Back-to-school in Alaska means several things to 49th state families:
- Days are getting shorter
- Weather is growing cooler
- Travel is easier
Wait, did I just say “easier”?
Easier because the nearly two million visitors have made their way home and the resulting lack of crowds is pleasing to those who struggle to take advantage of all the Alaska-ness during our short summer months. Easier financially as tour companies offer end-of-season deals to those willing to take on rain, snow, or both to enjoy the mountains, water, and roadways of Alaska.
Personally, Alaska’s fall, however short it may be (usually end of August through mid-October) is my favorite time of year. Animals are frisky, leaves are streaked with the fiery colors of red and yellow, and people are busy preparing for another snowy (we hope) winter season. It’s busy, it’s beautiful, and it’s right here for the taking.
School starts here in Anchorage on Monday, and my new 6th grader (WHAT??) is busy learning how to open a locker, pick out cool clothes, and navigate multiple classes with multiple teachers. Me? I’m planning our next adventure, and here are a few options we all can enjoy together:
Kenai Fjords Tours is offering day cruises into Kenai Fjords National Park through the end of September, and on Sundays, has a special deal with the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. Looking to take a day or overnight adventure into now-sleepy Seward? This may be a good chance.
Major Marine Tours is sailing through September as well, but it’s the Cruise and Kayak Package I like; a half-day of cruising coupled with a few hours of paddling in Resurrection Bay. Perfect for busy kids.
Looking to explore Prince William Sound? Phillips Cruises and Tours is still pulling away from the Whittier dock now through September 30, and if you’re looking to see wildlife, this can be the place to spot whales, seals, and otters in a beautiful, scenic surrounding. Wow.
And don’t forget, Chugach Adventures will give families a special deal if they mention AKontheGO for a Placer River Float trip via the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop train ride. It’s a blast, as AKontheGO contributor Danielle Benson found out a few weeks ago.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK
Oh, yes, autumn is my most favorite time to visit Denali. The colors, the animals, the amazing access one can achieve. If you aren’t lucky enough to receive an annual road lottery permit for the September drive-through, there are still options. One is the amazing Kantishna Wilderness Trails Denali Family Pass; kids 6-12 ride for FREE through mid-September. It’s a long day, just about 12 hours, which is why they do not accommodate kids under 6, but the company takes care of everything from lunches to comfortable seating as you cruise the gravel roadway of Denali National Park. Now wouldn’t that be a cool back-to-school story?
Ever been to Cordova across Prince William Sound? It’s a delightful place that takes its festivals seriously, and this time of year, it’s all about the fungi. You know, Fun-Guy(s)….Anyway, the Cordova Fungus Festival will be held once again September 2-4, and the Alaska Marine Highway System ferries can get you there, or you can fly via Alaska Airlines using your Mileage Plan miles. Easy-peasy and the perfect back-to-school getaway.
The Alaska State Fair is happening, the fair is coming! Bring on the corn on the cob, the pork chops on a stick, and crab cakes…and all that other stuff. The fair starts August 25 and runs through Labor Day, and we’re wholeheartedly advocating for an early arrival and late departure. OR, take the Alaska Railroad Fair Train and skip the hideous traffic. But hurry, this train sells out fast. Be aware, too, there is no food or beverage service, so bring what you need.
Alyeska Resort’s Mountain Bike Festival is scheduled for September 2-4, and wow, if you have bikers in the family, you will want to be there to watch the pros scream down the dirt tracks of the usually-snowy ski runs. Take an overnight at the hotel, too, and enjoy good grub and relaxing family time just 45 minutes from Anchorage.
Finally, the Alaska Zoo is hosting their annual Moose Madness day on September 3, with crafts, activities, and a, er, uh, moose poo spitting contest (I’m not really sure what they mean by this, but I’m confident it will be hilarious). Noon-4 p.m.
But wait, there’s more! Stay in touch with the AKontheGO Facebook page for the latest updates to this list. Welcome, back-to-school!