Things to Do in Anchorage with Kids

Discover year-round, kid-friendly attractions and outdoor recreation at the gateway to the Last Frontier

Anchorage is the largest city in America’s biggest state. Half the state’s residents live here, as do over 300 moose. While it may be set against the backdrop of towering snowcapped peaks, frosty inlets dotted with icebergs, and swaths of tundra pine forests, don’t let this fool you. Anchorage is a world-class metropolis that has just as many family-friendly things to do within city limits (both indoors and out) as is does in the natural wonders that surround it—no matter the season.

See the Last Frontier from a Unique Perspective

  The 470 miles of rail from Seward to Fairbanks—with several stops along the way—is your family’s ticket to seeing some of Alaska’s grandest sights.

Alaska is huge—so finding a way to experience all the epic vistas and stunning landscapes means you’ll need more than just your average method of getting around. This is especially true if you have kids in tow. The Alaska Railroad is, arguably, the best place to start. Take the round-trip Coastal Classic route from Anchorage to Seward through the wilderness of the Kenai Peninsula past gorgeous glaciers and majestic waterfalls. A seven-hour layover in Seward means you’ll have plenty of time to explore before heading back.

For a different perspective, check out Phillips Cruises in nearby Whittier. While you can easily drive the 63 miles between the two cities, you’ll get a better experience by booking cruise and coach package (or, take the Alaska Railroad for that one-two-punch). Catch the coach service for a narrated drive up the historic and scenic Seward Highway through the longest shared tunnel in North America into Whittier. Then, hop on the boat to experience all the glacial and wildlife wonders of the Prince William Sound. If you’re family would rather see the sights from up high (2,300 feet, to be exact), check out the Alyseka Aerial Tram. This short, scenic ride to the top of Mt. Alyeska offers sweeping views of the Chugach Mountain Range and seven “hanging” glaciers. Kids 5 and under are free to ride!

 

Go where Learning is Fun

Getting an educational experience can be an adventure when visiting the Last Frontier. Located just 15 minutes south of downtown Anchorage, the Alaska Zoo is the perfect place to take the family on a fun and educational adventure. Learn about all the animals who call this 25-acre, hillside zoo home, including the widest variety of Alaska native wildlife in one place. Next, stop by the free-to-visit Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about the state’s indigenous people through interactive exhibits, live cultural shows, kid-friendly programs and more. Or, check out the Alaska Aviation Museum. It’s not only the world’s largest seaplane base, but also a world-class museum made up of four airplane hangars filled with exhibits and vintage aircraft. There’s even a fully immersive flight simulator and a restoration hanger where you can watch volunteers work to restore a WWII Curtiss P-40.

 

Spend Some Quality Time with Local Wildlife

  Watching humpback whales breach the briny surf and orcas swim alongside the tour boat is a picture-worthy experience your family won’t soon forget!

The Alaska Zoo isn’t the only place to see the state’s native fauna. In fact, you’ll never be as close to local wildlife in their natural habitat as you will be when you visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. See wild brown bears, moose, bobcats, elk, bison and more across the 200-acre nature center, which takes in sick or injured animals and provides them with care—most of them becoming permanent residents. Walk (or drive) the 1.5-mile-long loop around the park for the full experience, take a guided “Walk on the Wild Side” tour, or join in on any of the educational presentations. Admission is free for kids 6 and under.

The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only public aquarium in the state that combines marine research, education, and public access with a permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center. When you visit, your family can enjoy close encounters with puffins, octopus, seals, and other incredible marine life while learning about the center’s conservation efforts. Tours include a puffin encounter and the ever-popular sea otter experience. And for an even more breathtaking marine life encounter, book a whale watching tour with Major Marine Tours, Kenai Fjord Tours, or any of the several others that operate within the Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet near Anchorage, or Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords near Seward (the region’s top whale watching spots).

 

Get Hands-On and Find Excitement Indoors

What better way to keep the young ones—and those still young at heart—in your group busy than with some hands-on fun? Start with a visit to the Anchorage Museum (the state’s largest). It’s an art gallery, science and cultural center, planetarium, and premier research lab all in one. But the real hands-on fun happens at the kid friendly Imaginarium Discover Center on the museum grounds, which offers over 80 interactive earth life and physical science exhibits for you to explore. Kids 5 and under get in free! Next, head over to the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature for even more indoor learning and educational fun. Many of the exhibits are touchable, including a vast collection of dinosaur bones. And when you’ve had enough learning for the day, why not pop by for a splash-filled time at the indoor H2Oasis Water Park? It’s like visiting a warm, tropical island in the heart of the Last Frontier.

 

Take a Kid-Friendly Hike

  Portage Glacier remains one of the region’s top outdoor tourist destinations. While you can expect the best views on a glacial cruise, don’t count out a family-friendly hike to see the blue-iced behemoth from across the lake.

Alaska’s ruggedly beautiful, but sometimes harsh terrain can make it difficult for young explorers to keep up. But you’ll find there’s no shortage of kid-friendly hikes and nature adventures to be had in the Last Frontier—all within a short drive of Anchorage. For a fine family outing that leads to spectacular glacial views, take a walk down the Portage Pass Trail. It begins with one of Alaska’s most scenic drives down the Turnagain Arm to Whittier. It’s about 90 minutes from Anchorage. From here, you’ll hike the old road that now forms the trail down to the gravel shores of Portage Lake where sweeping views of the mountains and blue-ice glacier await.

For a shorter and even easier adventure, consider the Thunderbird Falls Trail. Less than 2 miles round trip, you’ll find this family friendly hike that skirts Eklutna Canyon and concludes at a majestic, 200-foot waterfall just 30 minutes outside of Anchorage off the Glenn Canyon Highway. For further outdoor recreation in a more structured environment, check out the Eagle River Nature Center in Chugach State Park. Enjoy seasonal recreation and outdoor educational programs, ranging from hiking and biking to kid-friendly story times with local wildlife. There’s no admission, just a $5 parking fee. And wherever you choose to spend your time outdoors, be sure everyone in your family group is wearing the appropriate attire. A good pair of hiking shoes and snow gear in the winter, or a rain-proof windbreaker or parka in the summer, are essential.

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