Alaska With Kids
Alaska’s vast wilderness makes for an adventure…
The most exciting thing about traveling through Alaska with kids is the extraordinary landsapes formed by crushing ice and snow and the animals. The icy land near the top of the world provides a whole different perspective on living and the kids have lots of fun learning about how to make your own energy in the wildreness, how to ice carve, how to get around by dog sled and snowmobile and much more. Alaska is filled with open spaces. North of Anchorage is pretty much nothing but open space and even closer to home, down on the Kenai Peninsula, there’s huge gaps between towns where moose and caribou roam and eagles soar. Out on the ocean, there is tons of life too….everything from leggy starfish to sea otters and seals to whales. Here’s what we did while we were there.
After a short stop in Anchorage, we headed north to the Interior just outside Fairbanks. We based ourselves in Chena Hot Springs Resort where we learned to dog sled and ice carve at the Aurora Ice Museum. While we enjoyed soaking in the healing waters of the springs, we also learned about how the resort is using the hot water to fulfill the energy needs of the community and grow vegetables hydroponically.
The Kenai Peninsula is famous for its milder temperatures, amazing wildlife opportunities and outdoor activities and being that the peninsula is surrounded by ocean you can bet that water activities get big billing here. To really get a feel for the outdoors here, we headed south by RV. First place we stopped was Alyeska Ski Resort where we took the tram to the top for a bird’s eye (or should I say eagle’s eye) view. At the base of the mountain, film and Iditarod veteran Dario Martinez introduces us to his dog team and takes us for a ride. Another great place for kids nearby is the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
A short way onto the Kenai, we found this cute little town. We rented some horses from Alaska Horsemen and explored the frozen lake spotting bear prints and eagles soaring in the trees above. Another great way to see the wildlife here (when the river thaws) is white water rafting. Or to catch a bit of the gold fever that brought a rush of people to Alaska try your hand at gold panning.
At the end of the Sterling Highway is Homer. A small out of the way place known for its off-beat charm. Be sure to stop on the bluffs above town to watch eagle’s soaring through the sky. From Homer, we went kayaking with Seaside Adventurethrough Kachemak Bay State Park where we saw seal lions and otters frolic in the bay and the kids tried seaweed soup!
After Homer, we followed the road to another end in Seward. Tucked between towering mountains and the sprawling Resurrection Bay, Seward is the Alaska of movies…a small town where everyone says hello, icy glaciers, a bay teeming with life. Be sure to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center to find out about the area’s marine animals – the kids got to dissect a squid while we were there. We also took to the bay with Kenai Fjords Tours and saw seals and otters, and orcas and humpbacks!
Prince William Sound
From Seward we headed north to Prince William Sound to explore the glacier pocked coves and fjords. After driving along the railroad tracks through the highway tunnel, we arrived in Whittier – a place with a definite ghostown feel. Here we met our guide from Auklet Charter Services. This scientific research boat has all the modern equipment to make us safe and comfortable while the crew members share their extenside knowledge about the sound and its animals. We hike on isolated shores, watch glaciers plummet hundreds of feet into the ocean, went “ice” fishing and find a friendly pod of dolphins.
After our journey around Alaska, it’s time for a short break back in Anchorage where we visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn more about the many tribes that have inhabited these lands for centuries and we’re lucky enough to be in town for the Native Youth Olympics, so we get to see a bit of native heritage being kept alive by the younger generation. Just outside Anchorage, we visit the Musk Ox Farm, whose residents are making a come back here in Alaska and helping to revive a cottage industry…knitting.
Alaska has lots of options for lodging from RV rentals (see above) to back woods cottages to full blown resorts. Here’s where we stayed.
– Historic Anchorage Hotel – Landmark hotel in Anchorage established in 1916.
– Chena Hot Springs Resort – Located just outside Fairbanks this is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. This is a model green resort – they produce their own enegy using the geo-thermal energy produced by the hot springs, they heat the resort with the water as well, they are experimenting with Hydrogen storage for fuel and they grow their vegetables hydroponically ALL WINTER LONG in giant greenhouses. The resort also has hot springs, indoor/outdoor pools, dog sledding, snow mobiling, biking and lots of other activities.
– ABC Motorhome RV – For much of our time on the Kenai Peninsula, we called an RV home. The kids thought it was really exciting to sleep out in nature and it was very convenient for us – meal times were easy as we could make our own if we didn’t feel like going out, we didn’t have to re-pack every time we wanted to move, and the kids could do homework on the road (they loved that one!).
We took an Alaska Airlines flight. They have the most flights per day and some of the best rates. Lots of people think Alaska and think cruise, but this option doesn’t give you much time to explore the real Alaska. There is also a ferry that runs from Seattle.
One of the best options for seeing Alaska (especially for families) is by R.V. We rented ours through ABC Motorhome and Car Rental. It was great to be able to stop when we wanted, not have to pack and unpack at several locations and to snack and sleep on the road. The kids thought sleeping in the “loft” was great! Alaska Railroad runs trains from Fairbanks to Seward…it has great views, and we’re always promoters of train travel, but the schedules and routes are very limited.