Savannah Summer Camps 2023

Archive for the ‘Family Vacations’ Category

Deadline is Feb. 14 for Disney World Free Dining Plan Deal

Friday, February 2nd, 2024


Walt Disney World has been offering a sweet deal for Disney+ subscribers.

Subscribers who book through Feb. 14, 2024 can get a free dining plan with the purchase of a nondiscounted 4-night, 4-day Walt Disney Travel Company package that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and a theme park ticket with a Park Hopper option—for arrivals most nights from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2024.

Not a Disney+ subscriber? Disney has some magic for you as well! Save up to 35% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels when you stay 5 consecutive nights or longer—or save up to 30% on shorter stays. This offer is valid for stays most nights from July 8 to Oct. 3, 2024.

Contact Two Sisters Travel to help you plan your Walt Disney World vacation!

Lexie Brensinger

Two Sisters Travel



Two Sisters Travel is a advertiser

(Fall/Spring Getaway, Family Vacations) Andrews Valley Rail Tours, Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023

North Carolina’s First RailBike Tour

Put this on your bucket list for next spring/fall 2024: Andrews Valley Rail Tours, North Carolina’s First RailBike Tour.

We did this with my teens & 86-year-old mom during our pre-Thanksgiving, Fall break visit to the Smoky Mountains this November 2023. Biking a cart on a railroad track to a historic hand-carved tunnel was a special, unique way to experience that area.

You ride a rail cart, equipped with pedals that you pedal like a bike, plus a motor-assist, on the train track through the valley past cows, goats, meadows and a river about five miles to the Historic Valley River Tunnel, which was hand carved by workers from Southern Railway in 1894. That right, we basically biked a rail cart over railroad bridges, then got out to explore the tunnel, before pedaling/coasting back.

The railbike tour is closed for the 2023 season but will reopen for the season in Spring 2024.


Learn more here.

Family Travel: Things to do with kids in Greenville SC & kid-friendly hikes in Blue Ridge Mountains & DuPont State Forest

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

Playgrounds, parks, hikes, waterfalls in Greenville SC & Appalachian Mountains

We’re still swooning from our summer visit to Greenville SC & simple hikes in Blue Ridge Mountains as well as ones closer to Greenville.

Here are our favorite kid-friendly spots:

*Sam Knob Loop, a meadow-laden hiking loop in the Pisgah Ranger District. Turn onto Black Balsam Knob Road (Mile Marker 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway) go until you reach a dead end and park at the parking lot. You’ll see the Sam Knob trail to the right of the public bathrooms. From there, it’s 1.8 miles to the summit of the 6050 foot Sam Knob.

*Black Balsam Knob Take the Art Loeb Trail a half mile until you reach the knob. The parking area for Black Balsam Knob is at mile marker 420.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

*Tennant Mtn Combine the above Black Balsam Knob hike with a climb up Tennant Mountain for even better Blue Ridge views.

*After any of those above hikes, head south on the Blue RIdge Parkway to eat & savor even more views @ The Pisgah Inn.

* Three waterfalls hike in DuPont State Recreational Forest near Cedar Mountain including to High Falls, Triple Falls & Hooker Falls ( kid-friendly trails with restrooms at the DuPont State Forest Visitor Center. picnic tables )

* Hikes @ Table Rock State Park in Pickens

Greenville, SC

* Swamp Rabbit Trail (a 22-mile multi-use leisure trail)

* Unity Park for playgrounds, splash pad

* The Commons for outdoor eats along the trail next to Unity Park

* Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery

* Flying Rabbit Adventures aerial adventure park (climb, jump & zip) @ Holland Park

* Falls Park on the Reedy & Liberty Bridge (pedestrian bridge) in downtown Greenville

* Cleveland Park for playgrounds, an airplane memorial; & the Greenville Zoo.

* The Children’s Garden @ Linky Stone Park


See our Ode to Greenville SC reel here & ode to Blue Ridge Mountain hikes here.


Things to do in Atlanta with kids

Sunday, June 25th, 2023

Places to visit in Atlanta with kids

Chances are you know the popular spots to hit in Atlanta with kids such as Georgia Aquarium; Martin Luther King Jr. Center National Historic Park; The Varsity ; National Center for Civil and Human Rights; Zoo Atlanta; The Atlanta Beltline; and Stone Mountain Park.

