We just got back from a last-minute visit to West Yellowstone with kids, and we had the best time. It was the perfect place for a little getaway with kids. We learned some tricks for visiting in the busy summer season, so we thought we would share some of those tidbits – as well as our favorite things to do in and around Yellowstone – in case you are wanting to squeeze in one more adventure before summer ends!
1. Yellowstone National Park
The national park is obviously the main attraction in the area, and for good reason! The landscape and wildlife are stunning and shocking and so fun to see. We had heard that traffic in the park is a nightmare in the summer, so we went early in the morning, which I HIGHLY recommend. We were at the gate at 6:55 am, and the drive was unbelievable. The morning light through the trees and the fog resting on the river was truly one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. We only went about 31 miles into the park, starting at Old Faithful and stopping at Biscuit Basin and Grand Prismatic on our way out. Biscuit Basin was my favorite of the three stops – the Sapphire Pool is bonkers and there is an amazing view of the park with lots of steam vents and geysers. We also loved that each place had a boardwalk that made it easy for kids to walk or be pushed in a stroller. By the time we were leaving (around 10:30 am), the traffic into the park was crazy, so we were happy to get out of there!
2. Playmill Theatre
The Playmill was the real catalyst for getting us to West Yellowstone. Not only do I love a good musical, but our cousin Tanner was starring in a show this year, and I couldn't miss that! This darling little theater is in the heart of West Yellowstone and draws a loyal crowd every season. Since it's small, there are no bad seats, and the shows are extremely family-friendly. I took my five year old, and he was completely enthralled from beginning to end. The casts are talented and funny and engaging, and we had the best time.
3. Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center
If your goal is to see a bear in Yellowstone, it's likely that you will be disappointed looking for them in the wild, so you gotta take that into your own hands! The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is right downtown and guarantees that bear sighting you're hoping for! They have several bears that they cycle through during the day. Kids can participate in a program that allows them to learn all about the center, and they even let them into the bear habitat to hide food as they are switching bears! You can also see wolves, eagles, owls, and they are working on an otter habitat.
4. Downtown West Yellowstone
Downtown West Yellowstone is charming and walkable, with no shortage of gift shops and restaurants. We loved walking up and down the streets, shopping for souvenirs, and eating the yummy food. You can find ice cream around every corner, so I was pretty much in heaven. Our favorite restaurant was Firehole BBQ Co., which has been featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! You can also find an IMAX Theater that shows Yellowstone-specific documentaries (Spiderman was playing too!). And best of all, the gift shop at the theater sells ice cream cones for only 50 cents!
5. Big Springs & Johnny Sack Cabin (Island Park)
Since we were driving with little kids, we decided to break up our drive by making a couple stops on our way back to Utah. The first stop on our route was Big Springs & Johnny Sack Cabin, which are about 30 mins from West Yellowstone, in Island Park. This spot has the most picturesque scenery and some really interesting history! The cabin is open to visitors during the day in the summer, and you won't believe the water wheel Johnny Sack built to generate electricity. The natural spring is gorgeous, and the kids will love feeding the fish from the bridge!
Have you been to West Yellowstone with kids? What are your favorite things to do?