Family Travel in Alaska: Answer the Call of the Wild


The Call of the Wild:  an insatiable lust for rugged landscapes and untouched wilderness.  Those who answer the call, look to Alaska as a Mecca, a place that draws in the most adventurous of us, like a tractor beam.

That nagging urge to leave suburbia behind is not silenced when we have young children, but practicality makes it difficult to head its beck and call.  Thankfully, there are ways to partake in Alaska’s unbridled splendour without asking your two-year-old to help you portage the canoe.

Cruises are a very popular way to experience Alaska.  From the comfort of a floating hotel you can soak in the scenery along the rugged coastline.  Shore excursions, to popular locations, punctuate the journey.

Cruises are a relaxing way to travel with the whole family.  They accommodate all ages and abilities and offer shipboard activities to keep everybody busy.  Investigate the different cruise lines to discover which ship will suite your family best.

If you would prefer a self-directed travel itinerary, there is a wide array of family friendly adventures to be had.

You can go sightseeing anywhere, but in Alaska you can go flightseeing.  Throughout the state, air services offer tourists the opportunity to soar above the landscape in small, propeller driven planes.  Don’t be scared, small planes are way more fun than jets.  Drink in the sights from high above and enjoy a new prospective on the glaciers, mountains and fjords.

Once your family has taken in the overhead view, you can get up close and personal by spending a day on a wildlife cruise.  A number of companies offer these excursions.  You’ll undoubtedly be able to connect with one that fits into your itinerary.

One company, Kenai Fjords Tours, offers full and half day wildlife cruises departing from Seward.  Float through the fjords and pass stunning glaciers.  Wildlife abounds and cruisers are likely to spot whales, harbour seals, sea lions, otters, puffins, bald eagles and a variety of other birds, relaxed and at home in their natural habitat.  Cruises are available from the beginning of June through the end of August.

But Alaska isn’t just an expanse of unsettled wilderness; there are cities to explore too.  If your trip takes you to Fairbanks, the whole family will enjoy a day at the Pioneer Park (formerly Alaskaland).

Pioneer Park is a theme park where guests can be entertained while immersing themselves in the history and culture of the state.  Park attractions include a riverboat, native village, gold rush town, and three museums.  Take a spin on the 40 foot antique carousel.  Savour the flavours of an old-school salmon bake.  Pioneer Park has something for everyone.

The sun never sets on Alaska, in the summer, and Anchorage has plenty to keep the family busy on those long, long summer days.

-The Anchorage Museum is a fantastic facility that includes an interactive science center for children and the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, for a dose of art and culture.

– If you’re interested in learning about the first peoples of the area, plan to spend some time at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

-The Alaska Zoo is sure to go over well with the kids and provide a fun day for all ages.

-Anchorage is also home to the Alaska Botanical Garden.    We don’t often associate green thumbs with such a harsh climate, but amid the facility’s 110 acres of boreal forest is 11 acres of beautifully cultivated gardens and trails.  Take a family stroll and discover the flora of the state.

The state of Alaska does not impose any sales tax but keep your eyes peeled, as you travel around, for municipal taxes.  Some cities impose their own sales taxes, though others remain tax free, so plan your souvenir shopping wisely.  Anchorage and Fairbanks fall into the tax free category.

Beautiful scenery, quirky little towns and fantastic fishing spots make road tripping a great way to see the best of Alaska.  The two main highways through the state, the Glenn Highway and the Parks Highway, make travel and navigation easy.  Take the time to plan a route that will allow you to meander through the small towns, checkout the larger cities and see the sights and spot the wildlife in between.

The desire to visit Alaska comes with a sense of urgency.  There is a palpable risk that the unspoiled may become spoiled and the pristine will, literally, melt away.  The state is a vast bastion of natural beauty but stands to be hard hit by the effects of climate change and the degradation that goes along with the acquisition and sale of natural commodities.

Alaska has a lot to offer the whole family.  Don’t hesitate, let this be the summer you answer the call. – Jen R, Staff Writer