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Heading to Alaska with a family is like heading to one of the biggest playgrounds in the world, assuming your crew likes outdoor adventures. It’s the perfect spot for a family vacation. I didn’t plan much for our family to do in Alaska in advance as I knew there was such a plethora of activities that we could successfully play it by ear based on what sounded fun. In fact, I have found that when traveling with a young kid, the strategy of going with the flow, rather than planning every second, is usually much more successful. With the exception of pre-booking when things might sell our or in order to avoid lines…ahem, Eiffel Tower.
Our Alaskan adventure really was a little bit of an adventure as we just sort of stopped when we saw cool stuff and looked up nearby attractions when we were looking for a destination. Here are the activities we did in and around Anchorage. I’ll do a separate post on the family friendly activities in Seward and the Cooper Falls area. To play catch-up here are other posts from our Alaskan Adventure!
The Anchorage Museum is located in downtown Anchorage within easy walking distance from the Sheraton Anchorage where we spent the first night of our vacation. The museum opened at 9AM which was good since our time zone issues had us up bright and early and looking for something to do.
The museum is obviously full of tons of cool artifacts and history about Anchorage and Alaska, but in addition it has a killer kid’s area called Imaginarium Discovery Center. We spent the majority of our visit in the Discover Center taking advantage of the he new 9,000-square-foot center that features more than 80 exhibits including things like the Bubble Space, BP Kinetic Space, simulated earth quakes, volcanic explosions, and more.
There was a play area complete with a really cool fort, slide, tunnels, and more. There was also animal toys, an aquarium, and a miniature toilet that cracked me up – that was truly just a kid’s bathroom, no adults allowed!
There are multiple rooms for the slightly older kids that focus on sea life, geology, physics, motions, and more in a very interactive and entertaining way. Both of us very engaged by the same things, which to me says it was very well done. You could easily spend a couple hours at this museum with a family. There was also a coffee and snack shop in case you need a little pick-me-up in the middle of your visit.
Tip: This museum is part of the Bank of America First Saturdays program, so you could get in free with any Bank of America card on that day! The regular admission rates are $15 for adults, $12 for Alaska Residents, $10 for Seniors 65+, $10 for students, $10 for military, and $7 for kids 3-12.
If you are up for a 45 minute ride outside of Anchorage to the city of Palmer you can take your family to a real reindeer farm! This farm also offers horseback rides, but we stuck to the reindeer for this visit. They are open seven days a week fro 10A – 6PM with the last tour starting at 5:3oPM. The tours of the farm run pretty frequently, so just show up when you are ready and head to the gift shop to pay for the tour and let them know you are there. While you wait you can hold bunnies and look around.
The tour itself involves a bit of education about reindeer, their horns, their predators (biggest is a raven in this area, who knew!), and more. After the 5 minute orientation about reindeer you are given a cup of feed and head out to pet the herd. Some members of the herd are far more friendly and tolerant of some petting than others, but none were aggressive at all while we were there.
We ran out of feed within seconds, but you still were given another 10-15 minute to hang out with the deer, take some pictures, and enjoy the scenery. It wasn’t a super involved or very long tour, but it was a fun chance to hang out with some reindeer which was super cool. Talking a selfie with a reindeer was even cooler. We named him Sven.
Rates are $8 per Adult and $6 Per child (3-11) 2 and under free. The one hour trail rides are $65 for ages 8 and up and you can view more info about the horse rides here. We found the reindeer farm to be a very family friendly and laid back place that was totally different than than anything we have done before. It did feel a little funny to pay $8 to pet a few reindeer, but it was fun. Unless you also do a horseback ride I expect an hour is more than enough time to take in the reindeer farm experience.
On our way back into Anchorage to catch our evening flight home the last day or our trip we stopped by the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to see some animals up close and stretch our legs. It was about 45 minutes south of Anchorage along the beautiful Seward Highway. When you visit the park you can either drive through, walk, or take advantage of one of the tours. We needed to stretch our legs so opted to park and walk around the exhibits. This place isn’t exactly a zoo, but it is more of a haven for injured and orphaned animals as well as a place to rebuild the Wood Bison population.
Some of their exhibits include brown bears, black bears, a grizzly bear, moose, elk, fox, owl, and lots more. We very much enjoyed just walking around looking at the animals in their outdoor inclosures as well as listening to a couple presentations by the staff about the animals. There are talks and feedings scheduled throughout the day.
There was a small snack area that wasn’t overly impressive, a pretty large gift shop, and most importantly good restrooms. This was the perfect spot to spend an hour or two when coming back into Anchorage, or it could be a destination all on its own. The weather was so nice out that it made the time go by very quickly.
Rates were $12.50 per adult and $9 for kids 4-12 with a max of $35 per car. There were also adult and military discounts available. I would not hesitate to return to this center in the future since it was in a good location, has a good mission, and very knowledgeable caretakers.
All three of these activities were very enjoyable and were things I would recommend to other families visiting the Anchorage area. What are your favorite Anchorage area activities?