It was inevitable, I suppose. The question: “What has been your favorite trip?”
When one is a journalist who searches day in and day out the best in kid-friendly adventures, one should expect such a query. But this is Alaska, and it’s not so easy to pick just one.
So I picked five. Or, rather, AK Kid picked five, and we backed him up. Today, I’m going to hit the top three.
As I’m traipsing about Alaska, selling both the state and copies of Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th state with children, the Top Five list has become the most popular part of my presentation. Is this list exclusive? Of course not; with new experiences in Alaska occurring every day, it is likely to change by the end of Summer 2014. But, according to my nine-year-old, these were and are his most treasured adventures. So, here we go, with the first three wow-em places:
Alaska Marine Highway (ferry): The only Scenic Byway/All American Road that happens to be on water, AMHS is a critical link between southeast Alaska and the Lower 48, not to mention a connect-the-dots journey for those of us in the southcentral region. More than 1,000 miles of coastal beauty and true Alaska atmosphere await your family, and whether you choose to walk aboard or bring a vehicle, moms and dads can rest assured kids will make friends, learn about the state’s vibrant cultures, industries, and people, and have a ton of fun along the way. Any destination is cool, but we love the Juneau/Skagway/Sitka/Wrangell/Ketchikan loop, flying out of KTN at the end. Tip: Consider a stateroom for longer trips, between late-night departures and crowded common areas, a stateroom provides some quiet space for families. Bring food (utilize the microwave and ice machine on board) and save some cash. Reservations agents are very helpful; call 800-642-0066 or visit ferryalaska.com.
Denali National Park: Your national parks are indeed America’s “best idea,” and exposing kids to opportunities within any park can be an amazing experience. Denali is the most accessible of Alaska’s national parks, with the George Parks Highway connecting Anchorage and Fairbanks. With campgrounds, National Park Service visitor centers, tours, shuttles, trails, sled dogs, and Junior Ranger activities, kids will not lack for anything to do, and that’s just within the first 15 miles! AK Kid and I visited for a long weekend a few summers ago and took advantage of accessible trails, visited the only NPS sled dog team, borrowed a nature backpack and explored flowers and trees and rocks, then listened to a ranger give a presentation about ravens. Whew. Tip: Like camping? Stay at Riley Creek Campground near the main entrance. Nice trails (biking and/or walking), a mercantile, nightly ranger programs, access to Glitter Gulch, and the beautiful visitor centers are all within easy reach. Make reservations HERE. Also, consider applying for the annual Road Lottery, open NOW through May 31. Apply HERE.
Alaska Railroad: All aboard! If your youngsters like trains, make a trip aboard the Alaska Railroad a must-do experience. For kids, the 12-hour slog to Fairbanks from Anchorage can be a bit much, so consider these trips for family-pleasing fun (fees, departure times, and trains can all be found HERE):
1. Anchorage to Talkeetna. At three hours, the train drops passengers off in this charming mountain community north of Anchorage, just right for an overnight at the famous Talkeetna Roadhouse, with hiking, biking, jet boat tours, and Mount McKinley views thrown in.
2. Hurricane Turn: Oh, this is a gem of a trip! Drive to Talkeetna in the morning, then hop aboard the last whistle-stop train in the United States under the guidance of the coolest conductor around. Warren Redfearn adores youngsters, and has an activity packet all ready, not to mention a golden spike for the helpers. Look for wildlife, see rural Alaska at its finest, and stop on the bridge over Hurricane Gulch, a long, long way down! Oh, a heads up: the train now departs Talkeetna at 12:45 p.m. and returns by 7 p.m. A long afternoon, but worth it. Bring food, drinks, snacks, extra clothing, everything you might need!
3. Alaska Wildlife Train: BRAND NEW this year is a day trip aboard the Coastal Classic train, traveling from Anchorage to the kid-pleasing Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. I just received word about this attraction yesterday, and I’m hoping we’ll be aboard the first trip June 1! The train departs at 9:45 a.m. from Anchorage, then arrives at the Portage station and short hop to AWCC in time for animal viewing, lunch, and free time. Then head back to Anchorage via motor coach by 6:45 p.m.; or get back on the train, travel through the Whittier tunnel and back, arriving in Anchorage by 9:45 p.m. Either way, it’s bound to be a fabulous trip for kids, visiting families, and anyone else who doesn’t want to drive 70 miles to Portage. Love. This. Trains run June 1-September 14, 2014.
PSST! The Anchorage Historic Rail Depot is hosting Railroad Days Open House tomorrow (Saturday, May 3) from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Stop by, meet Conductor Warren, have some hot dogs, enjoy crafts, and an amazing tour of the trains!
Need more info? Use our handy search tool on the AKontheGO website, or send me a message. I love to talk Alaska, you know that. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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