Q. Michael V. of Newport, California is planning a summer 2011 trip to Yellowstone and is looking for special activities and supervised programs for two preschool boys.
A. As your family comes from a great beach destination, we will point out some of the non-beach / non-pool highlights of Wyoming, which your young kids will certainly enjoy.
First of all, please review this Wild West USA roadtrip itinerary for a family-favorite drive through the Badlands and neighboring South Dakota attractions, west to Yellowstone.
We realize you only have a week, and that’s not really enough for such a big roadtrip with young kids. They may be too young to appreciate all of the scenery, but there are enough great stops like Mt. Rushmore and the Mammoth sites to interest most kids. We recommend you limit the driving to about 4 hours per day, unless your 3-year-old will nap in the car.
Yellowstone can be approached from the Montana or Wyoming side in the summer. For Montana information, please visit our Montana State Directory page — this beautiful state has lots of natural attractions and Glacier National Park, where you can plan to hike in an environment that really looks totally different than Yellowstone.
Wyoming has a lot to offer, and the resort town of Jackson Hole is not far from the southern entrance to Yellowstone. That would be a great add-on to your trip as the town is fun and very walk-able with little ones. There’s also a lot of outdoor adventure activity there. We think your boys will love Cody, Wyoming, which is packed with Buffalo Bill heritage. Please read more about Cody Wyoming family attractions.
For more information on family attractions throughout the state of Wyoming, please visit the Wyoming State Directory page.
You also specifically asked about children’s programs for ages 4-6, of which there are very few. This region is usually toured with older kids because so much of the appeal is the outdoors; hiking, sightseeing; whitewater rafting; mountain biking.
In our stories noted above, you’ll see that there are children’s programs at Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Paradise Ranch in Buffalo; the Lone Mountain Ranch in Montana (begins at age 4), and several of the hotels/ranches mentioned in Yellowstone and its surroundings. While most have some sort of activities and programs with naturalists, they are often geared to older kids.
One exception is the terrific Grand Targhee program near Victor, Idaho, which is less than an hour from Jackson Hole and about 90 minutes from the south side of Yellowstone. Grand Targhee Resort is reviewed here — this place has excellent nursery and preschool programs both summer and winter, and the terrain and scenery are beautiful in Teton National Park.
In cities such as Rapid City, SD, if you choose to make this a driving trip, there are many motels with indoor waterparks, which all have tiny wading pools and slides for little ones. However, these are not areas where you can leave the kids unattended.
If you want to stay at a campground, some like the wonderful Jellystone Parks (see http://www.campjellystonemt.com/index.htm for their Montana campground) have lots of kids’ activities and there will be many families around, but group daycare is not set up there.
Having said this, almost all of the hotels we note in FTF stories do have private babysitting if you need that.
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