Planning a vacation to Yellowstone with young children? You may want to consider spending a day at Yellowstone's Bear World. Located near Rexburg, Idaho, Bear World is about a 90 minute drive from the west entrance to Yellowstone. For young children who may be unimpressed with the unique majesty of Yellowstone, Bear World provides a perfect outlet mixing a zoo with a kiddie amusement park.
Many Yellowstone tourists are eager to see Moose, Bears, and Wolves when they visit. Unfortunately, few get that privilege and those who do see a bear, may get more than they bargain for. Yellowstone's Bear World allows you to drive through the park grounds where bears and wolves roam freely. From the safety of your car, you are going inside their extensive cage and the bears will come right up to your vehicle. They might even climb onto your car or look through your window. It is quite an experience to drive slowly with a bear 4 inches away through your car window. Grizzly bears are kept behind a fence but easily visible from your car. You are also likely to see a pair of wolves meandering through. Several Deer, Elk, and Bison are also part of your vehicle tour. Fortunately, you can drive through as many times as you like.
Bear World has 5 kiddie rides. Aimed at very young children, these classic carnival rides generally have little to no line and are certainly nothing unique. However, our then five-year-old considered it one of the best parts of the whole trip. For children who will primarily be seeing nature--both geologic wonders and wildlife, a few rides can go a long way. Parents, beware. Adults can ride the train with their children along a small oval loop and you may be on that train over and over again.
What You Should Know
The pricing for Yellowstone's Bear World is unique. There are group rates which favor large families. For the price of two adults, our entire family was able to go on the curator tour (feeding the adult bears). However, instead of using the vehicle rate for the main entrance fee, we used coupons because some of our children were young enough to be admitted free.
The Side Benefit
We were traveling through Idaho to reach Yellowstone, so stopping at Bear World was not out of our way. We decided to stop on the way to the park and spend the night in Rexburg. This had a tremendous side benefit. Rexburg motels are significantly cheaper than West Yellowstone or Jackson Hole as are the restaurants. Near our motel was a public park with an impressive splash pad and two kiddie water slides--far better than a traditional motel pool. Free of charge, this park is located at 250 W 2nd St by the Centennial Carousel (the carousel is $1 a ride). Rexburg is a small town and the motel clerk can easily provide you directions. Also, because we were only a 90 minute drive to the west entrance of Yellowstone, we were able to leave the motel early and spend the entire day in Yellowstone Park including exploring some of the trails during the cooler morning hours. If you are trying to save money, you can also leave Yellowstone Park later in the evening on your final day, checking into a motel in Rexburg late. We saved around 50% on our motel (compared to staying in West Yellowstone) using that trick but did not check into our room until about 10:30 p.m. That allowed us to swim the next morning before checking out and still have enough time to drive home.
The Take Away