Frost is on the pumpkins here in Alaska; time to break out the hats, mittens, and boots for an autumn of outdoor family fun! With the proper gear, visitors to the 49th state can enjoy a full harvest of family travel, even if the thermometer reads “FREEZING.” Below is a list of AKontheGO’s top picks for fall getaways; always kid-pleasing, always affordable, and always AK Fam-tested:
RV Travel: Whaaaat? Oh, yes, readers, your family can achieve “awesome adventure” status by renting an RV after Labor Day and cruising the quiet and incredibly scenic byways of southcentral Alaska. ABC Motorhome Rentals in Anchorage (conveniently located, btw, right near the airport) offers great end-of-season specials for motorhomes, some as low as $100/day for a 21′ RV complete with bedding, pots/pans, and unlimited mileage. Cruise up to Denali National Park, where many campgrounds along the way are still open for business (especially Alaska State Parks; FREE after Labor Day). Perhaps the ocean is more to your liking? Cruise south along the Seward Highway to see the incredible Alaska Range across Cook Inlet, or the beauty of Resurrection Bay in Seward. Whatever your choice, one cannot go wrong by road-tripping with the fam.
Homer: Speaking of southbound travel, Homer is a favorite destination for autumn fly-aways. Catch Era Alaska’s flight to Homer from Anchorage (great Fall-Flyaway Specials going on after Labor Day), and stay at our ultimate fav accommodations, Homer Seaside Cottages. Walk the beach on a crisp morning, then sample the sticky buns at Two Sister’s Bakery. Wander the awesome Pratt Museum or hike near Wynn Nature Center. Even a boat ride across Kachemak Bay to hike the Otterbahn trail in Seldovia is made more fun by the yellowing leaves and active marine critters.
Alyeska Resort: My, my, how did Mother Nature manage to create such a stunning place? Alyeska Resort and the ski town of Girdwood are radiant during the our short Alaskan autumn, and the Resort capitalizes on this very fact with their Family Specials. Grab the kids, snuggle into your outstandingly cushy hotel room (oh, those beds!), swim in the pool, then eat pizza and watch a movie before nighty-night time. Alyeska knows how to please the whole family, and this is a favorite fast getaway for many an Anchorage family. Try it, we guarantee you’ll enjoy the hiking, biking, or mountain-gazing from atop the Tramway. Yep.
Talkeetna: “Welcome to Downtown Talkeetna” the sign says, and it’s so true. You are welcome, every single member of the family. From kids to dogs to grandmas and grandpas, Talkeetna offers a little something for everyone in this now-mellow town post-summertime frenzy. Stay at the Talkeetna Roadhouse for a little chill-time. The Roadhouse has a cozy nook whereby one can read old magazines and books while sipping a cup of coffee or tea. Kids will enjoy the game corner and awesome trails nearby, not to mention the fabulous Community Children’s Park down the road. Bring the bikes, bring the mittens, and bring your outdoor attitude, because Talkeetna’s still got theirs. At a mere 2 hours north of Anchorage, this tiny community offers big rewards for the flexible, fun-loving fam. Take the train to and from, if you wish, heading north on Saturday and south on Sunday via the Alaska Railroad.
What to Bring! Warning, fall in Alaska is not like fall in the Lower 48. It’s fast, furious, and sometimes quite cranky. Snow can fall (especially near the mountain ranges) at any time past Labor Day, so it behooves a family to bring the winter gear, just in case. Besides, it’s rather cool to be packing for winter when the rest of your pals are still wearing shorts and flip-flops, right? The point is to be prepared, and warmer is most definitely better. Layers, layers, layers are the key. Hats, gloves, sturdy shoes, and snow/shell pants/jackets.
When to Go! Start shopping for those PFD (Permenant Fund Dividend) sales via Alaska Airlines by the end of August. Alaskans like to buy their winter trips to Hawaii via this very sale, and that means everyone saves. Or, check with the seasonal carriers like JetBlue, who end their service near Labor Day. You just might score a super deal. Alaska Travelgram is another resource for up-to-the-second air fare deals; sign up for Scott McMurren’s newsletter and receive instant updates.
Don’t forget, either, that the Alaska TourSaver coupon book has many, many options for late-summer/early autumn 2-for-1 specials, including many of the aforementioned destinations. Check it out.