What to Know and How to Plan a Summer Vacation in Yellowstone National Park

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What to Know and How to Plan a Summer Vacation in Yellowstone National Park

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, March 11, 2014 – Yellowstone National Park makes its way onto a lot of bucket lists. With 2.2 million acres, nearly all of it wilderness, an abundance of marquis mammals, and the world’s greatest collection of geothermal features, this is hardly a surprise. And right now, travelers are huddling around computers, staring at maps, thumbing through guidebooks and discussing what a dream vacation to Yellowstone looks like.

We have some ideas.

“Yellowstone is a huge park with an extensive array of activities on foot, by vehicle, on water and horseback, and it can be overwhelming to try to decide where to stay, where to eat and what to do,” said Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone. “For the best park visit understand that you won’t see the whole park in a single visit, plan a few activities and then let the rest of the park experience just happen. Regardless of what you do and see in the park, it will be memorable.”

Here are some things to know when researching a trip to Yellowstone:

Xanterra operates nine lodges with 2,200 guest rooms as well as 1,700 campsites at five campgrounds. Accommodations are priced to suit a variety of budgets.

Book lodging as soon as possible directly with Xanterra Parks & Resorts to avoid reservations fees charged by many third-party booking websites. Additionally, avoid using the big online travel agencies like Orbitz and Expedia. Despite what these websites may suggest, they only represent lodging and services outside the park.

Be aware that many hotels in gateway communities have the word “Yellowstone” in their names and it is not always clear that those hotels are located outside park boundaries.

It is fastest to book lodging with Xanterra online at YellowstoneNationalParkLodges.com. Travelers can also call Xanterra toll-free at (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) or (1) 307-344-7311.

Lodges, campgrounds and restaurants open on a staggered schedule beginning with the opening of Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge on May 2. Lodges begin closing again in the fall with the final closure at Old Faithful Snow Lodge on Oct. 19.

Don’t be discouraged if certain lodges have no availability. The park’s most famous lodges like Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone Hotel are understandably the first to fill. Even if rooms aren’t available in those hotels, travelers can experience those hotels by dining there or simply wandering the lobbies. All nine lodges are located close to the park’s famous features. For example, Grant Village is close to the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and Canyon Village is near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Speaking of Canyon Village, Xanterra has undertaken a $70 million redevelopment of the Canyon Lodge & Cabins, which is presently the largest accommodation complex in the park. Although the area will be in “pardon our dust” mode for the next two years, Xanterra will be working hard to ensure that disruptions are kept to a minimum.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel is nearing completion of the second phase of a two-year renovation. This year’s work is scheduled for completion in late June, and the newest rooms were only recently made available for reservations.

Be guided by your gateways. Many auto travelers from the East and Midwest enter the park through Cody, Wyo.; travelers from the South and Southwest often enter through Jackson, Wyo., travelers from California frequently enter the park through West Yellowstone, Mont. and travelers from the Northwest often arrive through Gardiner, Mont.  Factoring in estimated arrival time, the nearest hotel to the gateway might be the best hotel for a first night’s stay. The Yellowstone National Park Lodges website lists drive times and directions for each gateway.

Make meal reservations when you make room reservations. Guests who would like to experience the especially popular dining rooms in Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel should make table reservations in advance. There are many options for other full-service, cafeterias and quick-service restaurants too, and these do not require advance reservations. And once there, look for fresh, healthy menu options, reflecting Xanterra’s commitment to offering travelers fresh, healthy and sustainable cuisine choices.

Choose and book a few experiences. Xanterra Parks & Resorts offers an array of more than 20 tours and experiences including the perennially popular Old West Dinner Cookout at Roosevelt Lodge, a one-hour scenic boat cruise, evening Lamar Valley Wildlife Excursion,  one- and two-hour horseback trail rides from three different locations and the “Yellowstone in a Day” tour offering a comprehensive overview of park highlights.

Consider booking a package. Multi-day vacation packages are a great way to go because park experts have put together the itinerary based on the package themes, and guests can enjoy the park even more because trained interpretive guides do the driving and explain to guests what they are seeing.  Xanterra offers three Adventure Packages and six Lodging & Learning packages. Packages include accommodations, some meals, in-park transportation and experiences. For example, the Wild About Yellowstone package includes four nights of lodging in four different hotels, some meals, in-park transportation and experiences like the dinner cookout and cruise.

Plan to visit the National Park Service Visitor Centers and museums. These remarkable gems operated by the National Park Service provide insights into many different topics with exhibits and films. Want to know more about the Yellowstone super volcano? Stop at the Canyon Visitor Education Center. Interested in geysers and hot springs? Plan to spend time at the Old Faithful Visitor Center.

Explore beyond the viewpoints. Yellowstone is comprised of 2.2 million acres, and only a small percentage of that land is developed with a road or building. There are more than 1,000 miles of trails in the park, and hiking is one of the best ways to see the park up close. The National Park Service says that only a small percentage of the park’s millions of visitors annually venture away from viewpoints or boardwalks, so it is relatively easy to find solitude in the park simply by hiking a short way along a trail.

Find free and nearly free experiences. For example, Xanterra offers free walking tours of the historic Old Faithful Inn. And the National Park Service offers a variety of free ranger programs. Xanterra also offers a variety of affordable interpretive tours such as the 90-minute Geyser Gazers tour priced at $26 for adults and $13 for children.

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Xanterra operates lodges, restaurants, tours and activities in Yellowstone. Travelers can make reservations online or call toll-free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) or (1) 307-344-7311.

Travelers can learn more about Xanterra Parks & Resorts in Yellowstone by signing up for the e-newsletter and connecting with Xanterra on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts is a diversified global travel and hospitality company. Known for its “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint,” Xanterra Parks & Resorts® entities include lodges, restaurants, tours and activities in national and state parks and resorts as well as a cruise line, railway and tour operator. Xanterra Parks & Resorts has operations in the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Ariz., and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, Ariz.; Yellowstone; Zion; Crater Lake; Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations and Austin Adventures.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts
6312 S. Fiddlers Green Circle
Suite 600 North
Greenwood Village, CO 80111
 
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