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The USA has many landscapes - arid deserts, impressive canyons, white sandy beaches, and beautifully rugged mountains, but none might be so beautiful as what you can see in Alaska - and its largest city - Anchorage!
With stunning glaciers, breathtaking wildlife, crisp air, fascinating culture and rich history, Anchorage is not only an exciting destination for kids to visit, but also an educational one.
It's because of Anchorage's incredible depth and beauty that we're excited to share with you our Anchorage City Guide featuring our "Top 9 Family Attractions" , which are really just the tip of the iceberg (could be literally too!) in what you can enjoy this exciting US destination!
So check out our entire Anchorage City Guide that we've excitedly put together just for you, so you know how to plan your exciting family day out in the City of Lights and Flowers!
Main Image Credit: JodieO.Photos
Image Credit: JodieO.Photos
In this Anchorage City Guide, we are excited to share with you our top 9 things to do with kids in Anchorage, plus some really fun experiences that might just become the highlight of your visit!
We know that budgets are often a factor when traveling as a family with kids, so also in this Anchorage City Guide we list some free things to do with kids that won't break those budgets!
If you won't have a car during your time in Anchorage, we'll let you know how to get around the city on public transportation, plus we share some really fun facts about Anchorage you might just want to impress your friends with!
If you want to explore further out, our Anchorage City Guide shares one of our favorite day trips, plus we let you know some famous faces who were born right in the city!
So whether this is your first trip saying "Yes, take me to Anchorage"! or maybe you have lived in there all your life but never took the time to explore and you wonder "What is there is to do near me in Anchorage?", then keep reading because we have the top 9 things to do in Anchorage with kids...and so much more!
Image Credit: JodieO.Photos
The history of the region that Anchorage stands in today, actually dates back around 5,000 to 6,000 years thanks you archaeological evidence found at Beluga Point (which is actually just south of modern-day Anchorage), showing that Cook Inlet was inhabited (albiet seasonally) by Alqutiiq Eskimos. Their occupation of the land came in waves, around 6,000 years ago, then 4,000 years ago, and finally again around 2,000 years.
The Chugach Alutiiq likely inhabited the area after this, but they had moved on by the time Captain Cook arrived to the area in 1778. He hadn't planned on staying, however ended up surveying the area across a 10 day period.
Cook never named the inlet, however years later it was named "Cook's River", and finally "Cook Inlet".
When Alaska's 1880 Gold Rush hit, only 430 non-Natives lived in the entire state of Alaska a decade after its purchase from Russia. However, like most areas that offer a potentially prosperous future, the 1898 Klondike Gold Ruch changed that yet even by the early 1900s when the non-Native Alaskan population was nearing 65,000, Anchorage was still a mere wilderness.
In fact, the first home in Anchorage wasn't built until 1915 (and you can still see it when you visit!). The 1920s saw an increase in population, yet it was during WWII when two military bases were set up near Anchorage that everything changed for the city.
Within 10 years, Anchorage became the dominant town in the state.
In 1959, Alaska officially joined as the 49th state in the union, and today Anchorage welcomes people from all over the world to appreciate this truly special town, in a truly spectacular setting.
Image Credit: Julie Dodds
From experiences to embrace the stunning wildlife to museums to embrace the rich history, and everything in between, you'll find an incredible range of things to do in Anchorage!
Fancy a dip? Yes, it might be cold outside but that doesn't matter at H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark! Kids always love to make a splash whatever time of the year!
To get up close and personal with the wildlife, attractions in Anchorage such as the Alaska Zoo, or the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center make for truly special days out where kids can not only come face to face with some beautiful creatures, but also learn why it's important we look after them!
For culture and history, Anchorage has a host of museums you can explore, including the Alaska Native Historic Center, the Alaska Aviation Museum or just the Anchorage Museum! Kids can also go back in time at museums such as the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature!
Don't miss fun transport attractions either, such as the Alaska Railroad or the Alaska City Trolley Tours!
With so many fun things to do in Anchorage with the family, we're sure you'll soon have that itinerary filling up! So kids, what do you want to enjoy first?
Image Credit: Juno Kim | Visit Anchorage
Don't have a car in Anchorage? Not a problem! There are a number of other ways you can get around.
The first option is a shuttle! Many hotels can shuttle you to and from the airport, and even around town you might find an attraction offers a shuttle so you can enjoy what they have to offer. If you book a tour, the tour operator usually offers a shuttle pick up from the hotel, so look into that too!
The city also has a public bus route (the "People Mover") that connects hotels, parks, farmers markets, the iconic public art, and other popular attractions. This system has over a dozen routes, with service on most routes running daily.
For more information on the public bus system, check out Visit Anchorage!
You can also explore the city by bike! The city has a vast trail system which is really easy to ride, and many of the city highlights or attractions can be accessed from this route.
If you're downtown you'll easily find the paved Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This trail runs for around 11 miles right along the Cook Inset coast, and connects to the Chester Creek Trail. If you keep going, you'll end u in Kincaid Park. If you don't have a bike of your own, you can rent a bike from a downtown shop.
