When I told people that we were going to Alaska this summer, I was asked two questions. The first question was “Are you taking a cruise?” and the second question was “Are the kids going?”. I guess I wasn’t too surprised by the cruise question, because a lot of people do visit Alaska while on a cruise. The second question about the kids going always surprised me, and caused a little concern. Should the kids not be going? Is a trip to Alaska only for retired people? Will the kids have fun? So yes, the kids went with us, and we found a lot of fun things to do with kids in Alaska.
This post is part three in our series on family travel to Alaska. Be sure to read the other posts to help you plan the best family vacation ever!
- Tips for Planning Your Family Vacation to Alaska
- First Experiences From Our Family Vacation to Alaska
- Fun Things to do With Kids in Alaska
- Where to Eat in Alaska – Kenai Peninsula
(This post contains affilliate links for your convenience. Read my full disclosure policy here.)
Fun Things to do With Kids in Seward, Alaska
Seward is home to Exit Glacier, and it is a must see. Exit Glacier can be seen from the road, or you have a couple of hiking options to get a closer look. There is a visitor center that has some exhibits, a gift shop, and plenty of people to answer your questions. There are guided hikes available, or you can set out on your own.
As you drive and hike closer to the glacier, notice the signs with years on them. These signs mark the spot that the glacier reached to in that particular year. It’s astonishing how much the glacier has receded over time, and in a few generations it will likely be almost nothing.
The hiking trails we took were very well kept and fairly easy to walk. The kids didn’t have any problems hiking the trail, and there were a lot of families out hiking the day we were there. The trail to view the glacier is just over one mile long round trip. There is a trail that will take you right up to the glacier, and it is a difficult hike. We did not do this, and it’s only recommended for the experienced hiker. The trail we hiked, brought us very close to the glacier and we got a lot of beautiful pictures of it.
While you are hiking, you should take a detour to the outwash plain (there are signs). The plain provided another unique view of the glacier, and you are able to get right to the edge of the stream of water running from the glacier. There were even a few chunks of ice floating in the water and laying on the bank while we were there.
We spent a couple of hours exploring the Exit Glacier area, and it was a great learning experience for the whole family.
Well, this was a first experience for our family, and it will likely be one for yours. Getting pulled in a dog sled behind a team of energetic dogs was something we’ll talk about for a long time. The Iditarod Sled Dog race is a huge event in Alaska, and our experience at Seavey’s Ididaride was the perfect way to learn about the big race.
We spent about 90 minutes at Seavey’s and we were given an introduction to the Iditarod race, a tour of the kennel, a demonstration of how the sleds are packed, a chance to cuddle with the puppies, and a two mile dog sled ride. This tour is available from mid-May to mid-September and cost $74 for adults and $37 for kids.
So, we took a two mile sled dog ride without snow on the ground? Yes, your family rides in a cart that has wheels, and the ride takes place on a trail through the woods. The woods were so thick that it looked like we were “sledding” through a jungle. The dogs pulling us were a mix of Iditarod veterans and dogs that were in training to be the next race champ. Tell your kids not to expect the sled dogs to be the beautiful blue eyed huskies that you see in the movies. The dogs at Seavey’s are strong and lean and a variety of breeds. The one thing that the dogs all have in common is that they want to race. That’s what they are born to do.
Alaska Sealife Center
The weather during our visit to Seward was overcast and rainy, so the Alaska Sealife Center was a welcoming place to be during the rain. You can expect to spend 1 -2 hours here, and you’ll venture through a wide variety of exhibits. You might think (like my husband) that the Alaska Sealife Center is a little expensive to visit at $24.95 for adults (ages 13+) and $12.95 for kids ages 4-12, but they do offer AAA, military, and AK resident discounts.
There are two levels full of exhibits at the Alaska Sealife Center. Besides various fish, you’ll see birds, marine mammals, and the fun invertebrates that your kids will get to touch like crabs and sea urchins. The center has a nice gift shop that your kids won’t be able to pass by.
The Alaska Sealife Center is located on the water right by main street in Seward. There is a lot of parking and some fun dining options are within a short walking distance.
If you are driving anywhere in Alaska, this book is an invaluable resource. It will tell you what you can expect along every mile of the roadways in the whole state! (Click image for more info!)
