Surrounded by mountains and valleys, glaciers and fjords and active and inactive volcanoes, Anchorage is a breathtaking place to explore with young kids. If you’re lucky enough to be traveling to Anchorage with kids, make sure my favorite places top your list of must-dos!
1. The Alaska Zoo. Despite being smaller than the average zoo, The Alaska zoo is a great place to take kids. Because of cooler Alaska temperatures the animals are often more active than in traditional zoos. Plus there is a new section that houses orphaned Alaska wildlife, once you see a baby moose or bear cub you’ll want to take one home. If you’re there on a rare hot day you’ll get to see the polar bears wishing away climate change.
2. The Anchorage Museum is first rate when it comes to Alaska history and art. For the kids there is an excellent Imaginarium complete with touch tanks, science experiments, and a play area. Keep this place in your back pocket for the rainy days of your visit. You’re going to have them, I guarantee it.
3. The Reindeer Farm . You’ll have to head out of Anchorage to Palmer for this one, but it is worth the trip. (Besides, this is Alaska, half the adventure is getting there!) The Reindeer Farm is one of the few places you can pet and feed reindeer. They also have elk, a bison, and a moose that occasionally comes to the fence for a kiss.
4. Ride The Tram. Again, head out of Anchorage this time south along the Seward Highway. The drive is about an hour to the Aleyska Ski Resort. There you can take a tram ride up to the top of the mountain. If the weather is clear, you’ll get a breathtaking view of Alaska. There are places to have snack or eat a full meal at Aleyska and room to hike around a bit. Plan to spend some time stopping along the way at some of the many pull offs to take pictures of the views or wildlife like eagles, moose, and dall sheep that are often in the cliffs along the highway.
5. Byron Glacier. There are lots of glaciers to see in Alaska, but the best one to visit with kids is Byron Glacier. The parking fee is only a few dollars, so it’s an inexpensive excursion. From the lot you walk an easy, flat trail only about a mile long out to the glacier. You’ll know it by it’s bright blue color. If you’re adventurous you can climb up pretty close to it. Just bring some bear spray along, you never know who you’ll run into in the Alaska wild.
6. Bear’s Tooth TheatrePub. Again, this is one for those rainy or cold days. Bear’s Tooth is an Anchorage classic, serving high quality pizza with every topping you can imagine. Our favorites are the Lu-Wow and Chipotle Steak. They also brew their own beer and have a new tap each month. The best part is the movie theatre, you and the kids can take in a film while you eat! If you’d rather skip the movie there’s a separate dining room or their sister restaurant The Moose’s Tooth.
7. Thunderbird Falls. This is my absolute favorite family hike. The trail is wide so you can push a stroller on it, although there are a few steep spots so bring your muscles. After a short climb you wind up at a look out point over Thunderbird Falls. It’s an awesome spot to feel and see the power of nature. You can take a short, but more rugged trail down to the base of the falls, easy enough for kids to get down – but bring some sugar to help them get back up.
8. Eklutna Lake. Thunderbird Falls is barely a half day trip. Once you’re done there head up to Eklutna Lake. Pack a picnic lunch and take in the Alaska scenery while you eat. Then hike around the trails or just let the kids play on the shore. If you are into Geo Caching, you can spend plenty of time finding caches here.
9. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Located on the Seward Highway this is an easy stop once you’ve hiked Byron Glacier. The conservatory is home to bear, moose, elk, musk oxen, and more. You can drive through the park and stop along the way for a closer view. The bear habitats are really amazing and one of the few places we’ve seen them playing and swimming.
10. Eagle River Nature Center. Alaska is all about the outdoors and you’ll get your fill here. There are all different length trails, with space for strollers. Dogs are welcome, just hang a bell on them to scare away the bear! After a nice, flat hike you can swing back through the visitors center and get ice cream for the kids. It’s the perfect end to an Alaska summer day.