By Heather Mundt – Heading to a park in Anchorage, Alaska on a wintery afternoon in March, we’d anticipated to uncover a ghost town of forgotten, climate-battered play structures, neglected operating paths and desolate parking lots.
As an alternative we located Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park teeming with parents and their bundled-up toddlers vying for spots on the oversized swing a steady string of shorts-clad runners and fat-bikers (and their dogs) traversing the scenic 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and a cluster of ice skaters and hockey players on frozen Westchester Lagoon, all clamoring for the final bits of daylight regardless of the 35-degree chill.
So though bears could hibernate in winter, Alaskans do not, a truth created clear in the course of my family’s March rendezvous with OFM’s managing editor and Alaska’s family members-travel guru, Erin Kirkland. A boat ride, skiing adventure and other kid-friendly destinations there have been lots of activities to completely exhaust us by the time we reached the trip’s pinnacle, the ceremonial start out of the popular Iditarod Sled Dog Race.
If you, also, have thought of an off-season Alaska trip that involves a front-row view of the Final Wonderful Race on Earth, study on for a whirlwind of wintertime family members-entertaining concepts in Anchorage.
Delight in a Glacier Cruise with Lazy Otter Charters
The final time I’d been on a 1-day boat tour in Alaska, I was miserable. And by miserable, I imply vomiting. But some 15 years later, memories of that unusually tumultuous whale-watching journey by means of Kenai Fjords have all but vanished immediately after a tranquil voyage by means of Prince William Sound by way of Lazy Otter Charters.
Primarily based in Whittier, Alaska 1 of a handful of port towns in the region and a well-liked day-cruise location about an hour from Anchorage this off-season, half-day trip in the sound is a opportunity to practical experience its untouched coastal wilderness in relative solitude.
Aside from the ferry, we’re definitely the only boat out there, says Elizabeth Dernbach, manager of the company’s Lazy Otter Cafe. It is just a lot extra calm and serene in the wintertime.
It is correct that the only other boat we passed was, certainly, a ferry, permitting our boat, Qayaq Chief, to travel alone toward Blackstone Bay. Plying nonetheless waters, we spotted sea otters floating amid bobbing chunks of ice that cracked and banged against the hull as we sophisticated toward Blackstone and Beloit Glaciers.
Two amongst the plethora of Prince William Sound’s tidewater glaciers valley glaciers that flow into the ocean the region boasts the world’s densest concentration of them. In other words, if you hope to see chunks of ice calving from these jagged, wintergreen-blue behemoths, this is the location to take a look at.
Of course, the glaciers didn’t execute for us that day. But the blue skies and abnormally spring-like temperatures created up for it, supplying a pleasant cease on the rocky beach to discover some tide pools. My children have been all also delighted to join the boat’s biologist, Leah, in her search for resident life types.
Ambling along the uneven terrain, they gently overturned a couple of hefty, charcoal-colored rocks to investigate what lay beneath.
Mom! Appear! My oldest yelled for me as the 3 scientists crouched about a little pool of gunnels fish resembling tiny, brownish eels squirming amid the lavender-hued mussels their hands smeared with mud.
I really like when I have children on my tours, Leah smiled.
It wasn’t precisely the fascinating, whale-watching trip my husband and I skilled in 2001. But I’ll decide on smooth sailing more than higher-sea spewing any day.
Did you know? About 60 miles southeast of Anchorage, the town of Whittier was established in WWII as a strategic military port. Property to some 200 residents, most who reside in former Army barracks Begich Towers, extra than 700,000 take a look at Whittier Harbor annually.
If you go by automobile, you will drive by means of Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, a 1-way passageway shared by automobile and train, and the longest railroad-highway tunnel in North America (two.five miles). Verify out the State of Alaska Division of Transportation for particulars on the tunnel’s schedule.
Alaska’s Family members Friendly Alyeska Resort
Increasing up in Colorado close to some of the very best ski resorts in the globe such as Vail, Winter Park and Copper Mountain I’ve never ever been inclined to travel out of my state for a ski holiday. That is, till our wintertime take a look at to Anchorage, which just occurs to be 40 miles away from Alaska’s biggest ski region, Alyeska Resort.
Situated along the globe-renowned Seward Highway and tucked the base of the Chugach Mountains, this Girdwood, Alaska, resort is legendary for its intense terrain and typical annual snowfall: 650 inches, almost 30 % extra than Colorado’s leading spot, Wolf Creek Ski Region (465 inches).
And though its 1,610 acres of skiable terrain suggests it is about half the size as lots of of my favourite ski places back house, Alyeska’s view is actually second to none, boasting the only ocean view of any North American ski resort.
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Alyeska Resort genuinely does have anything for everybody, says Shannon Markley, the resort’s advertising engagement specialist who skied element of the day with my family members. Supplying all the things from newbie trails to sophisticated runs and professional terrain, she says, Alyeska is a wonderful location for anybody who desires to find out or for these who want to place their professional abilities to the test.
