Disney and the National Parks

While I was writing a blog post yesterday about our Florida trip, I had some thoughts. I know a lot of people that travel often and visit many natural places do not like the Disney parks. They find them “fake” and “commercialized.” I have always loved the Disney parks, movies and TV shows and find them to be an experience in Americana and American history. 

The first time Craig and I visited Yellowstone, the way it was run seemed so familiar. We had been going to the Disney parks for years and even worked at Walt Disney World. The concessionaires, international workers and staff from all over the country, the restaurants- even the trams and shuttles at some of the parks are very “Disney like.”

Zion shuttle stop

                         Zion shuttle stop

When we visited places like Bryce Canyon in Utah and Route 66, we realized how many details the Disney Imagineers placed in the parks. I love Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and The American Adventure in Epcot. While our hearts always prefer nature and wild places over man made, we can still appreciate the Disney parks as fun places to vacation. Now Adventures by Disney trips are even visiting some of our National Parks!

I do hope all Americans visit their National Parks and we definitely think they are much more important to see than Disney World. I really feel every American should at least see Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. If you have been visiting Walt Disney World or Disneyland year after year maybe you should branch out. There is a lot to see in our world and our country. We made the mistake of waiting way too long to see our parks-now we have to catch up!   

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Yosemite is 125!

yosemite

On October 1st, 2015 Yosemite National Park turns 125. In 1890 Yosemite became the country’s third National Park. Over 1,500 square miles were put aside for people to love and enjoy. Some areas like Hetch Hetchy were changed by development, but it is amazing what people fought to preserve.

Craig and I had been talking about visiting Yosemite for a long time, but other trips kept happening. We have been to California many times and I felt bad being so close to Yosemite, but not having enough time to visit. After seeing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in 2014, we realized what we had been missing and putting off for so long. I am sorry we waited so long to see our parks. I do not regret any of the wonderful vacations we have had, but now that Craig has more vacation time we are able to spend more time at the parks. I work from home so I can adjust my schedule. This year we are so excited to visit several of California’s National Parks. There are events, shows and displays going on for Yosemite’s 125th. There is also a new passport stamp!

I started my planning at the library and on TripAdvisor. I love that I can look up books on our online library database and have them shipped to our local library. I really like the Moon Handbooks and Lonely Planet guide books. If we like the books, we buy them and pass them on to help others planning a trip.

TripAdvisor has forums for most popular vacation areas and the people on there are a great help! They answer questions about driving directions, lodging, activities, restaurants, hikes, etc. I have always lucked out with hotels that are top rated on TripAdvisor too. Even though I started looking at hotels about 9 months in advance, most of the rooms in the Yosemite Valley were booked. The reservations for park lodges often open up over a year in advance. For Yellowstone they open May 1st for the whole summer. You can check on the official websites and call for the exact dates to book. They will charge a nights deposit to hold a room. If you have your heart set on in park lodging, but everything is sold out, keep checking the web site and calling. Rooms do open up when people’s plans change. Wawona, Camp Curry and Housekeeping Camp have more options as well. I have all of our rooms held for our Grand Circle Tour in October except one night at the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. I keep checking for a room every few days. More on that trip in a future post!

Since the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls was booked and the Ahwahnee only had rooms here and there, we decided to book at the Evergreen Lodge near the Big Oak Flat entrance. Evergreen Lodge is a little far from the Valley, but it had very good reviews and we will be spending time all over Yosemite. We did decide to splurge and spend one night at the Ahwahnee so we could see a lot of the Valley and have their amazing Sunday Brunch!

Evergreen Lodge Cabin

Evergreen Lodge

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After reading several guide books and TripAdvisor forums, we decided on five nights in Yosemite, one night in Kings Canyon, one night in Sequoia and two nights in Joshua Tree. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are also celebrating anniversaries of 125 and 75 years! We are flying into San Francisco to spend three nights at the beginning of our trip, stopping at Disneyland for their 60th anniversary and ending the trip with three nights in San Diego to visit friends! One day in Yosemite will be spent at Hetch Hetchy and the Evergreen Lodge, one at Glacier Point, one on Tioga Pass Road/Tuolumne Meadows, two in the Valley and one morning in Wawona/Mariposa Grove.

If you have any questions about our planning just ask in the comments!