Here are more things to do with kids when visiting Atlanta:

Take a group tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to Atlanta United Soccer & Atlanta Falcons. Tour details here.

Solve the self-guided scavenger hunt @ Oakland Cemetery.

Ride the Atlanta Ferris wheel Skyview Atlanta, next to Centennial Olympic Park. Details and ticket links here.

Tour Fox Theatre. Details here.

Explore Piedmont Park. Enjoy the playgrounds; Sign up for a free Saturday morning tour here. (FREE)

Take a ride in a glass elevator 723 feet high to the observatory View Level atop The Westin Peachtree Plaza, the tallest hotel in the Southeast. Children ages 6 & younger can ride the elevator for free. Tickets & hours here.

Enjoy the children’s garden and special exhibits @ Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

See a show at the Alliance Theater (See ‘Water for Elephants’ musical through July 9) or Center for Puppetry Arts.

Savor the fare @ DeKalb Farmers Market.

Take a self-guided tour of Georgia Tech. Details here.

Explore Chastain Park. Enjoy the playground. See a show at the outdoor amphitheater.

Tour the Atlanta Monetary Museum in the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Details here.

See the Cyclorama Exhibit @ The Atlanta History Center . Details here.

Summer Family Vacations: New York City

Monday, May 29th, 2023

Our summer vacation trip started on the first day school was out with a pre-dawn flight from Savannah to NYC. We hit the Manhattan sidewalks by 9AM that first day and the rest flew by in dreamy 15,000+ steps-per-day blur. Our stay went too quickly.

Here are a few NYC spots, activities & programs we loved that you might savor, too, with your kids when visiting.

* Citi-Bike: if your kids are old enough to bike with New Yorkers who bike like they drive, download the Citi-Bike NYC app and ride as much as you can. We rode Citi-Bikes in: Central Park twice; from Boerum Hill in Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge to Union Square Park; from Little Island & the High Line north along Hudson River Park then walked the bikes along W. 72nd Street to the infamous The Dakota apartments and the Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park – eventually docking our bikes near Central Park South.

* Book a walking tour of Central Park with Central Park Conservancy. The guides know everything you want to know about this public-use landscaping masterpiece.

* See the Delacorte Clock’s musical animals announce the time every half hour between 8AM & 6PM between the Central Park Zoo & Tisch Children’s Zoo (near 64th Street). Think penguin on snare drum, hippo playing violin. (Free)

* While near Central Park, embrace your inner John Cusack and celebrate with a Frozen Hot Chocolate @ Serendipity 3 on East 60th Street. Reservations help.

* Got a Swiftie with you on your trip? While making the Taylor Swift pilgrimage to Cornelia Street in the West Village, please eat @ Tacombi on Bleecker Street. (We also loved eating outdoors @ the Tacombi Upper East Side location.) You are welcome! If you are in NYC during Summer 2023, see Taylor Swift’s costumes @ Museum of Arts and Design off Columbus Circle. “Taylor Swift: Storyteller” is on display at MAD through Sept. 4.

* Van Leeuwen Ice Cream – any of the many locations but we loved the sweet one in Boerum Hill on Bergen Street in Brooklyn. If in that area for lunch or dinner, check out Taqueria Al Pastor 

* Bring a meal to one of the many free tables in Madison Square Park then watch dogs play on a dog park with hills @ the square’s Jemmy’s Dog Run.

* Luminescent evening views from balcony of the Whitney Museum of American Art during Pay-What-You-Wish Friday Night @ the Whitney.

* Visit Little Island & the High Line (Free)

* Breakfast in the garden @ Soho Diner. Reservations help.

* Late night, post-Broadway show cookies @ the Milk Bar.

* Free view of NYC @ the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library Terrace

* Free, upclose look at colorful works by artist Yayoi Kusama @ David Zwirner Gallery on West 19th Street. On exhibit until July 21 2023.

* Walk Mulberry Street in Little Italy with cannolis or gelato from Ferrara Bakery.

* See what two miles of books looks like & do penance for all your chain bookstore indulgences by visiting the independent bookstore The Strand’s main location on Broadway @ 12th Street.

