AK Fam appreciates anyplace that offers activities, structured or free-range for kids to explore and inquire about their natural surroundings. Even though Princess Lodges does not host a large percentage of children (most cruise ship passengers are still adults), the McKinley Princess did offer a fair number of things that made our kid, and those kids we saw over our weekend, feel special.
Upon our arrival at McKinley Princess, our son received a short and colorful newsletter printed by Princess staff that talked a bit about the Last Frontier. Featuring information that kids want to know, including Denali/McKinley information, Alaskan critters, and life as a real-live Alaskan was a nice way to introduce visiting youngsters to our world up north. Much of the info came from the National Park Service and Public Lands Centers, and contained short tidbits of trivia that kids, especially ‘tweens, love to read.
Since the Lodge sits in Denali State Park (not the National Park), Park Rangers were on hand most days to introduce guests to the wonders of the wilderness surrounding us on all sides. Stationed in the main lodge, the ranger had all sorts of skeletons, antlers, photos, and information about animals, plants, and fish in the region, and was offering nature hikes and presentations throughout our stay. Geared towards the adults, we found out that a Junior Ranger program was also available for kids, but it was rather difficult to gather when and where this was going on. Instead we passed on that and took AK Kid on his own trek amongst the trees.
McKinley Princess offers a wonderful variety of short hikes/walks around the property, which is something I love to see at a hotel/resort. Four trails provide a healthy total of 2.5 miles (4k) of tread, just perfect for kids and those who desire a little stretching of the legs after eating all the good food available at the restaurant. The Lodge Trail starts from the Main Lodge and heads towards Denali, winding around in a big loop to view the Chulitna river until it elevates towards the entrance of the 20320 Grill. Wide pathways and a nice variety of vegetation made this a winner for AK Kid, who enjoyed singing his bear song and blowing his bear whistle (we are utilizing his loudness to be an effective bear deterrant these days) as we traveled along. A few interpretive signs were scattered along the trail, providing a bit of insight into our location and offering tips for safe hiking in Alaska. Benches were available for those tired legs. It was our favorite little trek of the four.
The South Loop path is a .7 mile (1.2k) trail that navigates hikers all around the South Loop of the property, and the newest section. It was a nice hike, too, a little longer and easier with pavement, nice for parents with strollers. The water feature/fountain next to our lodging was a lovely example of how a hotel can take natural landscape and turn it into art. Kids will love hanging out by the deck and waterfall, but keep ‘em off the rocks, please.
The Hill Trail was steeper and more difficult for small legs, but offered spectacular views of Moose’s Tooth, the square-ish rock in the distance, to the right of Denali. At 1.1 miles (1.8k) it’s long for small kids, but wow, did the views provide some great photo ops. A few little trail extensions offered even better views, and with wild roses just about to spring into flower, this was a lovely walk, indeed.
Connecting to the Hill Trail is the Creek Overlook that offers views of the gorge across from the Lodge. Paved and hilly, we did not hike this one with AK Kid, but he and Dad did bike the last section to be able to look across the way towards me (relaxing on the deck, haha!).
Nestled inbetween two parking lots along the South Loop and just a hop away from the Grill sits a small children’s playground that gave AK Kid plenty of opportunity to jump around before dinner. Not large but definitely fitting the bill, the playground is suitable for kids 4+, with a slide, climbing bars, a fireman’s pole, and tic-tac-toe. Worked fine for us.
After all that, two hot tubs are nice (but no pool) for soaking those muscles. Perched on a small hill overlooking (what else) but Denali, AK Dad and Kid spent a few hours soaking and splashing over the course of our stay, and while I did worry about their general hubub disturbing other guests, I heard no backlash and even caught a few smiles from those walking around the grounds. Whew. Open until 11 p.m. each night, the hot tubs were a lovely spot to relax and wind down an active little boy who was enjoying that midnight sun a little too much. A healthy walk from our building in the South Loop of the property, the spa ended our days nicely, thank you very much.
Enough to do? Yep, provided parents are engaged in helping to create the fun. But isn’t that what a family vacation is about, anyhow?