Fun Fact: Wind Cave National Park

The main attraction at Wind Cave National Park is, of course, the cave itself.  This incredible cave system boasts the largest concentration of rare boxwork formations in the world. With all those passages, it is one colossal underground maze. In your excitement to tour the cave, don’t miss what’s on top!

Wind Cave National Park

Above Wind Cave sits a rich mixed grass prairie.  This grassland is a great place to watch wildlife. Many species of mammals reside in Wind Cave National Park. As you drive through the park, be on the lookout for bison, elk pronghorns, prairie dogs, and coyotes.

Wind Cave National Park Bison

Prairie dog towns are not hard to spot. If you see several mounds of dirt in a cluster, chances are prairie dogs will be bobbing up and down nearby. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to see a coyote stalking a prairie dog town and the prairie dogs watching intently for predators.

Wind Cave National Park CoyoteWind Cave National Park-5 trip

As you visit Wind Cave National Park allow some time to enjoy the treasures which lie above ground.  With so many wildlife viewing opportunities and 30 miles of hiking trails, the world above ground is just as incredible as what lies beneath!

Wind Cave National Park

Planning a visit to South Dakota?  Don’t miss The Needles Eye TunnelDriving to Mount RushmoreThe Custer State Park Buffalo HerdBadlands Fossil FindsBadlands Notch Trail, and Badlands Trip and Tee.

Fun Fact: The Custer State Park Buffalo Herd

The bison, commonly referred to the as the American buffalo, was officially designated the National Mammal of the United States in 2016. Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is one of the best places to see these magnificent mammals.

Custer State Park Buffalo

Buffalo were introduced to Custer State Park in 1936. The small herd originally included 36 animals.  Today, Custer State Park buffalo herd includes approximately 1300 bison.  Each September, the park holds the Buffalo Roundup where animals are examined, branded, and culled to maintain the health of the population. Whether you’re fortunate enough to visit during the roundup or at another time of the year, observing this American icon is sure to be a highlight of your visit to Custer State Park.

Custer State Park Buffalo

Planning a trip to South Dakota?  Check out The Needles Eye TunnelThe Corn Palace, and The Badlands Notch Trail

7 Budget Friendly Vacation Ideas for Summer

If you’re trying to decide where to take the family on summer vacation but are worried about your budget, don’t stress! It is possible to have an awesome trip without breaking the bank!

To find that destination that fits your family’s budget, consider places that are a little different.  By this I mean avoiding the headliner destinations like Disney, major cities like San Diego or Chicago, or the super popular beaches.  While I love all of those places, they aren’t always the most budget friendly.  Also, look for places that are either off the beaten path or have plenty of capacity in terms of lodging.  This can often mean lower prices!

While budget friendly means different things to different people, here are some ideas with enough options to fit your family’s budget.

  1. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Colorado Springs combines the best of city amenities and outdoor adventure.  Because Colorado Springs is a good size city, there are plenty of lodging options to fit your needs and budget.  There is LOTS to do in Colorado Springs much of which costs little or no money. You’ll have no problem finding plenty of activities your family will love.

    Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO.
    Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs, CO
  2. Branson, Missouri: This vacation town is nestled in southern Missouri and has a variety of lodging options that won’t break the bank.  This town has family oriented shows and activities galore.  Branson even has a theme park, Silver Dollar City, which is actually pleasant as far as theme parks go. Silver Dollar City is a cozy park with much to please the kids and adults. And, a season pass is very reasonable making a multi-day visit a great bang for your buck!  Trust me, your kids won’t want to leave!

    Ride at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO
    One of the many family friendly rides and attractions at Silver Dollar City, a theme park in Branson, MO
  3. Big Sky, Montana. Yes, I admit I am partial to summertime in the mountains! Big Sky, Montana is the nation’s largest ski resort.  That means there is a large supply of lodging available at significantly reduced rates during the off season.  Trust me, a ski in/ski out cabin is an awesome place to spend a summer vacation! Big Sky is beautiful during the summer and there are so many family friendly outdoor activities to enjoy. And, Yellowstone is only a short drive away!