* Climb scary, spiral staircase up to The Crown @ the Statue of Liberty. Reservations required. Learn more here. Or at least visit the pedestal @ the Statue of Liberty.

* Find the hidden tennis court in Grand Central Terminal. (Free)

* Discounted tickets for Broadway shows from TKTS and Today Tix.


Things on our to-do list that we didn’t have time for or weren’t happening yet, but on our wish list for next time:

* Free tours of the High Line

* Governors Island ferry (free on Saturdays & Sundays before noon) to Governors Island which includes free walking tours by the National Park Service; a hammock grove through Sept. 3; climbing boulder; adventure playground; lavender field & more. (Free)

* Amateur Night @ Apollo Theater.

* Manhattanhenge – when the sun settles perfectly along the city’s west-east corridors – on only four days from May-July 2023. See the dates & more here. (Free)


Find more family vacation ideas here.

(Fall Getaway, Family Vacations) Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville SC

Saturday, October 1st, 2022

Playgrounds, parks, waterfalls, zoo, outdoor eats along Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville SC

So thankful to have spent a leaf-peeping day in Greenville SC this fall.

If you’re looking for a fall getaway, we suggest taking the kids to Greenville. While there, either bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail (a 22-mile multi-use leisure trail) or visit the parks and playgrounds along the trail if your kids aren’t old enough to bike.

The playground/splash pad @ Unity Park is a must. Stop by The Commons for outdoor eats along the trail or even better, Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, the mecca for lovers of all-things-autumn.

Other kid-friendly spots along the trail include: Falls Park; playground areas @ Cleveland Park; an airplane memorial; and the Greenville Zoo.

See our We-Love-Greenville SC-In-Fall reel here.

Brevard NC = Perfect ‘Me Camp’ summer vacation spot

Sunday, July 10th, 2022

Brevard in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina proved to be an ideal spot for my (Jen Hatmaker-inspired but on smaller scale) Me Camp 2022 while my kids were at sleepaway summer camp nearby.

Staying at this cozy airbnb in Brevard’s Lumberyard Arts District meant being in close proximity to Brevard’s (mostly paved, mostly flat) bike path which my 85-year-old mom and I rode all the way to Davidson River in Pisgah National Forest and back. It was also close to hiking in Bracken Preserve as well as yummy breakfast spots Morning Social and Sunrise Cafe.

One of the best parts of the visit was going with my mom to see Steep Canyon Rangers perform at the Brevard Music Center outdoor Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium with the 2022 Brevard Music Center Summer Institute orchestra. The Brevard Music Summer Institute includes high school and college students. The concert was part of Brevard’s 2022 Summer Music Festival.

Not surprising for this music-centric town, Brevard’s impressive Transylvania County Library also has a lovely outdoor amphitheater for performances, where the plan was to see a free performance of Charlotte-based band Elonzo Wesley before rain moved the concert indoors.

Also loved hikes in nearby Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest as well as a sunny lakeside lunch with my mom, sister and niece on the deck at The Greystone Inn on Lake Toxaway.

Brevard’s 2022 Summer Music Festival continues through Aug. 20. Learn more here.

Smitten with the Mitten: Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is family-friendly vacation destination

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

This Georgia-native is embarrassed to admit I’ve overlooked Michigan as a vacation spot my whole life.

Until now.

We just got back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island as well as Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula (also called the mitten’s little finger). I loved all three areas. But the Leelanau Peninsula wins in terms of utmost beauty.

Turns out: fresh coast, best coast.

Here’s what we did in Michigan and recommend:


Upper Peninsula

Pictured Rocks Cruises Spray Falls Cruise on Lake Superior to see Pictured Rock National Seashore

Junior Ranger packet from @ Munising Falls Visitor Center and hit Sand Point Marsh Trail across from Sand Point Beach.

Hike Grand Sable Dunes Trail to access Grand Sable Dunes on Lake Superior.

Hike Log Slide Overlook Trail for views of Lake Superior, the Grand Sable Dunes, and Au Sable Lighthouse.

Hike Beaver Basin Wilderness Loop to look (unsuccessfully) for beavers.

