When I was but a wee traveler, my parents would pack the Volkswagen Bus with all sorts of gear and putt-putter around the Pacific Northwest in search of destinations to inspire their offspring. In the course of 18 years, we experienced many a family vacation that brought smiles to our little faces, and memories to our dear hearts. Most of those, I realize now, came from the size of the hotel swimming pool, taste of their silver dollar pancakes, or jumpiness of a room’s beds. Yes, friends, I, like millions of other vacationing children, cared mostly about The Hotel.
Who could blame me? In the 1970′s, nobody had TV in their bedroom, or swimming pool in their backyard, or access to silver dollar pancakes and sausages shaped like little bears. Let’s face it, staying in a hotel is half (okay, sometimes most) of the fun for traveling kids, so making a good choice is pretty important to the sanctity of family harmony. Alaska’s lodging options can be pretty wonky sometimes; options often range from overpriced wanna-be lodges to motels that really need an overhaul, not to mention a deep cleaning.
We stay in hotels a lot, but five stand out in our memories of Alaska travel with our son, meeting my slightly obsessive-compulsive nature and for AK Kid’s thumbs up for kid-friendliness. The top picks, in alphabetical order (because I like order)?
Anchorage Grand Hotel (Anchorage): Located right in the heart of downtown Anchorage, and directly above the Alaska Railroad depot (bonus for parents of train-loving little boys!), the Anchorage Grand is a former apartment building that was converted into a hotel, serving both long and short-term travelers of all ages (the AK Grandparents love this place). We like the full kitchens with dishwasher, pots/pans, etc., and a nice sitting room for families to relax after a busy day of Anchorage fun. Wintertime specials are plentiful, with very affordable rates if you’re coming to town for Fur Rendezvous or Iditarod, just reserve early. 888-800-0640, 907-929-8888.
Hampton Inn (Fairbanks): Yes, the Hampton chain is well-known for their accommodations serving business travelers, and yes, there’s a definite lean toward this demographic; BUT, the Hampton Fairbanks has outstanding management who understand family desires for clean, secure, comfy rooms with little extras that add up to a ton of hospitality. From the warm cookies, free hot chocolate, coffee, and tea all day long to the crystal-clear swimming pool and fluffy towels, the Hampton Inn Fairbanks shines every single time we visit. Oh, and did I mention their FREE hot breakfast truly rocks? Located near a shopping center (not my favorite part), but near enough to the beautiful Creamer’s Field and Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, this is more than a good choice. 907-451-7502.
Hotel Alyeska (Girdwood): Ohhhh, yes. Bring on the mama-pampering. Sorry, but I was briefly carried away by the European-style comforters, cozy lobby fireplaces, and uber-fabulous family service. Nevermind the Spa. Ahem. So, as I was saying, Hotel Alyeska loves to treat families (and lots of drooling parents) to a night or two of luscious mountain lodge atmosphere, a mere 45 minutes from Anchorage. Ski, hike, snowshoe, or just hang out at the hotel, a historic, beautiful structure that spends a ton of time thinking about what packages to offer kids and parents. Pizza and a movie? How about that awesome swimming pool over the holiday break? Maybe a little resort credit? They’re dialed into our minds, and we love to share the love. Do check out the Pond Cafe, too. Great breakfast for kiddos.
Pike’s Waterfront Lodge (Fairbanks): Need a dose of Alaska kitch? How about a friendly little game of golf that involves driving the ball across the Chena River? Pike’s Lodge is a lodging staple of the far north, and we so appreciate their attention to resident guests who need a place to crash for the year-round fun in Fairbanks. Featuring double-queen rooms, or adjoining rooms to accommodate families or groups, Pike’s also offers plenty of hang-out space; just gaze around the lobby and view the antiques from Alaska’s early days. You’ll see why we go back. Kids and grownups love the free, hand-dipped ice cream provided with each night’s stay, and during the summer, our family enjoys wandering the paved pathway that curves along the placid Chena River. Pike’s is also one of the few Alaska hotels dedicated as “Green”, and we love their commitment to our planet! 877-774-2400.
Super 8 (Ketchikan): Really! Stop your preconceived notions of Super 8′s and trucker rest-stops for a second; this is a great place to stay in Alaska. Perched on the waterfront of the Tongass Narrows in Ketchikan, near a boat harbor, float plane landing area, and featuring awesome views of the same, the Super 8 has undergone a pretty fine transformation. The hotel’s owner gutted and renovated several rooms to configure into enormous suites that provide plenty of well-planned space for families. We were thrilled at the little seating area near the double windows, and enjoyed the tasteful decorations and large counter areas for all our junk. While the breakfast billed as “Super Start” wasn’t exactly what we’d hoped for, it passed fine by our son, and it was free. But overall, a solid lodging option.
What’s your favorite Alaska hotel? We’d love to hear from you! Post either in the comment section, or on our Facebook page!