The beauty of Yellowstone National Park is breathtaking. The geyser basins are unique sights that you can’t see anywhere else in the world and opportunities to view wildlife add a sense of adventure. This is why I take my family there EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Even with all there is to do inside Yellowstone National Park, the surrounding area offers even more activities to add enjoyment to your vacation.
- Yellowstone Hot Springs
- Big Gun Fun
- Yellowstone Giant Screen
- Quake Lake and Hebgen Lake
- River rafting
- Bear World
- Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
- Yellowstone Heritage and Resource Center
- Rodeos and Horseback riding
- Playmill Playhouse
Ready for a little break from sightseeing? Read on for the details of each of these incredible activities.
1. Playmill Theatre
For over 50 years, the Playmill Theatre has been entertaining crowds. Each season they produce 3 family-friendly shows. The Playmill Theatre is known for the humor and energy of the local performers and is a tradition for many who visit Yellowstone frequently. Entertainment before the show includes musical numbers and skits that you won’t want to miss. One highlight is the unique snack bar options with reasonably priced Dole whips, fudge, root beer floats, and caramel apple sundaes.
The theater’s season runs from June through August with nightly shows, excluding Sunday, at 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm. A 1:00 pm matinee is also offered on Saturdays. The price per show varies from ~$25.00 to $35.00 and you can order tickets online or by calling the theater. Shows typically sell out so buy your tickets as soon as you know your trip dates.
2. Wild West Yellowstone Rodeo and Creekside Trail Rides
Nothing makes you ponder more about the men who discovered Yellowstone than riding through the landscape on horseback. Enjoying a small-town, patriotic rodeo immediately afterward really makes you feel like you’ve had a Western experience.
At Creekside Trail Rides, you don’t need to worry if you’ve never had experience riding a horse. The maximum number of people they take in a group is nine and two experienced guides will escort you on an easy 1 hour ride. The minimum riding age is 6 years old and my 7-year-old daughter and nephew loved it! The sunset rodeo ride begins at 4:45 pm and arrives just in time to grab a bite to eat at their concession stand and find a seat for the 7:00 pm rodeo.
This quaint rodeo is 1 1/2 hours long with locals competing in bull riding, broncos, barrel racing, and more. One of the highlights is the patriotic flag ceremony they have nightly honoring our veterans. There is also a calf chase where all children 12 and under can enter the arena and try to pull the ribbon from the racing calf. I don’t remember what the grand prize was, but all the kids were awarded a gold dollar coin.
Tickets for the horseback ride and rodeo can be purchased separately or combined at a discount. The rodeo alone is ~$20 for adults and ~$10 for kids. The horseback ride alone is ~$50. The combo ticket is ~$65 for adults and ~$55 for kids. The rodeo’s season is relatively short running from June 14th- Aug 17th. Make reservations for the trail ride early as there are limited spots available.
Curious about what this small-town rodeo looks like? Check out our YouTube Channel, We’re in the Rockies, for our video featuring our experience on the trail ride and watching the rodeo, as well as many of the other activities listed in this post. Yee-Haw!
3. Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
If you want to see some amazing animals up close in an incredible way while supporting a good cause, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is for you! Featuring grizzlies, wolves, otters, birds of prey, and…… squirrels (a real highlight for kids). These animals either have an injury or some bad habits that make it unsafe for them to live in the wild so they find refuge here where they live in some pretty impressive habitats.
What is truly unique about this place is the way the animals are viewed. The grizzlies and otters take shifts where the public can view them. While in their public enclosure, they search for food and you will get to see them be very active, swimming and even climbing trees! A pamphlet is given to you when you enter letting you know a bit about each of the animals and what time they will be available for viewing. You can also check the whiteboard near the entrance for any changes for the day.
The wolves were my favorite. During my last visit, there was a family of wolves with four cubs. They were delightful to watch and it was neat to see how the family interacted
The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center is open 365 days a year and you’ll want to plan at least 2 hours to view the animals. Your ticket is good for 2 days and costs ~$16.50 for adults and ~$11.50 for children.
4. Bear World
Even though Bear World is in Rexburg, Idaho, it made the list because many people drive by it on their way to West Yellowstone. Bear World gives you a chance to see bears in a way different than anywhere else. You drive through and see free-roaming bison, wolves, black bears, grizzlies, and elk. With your pass, you are welcome to drive through as many times as you would like throughout the day.
The bears are not afraid of cars and we once had one licking our bumper. Once you finish driving through, you walk through a large gift shop (they have free fudge samples!) and walk into the petting zoo. Chickens, baby deer goats, and even a really fat pig will allow you to pet and feed them.