Ride the self-guided observation raft in Michigan’s largest freshwater spring, Kitch-iti-kipi (which means “big cold water”) in Palms Book State Park.


Mackinac Island

Ride Star Line Mackinac Island Hydro-Jet Ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. Catch one of the few rides that goes under the “Mighty Mac” Mackinac Bridge –  the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere – en route to the island.

Rent basketed-bikes from Mackinac Cycle on Main Street on Mackinac Island and do the self-guided attractions tour to see Arch Rock, Skull Cave, Fort Mackinac, Grand Hotel.


Leelanau Peninsula

If you, like me, have long wanted to stay in a yurt, you will love the magical yurt we stayed in on storybook-like Spruce Hill Farm in Maple City. It’s like a woodsy pantheon complete with windowed dome and loft. The farm includes an equally magical horse named Chief, pigs, goats, chickens and ducks plus miles of trails through meadows and handknit-sweatered-trees.

Outdoor dinner @ The Little Fleet in Traverse City

Spend as much time as possible @ Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore including The Dune Climb from the base of the dunes to beautiful blue Lake Michigan in Glen Arbor.

Junior Ranger packet from Philip A. Hart Visitor Center in Empire.

Hike Empire Bluff Dune Trail in Empire for steep bluff views of dunes and Lake Michigan.

Outdoor dinner and maybe watch curling @ Broomstack in Maple City.

Hike Pyramid Point Trailhead in Maple City for an expansive northern view of dunes and Lake Michigan

Outdoor lunch @ Hop Lot Brewing Co in Suttons Bay with s’mores by a bonfire and cornhole

Cherry pit spitting contest outside @ Cherry Republic in adorable town of Glen Arbor.

Pizza to go from Pegtown Station in Maple City.

Sidenote: We spent too short of time in the oh-so-retro Sagatuck along Lake Michigan and would love to return.

Best Teen & Pre-Teen Family Trip: Volcanoes & Waterfalls Road Bike Tour with Escape Adventures

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

Escape Adventures bike trip Pacific Northwest family vacations reunions

Snow-capped Mount Hood & snow-capped biking 84-year-old grandmother with grandkids

Escape Adventures Volcanoes & Waterfalls Road Bike Tour

Biking down the mountainside of Washington state’s highest peak – snow-capped Mount Rainer – with their 84-year grandmother, cousins and aunts and uncles was a favorite part of what is now known as my kids’ best vacation ever.

Well-played Escape Adventures and thank you.

The secret to the success of this bike tour company’s 5-day Volcanoes and Waterfalls road bike tour is simple: savoring the sights of the Pacific Northwest while pedaling like mad. It’s the perfect way to keep pre-teens and teens interested in all the stunning nature surrounding them – because they are immersed in it.  Pedaling through mountain tunnels, past snow banks, lush fern-floor forests and enticing cherry orchards in the rain and sun beats scenic driving anytime.

We cycled down Oregon’s tallest peak, Mount Hood; the foothills of Mount St. Helen’s; through Gifford Pinchot National Forest; and along the historic Columbia River Highway in Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and within view of Mount Adams.

One morning, we drove across the Bridge of the Gods and took a biking break to hike up Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall.

Multnomah Falls, photo by Escape Adventures

The rugged beauty we experienced every single day now feels dreamlike. Words like picturesque and scenic do not adequately describe the diverse grace of the Cascade Mountain range and surroundings.

Escape Adventures three guides provided the biking expertise; the knowledge of the area; the transportation; the meals and snacks; the lodging insight (Skamania Lodge & Whitakers Bunkhouse were ideal settings for our crew) and most importantly- the vigor and charisma that comes from doing a job they so clearly love.

Apres-bike with our guides in the Adirondack-chair bedecked lawn of Skamania Lodge (within the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area).

Family Weekend Getaway: Asheville, Blue Ridge Parkway N.C.

Friday, September 11th, 2020

Asheville Blue Ridge M

We don’t zip line.
Or at least we didn’t until a Labor Day Weekend jaunt from Savannah, Ga. to the Asheville-Blue Ridge Parkway NC area. A summer of COVID-cancellations called for mixing in something new.

