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Bozeman is a great winter getaway for families because there is just SO much to do!  With over 7 feet of snowfall every year, you can pretty much count on snowy conditions and all the snow sports and activities that come with it.  And, if you aren’t from a snowy region, your kids will love just getting to see the snow. 

The little town of Bozeman in the middle of the northern Rocky Mountains and is nestled in the beautiful Gallatin Valley, and it’s quite a hidden gem.  This small college town is often included on lists of Top Places to Live and Best Ski Town and for good reason. It’s a ski town without snobbery, but with fine dining to please any palate.  It’s a relaxed town where jeans and kids are welcome almost anywhere.  And it’s a place my family loves to visit especially when it’s transferred into a winter wonderland! Here are a few of our FAVORITE winter activities in Bozeman with kids, in no particular order.

1. Go Sledding!

sledding in bozeman

We recommend the Gallatin County Regional Park (known as Hundred Acre Park by locals).  You can pick up sleds from the local Target, or if you don’t mind a drive, rent tubes from Big Boys Toys.  The hill is big enough to keep all ages entertained, but with spots to take a shorter or flatter route for those who prefer a gentler ride down. My twins were able to participate and had a BLAST at less than 2 years old, and of course, the older kids, and adults loved it as well.  This hill really is perfect for the whole family. 

100 acre park bozeman
Even the littlest guys love sledding!

Or, if you are feeling MORE adventurous, head up to Moser Creek in the Hyalite Canyon area. The snow is guaranteed even deeper than right in town, the views are great, and the hills vary from long and sloping to more extreme. It’s a great place to just play in the snow as well- build a snowman, have a little snowball fight. Just enjoy the snow!

2. Go Skiing

Bridger Bowl

Bozeman is home to two great, world-class ski areas, both within about an hour’s drive.  The first, Bridger Bowl is a great nonprofit ski area with amazing skiing and a local vibe. This ski area doesn’t actually have any lodging right at the resort, but it’s only a 25-minute drive from Bozeman, so it’s still a great choice. The lift ticket price at Bridger really can’t be beat either- plus kids under 12 get a discount, and kids under 6 are free! And, if you are just starting out can get a ticket to just the bunny hill area for just $10! Check current lift ticket prices here.

Bridger Bowl- the perfect spot to take a couple of 3-year-olds who might long stay long. It’s only a half an hour back to town, and we can stop for great snacks before we leave!

It has 2,700 vertical feet of skiing and covers 2000 acres. This ski area has skiing for all levels- greens through double black diamonds plus a skis area for the littlest skiers, a terrain park, and even “The Ridge”, which is among the most challenging terrain within any ski area boundary and requires additional avalanche gear and a partner.  Bridger Bowl offers gear rental at reasonable prices with experts that can get you set up quickly, even if you’ve never been on skis or a snowboard before.

If you are a new skiier, or traveling with young children who have never skiied before, never fear. Bridger Bowl also offers a state-of-the-art ski school for all levels (even experts who want a guide on the more dangerous areas). For new skiiers, the lift can be the hardest part. Bridger has you covered there too with magic carpet ride on to take you up to the bunny hill- it’s essentially a covered conveyor belt that allows new skiiers to ride up without fear.

The magic carpet at Bridger Bowl- lifesaver!

One thing often missing from smaller ski areas, as opposed to the larger resorts, is great food.  Bridger is the exception there- this small ski area packs a LOT of great food and drink. My favorite is Jimmy B’s for their pub-style food and a great vibe.  However, the cafeteria is better than average for a ski area, and you have the option to pack a lunch to save a few dollars, or to appease a picky child. 

Big Sky Resort

The second ski area, Big Sky Resort is pretty different from Bridger Bowl in that it is actually a resort.  You’ll find tons of awesome ski-in ski-out condos, hotels, cute cabins, or even luxury vacation rental homes.  The village has tons of restaurants, from high end to casual, shopping, and even daycare for those too young to ski! While Bridger is great for a day of skiing, Big Sky really shines for families who want to spend a weekend, or a week up at the mountain.  The village has everything you need and more, with a rustic, yet ultra-sleek vibe. Though basically anywhere you go in Montana, jeans are appropriate attire, and people are oh-so-casual, so don’t feel intimidated.

The mountain itself is quite impressive with nearly 6,000 acres of terrain, and 4,350 vertical feet served by 36 lifts.  While lift tickets are expensive/on par with other major resorts, you get a lot at Big Sky with two base areas and endless runs, and children under 6 ski for free. There are tons of great options for renting gear, and lessons for kids as young as 2 – adults. Big Sky also offers night skiing, and just tons of other new and interesting experiences.

And if skiing or snowboarding isn’t enough for you, this mountain also has a winter Adventure Zipline, snowshoe tours, dog sledding, cross-country skiing, and sleigh rides.  You certainly won’t get bored at Big Sky! 

