A visit to Alaska can be a life changing for children, shaping their understanding of the natural world and wildlife, and discovering their own sense of adventure. Few places in the world offer lively hikes to glaciers, abandoned gold mines, and wildlife sightings that can make even the youngest to most veteran travelers feel a sense of wonder.
Alaska also offers a balanced trip whether you choose to cruise with kids, explore the surroundings of its biggest city Anchorage, or farther afield to its many accessible destinations ranging from national parks to glacier hikes.
Is Alaska good for kids?
Alaska is a great location for children who can enjoy outdoor activities for long periods of time. The National Park Service hosts the Junior Ranger program, a must for children’s exploring. Adapted age-appropriate books help children in the range of five to 13 appreciate the parks in depth while letting them earn the badge for the corresponding parks they visit.
All of the materials can be downloaded in advance or picked up on arrival, making it a special part of the overall journey and allowing kids of all ages to earn their most special souvenir, their Junior Ranger badge. And there's no age limit – the whole family is welcome to participate including parents.
Where is best in Alaska for kids
Anchorage is an easy start or stop to any trip with the amenities a family would expect anywhere in the lower 48 states. Cruising is an easy option lacking the hassle of planning with many large ships having plentiful options for family fun, but the potential for crowds in the ports, or on board, means cruises are not for everyone.
In Denali National Park the tour to the sled dog yard is part of the Junior Ranger program. The park’s most famous residents are introduced to the children with puppy playtime at the end. Kids of all ages will be happy to get to meet one of these friendly pups whose training involves socialization from their earliest days.
Best things to do near Anchorage with kids
The biggest city in Alaska offers so many options an entire child-friendly trip could be easily based from it. From the several hundred miles of trails that are part of the city’s heart, it’s possible to link these walks with the numerous kid-friendly museums in the city such as Anchorage museum, the museum of science and nature or the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Local Raspberry-Kincaid park or farther afield options in Chugach state park offers plentiful options from the city.
On occasion, visitors have even been known to spot beluga whales coming up Ship Creek in the center of Anchorage. If not spotted in the city itself, locals will head half an hour south of town to Cook Inlet to spot the belugas in partnership with the Beluga Whale Alliance, a local nonprofit educating and monitoring the local population of belugas with text messaging alerts worth signing up for.
All this happens in the late summer months on the road to Girdwood, the state’s best ski resort town. Alyeska resort in summer operates their gondola up their main run overlooking the Kenai peninsula and numerous glaciers, a great option for small children. The nearby Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center offers interpretive programs to introduce visitors to the iconic big game of the state such as bears, moose, caribou, and wood bison.
Best things to do near Seward with kids
Heading further south to Seward, the Alaska Sealife Center also allows visitors to see rescued marine mammals up-close as part of their conservation efforts. Ranger-led walks in the fjord along town are another great option for small children to help in their quest for their Junior Ranger badge.
A short 30-minute drive from Seward is the trail system of Kenai Fjords National Park, with its iconic and easily accessible Exit glacier. The Exit Glacier trail system is mostly flat with numerous easy viewpoints that even with a stroller are accessible for small children.
Seward also hosts numerous tour operators offering fishing excursions, kayaking, guided hikes and whale-watching excursions on small day boats giving a wide range of options for seaside activities.
Best things to do in Alaska with children
Gold mining is quintessentially Alaskan and exciting for all ages. Fairbanks and its gold history is the best example of this uniquely Alaskan activity. The Gold Daughters offer female-led interpretive tours about the techniques of mining along with the fossil finds from the past Ice Age in Alaska. To go more in depth, the Museum of the North provides some of the best science activities for kids in Alaska.
Best things to do in Alaska with teenagers and tweenagers
Many towns across Alaska offer activities such as white-water rafting, ziplining, and more high excitement activities like off-roading (ATVing). Local companies such as Denali ATV offer larger off-road machines that accommodate booster seats (provided) so the whole family can take part. At 16 years of age, and with parental permission, teen options evolve into getting to drive their own machine behind one of the guides. Denali also hosts a zipline park, another great option for teenagers.
- Bugs are a big problem. In the (short) Alaskan summer don't go outside without a bug net over your child-carrying backpack or stroller.
- Keeping children engaged as wildlife spotters. Look out for the abundant moose, or highly sought after bears (but keep their expectations realistic).
- Note: many campgrounds and rest stops in Alaska lack the changing facilities or basic running water that you’d expect elsewhere, so plan accordingly.