Sure, Alaska’s historical museums and entertaining shows are an excellent way to enjoy the Last Frontier, but you’d also like to enjoy the Alaska sun with your family. We’ve put together this list of outside Alaska activities you can do with your kids – and your parents – while you’re enjoying the trip of a lifetime.
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
If you’re visiting Anchorage, this coastal trail provides one of the prettiest hiking and biking experiences for your family. Catch the trail from easy access points throughout Anchorage. See beluga whales, view Mt. McKinley (Denali) and maybe some moose. You can also point out to your kids the fault line from the 1964 quake. Much of the 11-mile trail was resurfaced in 2013 and 2014, making for a smooth ride.
Since the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery in Anchorage opened in 2011, it has raised more than 6 million sport fish like salmon and trout each year in 100 tanks. You can visit the facility for free, and there’s a walkway outside along Ship Creek, where you and your family can be mesmerized by returning Chinook and coho salmon, July through September.
Get to know Alaska Native culture
A visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center gives you a chance to get to know the culture of Alaska’s 11 main cultural groups. Outside, you and your family can explore authentic native dwellings at several village sites, and speak with a representative of each culture. Inside, the center’s Gathering Place holds programs that feature dancing, storytelling, art, and Native games.
Alaska Botanical Garden
The garden is open year-round during daylight hours, and it holds stewardship classes, plant sales and Arbor Day celebrations. If your visit to Alaska is an extended one, the kid-friendly garden offers an eight-week summer day camp to teach kids about growing plants. For its centennial in 2015, the garden created an Anchorage Heritage Garden using plants from homesteads in South Central Alaska.
Wander the zoo and visit a polar bear without traveling into the Arctic Circle. The zoo is home to many species native to Alaska, as well as exotics such as tigers, snow leopards, camels, and yaks. Zoos are always family-friendly, and Mondays and Wednesdays feature free sing-alongs and story time activities particularly for toddlers.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Here’s another way to see Alaska’s wildlife “ambassadors” and learn about some of the state’s fascinating animals. See the biggies like bears, moose, elk, and musk ox as well as other smaller mammals and birds. You can meet a celebrity: Snickers the Porcupine, who lives at the center, is a YouTube star. The staff at the center also offers animal demonstrations, and there are fun, interactive exhibits to keep kids engaged.
See a glacier up close
For one of the most unforgettable outdoor Alaska experiences, take a glacier cruise and get within 300 yards of an ancient icy monolith. Try a Portage Glacier Cruise & Tour and take an hour or a half a day tour. You and your family can watch wildlife from the deck of the mv Ptarmigan, and you might get to see Alaska’s sea life, including seals and whales. You also could see the glacier “calving,” when a big chunk of it breaks off into the sea.
Campbell Creek Science Center
This 730-acre slice of wilderness is situated in Anchorage on the Bureau of Land Management’s Campbell Tract. It offers educational programs and opportunities for scoping out wildlife and plants for kids and adults alike. Your kids will have fun investigating the meadows and forests for Alaska critters with one of the center’s borrowed activity backpacks.
Pan for gold
Get a taste of what it was like for the droves of explorers that flocked to Alaska looking for their fortunes. You’ll enjoy the fascinating history of the Gold Rush, and kids will get engrossed in searching for those gold nuggets. If you take a tour of Gold Dredge 8 in Fairbanks, you’ll also get the bonus of riding in a narrow gauge railcar.
It’s hard to go wrong choosing an outside Alaska activity with your family. If you’re still having trouble, though, try searching Gray Line’s day trips for the perfect Alaska outdoor adventure!