With its freezing weather and periods of all or no sunlight, can Alaska be a great place for a tour? What would be the best family vacation spots in Alaska? Well, Alaska is a tourist gem with more attractions than you can possibly exhaust – trust us, we’ve tried. Read on to discover just how family vacation-friendly Alaska is!
With the busy life that the hard economic times have imposed on us, finding some time to spend with family is becoming increasingly difficult. For this reason, when you find even the slightest chance to do so, a great vacation is always welcomed.
Alaska is one place that offers a wide array of family vacation opportunities and activities. With its stunning mountain ranges, pristine forests, and awe-inspiring glaciers, Alaska offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re interested in fishing, camping, wildlife viewing, or simply taking in the incredible scenery, Alaska is sure to please. But where do you start when planning a family trip to Alaska? What are the best family vacation spots in Alaska? We’ll find that out in a bit.
Getting to Alaska
Alaska is located in the northwest corner of North America, bordering Western Canada, and separated from Russia’s east coast by a narrow channel. The best way to get to Alaska is by flying into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC). Once you’re in Alaska, you can rent a car or an RV and start exploring this gorgeous state.
If you’re driving up from the lower 48 states, the most direct route is via Canada’s British Columbia. This is great as it will take you through some of the most scenic areas in North America, including the Canadian Rockies.
However, driving to Alaska is not for the faint of heart. The journey is long and arduous, and you’ll need to take ferries across bodies of water. It’s a great adventure, but it’s not recommended if you’re short on time, or you suspect your traveling companions might drive you mad on the road.
Best Family Vacation Spots in Alaska
The following places will make your family vacation to Alaska quite memorable. Choose one or two, and you’ll be good to go.
Anchorage tops our list of the best family vacation spots in Alaska. In fact, it has more goodies than most people may think.
Located just a few miles from the Alaska wilderness, there’s so much to do in this vibrant city. Whether you are looking for the best hiking and biking trails or museums and art galleries, the city has you covered.
Even better, you can take a tram up to Flattop Mountain for stunning views of the Chugach Range or go for a walk on the Tony Knowles Coastal. And there are also numerous attractions for the kids. For instance, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Alaska Native Heritage Center are places that your kids will love to be.
2. Denali National Park
The dazzling lakes, jagged mountains, and flourishing wildlife make Denali National Park a sight to behold. Located on Denali Mountain, the highest in North America, this park encompasses around 6 million acres of pure wilderness that offers the best sights.
The park’s landscape is made of three sections:
- A forest on the lower parts with deciduous taiga
- Alpine tundra in middle sections
- Snow, glaciers, and rocks on the highest points
The longest glacier in Denali National Park is the Kahiltna Glacier, and it’s something you’ll certainly want to see. If you visit the park during winter, you’ll enjoy some of the most incredible activities, including snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross-country skiing.
The place is known to attract climbers, athletes, and pack rafters from around the globe seeking thrilling activities. And, if you are traveling with your family, you’ll certainly love the park’s diversity in terms of wildlife, landscape, and activities. Denali National Park is a great place for families of hikers.
Taking a jeep tour around Denali is arguably the best way to explore this dramatic expanse, especially if you have a limited timeframe to see Denali National Park. If you really want to push the boat out, you can always book a helicopter tour of this stunning place.
But where do you stay while in Denali? For budget-friendly accommodation, Denali Tri-Valley Cabins is a great choice. It offers all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay. As for the high ends, 2-Bedroom Deluxe Mom-in-Law will do the trick.
If those didn’t tickle your fancy, check out this top list of accommodations in and around Denali National Park.
See related: Horseshoe Lake Trail
Fairbanks is not only the coldest city in Alaska’s interior region, but it is also the largest. And, with a population of 32,515, as per the 2020 census, means that the city is the second-largest in entire Alaska.
But, there is more to Fairbanks than just its size and cold weather – the city is quite a tourist attraction. It is one of the best family vacation spots in Alaska.
Some of the best things to do in Fairbanks include;
- Going for a tour of the University of Alaska Museum of the North
- Taking a picture with the statue of Balto
- Visiting the Morris Thompson Cultural
Other than that, a tour of the Chena River State Recreation Area or enjoying the beauty of the Northern Lights. Kids will surely be stunned by this sighting.
As for places to stay, you have a few options too. For example, the Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks is a great mid-range option, while the Springhill Suites by Marriott Fairbanks is perfect for those looking for luxury.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Fairbanks, Alaska
For a family vacation to Alaska, Juneau is among the best spots to be. It is adorned by glaciers, mountains, and wildlife, making it an excellent choice for outdoorsy families. The city is also compact enough to get around on foot with kids in tow.
Sitting on the edge of America’s largest wilderness, Juneau has more than enough to offer your family. Here, you can enjoy the abundant local wildlife, go for an incredible fishing trip, or even explore the glaciers. And when you want to stick around the city, you can go shopping, dine in the city’s restaurants, or enjoy an artistic flair in the various museums in Juneau’s historic downtown.
Some of the popular attractions for family adventure here include the Alaska State Museum, Shrine of St. Therese, and Alaska State Capitol. The favorite of all family activities is whale watching, where you have a chance to see humpback and killer whales, as well as Dall’s porpoise.
Even more, the city offers access to a handful of family vacations near Alaska, such as the Glacier Bay National Park, which is just a few miles west of Juneau.
In terms of places to stay, the Silverbow Inn Hotel & Suites is a good option for luxury accommodation. Another great choice would be the Driftwood Hotel, ideal for those seeking a lower budget but great accommodation.
