Pro Tips for a Stress-Free Family Trip to Cody Yellowstone
Cody Yellowstone is a destination every family should visit before the kids leave the nest. Not only is it home to the world’s first national park, but it’s also one of the best places in the U.S. to have a classic – and authentic – Wild West adventure and make memories that every member of your family will cherish.
Travel stress can happen, but even in a place as wild and unpredictable as Cody Yellowstone, there are plenty of ways to avoid the biggest triggers. All it takes is a little foresight, destination knowledge, and planning in advance.
Here are a few tips from the pro travelers at Cody Yellowstone:
Practice Safe Tripping
The National Park Service offers tips for viewing animals in the wild safely. Plus, there are lots of common-sense tips, like hiking in groups and making sure to have a full tank of gas before heading into the wilderness. If you want to get a closer look at wildlife, always use the pullouts and stay at least 100 yards from bears and at least 25 yards from other wildlife. Use binoculars — and common sense — for safe viewing.
Expect the Unexpected
It’s wild here, and no matter how carefully families plan their adventures, there will be surprises along the way. That surprise could be a bison jam, one of the most delightful and Yellowstone-centric experiences you can have. Herds of bison like to walk down the destination’s roads as much as we like to drive them. When you encounter a bison jam, relax, roll up your windows, and keep your cameras ready as these wild and wonderful creatures lumber past your car.
Book Lodging in Advance — and Soon
The sooner you book, the more choices you’ll have. You’ll find an array of lodging and camping choices, from budget hotels in downtown Cody to luxury inns in Yellowstone National Park. Consider your travel style. Would you rather stay in one place and drive to each day’s adventures? Or would you rather move from hotel to hotel as you explore?
Hint: both ways work well, so choose what is best for your family.
Get in the Mood
Outside Yellowstone First
Before heading into the park, we recommend you explore Cody, Meeteetse, and Powell. There are lots of in-town attractions — such as the Cody Cattle Company dinner theater and show — that will get your family in the mood for all things Wild West.
Eat, Drink, and Stay Happy
You’ll find restaurants galore in the towns as well as in Yellowstone National Park. To avoid the lunchtime rush, you may want to consider packing your own lunches (there are grocery stores in Cody, too) or picking up sandwiches to go. Pack plenty of water too.
Don’t Miss the Draper
The Draper Natural History Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is the best place for your family to learn all about Yellowstone — its sights, sounds, and even smells — before even setting foot in the national park. This innovative museum in downtown Cody even has a scavenger hunt that leads you through exhibits about the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Blow Off Steam
Looking for the perfect way to relax while still satisfying your adventurous spirit? Try an outdoor adventure like hiking through the Shoshone National Forest, a rafting trip on the Shoshone River, or a horseback ride in the Wapiti Valley. Trust us. Everyone will be too tired to be stressed.
Avoid the Masses
You’ll certainly want to stop at the park’s most popular attractions, like the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Old Faithful Geyser. Unless you want to see these classic sites with the crowds, plan your visit to these sites for early morning or late afternoon.
Become a Dude
Many of Cody Yellowstone’s dude and guest ranches are family owned and operated, and they know a thing or two about keeping families happy. Your little cowpokes can learn skills like horseback riding, archery, and roping. Ranches also feature trail rides, fly fishing, hearty cowboy comfort food, and campfires.
Visit the Visitor Centers
If anyone in your gang likes maps and destination materials, visitor centers are a great place to start your adventure. Places like the Buffalo Bill Dam & Visitor Center, Cody Country Visitor Center, and Yellowstone visitor centers like the Canyon Visitor Education Center in the park have tons of free materials. Visitor centers are staffed by friendly people who know and love the destination of Cody Yellowstone. They’ll love to share their tips with you.
Let Us Entertain You
There are all kinds of options to entertain kids and grownups alike. Musical entertainment options include the Cody Cattle Company and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Spectacular. Then there’s the nightly — and free — Wild Bunch Gunfight. While you probably won’t see these performers on Broadway, their skits are wholesome and just plain fun. You’ll also find some great live music at the restaurants and bars in Cody Yellowstone.
Let Us Tell You a Story
Cody Yellowstone has partnered with TravelStorys, an audio tour company, to provide free GPS-prompted audio tours. There’s a walking tour of historic downtown Cody, a driving tour from downtown Cody to Yellowstone, and, coming soon, a driving tour along the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. These tours are like having your own personal tour guide.
Take a Guided Tour
There are numerous options, such as the one-hour Cody Trolley Tour as well as private tours of the region’s landmarks, photography tours, and more. Guided by experts who are passionate and knowledgeable about the destination, guided tours are a great way for the gang to have a deeper Cody Yellowstone experience.
Timing is Everything
Park roads reopen for the summer season on a staggered schedule in April and May. Most families visit the destination during the months of June, July, and August, so if you have the flexibility to visit in the spring or fall, you will find a better choice of lodging options. The last two weeks in August are also a great time to visit because most families have already headed home to prep for the next school year.
Start Your Adventure With a Plan
Ready to start planning your Wild vacation through Cody Yellowstone? We can help! Request your free Adventure Guide today. It’s full of trip-planning ideas, including itineraries, must-visit destinations, and tips and tricks for having the getaway of your dreams!