Alaska Itineraries: Explore the Family-Friendly Seward Highway

We asked, you responded. AKontheGOers are anxious, it seems, to share their favorite Alaska destinations with readers, and we’re happy to share this great day trip down the Seward Highway, courtesy of Ashley. This day trip is the perfect itinerary for families, visiting relatives and friends, or those short on time. Capturing the beauty of Alaska, the Seward Highway between Anchorage and Portage is a hotspot for Alaska visitors, any time of year. Read on for Ashley’s perspective as she took her kids (then 1 and 2), visiting grandparents, and husband to some of our favorite Alaska family-fun attractions:

ITINERARY:  Seward Highway from Anchorage to Girdwood (south about 45 miles), then another 11 miles south to Portage. Total drive time from Anchorage is 1.5 hours, potentially longer in the summer due to traffic.

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Anytime, but we went in late September, when the scenery was beautiful (fall leaves) and crowds were thinner.

WHY WE LIKE THIS TRIP: We like the trip south because it offers plenty of scenery and sightseeing options, good food, and several chances for the kids to run around and burn off energy. But, it also provided time for the kids to nap in the car, and a chance for the grandparents to see Alaska without too much walking around.

Alyeska Resort's tram offers an incredible view and lots of kid-friendly fun!

WHAT WE DID: From Anchorage we drove to Girdwood, continuing left on the Alyeska Highway, and parking near the Alyeska Resort’s Grand Hotel on Arhlberg Avenue. Even though the resort has plenty of hiking options for families (try Winner Creek or the new Girdwood Nordic Ski Association trail, any time of year), we chose to take the Alyeska aerial tram to the top of Mt. Alyeska. We had breathtaking views and a bit of new snow to impress the kids and our visitors. Tram prices are $20/adults, $10/kids, children under 5 are free. Find military/senior/student discounts, too. (hint: buy an Alaska TourSaver book and receive 2-for-1 discount).

We love the Bake Shop  for lunch; find it on Olympic Mountain Loop just off Arhlberg Avenue. Breakfast until 1 p.m., sandwiches, soups, and pizzas too! We usually get our meal to go and head back along the Alyeska Highway to the Girdwood Community Playground, on the left as you leave town. With swings, slides, climbing structures, and a sandbox, this is one of our favorite playgrounds in the Anchorage area.

Who's hiding back there?

Post-lunch and playtime, we continued south along the Seward Highway to Portage and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is an amazing facility, because unlike a zoo, the animals roam free within their huge enclosures. Either drive or walk the property (driving is great for those with mobility issues or small kiddos). We also like the very large giftshop and extra-clean restrooms. Adults are $12.50, children are $9, and kids under 4 are free. Military/senior discounts are available.

After a very full day, we headed north along the Seward Highway and home, stopping at my favorite restaurant, the Turnagain Arm Pit (yes, that’s the name), in the small roadside community of Indian. I’m a southern girl who knows good barbeque, and highly recommend the brisket sandwich and fried pickles. To maximize our in-car napping, we called in our order, and asked that the meat and buns be packed separately (however, those fried pickles need to be consumed asap or they’ll get mushy). We arrived home in time for dinner and some evening relaxation.

Girdwood Community Playground

SUGGESTIONS: With Alaska’s seasonal attractions, do make sure you call ahead for adjusted times and hours of operation. Some places take a break in the fall, only to reopen during the winter months, or even in May when the tourist season is in full swing.

Also, the weather can be unpredictable, any time of year, so bring hats, gloves/mittens, and lots of layers. We usually add raingear, too.

We fill up with fuel in Anchorage, before we head south. Gas is expensive the farther one travels, and Girdwood is the last stop for many travelers continuing toward the Kenai Peninsula. We also pack a cooler with drinks, snacks, and such, because kids always get hungry!

Thanks so much, Ashley. Great stuff.

Who’s going to be next? Remember to send YOUR favorite itinerary to us at We’ll pin it on our newest Pinterest board, AKontheGO Itineraries!

Yum, yum, come see me at AWCC!



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