Photo courtesy of Big Sky Resort

3. Go Out to Breakfast

For a small town, Bozeman has a pretty impressive foodie scene.  Fancy dinners with small children aren’t exactly our idea of a great time, so we opt for nicer breakfasts instead.  The Cateye Café has a super quirky vibe and great food.  They even offer silly cat-eye glasses, and a few little toys at the table while you wait. Try the Cowgirl- banana bread french toast, for breakfast- you won’t regret it.  YUM!

Another great option is Wild Crumb.  Their bakery items are out-of-this-world delicious, and you can grab-and-go, or sit down and enjoy a coffee and breakfast.  Their menu is always changing, but its also ALWAYS delicious. 

4. Hit a Brewery

I have no idea how many breweries there are in Bozeman but it feels like about a million.  And maybe taking kids to a brewery sounds a little strange to you, but in a town this laid back, it’s totally the norm. Many are set up for kids, with play areas, kids menus, and more. My kids and I really love Map Brewing and Mountains Walking.

Map Brewing

Map has a beautiful dining room with tons of space to spread out. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to take a comfortable seat right in front of their cozy fireplace. But even when we just grab a table, the kids and I are happy and relaxed. The vibe is SO relaxed, everyone will instantly feel at ease. And let’s be honest, the low roar of a restaurant full of happy beer drinkers means no one is noticing, or being bothered by your kids louder-than-you’d-like voices.

The SUPER cozy fireplace at Map. There are comfy couches and chairs all around, so you can definitely relax here!

Map has award-winning beer, excellent food, and a beautiful yet cozy tasting room.  If you are a beer drinker who has jumped on the IPA bandwagon, get the Strange Cattle IPA. If not, try the Soul Charger, or get a flight of some of the seasonal beers, plus the smoked salmon dip or the charcuterie board. YUM! Your kids can choose from the kid’s menu, and everyone will be satisfied.

Mountains Walking

Mountains Walking is another excellent, kid-friendly brewery. The vibe is modern, yet relaxed (because everything in Bozeman is relaxed), with a bright, airy dining area. They offer games and toy bins to be taken to tables and enjoyed there. My kids do like to play on the floor, but I’ll admit, it’s a nice change of pace, to see brewery toys that are actually clean and well taken care of. My kids love rotating through EVERY toy bin and making sure they find the best possible toys.

Happy kid at Mountains Walking. And happy kid means happy mom!

Mountain Walking has some amazing beer as well. Plus, non-beer drinkers will love the ‘sweets’, sour-style ales inspired by Wild Crumb’s amazing fruit tarts. They are both sweet and sour, and AHHH-mazing. I love Blood Orange Coconut Sour ale SO much! The food is pretty darn good as well. Don’t miss the pork belly bao buns, the crispy brussels sprouts, and even the french fries are pretty special.

5. Check out the Museum of the Rockies

If you are visiting Bozeman in the winter with kids, its because you want to be in a winter wonderland.  But, at some point, you’ll be ready for a bit of indoor time.  And at the Museum of the Rockies, you certainly won’t feel like you are missing out.  In fact, on our last trip to Bozeman, my kids decided we NEEDED to go to the Museum of the Rockies before we even left the airport (thanks to some dinosaur bones and a flyer at the airport). The Museum of the Rockies is part of the ASTC Travel Passport program, which means they offer free or reduced admission if you are a member of one of the MANY participating museums.

This museum is known for its dinosaur exhibits and they are impressive- kids will love standing under a giant T-Rex skeleton and getting to experience just how large they were.  My kids loved checking out all the dinosaur bones and models. Plus, there are several kids areas spread thorough, where kids can do puzzles, play with boys and more. The museum also has tons of other awesome rotation exhibits- Yellowstone National Park, butterflies, even Genghis Khan! Check their website for the latest rotational exhibit.

Learning about geysers at the Museum of the Rockies upstairs play area

Upstairs is the real highlight of the museum for my kids. The Explore Yellowstone play area is tons of fun for kids to check out all things Yellowstone in a free play area. There, kids can learn about geysers, pretend to be a bird, do cartwheels through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, pretend to be a wildlife veterinarian, go ‘camping’, fishing, and more.

6. Take a Sleigh Ride

Taking a sleigh ride is a perfect way for you and your family to just enjoy the snowy mountain scenes you’ll find near Bozeman, Montana.

320 Guest Ranch

320 Guest Ranch offers a great family-friendly sleigh ride on winter evenings. It is just the epitome of a winter wonderland.  Kids will love watching the team of beautiful, and well cared for horses, pulling the sleigh.  You will head down to a picnic area and enjoy a Montana snack, hot cocoa and drinks, then head on back.  The sleigh ride is just long enough to be enjoyable without getting cold.  Be sure to dress warmly as temperatures will drop after the sun goes down, and book early for sleigh rides around Christmas.  One important note: 320 Guest Ranch is about an hour outside of Bozeman and roads can get very icy. Drive carefully, and make sure you are equipped for the conditions.

