Okay, so maybe there was snow on the ground when we woke up this morning, and maybe it’s still snowing now, but generally, I can say an Alaska spring is here.
We tend to go slightly bonkers when spring arrives either according to the calendar or the weather, whichever comes first. Alaskans revel in daylight, stomp in slushy puddles, and start to wonder when to pull the bikes out of storage and remove snow tires. An Alaska spring means tour companies staff up for a busy season, brushing off boats and buses with eager anticipation. It means bears make tentative explorations from winter dens and show off new cubs. An Alaska spring means moms and dads send youngsters to school in rain gear and rubber boots. It’s wet, muddy, bright, and alive, and we love it.
But will visitors?
Springtime in Alaska requires a conscious decision to forego flowers, green grass, and warm weather. It does however offer some excellent deals for early-season trips, easier access to cultural centers and museums, and a nice crossover of snow sports with other activities. Here’s what you need to know:
WEATHER can swing between warmish and sunny to cold and snowy. Visitors should be prepared for both, packing rain boots, outdoor gear (rain pants and fleece layer well, together), hats, and gloves. Kids should be decked out in clothing that can get muddy, wet, and/or snowy for maximum enjoyment. Bring extras of everything.
LANDSCAPE is not generally green and lush in areas north of Juneau. We’re still working through melting snow on our lawns, and streets are often still covered with sand from snowy days. Trees generally bud in May, so gray and beige are still predominate colors. That said, the stark lines of craggy mountains and deciduous trees can provide a wonderful backdrop for viewing Alaska, raw. And, you can see the wildlife better.
AIRFARES are still reasonable, especially with big carrier Alaska Airlines, who is usually in an argument with one competitor or another for early-season business. Keep tabs on Alaska Travelgram’s regular newsletters for the best deals north.
FERRY travel is cheaper during the spring months, too. The Alaska Marine Highway offers “Driver Goes Free” or “Mirror Image Savings” during an Alaska spring, so make tracks to their website for excellent adventures around southeast Alaska. A favorite of ours? Juneau to Sitka, with excellent views, wildlife, and kid-friendly activities in Sitka.
Hotels offer cut rate lodging options, with special deals just about everywhere. Try the Anchorage Grand Hotel downtown, the Copper Whale Inn, or Anchorage Bed and Breakfast Association in Anchorage, the Silverbow in Juneau, or Pike’s Lodge in Fairbanks.
ACTIVITIES are exciting during the early spring months, with skiing at Alyeska Resort near Anchorage, or Eaglecrest in Juneau. Who wouldn’t love a little sun and snow while schussing down a mountain? Dog sledding tours are still in full swing, too; try our friends at Salmon Berry Tours for a day trip to Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey’s kennel near Willow; guaranteed kid-friendly and fun!
In early April, gray whales return to Alaska waterways, and day cruises begin carrying passengers from Seward to view their migration north. Try Kenai Fjords Tours or Major Marine Tours for excellent family options. A great way to spend a weekend.
Many museums are still operating under winter hours, but will provide a less-crowded option for families, especially if you visit on a weekday. Try the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Anchorage Museum, Alaska Museum of Science and Nature, and Alaska Native Heritage Center (opening Mother’s Day each year, and with free admission on that day).
ANIMALS are becoming more active, too. Alaska spring means babies of all kinds, from ravens to brown bears, and kids will be able to see new life, big and small. Visit the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage for a quick rundown on animals who live in northern climates; the Williams Reindeer Farm near Palmer for a calving extravaganza, or the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage. Another excellent site is the Running Reindeer Ranch in Fairbanks, with a personal hike tailored to meet the needs of big and little legs.
DAYLIGHT is increasing by nearly six minutes per day during April and May, offering long, lazy evenings just right for taking a walk around town. Visit local parks, see where Alaska kids go to school, and savor the scenery. There’s no place like this place, and we love to share it with visitors.