Anchorage is also a great walking city! Well, downtown is. There is something special in just taking to the streets (if it's not too cold for you!) and taking in the city, the atmosphere, the architecture and the energy.
If you explore downtown on foot, you'll come across colorful public art which are always fun to find, as well as parks, historic attractions and landmarks, and it also gives you time to stop by the garden beds and hanging baskets to see why Anchorage earned the nickname “City of Lights and Flowers”!
Alaska has such an incredible beauty, it really just has to be seen to be believed, and one way you CAN see the state is via the Alaska Railroad!
The Alaska Railroad’s main line date back to 1923, and stretches a whopping 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, and yes, stopping in Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad operates year round so you can see Alaska in all seasons, with scheduled serviced varying seasonally. As you would exect, the busy summer season runs from mid-May to mid-September, whilst the quieter winter schedule spans mid-September to mid-May.
If you have some extra time on your hands when in Anchorage, consider heading out to see a bit more of the area!
Image Credit: Nicole Geils
Our Top 9 Fun Things To Do With The Kids In Anchorage
1Anchorage City Trolley Tours
A great way to see the city and learn all about Anchorage's rich history, wildlife and culture is through and Anchorage City Trolley Tour! As you make your way around the city on a very cool trolley, you'll have a knowledgable guide tell you all about what you are seeing, and have a chane to ask questions!
The most common tour is the One Hour City Tour, but you can also try out the Deluxe City Tour, as well as a two hour Earthquake Park Walking Tour! With so much to explore, why not do it with people who live and breathe the city? Great for an Anchorage Family Day Out!
Image Credit: JodyO.Photos | Visit Anchorage
Not only is the Anchorage Museum a world-class museum of history, science, and art, but it's also the largest museum in Alaska! This kid friendly musem is a hands-on science center allowing you to see scientific concepts with an Alaskan context, so kids get to have a local-based experience as well!
Throughtout the exhibits kids can learn all about social elements, as well cultures, and of course, science and history! The museum features over 80 exhibits, and each one can teach the kids something new!
Image Credit: Juno Kim
A hidden Anchorage gem, the Alaska Museum of Science and Nature offers numberous of hands-on science and natural history based exhibits where kids can all about the marvels of our planet, and its history!
Throughout the exhibits, kids can come face to face with actual dinosaur fossils, journey back in time to the Ice Age, explore Alaska marine life, and even journey under the Earth as they explore gems and minerals that make up our planet! With plenty of hands-on exhibits and family fun to boot, this fun museum is a must on any day out in Anchorage!
Image Credit: Alaska Museum of Science and Nature
Alaska Zoo spans across around 20 wooded acres in Anchorage, and what is so special about the zoo is that it's a place where the animals have found permanent homes. All of the beautiful creatures who come into the zoo are orphaned and injured arctic and sub-arctic species, so not only can kids meet them face to face, but they can also learn all about conservation and why it's so important to look after our animals!
Alaska Zoo also offers guided tour experiences, as well as special encounters that will make your day extra special, from being a keeper for a day, to feeding and cleaning the big cats! A WILD day out in Anchorage!
Image Credit: Ashley Heimbigner
Make a SPLASH at Alaska's largest indoor waterpark, with plenty of water attractions for all ages, and all bravery levels! This year round park features a 575ft iconic lazy river where you can just take in the atmosphere, plus a super fun wave pool that generates waves up to 4ft!
For those feeling brave, the park has a 43ft high water coaster that will surely bring out those thrills, and for those smaller kids there is a super fun pirate ship and children's lagoon where they can enjoy kiddie-sized fun! A great way to spend a day in Alaska - and it doesn't matter what the weather outside is doing, the fun is indoors....all day long!
Image Credit: H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark
The Alaska Aviation Museum can be found in the heart of Alaska aviation, as it's located near the busiest seaplane base in the entire world! So even before you enter the museum you'll be on a base which has over 87,000 takeoﬀs and landings each year - how cool is that!?
Once inside the Alaska Aviation Museum, you'll get to explore one of the finest displays of Alaskan aviation history thanks to their fascinating exhibits, along with a host of interactive displays which are great for kids to discover. Not only that, you'll be able to see actual aircraft first hand - and some are pretty impressive!
Image Credit: Jack Bonney
Nature is calling at the Alaska Botanical Garden, where you can spend the day strolling through some unique and colorful gardens, from Rock Gardens featuring thriving species from as far as China and the Himalayas, to a Herb Garden where kids can learn what herbs are medicianal and can cure the human body!
The ABG also features beautiful art sculptures throughout the garden, plus they host events and programs throughout the year to add something even more special to your day. With trails too, make sure you take those walking shoes, and your camera as you might just spot some of the local wildlife! A beautiful nature-filled day in Anchorage!