Canopy Ridge Farm zip line tour near Lake Lure, NC  turned out to the perfect choice for us zip-line novices. Six zip lines. Lush forest. No ladders. And best of all, experienced, safe, mature, professional, fun guides. Reservations are recommended. Learn more here.

Other Asheville-area suggestions:

Lake Lure NC Flowering Bridge Asheville

Lake Lure Flowering Bridge

Lake Lure NC (where the movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed) looked interesting, but for a less busy time than traffic-congested Labor Day weekend. We didn’t spend much time there because of the crowds, other than a quick walk along the impressive Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a historic 1925 bridge closed to traffic in 2011 to become an abundant flower garden. Free and open to the public.


Hikes near Asheville

Mount Pisgah: 2.6 miles & nearby Frying Pan Mountain because who can pass up a hike to a fire tower that you can climb.

Craggy Gardens Pinnacle: 1.2 miles

Lunch Rock Trail, which starts at the Folk Art Center: 4.9 miles.

Mountains-to-Sea @ Craven Gap, which we did solely because my daughter is a Michelle Obama fan and Michelle Obama did this hike: 4.8 miles.

Note: We wanted to visit Mount Mitchell State Park  (highest point in NC), but because of COVID social-distancing limits, that state park was closed early each day of the holiday weekend due to being at capacity. If you go, check North Carolina State Parks Facebook page for park closure updates before making the drive.


Junior Park Ranger Nerds

Places where your kids can earn their junior park ranger badges in the Asheville area include:

Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site: roam the park-like grounds where the Poet of the People retired. The house, barn and barnyard, restrooms, and other structures were still closed due to COVID, but we still got to the see the goats. Find junior park ranger info here. 

Blue Ridge Parkway National Park Site, Visitor’s Center, Asheville: Find junior park ranger info here. 


Asheville family vacations

Perks of staying outside the city

Our airbnb in Fairview, NC outside of Asheville was within a quick walk (past two bunnies and one fenced-llama) to Tryor’s Country Amish bakery and market.

We could feed the airbnb owner’s sheep, those that weren’t afraid of us, in nearby pastures and use the canoe and kayaks in the farm pond.

Definite advantages to staying outside of Asheville and within a short drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

So much to do in this area, we’ll be back.


Family Vacations: San Francisco, Yosemite & Monterey

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Thanks to Delta frequent flier miles, we did a 6-day whirlwind trip to San Francisco, Yosemite National Park & Monterey, California during winter break 2018.

Here’s this mom’s list of things to do when visiting this inspiring area of The Golden State with kids.

Free national park pass. If you’re traveling with a fourth grader, be sure to obtain your free national park pass before your trip through The Every Kid in a Park program. The program gives every U.S. 4th grader and his or her family free access to 2000+ federally managed parks, lands and waters. This program begins Sept. 1 of your fourth grade year and runs until Aug. 31 of that year. Learn more here. 


Half Dome Village canvas tents, Yosemite

Yosemite National Park: As a cost-saving measure, we stayed at Half Dome Village (formerly called Curry Village, pictured below). While not fully camping, most Half Dome Village spots are canvas platform tents. Full disclosure: this is not for everyone – especially in winter. Although these canvas tents are heated, they were cold during our 2-night stay in December 2018. However, this is an affordable way for families to stay in the south central part of Yosemite Valley rather than have to stay outside of the park and spend lots of time commuting back and forth. Half Dome Village sells out quickly, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance to ensure availability. Reservation info here. 

In addition to amazing hikes, we got a lot out of the Night Prowl guided walk with an Interpretive naturalist in Yosemite Valley. Find more family activities that require advance registration here. 


San Francisco: We kicked off our 2-day visit to San Francisco with a super kid-friendly walking tour & scavenger hunt in Chinatown / Northbeach with City Clues Adventures & Tours. 

This two-hour hunt  – which included a fortune cookie factory & a hidden temple – was the perfect introduction to SF for my two kids, ages 12 & 10. They learned about the city & its history without realizing they were learning. Tour guide Beth even escorted us to SF’s most crooked Lombard Street after the tour while pointing out landmarks along the way.

