Being a Small World Vacations agent, I bet you’ll find it as no surprise that I am a huge fan of all things Disney. I’m an avid Disney World/Disneyland traveler and I sail on Disney Cruise Line a couple times a year; however, I have never been on an Adventure by Disney…until now!
I have just returned from Adventures by Disney’s Quest for the West adventure in Wyoming. So how does it measure up? In short, my Adventure by Disney experience was truly the most amazing “Disney” experience I’ve ever had!
You may be asking, “Mickey Mouse…in Wyoming?” Well, although there was no shortage of wildlife, the Big Cheese was not actually on this adventure. So what makes this adventure “Disney”?
Imagine a vacation where EVERYTHING is taken care of for you while you get to learn about and experience another part of the world with your family? Never having to worry about your luggage getting from one place to another or wondering if you did enough research to really know where and when to see the various sites at your destination or having activities for the entire family planned out for you to simply enjoy…it is these touches (and many, many more), that bring the magic of Disney to the adventure!
The Quest for the West adventure begins in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where you fly into the only airport inside a National Park, the Grand Teton National Park to be specific. As you can imagine, flying into a National Park is a truly unique experience. I recommend booking a window seat and having your camera ready!
At the airport I was greeted by Geraldine, the first of our two adventure guides. Our second adventure guide, Michael, was waiting at the hotel to help get each family settled! Leave it to Disney to supply TWO guides for our adventure!
The first two nights were spent in Jackson at the historic and elegant Wort Hotel. This hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the pictures hanging in the hallways around the hotel serve as a wonderful history lesson. The Wort Hotel sits in the heart of Jackson surrounded by restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
During this leg of our adventure we explored Jackson’s many shops and beautiful town square where a “shoot out” is reenacted Monday-Saturday nights between Memorial Day and Labor Day at 6pm.
At the four corners of the town square there are huge archways made of antlers.
We also enjoyed a rowdy western lunch at the historic Jackson Hole Playhouse. During this meal they served up homemade Sarsaparilla and some mighty fine, old-fashioned western theater.
The final highlight was whitewater rafting down the Snake River…what a blast! And the views from the river were amazing!
On the morning of day 3 we simply left our bags by our hotel room door, went off to breakfast and then boarded the bus to our next adventure…Grand Teton National Park. For me, the Grand Tetons were one of the biggest highlights of our trip, as I have never seen a more majestic mountain range! Before heading up to a hike in the Grand Tetons we stopped at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.
This visitor center is really something special as guests have the chance to discover, hands-on, what the fur and antlers of various animals native to the area feel like; as well as, being able to see what the tracks of each animal look like. Of course each visitor center has a gift shop; however, all proceeds go right back into caring for the parks. It was here that I picked up a National Parks Passport. At each National Park and Monument, etc… within the US there are various stamps that you can add to your passport.
After leaving the visitor center we took a boat ride across Jenny Lake so that we could hike up to Hidden Falls in the Grand Tetons.
A highlight of our hike for many of the junior adventures was when got up higher in the Tetons there was quite a bit of snow and many of them had never seen snow. A snowball fight quickly ensued. Watching the pure joy on their faces was very special!
Back down the mountain we headed out of the Grand Teton National Park and drove down John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway on our way to Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1872, Yellowstone is America’s first national park, home to Old Faithful and a collection of extraordinary thermal features. Our first stop in Yellowstone was the West Thumb Geyser Basin where we got the chance to see all four thermal features (geysers, hot springs, fumaroles/steam vents and mud pots).
One even looked like a hidden Mickey to me, what do you think?
As we drove around the National Parks in our Motor Coach pioneer/western music played softly in the background (just a touch of that Disney magic) and our adventure guides handed out snacks. They always had a cooler filled with water bottles for us on hand wherever we went. As a parent, it is wonderful to not have to worry about things like this!
For the next two nights we stayed at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, right next to the Old Faithful Geyser and the Old Faithful Inn, which the Wilderness Lodge in Disney World was fashioned after.
On our second day in Yellowstone we got a private National Parks Ranger, Rose, for the entire day. Rose took us around Yellowstone, teaching us all about the park and its thermal features. Although our Disney adventure guides were extremely knowledgeable, it was very special to have a ranger all to ourselves. We never could have explored and learned all that we did that day without her!
One of the activities that our adventure guides planned for us was a ScavINNger Hunt around the Old Faithful Village. I was on the winning team!
Day 5 arrived and with a bit more Disney magic we were on the road again! One of our very special stops this day was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. And for my fellow Disney fans, the lookout point for the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is called Artist Point. Anyone know where there is another Artist Point?
Our last leg of the adventure brings us to the Brooks Lake Lodge in Dubois, WY. This is truly a luxury wilderness resort unlike any place I have ever stayed. From the food to the staff, everything was incredible!
Due to the snow, our Motor Coach was not able to bring us all the way to the lodge, so the staff met us at the bottom of the mountain road with vans that could drive us into the resort. I thought for sure we’d finally have to touch our luggage, but alas, I was wrong!
We drove into our winter wonderland (in June) and went right into the lodge for tea time and orientation. There were 29 of us and 28 staff, most waiting to greet us. During our orientation we were given our room or cabin assignments. Some of the rooms are in the main lodge and others are cabins (some with several bedrooms) around the property. I was lucky enough to be assigned the Prospector Cabin where the views were unreal!
While staying at Brooks Lake Lodge we did need to drive down the mountain a little for some of our activities, but there was so much to do…fly fishing, horseback riding, hiking, sledding, games and recreation with the children’s activities coordinator and did I mention the spa on property?
Since I’d never been on a horse before, I opted for horseback riding as my morning activity on day 6. I was nervous to learn that we’d be riding the horses along a rugged trail in the mountain, but this was an adventure of a lifetime after all, so why not? My horse was appropriately named Ace, as riding on her through the rough terrain trumped all other activities on this adventure for me!
This being our last night of the adventure we had a farewell dinner with some very special surprises. Sorry, no spoiler here!
By the time my adventure ended I had 9 stamps in my National Parks Passport and on my flights home it was hard to dream of anything more than heading on my next Adventure by Disney to see just how many more stamps I could get!
Contact Kathy@smallworldvacations.com for assistance with your Adventure by Disney vacation.