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    11 Things to do Outside Yellowstone National Park

    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 the surrounding area offers even more activities to add enjoyment to your vacation.

    • Yellowstone Hot Springs
    • Zipelines
    • Big Gun Fun
    • Yellowstone Giant Screen
    • Quake Lake and Hebgan 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 are the unique snack bar options with reasonably priced Dole whips, fudge, Rootbeer floats, and caramel apple sundaes.

    The theater’s season runs from June through Labor day with nightly shows, excluding Sunday, at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm. A 2:00 pm matinee is also offered. The price per show varies from $17.00 to $27.00 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 afterwards 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 6:30 pm and arrives just in time to grab a bite to eat at their concession stand and find a seat for the 8:00 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 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 $15 for adults and $8 for kids. The horseback ride alone is $40. The combo ticket is $50 for adults and $45 for kids. The rodeo’s season is relatively short running from June 30th- Aug 22nd. 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 white board 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 $15 for adults and $10 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 and goats, and even a really fat pig will allow you to pet and feed them.

    There is also an enclosure of 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 May through mid October. You’ll want to plan on half a day to view all of it. You can pay by the carload for near $100, max 7 people, or pay per person $25 for adults and $13 for kids. You can save $1 per ticket if you buy online.

    If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, check out our comprehensive post How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Yellowstone: Everything you Need to Know [2022 updates] to get you started. If you want to make trip planning incredibly easy, check out our Self-guided Yellowstone Tour. It comes with a 4 day itinerary with 27 pages of maps and detailed activities with an hour-by-hour plan to get you to the most popular spots in the park including: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, where to see wildlife, and some hidden gems only us locals know about. Plus, a 3 hour audio guide that teaches about various features about the park and some incredible stories from the past.

    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 of 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. Its 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 60X80 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 $10-$14 depending on your seat and $12-$16 for feature films. If you buy the premium seats, it comes with free popcorn. The theater also contains a nice gift shop if you are looking for any last minute souviners.

    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 alot 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 range from $30-$35 per person and for a few extra dollars, you can shoot at zombies.

    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 junior course as well as a place they can mine for gems.

    Packages for adults range from $49-$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- 8:00 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: Cold pool 60-65 degrees, main pool 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 $18, which is the only complaint I’ve ever heard about this place. If you are a Montana resident, the price is only $10.

    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, 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.

    LocationDescriptionSeasonCostTips
    Playmill Theatre

    West Yellowstone
    Family friendly,
    skits and music before play,
    fun concessions- caramel apple sundaes and rootbeer floats
    June-Labor Day$17-$27*2 shows a night 6 pm, 8:30 pm
    *Matinee Sat 2 pm
    *Get tickets early
    Wild West Rodeo and
    Creekside Trail Rides


    West Yellowstone
    1 1/2 hour rodeo, fun for kids

    Trail ride has 9 horses and 2 guides. Great for beginners
    June 30-Aug 22ndRodeo
    Adult $15
    Child $8

    Trailrides
    $40 or $50 for rodeo and ride
    *Get tickets early.
    *Bring cash for concessions
    *Dress warm for rodeo
    Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

    West Yellowstone
    Grizzlies, wolves, otters, birds of prey, squirrels in incredible enclosures.Open 365 days a year. 9am-6pm
    or
    9am-4pm
    Adult $15
    Child $10
    Senior $14
    *Takes 2-3 hours
    *One ticket is good for 2 days
    *Check the whiteboard schedule for when the animals will be out
    Bear World

    Rexburg, Idaho
    Drive through zoo with bears, elk, bison, and wolves.

    Petting zoo and small amusement park
    May-mid October
    9am-6pm
    or
    9am-5pm
    $100 per car load
    $25 adults
    $13 kids
    *1/2 day attraction
    *Can purchase tickets to bottle feed baby bears
    Rafting

    Lots of places around Yellowstone
    Experiences can vary from whitewater rafting to leisurely floats to tubingMay-September$50 and up*2 hours to multi-day trips
    *Age restrictions on whitewater rafting
    Earthquake and Hebgan Lake

    27 miles northwest of
    West Yellowstone
    *Visitor center
    *Learn about the tragic 1959 Earthquake that created Quake lake
    Memorial Day-Labor Day
    10 am- 5 or 6 pm
    Free*Fishing is allowed in both lakes

    *Great campgrounds
    Yellowstone Giant Screen

    West Yellowstone
    *Shows current movies and a 40 minute Yellowstone movieYear roundYellowstone
    $10-$14
    Current movies
    $15-$16
    *Yellowstone film is a bit dated
    *60 ft tall X
    40 ft wide
    Yellowstone Big Gun Fun

    West Yellowstone
    *Large variety of guns you can shoot

     15 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, MT 59758

     (406) 646-7113
    Open year round.

    11 am- 10pm hours may vary by season
    Packages range from $30-55 per person*Must be 12 or older

    *Go in the morning or make an appt to beat the crowds
    Yellowstone Zipline Adventure Park

    West Yellowstone
    *Ropes course, ziplines

    *junior course
    Seasonal
    Daily
    9am- 9pm

    Open weekends in September
    $49-99Minimum age for big course is 6

    You must get through the ropes course to do ziplines
    Yellowstone Hot Springs

    Gardiner
    3 pools with temperatures ranging from 60-103 degresesOpen year round

    Tues-Sun
    1-9 pm
    $18Montana residence $10
    Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center

    Gardiner
    Collections, archives, research library, herbarium, archeology labOpen year round 8am-5 pm Free Must make an appointment

    Still want more information? Check out our other resources

    YouTube

    ABOUT US

    We’re Matt and Cheryl, and we’re in the Rockies. :) We are both teachers. Cheryl teaches special ed, and Matt teaches American history. We love the American West and the national parks. We want to help you have a great vacation on your next trip to the Rockies.

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