Bike the Golden Gate Bridge: Taking full advantage of ideal weather, we rented bikes (after the scavenger hunt & lunch) from Blazing Saddles near of Ghirardelli Square then pedaled through Crissy Field, Presidio, with a stop at the pier next to Fort Point National Historic Site (where we spied a sea lion) before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, where we caught a ferry back to SF. This was a top highlight of our trip & a must-do if you have the weather to do so.

Muir Woods: Spent most of day 2 exploring the Redwood forest & earning their junior ranger badges @ Muir Woods National Monument outside of SF. Parking or shuttle reservations are now required when visiting Muir Woods. Make reservations here. 

Cable Car Ride: We avoided the long lines for cable car tickets in Ghirardelli Square by catching a cable car at California & Market Streets then riding it to the top of Nob Hill. We bought tickets on the car.

Alcatraz Blues: Mom Mistake No. 211,530: Not making Alcatraz reservations well in advance, as in before we even booked our flight. I will never forgive myself for being too late to the game on this. Say it with me: Reservations for The Rock must be made far in advance. Learn more here & don’t be me like me.


Elephant Seals Guided Walk Ano Nuevo State Reserve

Elephant Seal Guided Walk @ Año Nuevo Coast Natural Preserve

Monterey: So glad we started our first Monterey morning by making the drive south on Pacific Coast Highway to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Carmel & savoring the trails there. We saw sea lions & otters galore.

After lunch outdoors at the funky Baja Cantina in Carmel, we headed back to Monterey via Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast. Then left the car at Lover’s Point Park so we could walk the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail to Cannery Row & Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we immersed ourselves until early evening finally leaving at closing time. The aquarium is a must-do.

Ano Nuevo: Our last day in California (New Year’s Eve Day) was spent falling in love with Ano Nuevo State Park elephant seals, off Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Cruz & SF.  Every year up to 10,000 elephant seals return to breed & give birth @ the park’s dunes and beaches. Because we were there during breeding season, we were able to take advantage of the 3-mile guided seal hike, available via advanced reservation, so we saw oodles of elephant seals & pups. This was a top highlight of the trip. To make reservations for the 2.5 hour Elephant Seal Guided Walks visit ReserveCalifornia at or call 1-800-444-4445. 

Highway 1 Highlights: Thanks to the Web site Through My Lens, we visited Shark Fin Cove near Ano Nuevo State Park & Santa Cruz’s Natural Bridges State Park  on our way back to SF.

Last stop before catching our New Year’s Eve red-eye flight back to Georgia was an evening stop @ SF’s Moraga Street tiled steps. This sea-to-stars themed mosaic staircase flowing up 163 steps in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood was the ideal spot to stay goodbye & thank you to this amazing state.

Summer Family Vacations: Grand Teton & Yellowstone National Parks

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Family Vacations Yellowstone Grand Teton Taking our Savannah born-and-bred kids (ages 10 & 8) to Yellowstone National Park for about a week during May 2017 was one of our best family trips yet.

Not only did these Southern flatlanders experience snow in May and conquer mountains, they also packed their wildlife log with wildlife sightings including a grizzly bear and her cub, wolves, bighorn sheep, bison, proghorn, white pelicans, sandhill crane, a trumpeter swan, mule deer, moose and more.

Here’s this mom’s list of things to do when visiting the world’s oldest national park (established in 1872) with kids.

Free national park pass. If you’re traveling with a fourth grader, be sure to obtain your free national park pass before your trip through The Every Kid in a Park program. The program gives every U.S. 4th grader and his or her family free access to 2000+ federally managed parks, lands and waters. This program begins Sept. 1 of your fourth grade year and runs until Aug. 31 of that year. Learn more here. 

Grand Teton National Park. Do not miss this smaller, but equally as stunning national park just south of Yellowstone and just north of Jackson, Wyoming. We stayed inside the park at Signal Mountain Lodge and loved it for its view of Jackson Lake and the Tetons; the close proximity of the lodge’s restaurant for a breakfast overlooking Jackson Lake before taking off to a hike (we suggest Taggart Lake loop hike); but especially for the scenic float trip along a 10-mile stretch of the Snake River. Book your float trip when making your Signal Mountain Lodge reservation, as these trips fill up quickly. Age minimum is 6 years old. Float trip details here. 