There is also an enclosure for the bear cubs. It’s really fun to watch because they are active and love to wrestle. For an additional fee, you can bottle-feed a cub.
Lastly, there is a small amusement park with kiddie rides for no additional charge. These rides are geared for children 2 years old and up. There are picnic tables in the center of the rides so parents can keep an eye on children from one location.
Bear World is open from mid-April through mid-October. You’ll want to plan on half a day to view all of it. You can pay by the carload for nearly ~$139.95, max 7 people, or pay per person ~$27.95 for adults and ~$14.95 for kids. You can save $1 per ticket if you buy online.
- Visiting Yellowstone and need a game plan? Check out our itinerary.
5. River Rafting
River rafting season runs May-September. You can plan on paying at least $50 and up per person per float. Floats range from 2 hours to multi-day trips. You can also choose from a leisurely scenic float to a thrilling whitewater adventure.
There are multiple rafting companies surrounding Yellowstone National Park. If you book a trip in Jackson Hole, you will be floating the Snake River. If you depart from Gardiner, you’ll float the Yellowstone River. Tube rentals are available in Bozeman, MT to float the Madison River and the Shoshone is the river you will be on if you leave from Cody, WY.
6. Quake Lake and Hebgen Lake
My family came across this area when we were unable to obtain camping inside Yellowstone National Park. What a beautiful and strange area! As you pass Quake Lake, you will see hundreds of trees standing up in the middle of the lake. It’s quite eerie as you wonder how the lake came to look that way.
You can find out at the Quake Lake Visitor Center where you will hear the story of the 1959 Earthquake that shook Yellowstone and created a lake in a single day. It’s a sad yet interesting story you really should check out for yourself.
Hebgen and Quake lakes are part of Gallatin National Forrest. You can boat and fish there as well as paddleboard and camp. Although I prefer to camp in Yellowstone, the campsites are larger, more scenic, and less expensive if you don’t mind the 27-mile drive to the west gate of Yellowstone.
7. Yellowstone Giant Screen
Most of us have driven by a giant screen Imax theater, but how many of us have actually viewed a movie in one? A typical movie screen is 40 ft wide by 30 ft tall. The screen at the Yellowstone Giant Screen is 60 x 80 feet!
Here you can view a 45-minute movie with images of Yellowstone. Although some say it reminds them of slide shows they saw at school in the 70s, it’s still Yellowstone! If you still aren’t excited to go there, did you know they show current movies as well? What a perfect break from the elements- plus, can you think of a better place to watch Spider-Man? You’ll earn big points with the kids!
Plan on the Yellowstone movie costing between ~$7-$14 depending on your seat and ~$9-$14 for feature films. If you buy the premium seats for the Yellowstone movie, it comes with free popcorn. The theater also contains a nice gift shop if you are looking for any last-minute souvenirs.
8. Yellowstone Big Gun Fun
If you’ve never shot a gun before or are looking for an opportunity to shoot some semi-automatics, rifles, and old-school guns (like from the Civil War) this might be a good spot for you (after all you are in the West). Although you can go through a lot of ammunition in a short time, I bet you’ll never forget it.
The employees make your safety the #1 priority. I was a bit intimidated when we tried it, but Big Gun Fun assigns one employee for each group to guide you through the entire process from getting your hearing protection gear to supervising while you shoot the guns. You must be 12 or older and it is recommended that you make an appointment or go in early in the morning to avoid crowds. The typical hours are 11:00 am-10 pm and packages begin at ~$45 per person and for a few extra dollars, you can shoot at zombies.
Not sure which Yellowstone Entrance is right for you?
Download our Free Quick and Easy Guide to Yellowstone’s entrances!
9. Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park
If you find you need a bit more adventure than the sightseeing Yellowstone has to offer, check out Yellowstone Zipline Adventure. There is a giant rope course that you must complete before you can zipline out of it. 6 years old is the minimum age to participate. What a cool opportunity to work together as a group and cheer each other on.
If you have little ones, there is a junior course as well as a place they can mine for gems.
Packages for adults range from ~$55-$99. One interesting feature is that you can pay a little extra to be able to come and go from the park, otherwise, once you leave, your experience is over.
This is a seasonal activity with daily hours from 9:00 am- 7:00 pm.
Our family loves to do zip-line courses and do them often when we travel. Check out the recent zip line course we did at Rush Mountain when we recently visited South Dakota.
10. Yellowstone Hotsprings
After a long day of hiking and driving around, you can relax and soak in the naturally heated Yellowstone Hot Springs in Gardiner, MT. This beautifully designed landscape includes 3 pools with varying temperatures. The cold pool is about 60-65 degrees, the main pool is 98-100 degrees, and the hot pool with temperatures up to 103 degrees.
