It’s not too often I am flown to California to talk to Alaskans about Alaska family travel, but that’s just what I did last weekend. The Alaska Media Road Show has been operating with a goal of providing journalists from around the United States a comprehensive, all-inclusive Alaska experience that resembles speed dating for travel writers. In 13 years, the State of Alaska has encouraged writers like me to become familiar with, and comfortable in, the biggest state in our Union, and it works.
AKontheGO believes in a philosophy that I compare to a table; four legs, each representing a critical element to Alaska’s structural integrity. Each is vital to the state’s existence, and each plays a role in providing children and families with meaningful experiences during their trip. Lose one, and you might as well go home; that’s my excuse for trying to find the best activities, destinations, and people with whom to connect.
What are those table legs, you ask? Read on, and see what we’ve got in store for AKontheGO readers over the next two years. Alaska family travel has never been better.
Recreation: Alaska delivers within the realm of outdoor recreation. From beachcombing to multi-day backpacking trips, families can immerse themselves in as much wilderness as they are equipped, and with more accessibility than ever before. Highlighted info from the weekend includes new cabins from Alaska State Parks, including two right off the Seward Highway in Bird Creek. We’re also looking into a hike along the historic Chilkoot Trail, where Alaska’s Klondike gold rush caused a veritable stampede of men and mules from Skagway to Cananda. 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and AKontheGO will be packing up and hiking the entire route to celebrate “America’s best idea.”
History: The Juneau State Museum will be opening after such a two-year renovation and expansion project ending in 2016, with 180,000 square feet of exhibit space, much of it catering to hands-on learning for kids. It’s about time. Classroom space, a new theater, an outdoor courtyard, and process-driven activities will be a refreshing change for visitors to the space, and we’ll be there for opening day. I can’t wait.
Also tying in to our Chilkoot Trail hike is a return trip aboard the historic White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, a vintage train that travels up the canyons and mountains near Skagway and in to Canada, where we’ll be picked up in Bennett. After a hearty meal of beef stew, apple pie, and coleslaw, we’ll climb aboard and marvel at our family’s ability to hike 32 miles. Not a bad gig.
Culture: One of my most surprising appointments came from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, based in Anchorage. Dedicated to promoting, preserving, and enhancing Alaskans’ art experiences in a variety of forms, the Council has two pages of amazing artistic opportunities and events that blew my mama mind. But my favorite has to do with Christmas, 2015. The Chugach National Forest was selected to provide the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, for the first time, ever. The Forest will also provide 70 other, smaller trees to be placed throughout Washington, D.C. offices. The Alaska State Council on the Arts is formally partnering in this effort to help facilitate ornament ‘templates’ for the 5,000 ornaments that must be created by citizens around Alaska and sent to D.C. with the trees. Guess who’s going to help with this effort? Uh-huh. US. AK Kid and I have never been to Washington, D.C., and this is a wonderful opportunity that we won’t soon forget. Stay tuned for details and information about how you can contribute the artistic talents of your family or community.
Industry: Got seafood? Alaska does, and as an industry, the seafood market does more than create jobs for fishers around the coastal areas of the state. It promotes healthy lifestyles, sustainable practices, and even recreational opportunities. What I like the most is the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s persistence in encouraging kids to eat their salmon, cod, crab, shrimp, and other bounties from the briny deep. Check out the recipes they’ve created, HERE. It rocks, and even AK Kid can be persuaded to try a salmon nugget now and then. Usually. In my second book for the Alaska On the Go series, a strong focus is on coastal communities thanks to a title centering around the Alaska Marine Highway. Why not feature seafood as part of the journey?
Think about this for a second: The children who visit Alaska now, are the same children who will protect Alaska, later. They will. Kids simply need a point of reference from which to start, and we aim to provide them with the clearest points, possible. It’s going to be a great few years.