Even if you are not a skier or snowboarder, taking the tram up two,500 feet and standing at the leading of the mountain to see hanging glaciers sandwiched among substantial mountain peaks with the ocean in the background is just indescribable, Markley says.
Did you know? Alyeska Resort boasts North America’s longest continuous double-black diamond run, The North Face, and is the only ski resort on the continent that provides mountain, glacier and ocean views. And when spring hits, the resort receives extra sunlight per day than any other North American ski resort, permitting evening skiing from four p.m.-9 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday January by means of mid-April).
For a correct luxury mountain practical experience, remain at the Hotel Alyeska, a 304-area house featuring on-internet site amenities, from dining to shops, The Spa at Alyeska, saltwater pool, whirlpool and fitness center. In addition to alpine skiing, winter activities involve Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding, as nicely as heli-skiing and cat-skiing operations. The Resort’s summer time season provides hiking and biking, flightseeing adventures, glacier dog sledding and ice climbing.
What to Do in Anchorage with Children
On our whirlwind, 4-day trip, we only had 1 complete day to tour Anchorage. And as Alaska’s biggest city, about 300,000, roughly 41 % of the state’s population, there’s no shortage of family members-friendly offerings. Right here are some highlights.
What to do. Really, my children absolute favourite activity was heading to Margaret Eagan Sullivan Park most days to play on the frozen lagoon, a novelty for my children. (Bodies of water outdoors of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains have a tendency to remain also warm to freeze permanently all through winter.)
A dad pulling his toddler on a miniature dog sled, moms ice-skating as they pushed babies in strollers, a group of children playing hockey as a dog chased the puck, all amid frigid temperatures. Add in the operating trail and brand-new playground, and they have been anxious to take a look at just about every afternoon. They also enjoyed our two other most important stops, the neighborhood zoo and an air museum:
The Alaska Zoo: Opening in 1969 as the Alaska Children’s Zoo, its genesis started in 1966, when an Anchorage grocer won a contest. The prize? A two-year-old female Asian elephant named Annabelle. As the community’s interest in her grew, so did the concept for a zoo. Some 50 years later and renamed The Alaska Zoo in 1980, it is positioned on 20 wooded acres and is the only North American zoo specializing in northern animals.
From Native species like moose, wolverine (the 1st 1 I’ve ever observed in true life) and caribou, this zoo characteristics all 4 Alaskan bear species: brown, black, glacier and polar. But my family members will most fondly recall watching the zoo’s ducks take turns sliding down an icy, duck-sized hill.
Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum: Situated along the shore of the world’s busiest floatplane lake, Lake Hood, this museum is a nod to the bush pilots who’ve braved Alaska’s treacherous terrain for extra than 100 years.
It also showcases the state’s military significance and the history of Alaska Airlines as nicely as Pan Am Airlines, which pioneered industrial flights to the state and 25 restored vintage planes. Children will specially really like playing in the museum’s flight simulator then heading to the observation deck to watch planes take off from the lake.
Family members-Friendly Anchorage Restaurants
I wasn’t shocked to uncover sophisticated meals in Anchorage I just didn’t anticipate to uncover it at virtually just about every meal. Favorites integrated breakfast at Middle Way Cafe, which makes use of organic, locally sourced components in meals like my Eggs Florentine, just like so lots of of my favourite Colorado eateries. And its new sister restaurant by the exact same owners (positioned subsequent door), Hearth Artisan Pizza is as fashionable and hip as any Denver-region restaurant. Plus the meals is delish.
An additional favourite? The Indian meals at Namaste Shangri-La, positioned in a nondescript strip mall, was so fantastic, we’d fly back to Anchorage just to taste the restaurant’s naan when once again.
Much more Anchorage Family members Lodging Concepts
We preferred to remain close to downtown for less difficult access to the Iditarod start out but also wanted area to spread out all that winter gear. So the excellent compromise was renting a house from VRBO.com (Getaway Rental By Owner). An updated, 3-bedroom charmer, it was beautifully decorated and comfy.
The home was also about a block from element of the Iditarod’s ceremonial route, permitting hassle-free viewing of dog teams as they headed toward the finish. Bonus? Some strangely quiet but delightful chickens lived in the property’s shared backyard, which captivated my boys.
The Voyager Inn is conveniently-positioned, family members-friendly hotel supplying guests a kitchenette with microwave and a refrigerator in just about every area, absolutely free wifi, and a every day hot breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes, oatmeal, coffee and juice.
Springhill Suites Anchorage University Lake is nestled at the base of Chugach Mountain Variety. This hotel provides panoramic views of University Lake and characteristics an indoor swimming pool and a hot tub.
Editorial Disclaimer: The Mundt family members received discounted media prices for lodging and activities.
Heather Mundt is contributing editor for Outside Households Magazine and authors her weblog, Momfari. She lives in Colorado.