Here we are, twiddling our fingers and toes, waiting, and watching. This is the time of year many Alaskans consider frustrating, for the snow remains elusive on all but the highest peaks, and a loss of five or six minutes of daylight every 24 hours means dark conditions for after-school or work activities. It’s not bad, mind you, just frustrating, especially for parents. Why not regroup and figure out a way to take advantage of the dark, cold, pre-winter nights and days, instead? Below are five places to shake the no-snow blues around Alaska, and find a great deal at the same time.
1. A Taste of Alaska Lodge, Fairbanks. Located just off Chena Hot Springs Road, A Taste of Alaska is a family-owned and operated cluster of log buildings that tell their own story, even if you don’t get enough from the museum-quality main lodge and tales woven by the Eberhart family, who have lived on this former farm homestead for three generations. The lodge is warm, the food is excellent, and the antiques and books, simply amazing. Even kids will ohhh and ahhh over the stuff in there; a good thing, since the view is equally stunning and kept us sitting at our table much longer than we should have. Watch the aurora borealis from your room, take a hike, or listen to the kennel of sled dogs below the property; it’s all fun, here. Open year-round.
2. Susitna River Lodge, Talkeetna. Whether you choose to bunk in the main lodge or rent a fully-furnished cabin, your family will enjoy comfort and luxury with a beautiful view of the Susitna River. Within walking distance of Talkeetna, the lodge welcomes families, pets, and groups, making this a great way to spend a holiday weekend or celebrate an Alaska-themed event. Bring your own food and create culinary masterpieces the kids will love, and relax in front of the woodstove as the northern lights sweep across the sky at night. Not sure about activities? The owners will help arrange anything from hiking to aurora tours. Open all year.
3. Hatcher Pass Lodge, Palmer area. The view is what hooks guests, first. Glorious scenes unfolding beneath your feet, that’s how some people define it. Perched on a little chunk of level land near the top of Hatcher Pass, the lodge and guest cabins are not fancy at all, but what they lack in amenities, they make up for in authentic Alaska-ness. A coal stove warms guests in the main lodge, where pizza and hot cocoa taste extra good after a day hiking around the Independence Mine State Historical Park, just above the property. Tiny cabins feature a small loft for adventurous kids, and a wood-fired sauna is just the thing to wind down wiggly bodies before bed. Open all year.
4. Alyeska Resort/Grand Hotel, Girdwood. Okay, okay, so this is less of a lodge and more of a fancy hotel, but really, with the fall specials the resort offers each fall before the snow arrives, why wouldn’t you go there? A huge stone fireplace by which to lounge, miles and miles of hiking or biking trails to explore, and restaurants all over this little town of a few thousand, not to mention the resort’s own award-winners. A bonus? It’s close to Anchorage for busy families, and provides extra access to places like the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, an excellent option kids. Find Alyeska’s current specials of this fall season, HERE.
5. Two Sisters Bakery/Suites, Homer. It’s the bakery part that gets me. My gosh, who wouldn’t want to stay in a cozy, bright studio room above one of the most popular bakeries in the state? Snuggle in your bed while the ‘girls’ get the bread, pasteries, and Alaska-roasted coffee going in the morning, or stick around for a glass of wine and dinner at night. Homer kids love this place; the staff truly do cater to young people, and even if the weather is chilly, most youngsters love to play outside in the expanse of play yard while parents bundle up and sip a cuppa on the back porch. Truly delightful place, this. The property is within walking distance of Bishop’s Beach, the kid-friendly place to explore, and Islands and Ocean Visitor Center, part of the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. The drive is nearly 5 hours, but for an autumn long weekend, totally worth it. Note: There are only two rooms, so rent both if you have a larger group, or bring sleeping bags for kiddos.
Don’t fret the darkness or bare ground; pack up kids, bikes, dogs, or friends and head out. The joy of a pre-winter trip awaits.
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