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out west with small children

Detroit MI
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out west with small children

Going "out west' this summer with kids, ages 2, 7,8. There's so much to see in every state. Any suggestions for kid friendly attractions?

Montana
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1. Re: out west with small children

I'm afraid you will have to narrow down where you are going and what your interests are. The American West is known more for its wide-open country, scenic mountains and natural wonders. I certainly recommend a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Children young and old marvel at what they can see and do in Yellowstone.

A word of caution though, in Yellowstone you have to be very attentive to your children and where your children are at all times. Given that Yellowstone has wild animals near the roads and in/among places of lodging, plus if you are not mindful of the inherent dangers in the thermal hot pools, well, Yellowstone can be deadly. Yellowstone is not a zoo with tame animals or an amusement park with certified safe rides.

If you want to get lodging inside the Park, start looking now and get your reservations early.

Please include Yellowstone on your trip itinerary - a great place for young and old.

If you are driving to Yellowstone, drive through Cody, Wyoming and visit the Buffalo Bill Historical Center: a worldclass center of American history, art, natural history. The natural history museum inside the Center has many exhibits especially for children.

You have asked a wide-open question on what to see and do. I've lived in the American West nearly all my life, and I haven't seen it all yet.

Good luck.

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Illinois
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2. Re: out west with small children

In South Dakota, must sees are Badlands National Park, Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore.

Also highly recommend Yellowstone-it is what I imagine Heaven must look like.

We traveled thru South Dakota when our kids were 2 and 4 and had a great trip-they loved all the wildlife.

This year did South Dakota and Yellowstone (kids are now 8 and 10) and had another fantastic trip.

The areas around Custer are full or touristy attractions-we skipped all in favor of "nature" but there is plenty to keep kids occupied. Custer, Keystone and Hill City are all good places to stay around Custer State Park or there are cabins and lodges inside the park.

Also highly recommend Red Lodge, Montana and Cody, Wyoming as great places to spend time.

Where are you headed from?

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South Dakota
South Dakota
United States
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park
438 Reviews
Interior, SD
Custer State Park
Custer State Park
4,728 Reviews
Custer, SD
Custer
Custer
South Dakota
Hill City
Hill City
South Dakota
Red Lodge
Red Lodge
Montana
Cody
Cody
Wyoming
Detroit MI
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90 posts
2 reviews
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3. Re: out west with small children

Hi Librarychick,

Thanks for the reply. We live in Michigan. We plan to fly out and either rent an RV(our first attempt at that) or a van and stay in hotels. Ever do the RV thing?

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Michigan
Michigan
United States
Illinois
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4. Re: out west with small children

No, have never done the RV thing but have considered it. My sister-in-law who went with us this trip looked into it for Yellowstone and there wasn't much of a cost savings although I think she only checked with one company. The gas mileage might also be a consideration. We live in northern Illinois and have always driven. If you're comfortable driving one of those I wouldn't rule it out but you may find it a challenge on some of the curving mountain roads, especially Needles in Custer, the Beartooth or St. Joseph from Red Lodge or thru the Bighorns by Cody. There's nothing worse than getting behind an RV going 25 miles under the speed limit so keep that in mind if you're driving one-ha ha!

Seriously, this is our usual itinerary: Day 1, home to Sioux Falls, SD-about 11 hours with a stop at Palisades State Park in Garretson. Day 2: stay overnight in or by the Badlands-have stopped at the Corn Palace and Wall Drug in the past-about 5 hours. Day 3: on to Custer State Park-1 1/2 hours. Can definitely spend multiple days in this park. Day 4: Drive to Red Lodge, MT-about 8 hours (?)-can stop at the Battle of the Little Bighorn Site. Day 5: Enter Yellowstone. If you're doing Yellowstone would recommend at least 4 nights and at least a day trip into the Tetons.

Have not been to Glacier but hope to someday.

Let me know if you have any lodging questions-I think I researched EVERY property in the area for our last trip!

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Custer
Custer
South Dakota
Red Lodge
Red Lodge
Montana
Cody
Cody
Wyoming
Sioux Falls
Sioux Falls
South Dakota
Palisades State Park
Palisades State Park
81 Reviews
Garretson, SD
Illinois
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5. Re: out west with small children

Me again-I want to repeat what cav1865 said-do get your lodging booked ASAP, especially if you're staying in the parks.

Also, keep in mind that Sturgis is the beginning of August. I miscalculated the timing last year and we wound up in the Badlands and the Hills the final weekend. We passed more bikers headed home on our way out than we did when we got there, and those we encountered were well behaved and friendly, but hotels will have less availability and prices may be at a premium.

Thanks!

Detroit MI
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6. Re: out west with small children

librarychick,

Thanks for all the great tips. OK, what and when is Sturgis? Sounds like we should avoid it??

Illinois
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7. Re: out west with small children

Sturgis is a town near the Black Hills, by Deadwood, that hosts a huge motorcycle rally every year-hundreds of thousands of bikers. I just checked and I think it is August 7-13 this year. Like I said, we got to the area the ending weekend last year and it wasn't bad but I've heard the week preceding it is crazy too. If you can plan your trip for June, July or the end of August you'll probably have better luck with lodging rates and availability. I had also heard a lot of the bikers head to Yellowstone the week after but did not find that to be true.

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The Black Hills
The Black Hills
South Dakota
Deadwood
Deadwood
South Dakota
Nebraska
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8. Re: out west with small children

We took our kids (5,3 and 1) to Yellowstone via the black hills of South Dakota last July. We tented it in Yellowstone. It was a blast. The black hills are terribly underrated. The people are very nice, the roads are very good and the scenery is beautiful. Mt. Rushmore day or late evening for the light show, is a must. Hill City South Dakota is a nice tourist town. Not a trap, just a good base from which to explore the sites, such as Crazy Horse, the caves and the lakes. Just into Wyoming, we found the best surprise of the trip in Devils Tower. Have you seen Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind? I knew Devil's Tower was real, but we were all really impressed when we saw it in person. It has an easy hiking trail all around its base, and rock climbers were scaling the tower when we were there. It was a great experience. Bring warm clothes for Yellowstone. It got down to about 35 degrees at night in July, and that's pretty cold for a trip to the john at 2:00 a.m. The power was out in most of the park when we were there, so the people in the lodges either froze, or went home early. It didn't bother the campers much, since we weren't relying on central heat and electrical lighting.

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South Dakota
South Dakota
United States
Hill City
Hill City
South Dakota
Wyoming
Wyoming
United States