Yellowstone attracts more than 3 million visitors a year, and it's not hard to see why. This famous park is home to some of the most gorgeous and untouched land in the lower 48 states. Plus, it's home to famous spots like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The great sights don't end at the entrance gates, though. Take a look at some of these hot spots that are just a hop, skip and jump away.
The Teton Science School offers wildlife expeditions to the public. (Photo: Carolyn Rogers/Wikimedia Commons)
1. Put your thinking cap onat the legendary Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Ted Major is the famous science teacher that created the Teton Science School in the 1960s. He wanted to immerse students in an undisturbed ecosystem, and he saw Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone as two perfect resources. Today, this is one of the most well-known science schools in the entire country, and they even have some programs open to the public. Look for their wildlife expeditions as an excellent way to get into the park and learn about what makes the area so special. It's about an hour from Yellowstone.
2. Dig for dinosaurs in Thermopolis, Wyoming.
This is one of the farthest destinations from Yellowstone on the list (2-3 hours), but it's well worth the visit. Not only is it home to the world's largest mineral hot springs, but it's also home to the Wyoming Dinosaur Museum. This museum is pretty fascinating in and of itself, and it also offers the incredible opportunity to go out for a real dinosaur dig. You can't find a better hands-on learning experience. Rates are $150 for adults and $100 for kids.
A cowboy competes during a rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. (Photo: Audrey Snider-Bell/Shutterstock)
3. Go to a rodeo every night in Cody, Wyoming.
Cody is an awesome, tried-and-true Wyoming city with small town charm and Wild West flavor. This rodeo capital of the world is just 50 miles from the east Yellowstone gate. Plus, it's a gorgeous drive along the way. You'll find plenty to do, but one of the highlights is their nightly rodeo, which runs from June 1 through August 31. Gates open at 7 p.m., and the rodeo runs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Cost is $10 to $20.
4. Go to Gem Mountain to look for sapphires in Philipsburg, Montana.
It's a bit of a detour to visit Gem Mountain (3 to 4 hours northwest of Yellowstone), but it's a must-have experience for any treasure hunters. (It is on the way to Glacier National Park, though, if it's in your travel plans.) For about $20, you can buy your own bucket of dirt so you can search for sapphires and other gems. You can also buy a box of dirt online to have shipped to you if you'd like.
The Roosevelt Arch marks the north entrance into Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: Chuck Grimmett/flickr)
5. Visit the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner, Montana.
If you want to get into Yellowstone during the winter, then you'll have to go through Gardiner. It's the original entrance to Yellowstone and also the only entrance open year-round. Stop and see the Roosevelt Arch, a structure dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.
6. Take a stagecoach tour in Virginia City, Montana.
7. Check out the art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Jackson Hole is already known for its ski resorts, nightlife and antler arch, but most people don’t realize this hidden gem just outside of the main town. Just outside of Grand Teton National Park and about an hour from Yellowstone, the National Museum of Wildlife Art offers a unique look at western art.
The National Bighorn Sheep Center offers educational courses about bighorn sheep in addition to tours around the animals' habitats in Yellowstone. (Photo: Neal Herbert/flickr)
8. Learn about bighorn sheep with the National Bighorn Sheep Center in Dubois, Wyoming.
Here's another quintessential western town that welcomes visitors with open arms. It's a couple of hours from the epicenter of Yellowstone, and is also the home of the National Bighorn Sheep Center. They are dedicated to educating the public about the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. They also offer tours during certain times of the year.
9. See a show at the Playmill Theatre in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Review after review praises the Playmill Theatre in West Yellowstone. They focus on family-friendly shows and superb snacks (like Heidi’s fudge for only $1 or Playmill famous popcorn for $2). This is one of the closest towns to Yellowstone and is just over the border in Montana.
The Beartooth Highway offers a scenic drive through Montana. (Photo: Daniel J. Rao/Shutterstock)
10. Take a scenic drive down Beartooth Highway near Cooke City, Montana.
Beartooth Highway proves that there are gorgeous, worthy places to visit outside of Yellowstone. Who doesn't love a scenic drive? This highway has been called one of the best in America, zigzagging for miles up to more than 10,000 feet to Beartooth Pass. It's not open in winter, so put this on your list to experience in spring, summer or fall.