Old Faithful Inn. Staying at accommodations inside Yellowstone is pricey. Which is why we we only spent one night actually inside the park. I am so jazzed that one night was spent at Old Faithful Inn. The towering lobby of this national historic landmark is pure entertainment. We spent an evening in the lobby listening to live music and slipping out onto the balcony to catch the regular Old Faithful eruptions. The beauty of this inn makes you feel quite guilty bemoaning the inn’s very purposeful, get-off-your-screens lack of Internet. When walking the Upper Geyser area near the Inn, be sure to take the Observation Point Trail option to Solitary Geyser for dreamy views.

White-Water Rafting. My kids took their first whirl at white-water rafting on the Yellowstone River and fell in love with it thanks to Flying Pig Adventure Company in Gardiner, Montana. This rafting outfit is near the north gate to Yellowstone, which you need to visit anyway if you want to see the Roosevelt Arch. The hip young, energetic crew at Flying Pig put young first-time rafters at ease and make parents wish they, too, had been river guides in our early 20s. Maybe, just maybe, if the water is cold enough, you’ll forget all about the fact that you’re wearing an incredibly unflattering wet suit. In public. During daylight. While sober. (But maybe if your trip is during warmer weather, you don’t need to wear a wet suit. I was too worried about falling overboard to ask.) During our eight-mile trip on class II and III rapids, there was just enough splashing and paddling to make it suitable for even young, novice rafters but still exciting. Our guide shared details about landmarks we passed including Electric Peak and even offered the opportunity to jump in and swim at the end.

Yellowstone family trips Grand Teton summer vacation

Lamar Valley. It is easy to skip this remote, wildlife-packed northeast corner of Yellowstone for the more convenient, well-traveled areas touted in your tour books. But if your kids want to see wildlife, Lamar Valley is a must. Bring boxed lunches from Old Faithful Inn or, if you are coming from West Yellowstone, boxed lunches from Ernie’s Bakery & Deli then take a picnic hike in Lamar Valley. (Don’t forget your bear spray!) We loved Trout Lake hike and Specimen Ridge/Yellowstone River Picnic Area hike along the Narrows of the Yellowstone River. For wolf watching, head to Slough Creek Road, where avid wolf-watchers set up scopes on known wolf dens and are happy to let you take a peek. If you want to stay near Lamar Valley, we liked Silver Gate Cabins  – just outside the northeast gate before Cooke City, Montana – and The Log Cabin Cafe for breakfast, unforgettable pumpkin bread and boxed lunches.  (The cafe also has cabins where you can stay.)

Junior Ranger: Stop by visitors’ centers in both Grand Teton and Yellowstone to pick up Junior Ranger packets for your kids to complete so they can be sworn in at the visitors’ centers to become Junior Rangers in each park and collect their Junior Ranger badges/keepsakes from each park. Grand Teton’s badge actually smells like campfire – a first in our junior ranger collection.

Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. If you stay in West Yellowstone, Montana (we liked the convenience of The Three Bear Lodge although the new Explorer Cabins also looked enticing) and have time, be sure to check out the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center.  The small, not-for-profit center gives you a chance to watch grizzly bears and gray wolves that are at the center because they are unable to survive in the wild, usually due to human involvement. Sign up your kids early for the popular Keeper Kids program (designed for ages 5-12). During the program  – which teaches kids about grizzly bear eating habits – kids will accompany the naturalist into the bear habitat to hide food for the bears. After the food is hidden, they can see first-hand how bears use their sense of smell to search out the food they had hidden. Learn more about the center here. We broke up our visit with a refreshing, short lunchtime bike ride from West Yellowstone along Riverside Trail nordic ski trails into Yellowstone National Park. We rented mountain bikes and got trail maps and tips from the incredibly welcoming folks at Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, who also recommended box lunches from Ernie’s Bakery & Deli. This made for a picturesque picnic along the Madison River with views of the Gallatin Range before returning to the Grizzly Center to say goodnight to the bears on our last day of this treasured Yellowstone trip.

(We flew from Savannah into Salt Lake City and drove via Jackson, Wyoming to Grand Teton National Park, then Yellowstone. Returning, we left from West Yellowstone, via Idaho Falls, back to Salt Lake City.)