Yosemite - stay in park or outside gate?

Our family is planning our first trip to Yosemite for spring break next year.  We have a nine-year old and a four-year old.  I heard that the park lodging books quickly so I recently made a reservation for a room at the Yosemite Valley Lodge.  We thought about staying in the canvas tents, but decided against it after considering having to use common bathrooms at a busy time of year.  Now I've spent some time reading reviews of the Valley Lodge, and it actually sounds fairly unpleasant - dirty rooms, terrible parking situation, mice in rooms, and bedbugs!  I'm not that picky, and we are used to basic lodging, but for $300 a night this sounds pretty unpleasant.  It seems like for a similar price, we could stay just outside the gate of the park, have a nicer and cleaner room with more amenities and even access to a heated pool.  Although I wanted to avoid a long drive into the park each day, I'm reconsidering.  Would love advice and recommendations!

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We've stayed in Yosemite Lodge, last time about 3 years ago.  Bare bones, but you get the national park experience because you can go to ranger shows and walk to the base of Yosemite Falls and eat in the cafeteria there.  You can walk over to the Ahwahnee Hotel (called now the Majestic or some other name) and get ice cream.  There were no mice or bed bugs when we were there.  We've also stayed in Tenaya Lodge, which has an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool.  I think we just went into the park for 1 day that time.  We've also stayed there and gone snow tubing at Badger Pass.  I think both are nice options.  I think Yosemite Lodge is more fun for your age of kids, probably.  

We stayed at Yosemite Valley Lodge this past spring break and thought it was fine for the price. It is rustic, but that seemed appropriate for the location. It was clean and functional, though. We did not want to camp given the uncertainty of spring weather, and did not want to stay too far outside the valley. Parking was very easy; I think it is far more problematic if you're staying outside the park and have to deal with the day parking areas, which looked like a zoo with long lines in and out. Once you are in the park, you must bike or take the shuttle bus, so you either park in the day use parking lots each morning if you're staying outside the park, or you park where you are staying and are given a pass for the duration of your visit. We didn't touch our car once we arrived. We did bring bikes, and highly recommend that over the shuttle if your nine-year-old is a bike rider. (They also rent both cruisers and trail-a-bikes for younger kids.) We did not experience any mice or bedbug issues, though frankly I did not think to check for the latter (but hopefully we'd know by now if we'd brought any home!) It is worth noting that the management of all lodging and restaurants in the park turned over to a new company in 2016, and most of the bedbug reports seem to predate that transition. The new concessionaire has been slowly upgrading the park lodging and food, and we thought it was all quite decent (if pricey, but then it is a captive market). There is a close-to-full service grocery store inside the park and with a little planning you can get food there as well if you want to avoid the restaurants (although we liked both the casual spot at the lodge and also the casual spot at the Majestic). We might consider staying at Tenaya Lodge outside the park in the future, but only if we planned to visit Mariposa Grove and other areas on that side of the park--not for the central activities in the valley. I thought Yosemite Valley Lodge was actually a pretty perfect spot to stay for a first visit to Yosemite. Have a great visit whatever you decide!

That is a tough decision. If it weren't for the mice and bedbugs I would say for your first visit staying in the park is important. There are a lot of great hikes, bike trails, waterfalls etc. and it is nice to be right there with views of El Capitan and Half Dome. It is a 45 minute drive into the Valley from either side. That said, we go every MLK weekend with a big group and stay at Tenaya Lodge. It is a big hotel/resort with indoor heated pool, outdoor pool, restaurant, trails to hike close by and a nice little steam/sauna. If you are going for 3-4 nights you could go into Valley for 1 full day, then do some stuff around the lodge another day, hike to Dewey Point another day (7 miles round trip) with an awesome view of the Valley and not too far of a drive from Tenaya. Another great spot to hit is Glacier Point. You could then hit the Valley again on your drive home by going through the park. Evergreen Lodge on the other side is a fantastic place to stay but more expensive, as is Rush Creek. Both have great amenities and you would not regret staying there and going into Valley 1-2x.Enjoy!