Juneau for Free! (nearly)

Note: It’s great when I find other Alaska parents to chime in about their favorite kid-friendly activities. This week we’re hearing from Juneau resident Steve Sue Wing, a dad-blogger of two awesome little boys. Steve has some ideas for seeing Alaska’s capital city on the cheap, and we agree with him that it doesn’t take much to keep youngsters busy in Southeast Alaska. Take a look! 

Now that's one happy Alaska family! Sunshine and ice cream, pretty nice.

Alaska’s famous ‘Midnight Sun’ often translates to more gray than bright light in the southeast region between Ketchikan and Juneau.  Our family calls the rare bluebird sky moments ‘affirmation days,’ punctuating the amazing place we call home, Alaska’s capital city of Juneau.  Despite the reality of our latitude location and clouds that accompany a temperate rainforest, my family of four nonetheless manages to get caught up in the busyness of summer. More light spurs more activity, and a drive to fill every moment, a phenomenon that happens to both residents and visitors.

Most families appreciate getting the most for their travel dollars; here in Juneau it’s pretty easy to find a budget-and-kid-friendly option. Below are a few favorites of my cubs:

Even little ones can enjoy Mendenhall Glacier's trails and views.

Mendenhall Glacier: There are only a handful of places on this continent to drive, ride, or walk to a glacier, so we consider this U.S. Forest Service landmark an essential stop.  A four-season destination for us, with or without visitors, this popular glacier viewpoint can be accessed by tour bus, taxi, or city bus that departs from the downtown transit center.

The big rock at Cope Park is starting point for all sorts of adventures!

Hiking the Flume.

Hiking: If you are already at the Mendenhall Glacier, there are options on flat ground for short legs, and trails with incline and mileage for stronger legs. Nugget Falls is a flat hike with constant views of the glacier, and is a favorite of our boys. Pick up a map at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, and start exploring.

In the downtown district, there is also a wide variety of walks and hikes for all abilities.  Just two city blocks north of the Governor’s House is the entrance to Cope Park. A simple playground provides “wiggle displacement,” and walking along the river will leads to another family-trail staple, the Flume Trail. Heading upstream on this trail will lead to Mt. Roberts and Perseverance trailheads (after the boardwalk), and Basin Road will lead back to downtown. Hiking downstream on the Flume boardwalk will lead back to town through a unique neighborhood, a great option to see how Juneau residents manage to live, work, and play in such a fascinating environment. Yes, there is a brief uphill section to access the Flume section, but most kids can manage, and this trail offers a glimpse into the awesomeness of hiking in the Tongass National Forest’s rainy landscape. A bear sighting downtown or on this trail is always a possibility, as well, a highlight for many Alaska visitors.

Fish!

DIPAC fish hatchery (http://www.dipac.net/index.html): This venue is located approximately 5 miles north of downtown.  Some organized tours include this stop but a cab or city bus and a ½ mile walk will get you there, too. When boarding the bus at the downtown transit center, ask the driver where to get off and they are always happy to assist. The fish ladder viewing window is free and usually schooling with salmon, one of Alaska’s prime industries, and kids love the touch tanks and displays showcasing Southeast Alaska waters. The fish ladder is also attractive to birds and seals, who frequent the channel as a result. The visitor center is $3.25/adults, $1.75/kids.

For all of these family-friendly options, Travel Juneau is the best resource for hours, directions, and information. Visit their website at TravelJuneau.com, or stop by their visitor center on the Cruise Ship Dock, next door to the Mount Roberts Tramway terminal downtown.

Want to blog for us? AKontheGO is always in search of interesting content related to kids, family travel, and Alaska. If you have a great idea, a funny story, or touching photograph, email us at togoak@gmail.com. We’ll talk. 

~EK

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