Sunrise Pack Station

We did a snow dance, but it didn’t work. There wasn’t enough snow for the sleigh. The hayride was JUST as wonderful though!

Love the idea of a sleigh ride, but want to avoid a long drive? Sunrise Pack Station does amazing sleigh rides right in town. They offer half-hour or hour-long sleigh rides, either during the day or at night on their beautiful 160-acre property. If you are traveling with younger children, or when temperatures are particularly low, you’ll appreciate the day time ride. The guide, Shane is excellent and always makes the ride special. The sleigh ride takes you on a beautiful ride through the woods, and makes a stop at a spot right along the river. There you can have a cup of hot cocoa, enjoy the views and the fire, and Shane will even read a great little story.

Enjoying our hot cocoa and the warm fire during our sleigh ride at Sunrise Pack Station

If you are unlucky, like we were last time, there may not be enough snow for the sleigh. But it’s no problem. The beautiful horses can pull you in a sleigh OR take you on a hayride in a large wagon. The experience was still super wintery-wonderful. Another plus- Sunrise Pack Station is right up the road from Map Brewing. So stop by to warm up on your way home.

7. Go Swimming at Bozeman Hot Springs

Yellowstone National Park gets all the attention for geothermal activity, but you’ll find a few hot springs out of the park as well.  Bozeman Hot Springs is just that- a system of pools fed by a nearby hot spring.  Anyone sensitive to chlorine will appreciate that no chemicals are needed here because the water is fed through constantly, and drained every night to keep the pools clean.  The facility has indoor and outdoor pools, which are kept warm enjoy year-round. This facility has been around, in one form or another, for over 100 years.  But in its current state, it’s a clean, modern and very relaxing family-friendly facility. 

Indoor pool. Photo courtesy of Bozeman Hot Springs

8. Take a day trip to Yellowstone National Park

Visiting Yellowstone is always a magical experience, but visiting in the winter is even more special. Most of the roads in the park are closed to regular traffic during the winter months. However, you can drive through the north entrance and go as far as Mammoth Hot Springs, then continue on east all the way to the east entrance in The Mammoth area is beautiful, and worth the trip down just to explore that area.

Mammoth Hot springs
Mammoth Hot Springs. Quite a sight to see!

Want to see more of the park? There are tons of options. The park can be explored via snowcoach, snowmobiles, cross country skis, or snowshoes, or a combination of these.  The snowcoach is temperature-controlled and appropriate for even young children. Of course, you’ll still need winter gear so that you can get out and explore.

The Yellowstone River, from the Specimen Ridge Trail

Our recommendation is to go snowshoeing at Specimen Ridge. The trail takes you right along the rim of the breathtaking Yellowstone River. This is a once in a lifetime experience and is highly recommended for nature or animal lovers and photographers. The park is truly transformed into a winter wonderland, with no traffic and MUCH fewer visitors.  You’ll likely see LOTS of bison, bighorn sheep, elk, and more! The views and the sights will keep even the whiniest kids interested. Visiting Yellowstone in the winter is a trip you’ll be dreaming to repeat for years to come!

Buffalo friend in Yellowstone National Park

9. Go Ice Skating

 Bozeman Parks department builds a great outdoor ice rink at Beall Park every winter.  Head over to Chalet Sports to pick up rental skates for the whole family, then get out and express your inner Michelle Kwan. 

Or, for indoor skating with controlled temperatures and perfect condition ice, head out to the Haynes Pavilion.  Where ever you decide to ice skate, you’ll feel like you are filming the opening scene to a Christmas movie- or at least the bloopers for it!

10. Chico Hot Springs

Chico Hot Springs is another truly Montana experience. The resort is right at the base of the beautiful Absaroka Mountains. The outdoor pool allows you to enjoy the magnificent mountain views, and, hopefully, a few snowflakes falling on your head while staying warm in the chemical-free, hot springs fed pools. The resort has a great poolside grill your kids will love. Or you can enjoy a meal, while watching your kids swim.

Chico also has a wonderful full restaurant with some truly amazing upscale pub food. And you can stick around, and stay the night at Chico. They have a wonderful spa, and lodging of all kinds, from rooms with a shared bathroom to beautiful, fancy cabins. The resort offers tons of other family-friendly activities.

Plus a couple of Bonus Items

JumpTime Bozeman

Obstacle course

I didn’t want to include this in our top 10 because it’s not exactly unique to Bozeman. But, kids love indoor trampoline places, and this one is good! It huge open trampoline areas, a slackline, a climbing wall, an obstacle course type thing, and a couple of toddler play areas (since it can be a little crazy for the smaller kids).

