A family vacation stay in Yellowstone National Park means adding your own chapter to the history book.
It had been a long but successful day fly fishing in Yellowstone National Park. Tired and hungry, we all looked forward to our stay at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and a hearty meal in its restaurant. When my husband, Brian, and son, Alex and I walked into the lobby, it was teeming with visitors, speaking different languages and happily sharing tales of the day’s adventures. They also were waiting to be seated for dinner, which reminded me: I had forgotten to make dinner reservations.
We put our name on the dinner list, settled into comfortable chairs with a snack and a cool drink, were soothed by sounds of a string quartet filled the spacious sun room adjacent to the dining room and enjoyed the stunning evening view across Lake Yellowstone. When our name was finally called, we didn’t want to budge.
With the air of a fine Swiss establishment, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel is listed on the Register of Historic Places and is the most formal of the Park’s lodging options. Originally completed in 1891, it was restored to its 1920s splendor in 1990.
Majestic and grand, it holds court on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. The guestrooms are stately, yet comfortable. You won’t feel out of place in your hiking or fishing attire. Nearby cabins and an additional building provide more basic and economical options.
While there are plenty of places to stay at every price point just outside the park, the accommodations in Yellowstone aren't just lodge or hotel rooms. They are repositories of history, each with their own story to tell. For example, the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins are located near former President and outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite campsite.
One of the largest log structures in the world, the Old Faithful Inn has stood next to the famous geyser for decades and provides easy access to many popular hikes, mud pots and fishing spots.
There are nine lodging properties within the park, each with its own special character. A stay at any of them will add a richness to your Yellowstone experience. While you may save a few dollars leaving the park and checking into a chain motel, you’ll miss out on being a small part of history.
There is no smoking within any of the Park hotels, lodges or cabins. And take note: You won’t find a television, radio, air conditioning or Internet connection in the rooms. For reservations: www.travelyellowstone.com/lodging.
If you decide to stay within the Park, don’t make my mistake. Be sure to make dinner reservations when you check into your lodge or hotel, particularly during the busy summer months.
There are additional dining facilities available throughout the Park. You’ll find plenty of casual snack shops and cafeteria style options that make for good breakfast and lunch spots. The food is plentiful and satisfying, but not award-winning. What the food experience lacks in quality is made up for by the smiles and enthusiasm served up by a delightful and international crew of mostly young (or older, retired) people in for the season.
For plenty of choices in a central location try the Old Faithful area. The cafeterias at the Old Faithful Lodge serve lunch and dinner in a fast and furious environment somehow reminiscent of a college dining hall. It’s a great way to experience the grand old building before or after you catch the famous geyser. The kids will be happy if you stop by the Bear Paw Snack Shop for ice cream. For a list of park dining options click here: www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/wheretoeat.htm.
With kids in tow, consider packing some extra snacks and drinks in a cooler before you enter the park. You can also stop at any one of the general stores to gather additional picnic supplies. One option: The Picnic Stop, an inexpensive deli with sandwiches, salads and other simple choices, located in the Canyon Village area. Then get off the beaten path. You’ll avoid the crowds and perhaps enjoy one of 49 designated picnic areas or a picturesque spot of your own choosing. For more about picknicking: www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/picnic.htm.
Destinations: Yellowstone National Park