Planning a family vacation to Alaska? Be sure to stop in Anchorage, where fun activities for the whole family abound. We spent a week in Anchorage in June, and these were some of the highlights of our trip.
1. Tour the Solar System. Downtown Anchorage offers you a unique opportunity to tour our entire solar system through the Lightspeed Planet Walking Tour. Find the sun at the corner of 5th and G streets, where a map guides you through town to the various planets in the solar system. The walking tour is designed to take you from the sun to each planet at a leisurely pace, approximating the speed of light. If you make it to Pluto, the entire trip would take over five hours. Good thing Pluto is no longer a planet.
2. Visit the Native Heritage Center. The Native Heritage Center is a great place to learn about the history and culture of Alaska's indigenous people. It boasts a well-curated museum of artifacts and a living-history tour of different styles of dwellings and lodges used by the five cultural groups represented in Alaska. Kids can roam around and touch whale bones, totems, and tools used by Alaska natives in daily life. Knowledgeable guides are on-hand to give you a feel for the story-telling traditions and village life. Open in summer months only.
3. Explore the Anchorage Museum Imaginarium. We loved visiting the Anchorage Museum, particularly the Imaginarium's hands-on exhibits science and technology. The Imaginarium contains several rooms of hands-on science exhibits for tots to teens to explore and learn.
4. Take a goofy photo at the Captain Cook Statue. Located at the end of 3rd Avenue in downtown Anchorage, Resolution Park boasts a statue of famed explorer Captain James Cook, whose travels took him from England to Alaska, Hawaii, Australia, and points around the globe. Captain Cook met with a tragic end in Hawaii, where he ended up on the wrong end of a pointy spear. He may or may not have ended up the main course at a luau, along with the poi and poke salad. At any rate, his voyage to Cook Inslet, near Anchorage, was a much less eventful journey.
5. Take a Glacier Cruise. Drive about an hour outside Anchorage, and hop on a day cruise of the famous glaciers of Chugach National Park. We liked the 26 Glaciers Cruise, which included a comfortable, roomy catamaran, lunch, and prime viewing spots for wildlife, glaciers, and gorgeous scenery. It was an unforgettable tour for the entire family.
If you happen to be in Alaska from August 26-September 6, 2010, be sure to drive to Palmer to check out the Alaska State Fair. We visited the State Fair in 1996, before our son was born, but it still holds a special place in my heart. There, you can feast on fair food, hear live concerts, and check out some of the worlds largest vegetables. Alaska's growing season may be short, but with nearly 24-hour daylight in mid-summer, cabbages can grow to the size of a Volkswagen. Who among us can resist a ginormous squash?