Slackline

Spire Climbing Center

Want a little more excitement? Indoor climbing is such a fun experience for kids and their parents! Spire is one of the few indoor climbing centers we’ve visited that allowed younger children to participate. They can even put on a harness and climb the big wall, if they are up for it! The whole family can rent everything you need to get started as well.

Window Shop downtown Bozeman

In a time when cities and towns across the country are struggling to keep their downtown alive, Bozeman has somehow managed to keep theirs thriving.  And this is despite the tragic gas explosion which decimated a full block of downtown Bozeman back in 2009.  The city was able to rebuild, yet continues to keep its old charm.  You’ll find independent coffee shops, book stores, beautiful children’s boutiques, and amazing art galleries filled with local artist’s work.  During the month of December, you’ll see Bozeman’s sort of infamously ugly ‘spider’ decorations that are hung in the middle of downtown.  Also, watch for the blue light atop the Baxter Hotel.  If it’s flashing, that means its snowing up at Bridger Bowl. 

Get Going!

A winter vacation in Bozeman with kids is just perfect because of the thick layer of snow covering this beautiful mountain town. But be prepared for LOW temperatures, as Bozeman temperatures are known to drop well below 0°F. Being so far north also means the sun sets as early as 4:30 pm in the dead of winter. So in addition to all of these great winter activities, plan to spend some evenings relaxing inside. There is nothing like getting cozy inside with family or friends after a day out in the snow!

Christmas in Bozeman
Christmas time in Montana. It’s so nice to have the kids worn out and calm by 5pm! Evenings inside are glorious after a day in the snow.

Visiting St. George with kids, and the entire family is a great experience all Utah natives know well.  But even for those visiting from out of state, it’s well worth the trip. It’s the perfect spring break, or haven’t-had-enough-summer fall trip, and is it paradise for outdoor families.  Kids and adults of all ages will find just more to do than they can imagine.  

To get there, fly directly into the tiny St. George airport, or into Las Vegas, then drive less than 2 hours to St. George.  Or, if you plan to visit more of Utah, consider flying into Salt Lake City, but it is a bit of a drive at about 4 hours.  

We spent spring break in southern Utah this year with our extended family and had an incredible time! We had kids ranging in age from 2.5 years old to 17 years old, and adults as old as mid-60s.  Everyone found something they were super excited to do including, golf, amazing restaurants, extreme hiking, etc. We wanted to share a few of our of the reasons we loved being in this area, but they were just SO many.  I decided to include only those which applied to for families with kids, particularly younger kids, and that is truly unique to St. George. 

1. Paradise Village at Zion

Paradise Village near St. George, in Santa Clara, UT, is a mega home community filled with vacation homes of all sizes and budgets for your family or even extended family.  The homes in this community are modern, spacious with all the amenities you need for your family, and there are options with 3 bedrooms all the way up to 9 bedrooms.  The community has amazing pools, including a hot tub, and zero-entry pool, plus a lazy river and waterslide. My extended family and I rented a 6 bedroom and 8 bathrooms and found it to be very spacious and comfortable for everyone.  It was so nice to have enough space for everyone to have privacy, but also be able to hang out together. The kids loved the pool and the waterpark, and since we were there at the VERY beginning of spring, I was thankful we could warm up in the hot tub after swimming.  

Paradise Village
Photo credit to Paradise Village. The amazing waterpark and lazy river.

Paradise Village is also very close to the Archie H. Gubler Playground, which was well designed for kids of all ages, and included a giant treehouse, a giant ‘rock’ to climb, and a spray park! There is a very nice Harmon’s grocery store and as well as a Cafe Rio restaurant, both less than 5 minutes away.  

2. The Weather

Spring and fall weather are magnificent in St. George. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so by early spring, we are OVER the clouds and the rain.  St. George starts getting beautiful summer weather while most of the US is still finishing up winter. Our last trip to St. George was in March, and after a late winter, we left snow and ice at home.  In St. George, we had beautiful, sunny 70°F days.  

Archie H. Gubler Playground on a perfect weather day in March

Fall is St. George is similar.  As temperatures start to fall, and at least in the PNW, the rain begins, St. George still has sunshine and mid-70°F weather.  It’s such an awesome escape and just thoroughly enjoyable weather.  

As you get into summer in St. George, temperatures rise to higher than MY comfortable temperature range. But with tons of watersports, you can still have fun down there.  Speaking of watersports…

3. Swimming and Watersports

The St. George area is jam-packed waterways perfect for swimming and water sports.  And since the temperatures do get HOT as you get into summer in St. George, you are going to want to get in the water.  The closest/best include Sand Hollow Reservoir, Quail Lake, Ivins Reservoir, and Gunlock Reservoir. All have nice beach areas and allow paddlesports, and all but Ivins Reservoir allow motorized watercraft.  There are several rental companies in the area that rent jet skis, paddleboards, kayaks, or even boats, but we’d recommend Mad Moose Rentals at Sand Hollow Reservoir. The beautiful red beach at Sand Hollow is a great place littles to play in the sand and shallow water, and bigger kids to head out on a kayak or paddleboard.  

