The 6 Best Restaurants Within National Parks
You won't want to miss these scrumptious spots during your travels.
Exploring a U.S. national park is bound to be action-packed, even if you aren't tackling all of the hiking trails or climbing the highest peaks. There's so much more that these national parks offer—including, of course, food. You'll need fuel if you're taking on more activities, but you don't need to settle for just anything. If you're just looking for a nice place to eat—and maybe a spot to take in the views—travel experts have recommendations for the top eateries to add to your itinerary. Read on for the six best restaurants within national parks.
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Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Arkansas Hot Springs National Park
If you want to visit the first and only brewery currently situated in a national park, head to Superior Bathhouse Brewery at Arkansas Hot Springs National Park. "On the historic and stunning Bathhouse Row, Superior Bathhouse brewery is a delightful and authentic eatery, surrounded by the best landscapes that Arkansas has to offer," Beth Schubert, former professional chef and co-founder of Own The Grill, tells Best Life.
The brewery has an expansive seasonal menu, but the real draw is Superior Bathhouse's 18 craft beers, all on tap and made in-house.
"You have to try their incredible stouts and IPAs, which have been brewed using water from the very national park that you are in," Schubert says. "Like any hood alehouse, you can drink your pint of beer alongside sausages, sauerkraut, sandwiches, and any other bar friendly bite."
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Jordan Pond House, Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park in Maine offers a perfect fall getaway, and while you're there, be sure to check out Jordan Pond House. You can take in gorgeous views while seated at this historic spot, which is situated on top of a hill overlooking the Jordan Pond.
Michelle Joy, editor of National Park Bucket List, recommends heading to this spot for its famed afternoon tea service and popovers. The pastries have been a staple since 1893, first baked by Nellie McIntire, the original proprietor of the restaurant, according to the Jordan Pond House website. The popover tradition stuck, only disrupted when the original restaurant burned down in 1979. Rebuilt in 1982, tea and popovers have since remained "an uninterrupted summer tradition."
As such a special spot, you'll want to plan ahead, especially if Jordan Pond House is high on your must-see list. "The venue has indoor and outdoor seating and is extremely popular, so I recommend making a reservation ahead of time," Joy says. "Otherwise, you can line up to put your name down when the restaurant opens and go for a walk around Jordan Pond while you wait."
The Rim Restaurant at Volcano House, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park offers some of the most amazing sights, including Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, which are two of the most active volcanoes in the world, according to the park's website. If that isn't enough to draw you to the park, then the food just might. Sophie Clapton, travel blogger of We Dream of Travel, recommends checking out The Rim at Volcano House, which offers a truly special experience.
"Imagine savoring an expertly crafted Hawaiian dish featuring fresh fish caught locally as you gaze out into a highly-active volcano. Picture the steam rising from Kīlauea caldera as the sun sets and the sunken earth of Halema'uma'u Crater begins to glow a fiery red—this is the experience that awaits you at The Rim Restaurant in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island," Clapton tells Best Life.
You'll also experience live music performed by local musicians, according to the restaurant's website, all while you enjoy the delicious cuisine. "The Rim, as it was re-branded in 2013, serves Hawaiian-inspired dishes in an environment carefully curated to provide an authentic island ambiance, all with unbeatable views of a live volcano," Clapton says.
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Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room, Crater Lake National Park
The dining room at Crater Lake Lodge is the perfect casual dining experience, with a spectacular view to boot. "National park and nature lovers will adore the comfort and serenity that awaits them at the historic Crater Lake Lodge Restaurant," Adam Marland, travel photographer and writer for We Dream of Travel, explains. "This oversized log cabin creates a wonderfully cozy atmosphere with snow-touched views of the impossibly blue waters of the deepest lake in the United States."
Currently, the Crater Lake Lodge Dining Room is only offering food service for overnight guests at the Crater Lake Lodge and the Mazama Village Cabins, per the park's website. But that's all the more reason to book your stay and enjoy the traditional American fare and Northwest seafood on the menu, Marland says.
"For the best possible experience, arrange an overnight stay at the historic lodge to allow time to truly cozy in and an opportunity to experience the mind mind-blowing night skies of Southern Oregon," he adds.
The Ahwahnee Dining Room, Yosemite National Park
Described as a "destination dining spot," if you're booking a trip to Yosemite, you absolutely must check out the Ahwahnee Dining Room. Heather King, of the blog Go Gluten Freely, which offers resources and travel advice for those who are gluten-free, calls the restaurant "an exceptional in-park dining experience."
"The food is not your standard national park fare, with impressive breakfast and dinner buffets, as well as traditional table service for lunch," King tells Best Life. "Beyond the food, dining at the Ahwahnee is a unique experience that cannot be replicated. When you walk through the doors of the large dining hall, you are stepping back in history nearly 100 years."
The restaurant truly is a spectacle, she says, noting the 34-foot-high vaulted ceilings, which are complemented by "wood trusses and stone columns." You'll also enjoy the unique experience of listening to the same music that guests in 1927 would have—all played on a grand piano, King explains. Beyond that, the views are spectacular. "Out every floor to very-high-ceiling window is a breathtaking vista of Yosemite's pine trees," she says.
If you're wowed by this description, you're not alone. According to King, the restaurant is popular, so you'll want to make reservations well in advance.
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El Tovar Dining Hall, Grand Canyon National Park
Near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the El Tovar Hotel, which offers an "unforgettable" dining experience, Kimberley DeLauro, founder of Ready Aim Travel, tells Best Life. Built in 1905, the hotel is older than the national park itself, she explains, as the Grand Canyon was first designated in 1919—meaning history buffs will get that much more out of a visit here.
"This was also a favorite place for President Theodore Roosevelt who famously visited and wrote about his experience at El Tovar," DeLauro says. "Roosevelt was also said to be the inspiration for building the hotel and dining hall after his visit to the area in 1903."
There are more history lessons to be learned within this famous dining hall, and you might even feel like you've traveled back in time. "When you visit the El Tovar Dining Hall, you will not only be enjoying a fine dining experience like so many historical guests, but you will also be immersed in the further-reaching history of the Grand Canyon," DeLauro says. "Throughout the rustic native stone and pine log building you will find wall murals that reflect the customs of four local Native American Tribes—the Hopi, Apache, Mojave, and Navajo."
If you want to make the most out of your trip to Grand Canyon National Park, DeLauro recommends making reservations early, as the restaurant can be booked up months in advance.