It’s open year-round Tuesday-Sunday from 1:00 pm-9:00 pm and costs ~$15, which is the only complaint I’ve ever heard about this place.
11. Yellowstone Heritage and Resource Center
This one is for all you history geeks out there- you know who you are! The Yellowstone Heritage and Resource Center is free and offers collections, archives, a research library, a herbarium (a collection of dried plants), and an archeology lab. If you’ve never got to see primary documents or special collections, you ought to do it at least once. It’s really cool to see original documents in person. Just make sure to make an appointment before you go.
Alright, it’s all on you now. Check out the chart below for a quick reference and plan your own favorite adventure.
skits and music before play,
fun concessions- caramel apple sundaes and rootbeer floats
|*2 shows a night 5:30 pm, 8:30 pm
*Matinee Sat 1 pm
*Get tickets early
|Wild West Rodeo and
Creekside Trail Rides
|1 1/2 hour rodeo, fun for kids
The trail ride has 9 horses and 2 guides. Great for beginners
|June 30-Aug 22nd
~$50 for 1 hour or ~$55/kid $65/adult for rodeo and ride
|*Get tickets early.
*Bring cash for concessions
*Dress warmly for rodeo
|Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
|Grizzlies, wolves, otters, birds of prey, squirrels in incredible enclosures.
|Open 365 days a year. 9 am-6 pm
9 am-4 pm
|*Takes 2-3 hours
*One ticket is good for 2 days
*Check the whiteboard schedule for when the animals will be out
|Drive through zoo with bears, elk, bison, and wolves.
Petting zoo and small amusement park
9 am-6 pm
9 am-5 pm
|~$139.95 per carload
$1 off if purchased online
|*1/2 day attraction
*Can purchase tickets to bottle-feed baby bears
Lots of places around Yellowstone
|Experiences can vary from whitewater rafting to leisurely floats to tubing
|~$50 and up
|*2 hours to multi-day trips
*Age restrictions on whitewater rafting
|Earthquake and Hebgen Lake
27 miles northwest of
11 am- 10 pm hours may vary by season
|Memorial Day-Labor Day
10 am- 5 or 6 pm
|*Fishing is allowed in both lakes
|Yellowstone Giant Screen
|*Shows current movies and a 40-minute Yellowstone movie
|*Yellowstone film is a bit dated
*60 ft tall X
40 ft wide
|Yellowstone Big Gun Fun
|*Large variety of guns you can shoot
15 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, MT 59758
11 am- 10 pm hours may vary by season
|Packages start at ~$45-60 per person
|*Must be 12 or older
*Go in the morning or make an appt to beat the crowds
|Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park
|*Ropes course, ziplines
9 am- 7 pm
Open weekends in September
|*The minimum age for the big course is 6
*You must get through the ropes course to do ziplines
|Yellowstone Hot Springs
|3 pools with temperatures ranging from 60-103 degrees
Wed-Sun 9 am-9 pm
|Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
|Collections, archives, research library, herbarium, archeology lab
|Open year-round 8 am-5 pm
|*Must make an appointment
Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?
Yellowstone is confusing because it’s huge and there are so many things to do!
Need a game plan so you don’t miss out on the best things to do in Yellowstone? Check out our itinerary.
Most travelers want to visit the most popular sites and still avoid the crowds. We have a detailed itinerary that gives you a step-by-step game plan so you can get to the best places at the right times!
But that’s not all! Our itinerary includes a free audio guide to listen to while driving with over 3-hours of stories about the park!
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO
YELLOWSTONE TRIP PLANNER: To read or watch all of our content about Yellowstone National Park, check out our Yellowstone Homepage
ENTRANCES: Yellowstone has 5 entrances: The West Entrance, the East Entrance, the Northeast Entrance, the North Entrance, and the South Entrance. Learn which entrance to Yellowstone is right for you with our Free Quick and Easy Guide
THINGS TO DO: Don’t miss all that Yellowstone has to offer including Old Faithful, the Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake, Norris Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, and West Thumb and Grant’s Village
GREAT CITIES TO STAY OR CHECK OUT: Learn all about where to stay and where to camp when visiting Yellowstone and things to do in Cody, Wyoming, and other areas surrounding Yellowstone
WHERE TO EAT: Check out the best places to eat including the Old West Dinner Cookout and also where to get groceries and eat picnics in Yellowstone National Park
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Find out if you need a reservation or bear spray and binoculars, as well as tips for driving in and flying to Yellowstone
WATCH: Enjoy videos of gorgeous Yellowstone National Park while learning our best tips for visiting by watching our Yellowstone YouTube Playlist