Families with older kids will find some great, more advanced swimming holes, such as Toquerville Falls, Little Jamaica, and the waterful in the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.  

Zion National Park
One of many beautiful waterfalls to explore in the St. George area. This one is in Zion NP.

For imperfect weather, check out the Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, which is indoor and has a waterslide, and tons of fun water toys for kids.  

4. St. George Children’s Museum

This children’s museum is located in the lower two floors of the historic Dixie Academy in the heart of downtown St. George.  The museum is broken into a TON of little areas with different themes. Favorites include flying the airplane, milking the cow, playing medieval dress up (including a dragon!), grocery store… so many! And the price of this place cannot be beat- only $5 per person and children under 2 are free. 

It does get crowded, so plan to go early in the morning.  Plan to spend a couple of hours here.  

Snow Canyon is a great area just outside of St. George with some fun and unique hikes.  

5. Snow Canyon State Park

Upper Galoot.  Snow Canyon State Park
Upper Galoot hike with our 2.5-year-old twins. They had a blast!

My boys really enjoyed Upper Galoot, which is more of a huge rock that you can climb up and around than a hike.  At age 2.5, my twins LOVE hiking but aren’t able to take really long and challenging hikes, so this was great because it had some technical climbs that made them feel like big boys, but we didn’t really have a destination. We just wandered around until we’d had our fill.

Also, check out the Lava Tube Loop.  This trail is pretty long for littles, at 3.5 miles total, so plan accordingly.  Along the trail, you’ll see some pretty cool large cactus plants and several sections of black rock.  The tubes themselves are kind of an underground cave and are extremely dark, so you’ll want a flashlight or two.  

6. Pioneer Park

Dixie Sugarloaf
Big kids getting the EXTREME view from the top of Dixie Sugarloaf

On our way into St. George, we drove past this cool park and decided it would be the first thing on our list the next morning.  It did not disappoint! The Dixie Sugarloaf hike overlooks the whole city and is a ton of fun. It’s listed as a hike, but its really just a huge sandstone rock area where you can climb rocks or on top big overlooks, or hide in little caves.  I am PRETTY afraid of heights, and I was very comfortable up there with my two toddlers, but the bigger kids were able to find rocks high enough to keep their interests. The view is amazing, and you don’t have to stand anywhere near the edge to see it.  You can spend as much or as little time as you want to explore this area.  

Dixie Sugarloaf St George, UT
Dixie Sugarloaf with toddlers (and their fearful mother)

On the north end of the trail, you’ll find another little gem; the Red Hills Desert Garden.  It is a perfectly manicured desert garden filled with red rocks, cacti, and agave. It is small but stunning and definitely worth seeing. 

7. UTV Ride at Sand Hollow

Sand Hollow State Park.  Mad Moose Rentals
Mad Moose Rentals at Sand Hollow State Park

Riding UTVs at Sand Hollow State Park with our entire family was such an awesome experience, we wrote a whole separate post about it!  We are not a family that is particularly ‘in to’ offroading or anything like that, but it wound up becoming the highlight of our trip to Utah.  Mad Moose Rentals allowed us to bring our toddlers in car-seats, and kids and adults of all ages really found what they were looking for.  

8. Zion National Park

Zion less than an hour’s drive from St. George, and it is absolutely breathtaking! There are tons of great kid-friendly hikes.  Our favorites are the Riverside Walk, the Weeping Rock, and the Emerald Pools Hike. If you are traveling with older kids who are experienced hikers, the Subway and Angels Landing might just be my two favorite hikes EVER.  

The Subway.  Zion National Park
The Subway Hike

From March through November, no cars are allowed with the Zion Canyon, so you’ll need to take the shuttle.  The shuttle runs frequently and hasn’t been a problem in my experience, but you will want to plan accordingly.  Pack a comfortable backpack, and plan to picnic rather than going back out to Springdale for lunch.  

9. Dinosaur Discovery Park

The cool thing about this dinosaur attraction is that it was built right at a dinosaur track site.  So you’ll get to see the actual, real dinosaur footprints, on the spot they were originally discovered.  

Dinosaur nuts will love seeing different types of tracks, skin impressions, etc, and learning all about the animals and what can be discovered from their prints.  Kids can do a scavenger hunt and will be able to pick up some bones and watch volunteers working in the lab on real fossils.  

