Summertime, and the livin’ is easy around Anchorage. Or, it will be in just a few weeks. Temperatures are rising, grass is becoming greener by the minute, and the time is now to plan a new way to serve lunch or dinner to your family. Resident or temporary Last Frontier guest, there is nothing quite as fun as a kid-friendly picnic in Alaska’s largest city.
If you’re just visiting, a picnic in Anchorage means a bit of respite after a busy day of sightseeing. I’ve long advocated for down time during an Alaska vacation and the chance to spread out a blanket, eat some local cuisine, and play a bit without the time constraints of group tours or arrival/departure schedules.
Live in Anchorage? How many parks, playgrounds, or day-use areas have you visited so far? How about gathering a few families and making a day out of it, sharing food and fun with those you adore.
We’re big fans of outdoor dining, be it upon the picnic table at our neighborhood park around the corner, or for brunch at a state park day use area. Whatever the weather report, AK Fam can be found packing our plates and cups, a few goodies, and heading to a new location for a deep breath of nature along with our fresh bread, fruit, cheese, or salami slices. Mmmmm.
Need options? Here are a few ideas:
- Elderberry Park, W 5th Avenue (toward the water). Convenient to most downtown hotels, the kids will enjoy the playground while you savor the view. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is right there, too, as is the historic Oscar Anderson House, open for tours T-Su between Noon and 4 p.m. June, July, and August 2017. Admission is $10/adults, $5 3-12, and $5 for Alaska residents.
- Frontierland Park, W 10th Street. With access to the expansive Park Strip across the street and play equipment on site, Frontierland is a quick getaway after a busy day, and the perfect spot for letting the kids run the yayas out while you set up lunch or dinner. It’s a quick walk from downtown hotels, too.
Forest and trails
- Abbott Loop Community Park, Elmore Road. Between the giant mosquito feature on the playground to the expansive field for games and benches for relaxing, this park fits just about every activity level. A favorite with us for access to miles of trails within the Hillside trail system and BLM Campbell Tract, this park also has a large picnic shelter and plenty of space to lay out an amazing feast. This is moose and bear country as well, so be sure you don’t leave your food unattended and keep an eye on the kiddos.
- Kincaid Park, Raspberry Road (far west Anchorage). Enormous, scenic, and boasting an interesting Cold War history to boot, Kincaid is known worldwide for its winter Nordic ski trails, and locally as a great place to bike, run, walk, or even hit the beach. With small children, a visit to the new playground is a must, and perhaps a walk along the paved trail system, terminus of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. With older kids, blast off into the grassy walkways, watching for moose and bears, of course, or take a spin on the disc golf course. Our favorite hike, however, is to sandy Kincaid Beach, reached via a 30 minute walk down to the shoreline. On a clear day, you can really see forever. Note: There is precious little cell service at Kincaid Park, so plan accordingly.
Unique and different
- William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, downtown Anchorage along Ship Creek. What? A picnic at a fish hatchery? Welcome to Alaska, where fish are friends and food. This gorgeous hatchery facility and surrounding grounds is the perfect place to relax after a busy Anchorage downtown day. Especially fun is taking a tour of the facility and then walking along the creek during salmon spawning season, which should kick into high gear in a few weeks.
- Kiwanis Fish Creek Park, Turnagain/Fish Creek greenbelt neighborhoods. Nestled in an old Anchorage neighborhood that borders a gentle stream sits this lovely little park that recently went a complete renovation to become accessible for all kids. It’s a place to get to know people who call Anchorage home, and a place for a quiet bit of playtime before heading out for more adventures.
**Plenty of other park options are available from the Anchorage Park Foundation, our go-to resource for all things Anchorage and the outdoors.
Now, the important question: Where do we get the food?
Anchorageites all have their favorite places at which to fill the picnic basket, and they were generous with their suggestions for visitors. Try these local establishments:
- Fire Island Rustic Bake Shop offers beautiful breads, pastries, sandwiches, cookies, well…everything. And it’s locally-made (the original owner, by the way, used to be the head honcho for the Alaska State Park system). You can grab and go easily from their downtown shop or the newest store in the Airport Heights neighborhood. Great coffee, too.
- New Sagaya chain of markets. Think fresh seafood, produce, soups, sandwiches, coffee, and juices. There are several locations under the Sagaya umbrella, and you can’t go wrong with any of them, no matter your location in town.
- Charlie’s Bakery and Chinese Cuisine. This little hidden gem along busy C Street is well-known for its steamed pork buns, noodle soup, and other delectables that make lunch or dinner fun.
- Anchorage Farmers Markets. So. Many. Markets. Practically every day of the week has a market somewhere in town, so stop by and gather some freshies for your picnic. Oh, food trucks often appear magically, too, so you can have hot food, too! Find a list of all Alaska markets, here (yes, it says 2015, but I’ve found it to be still pretty reliable.)
Ready to go? We’ll see you outside this summer.