Plan ahead for your National Park family vacation. (The best lodging fills quickly.)
Choose from these historic gems to add a layer of history to your outdoor adventure:
Many Glacier Hotel, Glacier National Park
There are few places on the planet as stunning as Glacier National Park. And one could argue that the historic Many Glacier Hotel is the ideal venue from which to appreciate the vast and astonishing landscape. Located on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake with jagged peaks as backdrop, the iconic hotel was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1914 to lure tourists to the Wild West. Today, visitors from around the world find their way to this northwestern corner of Montana, eager to see the disappearing glaciers, hike aside azure-colored lakes and to catch a glimpse of resident wildlife.
This secluded, five-story hotel offers visitors a window into the past with old-world style guest rooms and a Swiss Alpine theme. While dedicated to honoring its historic roots, the 214-room gem has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation that included remodeling rooms, updating furniture and lighting and restoring the dining room to historic standards.
Also included was the return of the “missing staircase”.
Once part of the grand lobby, sharing space with soaring beams of Douglas fir and a massive fireplace, the original double helix staircase stretched from the lake level of the hotel to the lobby. It was removed in the mid-’50s to make way for a gift shop.
As part of the recent remodel, the magnificent spiral staircase has been restored to its former glory.
In addition to world-class hiking, Red Bus tours, boat cruises, horseback rides, and evening ranger programs, are offered in an unparalleled lakeside setting, Contact: www.VisitMontana.com www.GlacierNationalParkLodges.com
Yellowstone National Park – Old Faithful Snow Lodge.
Built in 1999, recycled timbers were used in the construction of this lodge that offers easy access to the Old Faithful geyser and the wealth of natural resources that attract visitors each year from around the world. Accommodations include lodge rooms and cabins with wildlife and park themes. America’s first national park, established in 1872, Yellowstone spreads into Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and is home to abundant wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Check out the hot springs and geysers and experience a ride in the historic yellow touring cars that add to the historic park experience. The grand Old Faithful Inn recently underwent renovations and also welcomes guests eager to see the geyser’s faithful performance.
The Oasis at Death Valley, Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is the lowest, driest, hottest place on earth. True. And, all the more reason you’ll be mesmerized by the unexpected luxury found within the Oasis at Death Valley. The historic Inn at Death Valley, tucked within a true oasis-like setting, offers updated and stylish accommodations, fine dining, and spa services, all a welcome contrast to a day spent exploring amid salt flats, mud hills, and volcanic craters. A recent multi-million dollar renaissance of the 1920s gem means you will now enjoy sweeping views while sipping morning coffee or evening cocktails on the shaded outdoor terraces. The inviting dining and bar areas have been updated yet retain their historic charm, and are further enhanced by the owners world-class collection of renowned paintings of the era. You’ll want to plan time for the historic, one of a kind spring fed pool, where lush landscaping, cabanas, a pool bar and a café invite relaxation.
Come nightfall, be sure to look up. You’ll be in awe of what it means to stand in designated Dark Sky country. It’s one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see the Milky Way with the naked eye.
Take note: Twenty-two, new dreamy casitas will open within the Oasis later this year.
El Tovar, Grand Canyon National Park
Find inspiration in this National Historic Landmark hotel, perched just steps from the world’s grandest canyon. Completed in 1905 by the Fred Harvey Company, now the Xanterra Travel Collection, to accommodate tourists arriving to this wonder of the world, El Tovar provides a history-rich lodging experience on the south rim of canyon. Charles Whittlesey, Chief Architect for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway, designed the hotel, to be a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian Villa, a result he believed would appeal to the elites of the era. Today, El Tovar retains its elegant charm offering guest rooms and suites that reflect the colorful history of the property and its global appeal to visitors that have ranged from Theodore Roosevelt and Albert Einstein to Sir Paul McCartney.
Every season offers a fresh opportunity to put your world in perspective by simply standing at the edge of this visual extravaganza. From your cozy digs, set out for hiking, photographing, journaling and people watching.
Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone National Park
Captivating views of Yellowstone Lake are best appreciated from this elegant hotel’s Sun Room, where classical music performances enchant guests of all ages most evenings during the summer season. The lyrical sounds of a string quartet often serve as a delicious backdrop as guests, in multiple accents and languages, share their experiences of the day and plans for tomorrow. First opened in 1891, in an era when guests arrived by stagecoach, the Grand Old Lady of the Lake was restored to her Colonial Revival heritage during a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2014. A National Historic Landmark, the Lake Yellowstone Hotel update refreshed guest rooms, the dining room, bar, public spaces and redesigned the deli. Walking tours of the hotel are offered for those interested in learning more about the history, hardships, and idiosyncrasies of this National Park treasure.
Zion Lodge, Zion National Park.
Peace and refuge. That’s what the name Zion means. And in this beautiful Southern Utah park, filled with shifting and photographic opportunity, you’ll find plenty of both. Bike, stroll or cycle through 146,000 acres of uninterrupted beauty, punctuated by colorful cliffs and canyons as well as diverse plant and animal life. i Later choose from more than 200 miles of trails for hiking before relaxing beneath the park’s massive sandstone walls. The lodge, the only in-park lodging, features historic cabins with private porches as well as motel-style rooms with balconies or porches.
Quick, what's the difference between a big resort hotel and the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City?
Answer: A story.
