Yosemite has been a place I wanted to visit for a long time. We decided to spend a good deal of time at this park since we had never been before and there was so much to do and see. We were staying at the Wawona Campground, which made a great home base for most of our activities. Here are the things we checked out.
The Pioneer Village is very close to Wawona Campground (about a mile down the road) and we made sure to check this out. This is really fun for the kids especially as they feel like they have gone back in time. They are able to see how blacksmiths used to create horseshoes and nails and other metal works.
For a few dollars per person you can take a ride on a stagecoach that is a replica build of what the early visitors would have traveled in on trips from San Francisco to Yosemite in the early 1900’s. Back then it was a 4 day trip, but your ride will only last around 15-20 minutes and is led by a Ranger who has been doing the job for more than 30 years. He is a most wonderful story teller. We enjoyed this way more than we thought we would. The kids were in complete awe!
We visited the Mariposa Grove which is also a short trip from the campground. We picked up the shuttle in Wawona, near the general store, and it took us up the hill and into this amazing section of the park. This is an incredible sequoia grove which was one of the main reasons Yosemite became the first protected land in America (and explains why the sequoia pine cone adorns our rangers hats and belts nationwide!). We opted not to take the tram to the top. We instead hiked a good section of the lower trail, seeing the major points of interest there: California Tunnel Tree, the Grizzly Giant, the Bachelor and 3 Graces, and everyone’s favorite, the Fallen Monarch. This hike quickly had me falling in love with the giant sequoias. They are an amazing tree species!
Glacier Point Area
Another of our favorite hikes, which is great for kids is Sentinal Dome, which is a short drive up Glacier Road. This hike is 2.2 miles round trip and gives you the best “bang for your buck” (per the ranger) when it comes to views of Yosemite Valley. We did this hike before we even set foot in the Valley, which was great because we could identify certain landmarks for the kids, and they knew them when we saw them from below.
Once we were standing in the Valley, we made the most of our day. We started off with a Jr. Ranger walk at the Nature Center at Happy Isles. This was an hour long walk around the Nature Center (which we also checked out, and was very interesting). The kids enjoyed the walk and earned their Jr. Ranger badges and patches!
The Yosemite Museum gives a history of the park and a nice exhibit on the Miwok people who were the first inhabitants of the Valley. A replica Miwok Village has also been built and you can take a self guided walking tours. The kids found this very interesting. Most interesting for my son was Ben, who was working in the Museum. He had made several of his own flutes and would play music for folks as well as work with obsidian and showed the kids special magic tricks with string.
We spent some time at the Art Center after lunch. It was nice to be able to go in and let the kids be creative for a bit. It was $5 per child and they made fun butterfly mobiles and each did some beading. The activities for Family Craft Time vary but they are always held at the Yosemite Art Center.
Outside of the park we also checked out the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. This is a great activity for kids as well.