    Ski Lift in Big Sky, Montana
    Ski Lift in Big Sky, Montana
  4. Northern California.  You may wonder how California could possibly be budget friendly. Northern California is home to the Redwood State and National Parks. This natural beauty is spread out over a large area, so you will find a variety of small communities along the coast which makes a great base for exploring this national treasure.

    Redwood National and State Parks located in Northern California.
    Redwood National and State Parks located in Northern California
  5. Coastal Maine. Why not consider a different kind of coastal getaway rather than a traditional beach vacation? Maine has 3,478 miles of coastline – that’s more coastline than California! There are charming communities all along the Maine coastline which means there are lots of lodging options. You can get that quintessential Maine experience in so many different places, so you aren’t limited to the more well known (and pricier) resort towns.

    East Boothbay Ocean Point near Boothbay Harbor, Maine
    East Boothbay Ocean Point near Boothbay Harbor, Maine
  6. Arkansas. The Natural State offers the best of both worlds for your summer vacation. Arkansas is a small state, so you can enjoy the amenities of a small city or town such as the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock or Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville but still be close to nature. Opportunities for outdoor adventures are as abundant as they are diverse.  From the State’s beautiful lakes to its scenic mountains, options for outdoor fun include water sports, hiking, climbing, caving, floating, digging for diamonds, biking, birding, and much more! Visit the first National River, the Buffalo National River, or America’s first lands to be set aside for natural features, Hot Springs National Park. If you love the outdoors, you’ll find something to suit your fancy in Arkansas! And best of all, your vacation dollars will go along way in this budget friendly state!
    Float the Buffalo National River in Arkansas
    Float the Buffalo National River in Arkansas

    Bridge over the Arkansas River on the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock.
    The Arkansas River Trail near the Clinton Presidential Center in Downtown Little Rock is a great place for cycling
  7. The 4 Corners. This area of the country where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado converge offers a variety of adventures! Explore Mesa Verde National Park and Hovenweep National Monument to experience the rich Native American history of the area.  Take a day trip to Monument Valley and try to name all of the movies filmed in this area of the Wild West.  Trek the mountains of the San Juan National Forest.  There is so much to do here, you’ll probably just need to plan to go more than once!

    The 4 Corners
    The 4 Corners marker, Hovenweep National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park near Cortez, CO

Don’t let a limited budget keep you from enjoying a family vacation. For tips on stretching your budget, check out 7 Secrets to Stretch Your Vacation Budget Without Sacrificing Fun!

There are so many awesome places to visit in this great country! So, hop in the car and explore someplace new!

Spotting Buffalo in Yellowstone National Park

The buffalo (a.k.a. bison) is an amazing animal.  Yellowstone National Park is a fantastic place to view these majestic creatures which are often considered a historical symbol of America.  Yellowstone is home to approximately 5000 bison and the largest continuous herd of buffalo on public lands. yellowstone-buffalo1-4-trip

buffalo herd
Yellowstone provides the opportunity to see so many of these animals in one place!

Because these bison are accustomed to park traffic (but not tame), you can often get a good look at the buffalo herd from your car.  To help prevent unwanted human-buffalo interactions, you may see Yellowstone Park rangers cautioning visitors to stay back.  These animals are fast and can be aggressive, so keep your distance and use a zoom lens to take your photos.  yellowstone-buffalo1-7-trip

A baby buffalo
A baby buffalo passes right by the car!

Bison can often be seen in the Hayden and Lamar Valleys year round.  But, put on your patient hat because these herds might just stop traffic… which is actually a real treat!  It can also be a little unnerving to have these massive animals so close to your car!  One large fellow actually licked our rental car!  I’m not quite sure if it was a friendly or not friendly lick.

Yellowstone National Park is hugely popular for a reason.  There are so many different things to see and do in the park.  The Yellowstone buffalo herd is just one of those things that make Yellowstone extra special!