Because the museum mostly showcases prints, and anything found on this site, you won’t find a lot of huge dinosaur bones.  Smaller children may struggle to understand the importance of the tracks but will enjoy the replicas and the kid’s area with puzzles and coloring.  Plus if the weather isn’t TOO hot, the outdoor area with a large climb-on dinosaur and a sandbox is a big hit. 

Note that sippy cups or straw cups are not allowed inside of the museum, so plan accordingly.  

10. Tuacahn Amphitheatre

Tuacahn
Tuacahn Amphitheatre. Photo courtesy of Tuacahn

Tuacahn is a huge outdoor amphitheater right in the middle of a beautiful red rock canyon.  The scenery is gorgeous and the shows are even better. While Tuacahn does offer a variety of shows and concerts, they primarily show kid-friendly musicals including lots of Disney Shows.  Their crew is very professional and extremely talented and the sets are just beautifully made. The experience is one you won’t be able to have anywhere else in the world that your family will LOVE.

St. George is the perfect multigenerational family destination, and a trip my young kids are still talking about, 6 months later.  Who else has visited St. George with kids? Any other favorite activities?

PIN IT if you like it!

Utah – known for its great skiing, red rocks, and its most prominent religion, the LDS church. It’s also a great place to visit with your kids. Salt Lake City is BUILT for families with children.  Utah has the highest birth rate per capita, and it shows in kid-friendliness. Everything is kid-friendly, so getting around is easy, and kid-friendly activities are numerous. We had so much visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers!

My husband and I actually lived in the Salt Lake area for a while pre-kids, so we are pretty familiar with the area. But it’s a totally different feeling to take our kids there and be able to experience the city with them.  

1. Thanksgiving Point

Probably one of the highlights of this area for our family is Thanksgiving Point.  It’s technically located in Lehi, just south of Salt Lake City, and it’s basically five huge attractions all in one.  It includes the Ashton Gardens, Farm Country, Butterfly Biosphere, and Museums of Natural Curiosity and Ancient Life. Plan to stay the whole day, and then get an Explorer Pass, so you can save money while visiting all five venues.   

Thanksgiving Point tulip festival- great spot to visit with kids
Tulip Festival at the gardens

The Ashton Gardens are really for people of all ages.  It is 55 acres of perfectly manicured flowers, trees, and open fields, and even includes the largest man-made waterfall in the western hemisphere.  The gardens are beautiful at any time of year, but the Tulip Festival in the spring is absolute perfection. Most of the gardens are stroller friendly, and I’d bring one for toddlers and preschoolers because there is a LOT of walking to be done. 

Butterfly Biosphere, Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City, UT
Looking for butterflies at the Butterfly Biosphere

The Butterfly Biosphere is the newest attraction at Thanksgiving Point and includes a discovery zone for kids to learn about all types of insects- not just butterflies, and a play area with a GIANT slide and the butterfly conservatory.  The conservatory has tons of colorful flowers, beautiful butterflies as well as beetles, spiders, and other insects. It’s a great spot to get your young children to slow down a bit and notice all the little things. And you’ll want to focus on slowing down since the butterflies are super delicate and you don’t want your child to be the one accidentally stomping on them.  

Erosion Table at The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake CIty
The Erosion Table at the Museum of Ancient Life

The Museum of Ancient Life, aka the Dinosaur Museum, is tons of fun for the dinosaur lovers, like my kids.  The museum isn’t huge, and my boys ran through it fairly quickly, even though they did enjoy seeing the GIANT dinosaur bones. The real highlight for my 3-year-olds was the erosion table. Water and sand, and toy dinosaurs- oh my! 

Climbing in the amazon at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City, UT
LOTS to climb at the Museum of Natural Curiosity

The Museum of Natural Curiosity is AMAZING.  We visited almost 5 months ago, and my kids haven’t stopped talking about it.  It’s a completely separate building from the rest of the Thanksgiving Point attractions and its HUGE.  They claim there are 400 interactive experiences, but it feels unlimited. Kids can climb through the rainforest, use tubes to make rivers, play with trains, make music.  I’d have to say it’s the best children’s museum we’ve ever visited, and we’ve visited quite a lot. And it’s not just for small children, there truly are activities for all ages.  Older children can even do an indoor ropes course (for an additional fee). Set aside plenty of time for the Museum of Natural Curiosity- you’ll want it! Also, maybe bring a change of clothes for your toddlers- plenty of young kids end up SOAKED after playing in the water room.  

Driving a plane up in the air at The Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City
My son flying a plane with his FACE at the Museum of Natural Curiosity

2. Hogle Zoo

The Hogle Zoo is another great place for young children.  My kids are animal lovers so zoos are always on our list. This zoo features over 800 animals and is a constant work in progress, with exhibits being updated and made more comfortable for the animals every year. Our favorites include the polar bears, every kind of monkey, and the lions. The amazing trainers have some great animal feedings or encounters of different types that your kids will love. We particularly love the elephant encounter and giraffe feeding because both of those gentle giants are just such amazing creatures. You’ll definitely want to check out the event calendar when you arrive so you’ll be able to catch one or two of these great, free events.

