Forget Disneyland, We're Going Back to Yellowstone

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My two children standing in front of the Yellowstone River at the Brink of Upper Falls overlook. (Photo: Melissa Hincha-Ownby/Flickr)

Every now and then I come across a story that really captures how I feel about a given topic. Yesterday, I saw a post on the Facebook page with the headline “Move Over Disney World: Americans Prefer Nature, Survey Finds.” Just last week, my husband and I decided to skip our typical October Disneyland vacation and booked our second trip of the year to Yellowstone National Park. Talk about a timely topic!

This wasn’t just your typical favorite vacation spot survey, though. The Nature Conservancy wanted to look at how voters who identify themselves as either Republican or Democrat view the issue of natural resource conservation. After surveying 800 registered voters, the findings reveal that Republicans and Democrats can actually agree on something: the ideal vacation spot. Three-fourths of the survey respondents said they would rather vacation in a national park or other public land than to visit a trendy tourist spot.

I definitely fall into this 75 percent category. In June, my family took our first trip to Yellowstone National Park. I’d never visited the nation’s first national park and actually considered this to be a bucket list type of vacation. My children are now 10 and 8 years old, and I figured this would be a great time to visit.

Our vacation started off with a one-night stay in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and all four of us were simply mesmerized by the beauty of Grand Teton National Park. The vacation continued the next day with a drive up to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I actually clapped giddily as we pulled up to the station to pay our entrance fee.

For the next five days, my family bonded as we visited bubbling thermal features, watched in awe as bison battled in the middle of the road in front of us, carefully watched a grazing grizzly bear from the safety of our vehicle and celebrated every time it snowed. Just a few days before we left on our vacation, the temperature reached 113 degrees here in the Phoenix metropolitan area and so we were those silly tourists who got excited to see snow ... in June!

Since our return, the four of us have continued to rehash our trip. When it came time to plan our fall vacation, which usually ends up being a quick trip to Disneyland, none of us were even slightly excited. To put this into perspective, the kids are usually ready to go home when we leave Disney, but they cried as we drove out of Yellowstone National Park and got teary-eyed once again as our plane took off from the airport in Jackson Hole.

We had an easy vacation decision — forget Disneyland, we’re going back to Yellowstone! This time, we’re bringing along my parents so we can share these special moments with even more family.

If you’d like to see how much fun we had and how beautiful the Yellowstone region is, I invite you to visit my YNP 2012 Flickr page.

What about you? If you're planning your next vacation, maybe one of these bucket list-worthy parks will make the cut.