Help me plan a 2 family trip to Yellowstone? Or maybe not Yellowstone?
May 8, 2015 9:23 PM   Subscribe

I would love to get some targeted advice on how to optimize this trip I'm trying to plan. Here are the parameters: East Coast Family (ECF) and West Coast Family (WCF) each consist of a couple plus two little girls. ECF has an additional toddler too, and probably an au pair. ECF and WCF would like to rent a house together somewhere that is lovely and relaxing, and adjacent to interesting nearby outdoor activities.

Here are the questions:

1. Is Yellowstone a good destination for us? What would be the best time to visit, assuming WCF really dislikes crowds? Are there rentable houses there?

2. If we go to Yellowstone, what are the things to do and see? It would be ideal if there were things like short loop trails that the families can enjoy together, despite uneven levels of hiking-interest. I understand this information should be available online, but even after doing research, it's not clear to me how families typically "do" the parks. Does one drive around between the attractions? How long do these drives typically take? Is it trafficky? What if your kid needs to go to the bathroom? Is everyone in an RV? How does one see wildlife if one is in a traffic jam?

3. Where else should we consider other than Yellowstone? We each live near major airports and can rent a car upon arrival. Again, the ask is that we want to stay ~c 4 days in a large-enough-to-be-pleasant house in a place where there are interesting outdoor activities more or less adjacent to the house. Not Hawaii, that's too far for ECF plus other reasons. Somewhere in between west and east coasts would probably be best.

posted by fingersandtoes to Travel & Transportation around United States (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yellowstone doesn't sound like a great destination for you all right now. The different spots are pretty spread apart, and you'd end up doing a lot of driving. Plus summer can be crowded.

What about choosing a cool outdoorsy town instead? Maybe Jackson Hole or Bend? You could find someplace a bit outside of town, for peace and quiet, and then visit the town for dining and activities.

The Oregon coast is another good option if you avoid late June to late August (when local kids are on summer break). Cannon Beach is lovely when it's not crowded.

But finding something more central... maybe Colorado? Again I think you should find a small town, perhaps a ski town in the off-season, rather than a national park.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:45 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yellowstone is pretty spread out for hauling little kids around. Plus lots of attractions are hazardous (steam, toxic water).

Have you considered Yosemite? Near the southern tip are vacation home rentals in a very quiet area, with plenty of day/hikes walks, and a nearby historical recreation of the original mountain town. Here's the one I stayed in, very relaxing.
posted by telstar at 5:54 AM on May 9, 2015

Best answer: We went to Yellowstone last summer with a 4- and 7- year old. It was *lots* of driving, interspersed with short breaks to do the walk around Mammoth Hot Springs, do a short hikie, or play in a stream. We saw wildlife, but it was from our car. The traffic jams were due to buffalo blocking the road and a bear on the hill. Walking around the hot springs with the 4-year-old made me very nervous (uneven paths, boiling water) and I had a firm hold on her hand the whole time.

I agree with the suggestions to go elsewhere for this trip.
posted by belladonna at 6:45 AM on May 9, 2015

Best answer: I wouldn't suggest Yellowstone for your group. Lots of driving and the sights aren't really oriented towards such small kids. The summer can be really busy too.

Other ideas: Denver/Boulder and the surrounding mountains, the lake region in the midwest, Jackson Hole WY, parts of Idaho, or one of the coasts.

The trick is finding a place that is close enough to an airport for a 4 day weekend with kids. The NC coast is awesome but it's a bit of a trek from RDU for a 4 day weekend. What about the California coast? The Santa Cruz area is gorgeous and not too far from SFO. San Diego has the zoo and lots of great beaches. Oregon is also beautiful and has amazing beaches and lots in Portland. Florida coast has GREAT beaches for kids, some with very gentle waves. Montana is gorgeous in the summer but flights can be kind of expensive.
posted by barnone at 8:18 AM on May 9, 2015

Response by poster: Good, good, keep em coming please. Love the Yosemite pointer. Barnone, I've never been to Oregon but I may have reason to go soon, please advise more specifically if you know what areas I ought to look at?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:13 AM on May 9, 2015

Agree that Yellowstone isn't a great fit for this group and trip. Yosemite can be stupid crowded in the summer too but there are tons of options for accommodations outside the park. Have you considered Tahoe? It's not a national park, but it's gorgeous. You'll have the lake and tons of hiking/biking right in your backyard.
posted by tealcake at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2015

Best answer: Staying outside of the eastern entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park would have strong potential. The Western entrance around Grand Lake is also quite impressive but its quite a bit further from the Denver airport.
posted by mmascolino at 12:17 PM on May 9, 2015

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