Did you hear there’s a new movie that features our favorite frozen material? If you have kids, you’ve undoubtedly been badgered to attend a showing of Disney’s epic tale of love and life in the snow. And, as often happens when a film depicts someplace romantically mysterious and highly adventurous, I’m betting my mukluks Alaska becomes the next frozen hotspot for kids.
Winter is the obvious choice for guaranteed ice and snow, but many families simply cannot carve out enough time (or enthusiasm) for such a journey. We get it – heck, we can’t always find time to fly south for your sun and sand. But guess what? Alaska has several locations that provide the requisite cold temperature during non-winter, resulting in happy kids who can’t wait to pull on mittens and boots in mid-June. Really. Here are some options:
Chena Hotsprings near Fairbanks offers a year-round ice museum, complete with beds, beautiful sculptures, and a bar where the grownups can order a tasty appletini. Kept at a constant 25F temperature, the ice museum is a great way to showcase ice artistry and the wonder of frozen water to kids, no matter the season outdoors. Go for a day trip from Fairbanks (80 miles or so), or make it a weekend and stay at the resort, taking advantage of their hot pools and family-centered activities.
Glacier Cruises are probably the most popular activity among new Alaska visitors, especially those who don’t normally see a lot of ice in their hometown. Ranging in length from two to nine hours, day cruises depart from Seward, Whittier, and Valdez every day during the summer months. It’s thrilling to see a chunk of ice calving from the edge, and to witness sky-blue icebergs bobbing near the boat. All of the southcentral Alaska day cruise companies enjoy their younger passengers, but do read up on must-have items for day cruising with kids HERE. Short on time? Try a trip on Portage Lake near the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center via the MV Ptarmigan.
Hikers will be glad to know there are several kid-friendly trails that bring one right to the edge of a frigid glacier. Favorites of our family include Exit Glacier in Seward, Matanuska Glacier near the Glenn Highway, and Root Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias/Kennecott National Historic Landmark. Those with mobility issues or smaller children will enjoy Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau. With its excellent visitor center vantage point and wide, level pedestrian trails, the glacier is accessible and full of interesting history. Plus, most cruise itineraries offer day trips that include transportation from downtown Juneau.
Flightseeing is a popular way to view glaciers, snow, and icy peaks from the air, and thankfully, Alaska has a wealth of opportunities to do just that, even with kids. K2 and Talkeetna Air Taxi provide daily trips in and around Denali National Park and mighty Mount McKinley with the option of glacier landings, a very cool way to experience ice up close. Alpine Air in Girdwood can whisk your family to a glacier in minutes, dropping passengers off for a truly unforgettable dogsledding adventure.
Is Alaska the frozen-chosen? I’ll say. Start making plans for your summer vacation to the land of ice and snow. Your kids may just start calling you Olaf.