The final countdown has begun, and I’m joining legions of shoppers still making decisions about Alaska Christmas gifts for their family members. With one son in the tweens and one in the over-21 crowd, it’s not as simple as taking over a local toy store for presents anymore. I want to be cognizant of gifting experiences, places, and chances to meet new people, too. It’s sure a lot less wrapping, and the end result may be important some day — to them, to me, and to the world around us.
You may feel this way too. Less stuff, more intrinsic value. I did some scoping around last week, looking for easy ways to stuff your family and friends’ stockings with small-but-mighty gifts that shed light on the true Alaskana ways.
Here’s what I came up with:
Especially nice for older children who can take themselves to see a new exhibit at the local museum or drive to a favorite ski hill, memberships or season passes fit nicely with the idea of experiences. Try these:
- Alaska Zoo — a Zoo Pass is a lovely way to promote the outdoors and conservation of animal species of the circumpolar north. Plus, passholders get all sorts of cool discounts and access to special events. Whether it’s just two parents and a kid, or an inclusion of guests, a pass to the Alaska Zoo is always a winner. Passes start at $40/adult and $10/child with a ton of add-ons for additional people.
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center — This facility in Portage is home to all sorts of northern creatures, but unlike the zoo, the enclosures are far more expansive. AWCC hosts a number of excellent events throughout the year, and we love walking rather than driving around the grounds for a more personal experience. Annual memberships range from $25 to $500, depending upon the size of your crew, and all sorts of cool perks.
- Fairbanks Childrens Museum –– Interior families, we think you are so lucky to have this kid-centric museum at your fingertips. Learning through play is the theme here, and on a cold winter day, it’s the perfect place to be. Memberships start at $70 for three months.
Sometimes a few visits is all you need. We’ve been known to purchase punch cards for everything from climbing walls to iced mocha grande frappes. Or whatever. If you don’t always carry cash (and as parent to a tweenager, I seldom have actual money), punch cards can be a big help. Here are a few favorites:
- H2Oasis Waterpark in Anchorage has some good deals going for day passes, memberships, and gift cards just the right size to fit in a stocking hanging by the chimney.
- Alaska Rock Gym — GREAT for teens and young adults, the punch card and day-use systems work well for families not wanting a huge commitment, and start at $12.
Santa might bring new skis or snowboards to lucky kiddos this Alaska Christmas, or your child may wish to learn a new art form. Maybe you’d just like your kids to spend this long holiday break in the company of other youngsters, doing fun things. Holiday camps are the bomb.
- Alyeska Resort— A plethora of holiday ski and snowboard camps are happening at Alaska’s biggest ski area. Kids 6-12 can choose a 3-day camp to improve skills, meet new kids, and explore the slopes of Alyeska. A variety of options and pricing, starting at $99.
- Hilltop Ski Area-– Located right in Anchorage, Hilltop has taught hundreds of kids to ski and ride, and holiday break is a great way to start. Day camps give the lessons, lunch, and free ski time for a reasonable price, too.
- Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center — Winter Break Workshops are the perfect way to spend a winter day at the museum. Three hours of hands-on learning — about the solar system, camouflage, and crafting your own way. Set in two sessions for younger and older kids, workshops start as soon as school ends (weekdays, of course).
There are so many wonderful organizations; we know that. But hopefully these nine will give you a head start for 2017 experiences, and lead you to find out about others for the next gift-giving season.