Fun Things to do With Kids in Cooper Landing, Alaska
River Rafting and Fishing
We spent one night in Cooper Landing, and we spent one day on the river doing some rafting and fishing. Cooper Landing is a very small town located on the Kenai River and Kenai Lake. We spent the night at the Princess Lodge and booked our two river excursions through them. There are a handful of places in town that you can book your own river rafting and fishing trips with on your own.
I have always wanted to go river rafting, and there is a fairly tame stretch of water on the upper Kenai River that was perfect for the kids and I. The rapids were mostly class II and were exciting enough for us. Our float trip was three hours long, and we floated about 13 miles down the river. The scenery was beautiful, the eagles were everywhere, and we saw a large number of fly fisherman bringing in that night’s dinner. We did an afternoon trip, but there are other options available.
While the kids and I floated down the river, my husband did the fishing trip. The fishing trip would also be suitable for kids, probably the older kids in your bunch though. The company provided all of the fishing gear, but you do need the proper license. You’ll be looking for salmon and trout for your catch. Since there are a few companies in the area offering trips, you will want to check online for their prices.
I would recommend reservations, but if you have a flexible schedule, they may not be necessary.
Fun Things to do With Kids in Homer, Alaska
Homer was the favorite city of our group. We stayed at the end of the spit, and were within walking distance to the shops, fishing, and restaurants. The spit is touristy, but a lot of fun. The kids loved all of the small shops, ice cream stores, and just walking along the boardwalk. I would also recommend a trip to the Homer farmer’s market if it happens to be going on while you are there. This is the best place to sample a variety of local food.
Islands and Ocean Visitor Center
We did venture away from the spit into the main part of town, and spent about an hour at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. This is a beautiful building, and the best part is that admission is free. The building is full of exhibits and, of course, has a gift shop. Since the center is located on 60 acres, there is also plenty to see outside. There are trails showcasing local plant life and trails through a large bird refuge. We took a guided tour and were able to view sandhill cranes. The trails were a nice and safe area for the kids and I to walk around.
Homer is all about fishing. There are a lot of charter fishing boats available to take you and your older kids out to catch salmon or halibut. My husband and some friends took two different half day charters, and were successful catching fish. The youngest kid along for the trip was an eighth grader and he had an absolute blast. I would recommend reservations well in advance, but you may have luck walking the docks in the early morning and asking if anyone has space available. The charters we used had booking offices located on the boardwalk along the spit.
Boats could be chartered for full day trips too, and the prices would definitely reflect that! Check out all of the different charters that are available online. Fishing in Alaska is really an amazing experience.
Fun Things to do With Kids in Whittier, Alaska
Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
Well, the first fun thing your family can do happens even before you get into Whittier. You get to drive through a 2 1/2 mile one way tunnel to get to the town. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America. The tunnel is shared with the railroad, and since it’s a one way tunnel, you need to be aware of the times that is open for the way you are going. The toll for the tunnel is $13 round trip.
Phillips Glacier Cruises
The glaciers in Alaska are unlike any that you’ve ever seen. They are the prettiest blue color, and you will get some fantastic views of all kinds of glaciers by taking a cruise. We took the 26 glacier cruise through Phillips and weren’t disappointed. The catamaran was very nice, and the ride was as smooth as could be. Phillips guarantees that no one will get seasick on their boats, and no one on our cruise did. The cruise is about 5 hours, but the time passes very quickly. There is also a shorter cruise available too.
Your family gets an assigned seat on board, and you can get up and view the glaciers anywhere outside too. You are seated at a table inside the ship, and are served lunch and an afternoon snack. Our snack was, freshly baked warm chocolate chip cookies. There is also a bar and snack bar that are always open.
This cruise gets you very close to a few glaciers (Surprise Glacier is the best), and you will likely see a glacier calve. The catamaran will be cruising through water that is filled with ice chunks, sea otters, sea lions, and tons of fish. There is also a park ranger on board, so you get the inside information about everything that you are experiencing. The kids can also participate in the junior ranger program, and earn their badge before the cruise is over.
The 26 glacier cruise cost $159 per adult and $99 per child. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and worth every penny.
Our family spent nine fun-filled days traveling throughout the Kenai Peninsula and we had a fantastic vacation. Don’t fall into the thinking that you need to be retired in order to travel to Alaska! There is a lot for families to do, and you will gain a lifetime of wonderful memories!
Please contact me if you have any questions about any of the family fun activities that we experienced! Also check out my post on planning your family vacation to Alaska here.