See related: Anchorage or Juneau: What is Better to Visit?
While it might not be as popular as some of the other family vacation spots in Alaska, Ketchikan is a great place to visit with your family. The city is relatively small, with a population of just over 800 people, as of July 2021. But, this tiny town has plenty to offer.
Ketchikan is often referred to as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” And, it’s no wonder, given that there are five species of Salmon flocking to the city rivers. These include King Salmon, Chum Salmon, Silver Salmon, Sockeye Salmon, and Pink Salmon.
These fish have a common goal, which is to swim upriver to spawn. However, watching them exhaust themselves trying to swim and fly against the river’s force is a spectacular sight.
A trip over the Misty Fjords on a floatplane is another incredible thing to do here with a family. Here, you’ll enjoy the spectacular sightings of whales and sea lions from an aerial position. And if you’d love to explore the wildlife, there are several tours you can book that allow you to see eagles, bears, and other animals.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Homer, Alaska
For adventurous travelers, Seward is always a place to fulfill their urge for thrilling activities. Here, the list of best family activities is endless.
From hiking on the numerous trails, experiencing abundant wildlife, paddling, and fishing in the clear waters, you’ll surely love your time here. And you even get a chance to explore the area’s historic community, especially for history enthusiasts. Seward prides itself on being home to the Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) people, who have stayed on these rocky coasts for centuries.
Some of the main attractions in Seward include the Exit glacier, Resurrection bay, Alaska Sealife Center, Kenai fjords national park, and Bear glacier lagoon. And if you are here in July or August, you can enjoy some of the area’s most popular events, such as the Mount Marathon Race and the Annual Silver Salmon Derby.
In addition, a day out at Resurrection Bay allows your family to experience the most amazing wildlife encounters ever. They will see animals such as humpback whales, playful sea otters, harbor seals, and sea lions. Also, renting a kayak or a water taxi to the bay’s hidden caves is a perfect idea, especially for the kids.
There are some great accommodation options for families in Seward. Families with kids should check out Spruce Lodge, and new couples or honeymooners will enjoy the secluded, adults-only Angels Rest on Resurrection Bay LLC.
7. Kodiak Island
Located on Alaska’s south coast, Kodiak Island is the 2nd largest island in the country and a great place for a family vacation. It measures around 99 miles in length and 10-60 miles in width, with the largest part in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.
The island is famous for its great fishing grounds, making it one of the best fishing destinations. And besides fishing, the place also boasts breathtaking landscapes and wildlife that everyone will love to see. For instance, Kodiak Island is home to more than 3,000 bears, among many other animals, like seals, otters, sea lions, and whales.
Generally, Kodiak Island comprises forests and mountains, especially in the northern and eastern regions. However, the southern part is treeless. Additionally, it contains numerous deep, ice-free bays, which are great shelters for boats.
Besides watching the large Kodiak bears, you can take your family to visit the various historical sites, including the Baranov Museum, Alutiiq Museum, and the holy resurrection church.
See Related: 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in Alaska
Around 200 miles south of Anchorage sits another great family vacation destination in Alaska, known as Homer. The place is popularly referred to as the “City of Peonies” or the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World,” Homer prides on its beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife. Also, the arty city oozes a rich culture and has numerous fun activities for the entire family.
It is home to several popular museums and art galleries, as well as fine restaurants and hotels, meaning that your tour here is all sorted. Whether you want to learn more about Alaska’s history, take some adventurous nature trips, or go fishing, Homer is the place. And the kids will love beachcombing and bird watching.
To top it up, the beautiful scenes of extensive glaciers and snowy mountain peaks offer awe-inspiring sights for everyone to relish. And the Kachemak Bay State Wilderness Park drives in the last nail for those in love with outdoor adventures.
9. Wrangell St. Elias
If you want to escape the busy big city life even for a while, Wrangell St. Elias is the place to be. This is the largest national park in the US and home to some of the largest mountain ranges in North America. The park is quite extensive at over 13 million acres, rising from the ocean to hit 18,008 feet at its highest point.
Some of the best family activities in this park include;
- Visitors centers, including Copper Center, McCarthy Road, and Nabesna Road. These offer more insights into the area’s culture and several hiking trails.
- Drive the McCarthy Road, which allows you to take in some of the best sceneries in Alaska. Use Kayak car rentals to find the best vehicle to help enjoy this 60-mile drive on the gravel road.
- Flight-seeing – See the entire park from above and enjoy some for the best sights in Alaska.
- Hiking and backpacking – this can include ice climbing or hiking the Root Glacier.
- Explore the Kennecott Ghost Town
You can also enjoy overnight camping adventures with your family or even go mountain biking. If there’s a place in Alaska that offers great opportunities for a family vacation, it’s Wrangell St. Elias. Book your trip today and experience the beauty that Alaska has to offer.
If you’re looking for an experience that is reminiscent of the Gold Rush days, then a trip to Skagway is in order. This small town located in the interior of Alaska was once a popular stop for those traveling to and from the Klondike Gold Fields.
During your visit, you can explore some of the restored buildings that date back to the Gold Rush days. Or, take a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad for an unforgettable experience.
One thing to note is that tourists flock to the place in the summer. So, if you want some quietness, when there is not too much traffic on the streets, it’s best to visit during the colder seasons.
Other great things to do while in Skagway include a glacier cruise, dog sledding, and flight-seeing. Also, taking a 3-hour White Pass Summit Bus Tour would also be an excellent idea.
If your next plan is to visit Alaska, Skagway should be one of the places on your to-do list while there. It gives you a chance to enjoy some of the best family trips to Alaska.