You can also take a fun little train ride around the zoo. Or take a ride on the beautiful carousel. You can choose from one of the 4 great little restaurants right at the zoo. Or, if you prefer, pack your family a lunch and enjoy one of the many picnic areas around the zoo.

Temperatures in the summer can get quite high in Salt Lake City. So for your comfort, and to see the animals when they are the most active, I recommend arriving right at opening and hit the African Exhibit first. The zoo is quite stroller friendly, and I’d plan to bring one for younger children since quite a lot of walking is required to see everything. 

3. The Living Planet Aquarium

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.  River fish
Love some fish at the Living Planet Aquarium

The Living Planet Aquarium was has been in the works for a LONG time, and they’ve finally been able to move to a new, larger location.  We love this aquarium because it has tons of awesome fish and sea animals, as well as some other animals, such as large birds, penguins, and even butterflies seasonally.  Additionally, kids can pretend to drive a ship, and climb inside a sharks mouth. My kids love all aquariums, so of course, this one was a huge hit. But this aquarium does get QUITE crowded on weekend afternoons, so while it is stroller friendly, it might be difficult to navigate with a stroller.  Try to visit off-peak hours for the best experience.  

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, in Salt Lake City.  Looking at amphibians
Dax Checking out some amphibian at the Living Planet Aquarium

4. Lagoon

Lagoon includes a huge area with a ton of rides for children (and adults) of all ages from the fearful to the fearless. And, for water lovers, Lagoon-a-beach features pools, water rides, and more. If you are traveling with mixed-age children, you’ll love that there are real roller coasters for older kids who love them, fun things for kids who aren’t roller coaster lovers, and even great rides for younger kids. When visiting with younger children, you’ll want to check out Kiddieland.  Many rides have no height restrictions at all, and many more allow children 36” and taller to ride, so toddlers and preschoolers have plenty to do here, whether they are fearful or fearless. 

While Lagoon has tons of great options for meals, picky eaters or parents wanting to save a few dollars can pack a lunch and will find plenty of nice areas to picnic. Lagoon is great for your older kids as well. The view of the sunset from Cannibal is rumored to be phenomenal, but I can’t confirm this since I always have my little guys.  

5. Tracy Aviary

Amazon Adventure at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City
Feeding the birds was a totally unforgettable experience

The Tracy Aviary is awesome because it’s outside, and it just doesn’t get as crowded as other big attractions such as the aquarium or zoo. This allowed us to give our kids a bit more freedom, which was relaxing for me AND the kids and is easy to navigate with a stroller.  The aviary offers some really special experiences for littles. My kids LOVED feeding the ducks and feeding the tropical birds during the Amazon Adventure. The owls and other large birds were other favorites for my kids, and I loved the colorful tropical birds.  

Feeding the ducks at Tracy Aviary
Feeding ducks was a favorite for my boys and their friend.

Visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers a wonderful experience! What do you think? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you! Also, check out our other Utah posts on riding UTVs at Sand Hollow, near St. George.

Ok, so I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Anacortes is our hometown. But this means we really do know the best things to do here.  We recently did a little staycation here and had a blast falling back in love with our little island town.  We feel so incredibly blessed to get to live here, and the summers really can’t be beat. Days in the summer are long- about 16 hours of daylight and temperatures are perfect with highs in the low 70s.  We do get quite a bit of rain in the winter, but, generally, it doesn’t rain hard enough to keep us from going outside, and temperatures are mild. Exploring Anacortes with kids of any age is going to be a great experience.

However, many of the top tourist attractions in Anacortes are really not suitable for our little guys. Whale watching is just too long on a boat for a 3-year-old, and they aren’t able to go kayaking in the ocean JUST yet. But despite that, we never have a shortage of things to do. These are our favorite things to do in Anacortes with our 3-year-old twins.   

1. Go out to breakfast at the Calico Cupboard

The food is amazing- my favorite is the granola yogurt parfait.  Sometimes, I’ll even enjoy it with a grapefruit mimosa- YUM. My kids love the chocolate chip pancakes, from the kid’s menu.  This place has excellent service and is super kid-friendly. I’m generally pretty terrified of taking my twins out to eat alone (without another adult) but I’ll do it at Calico Cupboard.  If you are going to eat breakfast in Anacortes with kids, do it here!

