Alaska Public Lands Centers Offer Year-Round Family Fun

Oh, my, we’re back in the minus digits up here in Alaska. My friends in beautiful Fairbanks reported a frigid -34F for a high yesterday, and here in Anchorage, our thermometer registered a mere -10F. AK Dog and I shivered mightily during our much-shortened walk , that’s for sure, and we’re turning on the heat in the garage (usually our second cold storage facility; however, frozen apples and oranges are not so fun to eat).

AK Grandma and Grandpa arrive on Thursday for a highly-anticipated visit, and the entire family is gearing up for both indoor and outdoor fun, no matter the weather. We have done our homework, that’s for sure, and are passing along our findings to you, including this post from Kids These Days! Radio, all about the Alaska Public Lands Information Centers. Have you been, lately? Not a bad place to spend a wintery afternoon with kids, anywhere in Alaska.

The weather outside may seem frightful, but with a little time and information, uneasy parents can turn cold and snowy into positively delightful. Wintertime can be a frustrating season for moms and dads, particularly those new to our Alaska weather, activities, and decidedly darker days. When our family moved to Anchorage seven years ago, one of the first stops I made was to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center ( in downtown Anchorage.

A cooperative effort among federal, state, and local recreation agencies, Alaska’s centers function as a sort of clearinghouse for information about the vast wealth of public lands, with maps, recreational permits, interesting exhibits, and a healthy dose of trip-planning assistance for Alaska four-season fun.

While summer brings a lion’s share of visitors to the state’s three largest Public Lands Centers, winter can be the perfect time to investigate the wealth of information at one’s fingertips.  Looking for a great trail to try out those Nordic skis Santa left under the tree? This is the place. Need a 2013 State Park Pass? Buy now and beat the spring rush. Or, perhaps you simply need an indoor change of scenery. Exhibits, films, and activities to appease all ages can be found with ease.


Image courtesy Alaska Public Lands, Anchorage office

Each center is different, too. The Anchorage ( center is located in the old Federal Building on 4th Avenue, and features some pretty interesting wild Alaska animal displays, and an accompanying scavenger hunt. Ask about periodic lectures about various subjects of flora and fauna, a nice treat for older kids. Admission to this center is free, and operating hours during the winter months are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Fairbanks Public Lands Information Center ( is housed in the beautiful Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center, sharing space with the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau, Alaska Geographic, and Tanana Chiefs Conference. Just being in the bright, open space with thousands of maps at our fingertips is tempting enough, but taking a walk through the realistic displays that depict life in the Interior regions makes this a top stop for our family whenever we’re in Fairbanks. The building is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday during the winter months. Admission is free.

Southeast Alaska ( also has a beautiful Information Center, located smack in the middle of the waterfront area of Ketchikan. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center features a wonderful, interactive series of displays that carefully and completely cover all aspects of industry, history, and ecology of the diverse southeast region. For kids, this is a big hit, whether toddler or teen, due to interesting, age-appropriate displays. Open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the Ketchikan center offers the fewest hours, but it’s well worth scheduling time to visit. From October to April, admission is free; otherwise, adults (age 15 and over) pay $5/per person.

HEY! Don’t forget to stay in the family travel loop all winter long with AKontheGO on Twitter, Facebook, and now Pinterest. Good stuff, right from the keyboard of Alaska’s only family travel expert.

Happy exploring!



Posted in Downtown Anchorage, Fairbanks and Interior Alaska, Southeast Alaska.