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Stories by Ken Burns - It's time to hit the trail for a Western adventure... the ultimate South Dakota and Wyoming family vacation. Tauck takes you behind-the-scenes with filmed narratives by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan - creators of "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" - who share personal stories of the dreamers, visionaries, and unsung heroes who shaped the preservation of the national parks. The first pioneers had to raft down wilderness rivers, just like you will when you explore the Snake River. You'll have a chance to look for beaver, elk, bison and more as you travel to Yellowstone National Park, where Old Faithful shoots its plume of steam skyward every hour - and you'll be staying in a lodge just steps away! Nothing says "Wild West" like Buffalo Bill and a buckin' bronco rodeo; learn more about them when you spend the night in historic Cody. Live the life of a cowboy by day at the TA Guest Ranch in Wyoming, site of a Johnson County War shootout, and by night with a stay at The Ranch at Ucross, a real dude ranch up in the Bighorn Mountains. Everything is larger than life in the West - especially Crazy Horse Memorial and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota's Black Hills, where the faces of four former presidents are sculpted in stone - and the purple mountains' majesty of the Tetons, where you'll enjoy a two-night stay in a classic western lodge!
Day 1: Welcome to Jackson & Grand Teton Nat'l Park
Tour begins: 5:45 PM, Jackson Lake Lodge. A transfer is included from the Jackson Hole Airport at the base of the spectacular Teton mountain range to Jackson Lake Lodge in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. Join us this evening for a hearty welcome reception and dinner.
Day 2: Snake River raft trip, Mormon Row & Jackson
Marvel at the mountain majesty of Grand Teton National Park before setting off on a rafting adventure* down the Snake River. Along the way, your guide will help you spot the beavers, eagles, elks and other animals that live in the park. After lunch at your choice of restaurants at the lodge, head to the park's Mormon Row Historic District, whose preservation is being supported by a grant from Tauck. A homesteaders' settlement dating back to 1890 located in an undeveloped area of the park, Mormon Row is home to a number of weathered historic structures - including the iconic T.A. Moulton barn, an unofficial symbol of the park - with the dramatic Teton Range as a backdrop. You'll feel like you've traveled back in time at the site, which attracts photographers from around the world... so have your camera ready! This afternoon, travel to the historic (and trendy) Western town of Jackson to explore as you wish, or check out some of the fun things to do back at Jackson Lake Lodge. Spend the evening as you please.
Meals: B, L
Day 3: On to Yellowstone, the world's first national park
You may want to check out the American Indian artwork and artifacts on display at Grand Teton National Park's Colter Bay Visitor Center before traveling on this morning to Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 as America's (and the world's) first national park - where your historic "home away from home" for the next two nights, the Old Faithful Inn, is just steps away from the famous Old Faithful Geyser, shooting up to 184 feet in the air approximately every 90 minutes! Keep an eye out for Yellowstone's diverse wildlife as you explore some of the features of the park - whose geologic wonders include two-thirds of all the geysers in the world - with your family as you please. Have dinner at your classic inside-the-park lodge at your leisure tonight.
Meals: B, D
Day 4: Mud pots and more on a perfect day in Yellowstone
Wake up to a world of amazing natural wonders in Yellowstone National Park and spend the day sightseeing in the park with local experts from The Institute of the Yellowstone Association, who share information about the park and its abundant wildlife as you explore; Yellowstone protects threatened or endangered species including the gray wolf, whooping crane, lynx, grizzly bear and bald eagle. Have a picnic lunch, and see some of the 10,000 hot springs within the park, as well as bubbling pools of mud and volcanic calderas; and, a short distance from your lodge, make sure you reserve some family time to watch mighty Old Faithful shoot its plume of steam high into the air just about every hour and a half! After a day that is truly a celebration of the West's natural beauty, enjoy dinner at leisure back at the lodge.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 5: All about Buffalo Bill's West & rodeo fun in Cody
Say goodbye to Yellowstone and continue your Wyoming vacation to the historic town of Cody, Wyoming, founded in part by the famous "Buffalo Bill" Cody, from whom the town got its name. Glimpse the history and culture of the heyday of the American West at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, whose five acclaimed, connected museums each tell a different side of the story - focusing on the Plains Indians, Western art, historic firearms, the region's natural history, and the life and career of "Buffalo Bill" Cody himself. Have a western-style dinner and then thrill to bucking broncos, steer wrestlers, calf ropers and barrel riders and more at the nationally famous Cody Nite Rodeo - a fixture since 1938 here in Cody, often called the "rodeo capital of the world."
Meals: B, D
Day 6: A big helping of cowboy life down on the ranch
Journey through Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains today, past deep canyons, vast grasslands, and blankets of wildflowers en route to one of the highlights of your Wyoming vacation - a double dose of Western ranch life that your family will love! First, feel the spirit of Cowboy Country during an authentic ranch experience - including a cookhouse lunch and an opportunity for a horseback ride*, or a horse whisperer or a roping demonstration - at the T-A Guest Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming. A real working cattle ranch, the T-A Ranch was the site of a famous siege and shootout during the infamous "Johnson County War" in 1892; you can still see the old gunshot holes in the ranch's original horse barn! Later, continue on to an overnight and dinner at your leisure at yet another real Wyoming ranch - the Ranch at Ucross - topping the night off with an old-fashioned campfire complete with stories and s'mores!
Meals: B, L, D
Day 7: Black Hills giants - Crazy Horse & Mt. Rushmore
Depart the Ranch at Ucross and Wyoming and head for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Look up in wonder at the Crazy Horse Memorial, where you'll view the work in progress as artisans carve the likeness of the famous Lakota warrior out of the mountain. Begun in 1948 after an Oglala Lakota elder commissioned sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to create the memorial on the face of Thunderhead Mountain to show "that we have heroes too," the independently funded project is now carried on by members of the late sculptor's family; when completed, it will be the largest rock sculpture in the world. At the project's visitor's center - which includes the former Ziolkowski family home - you'll explore exhibits that speak to the diverse histories and cultures of America's native peoples, and learn more about this unique family project. Then it's on Mount Rushmore National Monument, where you'll be welcomed by the colossal granite heads of four US presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln. The sculptures were the work of Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, a 14-year project begun in 1927. From here, you'll head to the K Bar S Lodge for an overnight stay and this evening's farewell reception and dinner to celebrate a week of authentic western magic in Cowboy Country.
Meals: B, L, D
Day 8: Journey home
Tour ends: Rapid City. Fly home anytime; a transfer from the K Bar S Lodge in Keystone to Rapid City Regional Airport is included. Please allow a minimum of two hours for flight check-in.
Visit Mt. Rushmore & Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills; rafting on the Snake River & visit to Mormon Row in Grand Teton National Park; two-night stay inside Yellowstone National Park near Old Faithful & exploring the park with wilderness experts; a taste of cowboy life at two working Wyoming ranches; a night at the rodeo
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