Calico Cupboard, Anacortes, WA.  Granola Yogurt Parfait
Granola Yogurt Parfait with a muffin at the Calico Cafe

2. Explore Rosario Beach and Rosario Head Viewpoint.

The beach is very rocky, which actually ends up being a good thing.  My kids love checking out all the different types of rocks and throwing them into the water,  and I love the sound of the water makes as the waves go out- very relaxing and different from the sound the ocean makes on a sandy beach.  After the beach, check out Maiden of Deception Pass, a huge carved statue, then head up the trail towards Rosario Head. The loop is perfect for young hikers at about 1.5 miles long, and the views at the top are amazing.  The area is huge, so toddlers and young children can be kept very far away from the edge of the overlook if that worries you.

Rosario Beach, Anacortes, WA

3. Check out Deception Pass Bridge

If you are terrified of heights like me, maybe don’t walk on the bridge walkway with your little guys.  You can drive over the bridge- my husband assures me it’s safe to do.  Then head over to Deception Pass State Park, where you’ll get an awesome view from the ground near North Beach.  

Looking at Deception Pass Bridge from Deception Pass State Park, Skagit County, near Anacortes, WA
Deception Pass Bridge

4. Walk along the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve trail and nearby beach.

My kids particularly love the boardwalk portion of the trail and walking along the beach.  We enjoy playing in the sand, collecting seashells or crab shells (my kids, not me- YUCK) and watching the ferries come and go.  

5. Pick Berries

Fresh northwest berries, eaten right off the vine are not anything like the stuff you typically buy at the grocery store.  They are so sweet and full of flavor. Even if you don’t think you like berries, you are probably going to like these. Plus it’s fun for adults and kids to get out to a real working farm and do this ‘work’.  We love Schuh farms for strawberries, and Bow Hill Farms for Blueberries. Also, check out our simple recipe for blueberry ice cream inspired by a recent blueberry picking experience!  

Picking Strawberries at Schuh Farms, Skagit County, WA

6. Get Ice Cream at Mad Hatter’s

Super great ice cream, served in a super cute little shop, with a great area with grass, chairs, and shade to relax and eat your treat. This cute little shop is only open seasonally, so you’ll have to enjoy it in the summer!

7. Go to the Tulip Festival

Every spring, typically for the whole month of April, the Tulip Festival brings 1 million people to Skagit County. So yes, it certainly gets crowded, but go off-peak hours and the colorful gardens and fields. We love Roozengaarde for manicured gardens and muddy fields.

8. Take a Hike

Hiking in Anacortes, WA, Cranberry Lake Trail System.
Hiking in the Cranberry Lake Trail system

We love the Cranberry Lake trail system. There are lots of shorter, but fun (think rocks to climb over and jump on) trails that my toddlers can do. The lake is also a great spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.

9. Take the ferry out to Friday Harbor to explore.

To fully explore the island, you’ll need to make a reservation to bring your car on the ferry.  It fills up fast, so plan early. Check out Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm, Lime Kiln State Park (you can often see porpoises from the shore), and the San Juan County Park.  Or, make your trip a bit easier, and walk on to the ferry, then explore Friday Harbor on foot. Check out the Whale Museum, window shop at all the unique shops, and try one of the unique ice cream flavors at the Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co.  

10. Go to John Storvik Playground

John Storvik Park, Anacortes, WA
John Storvik- fun even in the rain!

This park is half the reason we moved to Anacortes.  This is probably the thing we do in Anacortes with kids most frequently. I’m not even kidding about that. It’s a huge park, suitable for kids of all ages, interests and skill levels.  And there is even a wonderful spray park in the summer months.

John Storvik Park, Anacortes, WA.  Splash park
Storvik Spray Park

11. Check out the view at the top of Mount Erie

You can drive all the way to the top and explore from there, or, if your kids are old enough, take the 5-mile round trip hike. From the top, you can see all of Fidalgo Island, plus some.

12. Drive or walk around Washington Park

Washington Park, Anacortes, WA.  Checking out the tide pools.
Tide Pools at Washington park. My kids love the little crabs!

The park consists of a walking-friendly 2.25 mile road, plus a ton of smaller trails that wander off the road down to the water, of through the trees.  My boys aren’t able to walk the whole loop, plus explore down by the water, so we typically drive and make a few stops to get out and explore. We love walking down to the rocky shores at low tide and looking for tiny crabs and other animals in the tide pools.  It’s such a neat and unique Anacortes with kids experience!

13. See the sunset at West Beach in Deception Pass State Park

Deception State Park, West Beach at Sunset.  Skagit County, WA- near Anacortes
Watching the Sunset at West Beach

This beach is also called ‘sunset beach’ because it’s such a beautiful spot to watch the sunset.  The sand is so soft and fine, and my kids love playing on this beach. Cranberry Lake is JUST inland of the beach, and from the road, looking west, you can see the sunset reflecting off of the perfectly still lake, and setting over the ocean.  It’s quite a view. 

Any other favorites things in Anacortes? We’d love to hear about it! Check out some of our other trips here and here.

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