According to AKontheGO sponsor organization AAA Mountain West, the United States will see 41.9 million people traveling 50 miles or more from home to celebrate the upcoming Independence Day weekend. Typically the busiest holiday of the year, and especially so in 2015 thanks to rising incomes and stronger employment numbers, more families are planning a holiday getaway than any time since 2007.
Here in Alaska, where daylight often trumps the whole fireworks thing, many families rely upon community festivals for their Independence Day fun, our crew included. From parades to salmon derbies and sand castle contests, Alaska’s towns and cities know how to throw a party, and throw one well, and this year, Alaska needs a good party after battling more than 500 wildfires over the past three weeks. With fireworks of any kind banned in many places, it becomes even more important to recognize the spirit of the holiday, with some good old-fashioned family fun, sans explosives.
Sticking around for Independence Day? Try these celebrations with your kids:
Anchorage July 4th Celebration, 8 a.m. along the Delaney Park Strip. One of the biggest shindigs, Anchorage pulls out all the stops for this party, with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. and parade at 11, followed by all sorts of music, food, and activities on the park grounds all afternoon. Free; pancake breakfast by donation.
Girdwood Forest Fair, 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. July 3-4; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. July 5. Well-known as the funkiest forest fair around (well, let’s be honest, the only forest fair around), Girdwood makes sure families have fun in the trees surrounding this ski town 45 minutes south of Anchorage. Dancing, music, food, and crafts for kids make this a great way to spend a holiday weekend. Note: It’s crowded here, so plan to park and walk a good distance to the festivities.
Valdez 4th of July Parade and Pink Salmon Festival, July 4-5. Enjoy a community parade through downtown Valdez (with lots of candy and decorated bicycles), then stick around for the Pink Salmon Festival fun on July 5. Lots of opportunities for kids to catch fish, carry fish, and learn about fish at this annual festival celebrating one of Alaska’s most important resources.
Sitka July 4th Parade and festivities, July 4, 2 p.m. Join the town of Sitka for a family-friendly parade through downtown, then meet at Totem Square for rootbeer floats and activities. The Baranof School will also have tons of children’s games going on most of the day.
Juneau 4th of July, July 3-4. The fun begins on July 3rd and continues all day on the 4th on both Douglas Island and in downtown Juneau. Build a sandcastle, watch dogs play Frisbee, participate in field events, and attend the annual parades in Juneau and Douglas. Kids are welcome to participate in all events, too!
A word to the wise:
- Pack for variable weather (layers and more layers)
- Allow plenty of time to get to your destination
- Bring your own food and drinks for kids
- Participate wherever possible; Alaskans love to meet new people!
AAA Mountain West is offering a special in celebration of Independence Day: For a limited time, all veterans will receive a waived enrollment fee for new applications ($15), and be eligible for a half-price upgrade to AAA Plus or Premier. Additional household members can be added to existing memberships for half price, too. That’s a pretty sweet deal. Thank you, AAA!