The wizard's creator, L. Frank Baum, was a frequent visitor to Coronado, California, and the town's beating heart, the Hotel del Coronado ("The Del" to the locals). His visits were so frequent, in fact, that his editor arranged for the rental of a separate house—off of "The Del" property—so that he might get away from the perpetual distraction of the hotel and get some writing done. The hotel and his whimsical experiences there clearly influenced his imaginings of Oz; some of Baum's illustrations of the Emerald City even look suspiciously like the iconic Queen Ann-style hotel.
Coronado still retains much of what attracted Baum (not the least of which is its own, amazing story), and it has also developed an even richer offering of experiences, accommodation, dining choices, and activities that (fortunately for his editor) didn't exist in Baum's day. And because families have always been such a part of the Coronado story, much of that new growth is still family-friendly.
The crown jewel of Coronado is, of course, the Hotel Del Coronado.
Before it was completed in 1877 there was little more than dust and scattered tufts of pampas grass. But the dreams and vision that brought forth the grand hotel spread outward, and shortly the whole island was transformed into the lush, green, and (relatively) tranquil community you see today.
A stroll through the exquisite Coronado neighborhoods is a hint of the island's military presence on its north side. Many current and former navy personnel have homes here, and that military precision shows in the beautifully kept homes and immaculate landscaping (you could bounce a quarter off the lawns). But perhaps a better way to stroll the area around the Hotel Del is to tag along with Coronado Touring for a truly fun and fascinating walking tour. The grand and historic feel of the Hotel Del suggests a great story all its own, and a couple of hours with Coronado Touring confirms it.
You'll even see "The Oz House", Mr. Baum's former "off-site" residence. If you can do this early in your Coronado visit, you'll then see the place with a sense of wonder you might otherwise miss (how else would you know about the secret message in the sand dunes?).
The walking tour begins in the Glorietta Bay Inn, which is itself significant in the story, as it's principle building was the home of Coronado's greatest benefactor and "savior" of the Hotel Del dream, John Spreckels. The Glorietta is a terrific option to the Del Coronado, as you are just across the street from the Del but can choose from luxurious and historic rooms in Spreckels's original house or more modern and affordable rooms of various sizes throughout the rest of the hotel. The entire property is immaculately kept and the friendly staff clearly take their cue from, Claudia, the Glorietta's gregarious and hospitable manager.
The vivid and fascinating history of the island lends a richer tone to everything else you experience afterward. Just a few blocks from the Hotel Del, Clayton's Coffee Shop could be just a nifty 50's-themed diner (albeit with great food and sumptuous milkshakes), but now it feels like a time machine and you wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. Baum himself at the counter reading the day's paper over a coffee and apple pie.
Two more blocks along Orange Avenue will find you transported back to that golden age of theatre at the incredibly restored Village Theatre and two blocks back on Orange Avenue from Clayton's will satisfy that old fashioned summer yen for handcrafted ice cream at the Moo Time Creamery.
And of course many of the shops at the Hotel del Coronado itself recapture that historic feel, like at Spreckels Sweets & Treats, where you can get (among loads of other things) the same fudge or saltwater taffy that Frank Baum undoubtedly sampled.
But while Coronado Island certainly honors its rich history, it has grown up nicely with terrific contemporary offerings. Head south along the narrow peninsula (Coronado is technically not an island) where you'll find the contemporary and luxurious Loews Coronado Bay Resort one of Parents Magazine's "10 Best Family Beach Resorts".
The sheer luster in the recently refurbished interior betrays the many family-oriented amenities, including poolside movies (at just one of the three pools!), a dedicated kids' activity desk, and rides in one of their authentic Venetian gondolas. And it's just a short walk or free shuttle to the quiet Silver Strand State Beach, which might seem like your own private beach, relative to crowds at Coronado Beach.
Further along Orange Avenue from the Hotel Del on the north side of the Island you'll find a host of shops, restaurants, and activities surrounding the Ferry Landing. Nearby the Ferry Landing is the sumptuous Coronado Island Marriott Resort, with exquisite views over the bay to the beautiful San Diego skyline, rejuvenating spa treatments, a private water taxi across the bay for guests, and a lush pool and outdoor restaurant that you may find difficult to leave to explore Coronado.
But explore you must, for no matter where you stay, your own Coronado story is waiting to be written.
"Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland"
And every day her loveliness,
Shines pure, without a flaw;
New charms entrance our every glance,
And fill our souls with awe!
- L. Frank Baum
WHEN TO GO:
The locals are spoiled in San Diego, and even during what they call "June Gloom", the weather is pleasant (if not fully sunny till noon). That said, the best months for weather are June through September. You'll find better deals and smaller crowds outside those months.
THINGS TO DO:
You'll find plenty to keep the whole family busy on Coronado, but here are number of things to consider in your itinerary:
- Gooey fun: After dinner S'mores on the beach at Hotel Del Coronado.
- Haute Culture: and evening at the impressive Lamb's Players Theatre
- Discovery: Kayak tour with a state park naturalist at Loew's Coronado Bay Resort.
- Gluttony: The indescribable decadence of the Hotel Del Coronado Crown Room Sunday brunch.
- Toodling: Pedal the family around the island on a 4-person surrey bike, available at your hotel or shops around town.
- Learning: Get the full and fascinating story on the island at the Coronado Museum of History & Arthttp://coronadohistory.org/.
Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa
Glorietta Bay Inn
Hotel del Coronado
Loews Coronado Bay Resort