranger badge, traveling through time, or spotting the region's famous wildlife – in person or on the big screen.

Family Vacation Ideas in Greater Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Bozeman, Montana

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