Image Credit: Lilly Kelly | Visit Anchorage
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a little way out of Anchorage, but it's such a special and beautiful place that we had to mention it in our Top 9, because here they provide a refuge for orphaned, ill and injured animals, plus they care for animals that can't survive on their own in the wild. It's a beautiful center!
At the AWCC, you can explore over 200 ares of animal enclosures via the scenic 1 1/2 mile loop (either by foot or by car). Along the way kids can learn all about these amazing creatures that live in the center - and see them face to face! There is nothing quite like seeing a majestic brown bear cooling off in the water, or a grand moose strutting in the grasslands, even bison roaming on the pastures!
Image Credit: Wayde Carroll Photography
The renowned Alaska Native Heritage Center is an important experience for kids to understand the culture and history of Anchorage and Alaska. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is an exciting place where everyone can come to expand their understanding of Alaska's first people through the various exhibits and displays.
They are also the only statewide cultural and education center that is dedicated to celebrating all heritages and cultures. They also serve as a statewide educational resource for Alaska Natives from birth until Elder, and they also support and celebrate Alaska Natives from all of Alaska’s Native cultures. An invaluable experience for all!
Image Credit: Ashley Heimbigner
Famous Folk From Anchorage!
Nate Thompson is a popular American ice hockey player, currently playing with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.
His career began after being drafted for the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2001.
Image Credit: mark6mauno
Keegan Messing is a Canadian-American figure skater, who has competed in two Winter Olympic Games in 2018 and 2022.
Born in Anchorage, he represented Canada at the Olympic Games, and also competed in three World Championships.
Image Credit: Uwe Langer
5 Fun Anchorage Facts
Impress your friends with your Anchorage knowledge!
- Captain James Cook is credited as being the first to explore and describe Anchorage, which happened back in 1778!
- From Anchorage you can see a whopping six different mountain ranges all around you! On a clear day you can even see Mt McKinley, which is 130 miles from Anchorage and the tallest peak in Nth America!
- Anchorage doesn't have a native snake population (much like the entire state of Alaska)! If you do see any snakes, they will be escaped pets.
- If you like skiing, you're in luck, as Anchorage alone has 105 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails
- The city of Anchorage has more espresso stands per capita than the entire USA!
Top 5 FREE Things To Do With Kids In Anchorage
Traverse the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail happens to be one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the nation, and is by far Anchorage's most popular trail. This stunning journey winds along the coast, spanning 11 miles from downtown right through to Kincaid Park.
Whether by foot or bike, it's a great way to leave the bustling city behind, and explore a local treasure that also tells a tale of natural and human history. You can skirt the fault line of the 1964 earthquake, or stroll through scented forests, and even look for moose! If you look out to the ocean, you might just spot a beluga whale, as well as North America's highest peak, Mount McKinley (also known as Denali).
Image Credit: JodyO.Photos
Visit Earthquake Park
If you want an incredible insight into one of the most pivotal moments in the state's history, a visit to Earthquake Park will do just that. Back in 1964, (on March 27 – Good Friday – to be exact), an earthquake that measured 9.2 in magnitude (and was the largest quake ever recorded in North America) hit, forever altering Anchorage's landscape. Earthquake Park is an example of this.
You'll notice a sharp drop-off north of the park, plus peculiar rippling hills in the forest below. Make sure you check out the informative displays as these tell the story of those geological forces that were at play that day, and the city's history before and since the quake. The park is also along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Earthquake Park is also a highlight of the Anchorage City Trolley Tour.
Image Credit: Jeffrey Beall (cropped from original)
Discover Anchorage Market!
Free to visit, Anchorage Market is Alaska's LARGEST open-air market and runs from mid-May to mid-September. Here you'll find over 200 vendors selling everything from delicious local produce, to amazing and unique Anchorage gifts, apparel, photographs and more!
Anchorage Market has been running since 1992, and is open on weekends across those summer months. What's also special about your visit to the market is that you'll be eating local produce, which in turn means supporting the local community. A market is also always a great way to get under the skin of a city!
Image Credit: Wayde Carroll Photography
View Wildlife at Ship Creek!
If you want to get up close and personal with wildlife, Ship Creek is a great (and very popular!) option! With the Anchorage skyline as a backdrop, you can either sit back and watch the constant line of anglers trying their luck for salmon, or you can join in! Also, with the mud and sedge flats, as well as ocean-fed waters, that support the salmon runs, this also means Ship Creek attracks other wildlife such as and provide sandpipers, godwits, and other migrating shorebirds.
Ship Creek runs alongside Cook Inlet, and low tides offer occasional views of these birdsalong the mud flats or flying in groups above the shore, and the high tides push these shorebirds closer, and when the tide starts to recede, you might notice large numbers visible near roads and parking areas. Keep those eyes peeled, and good luck with the fishing if you try it!
Image Credit: Frank Flavin
Embrace Nature at the Eagle River Nature Center
Eagle River Nature Center is where you can discover the incredible beauty of the Eagle River Valley, starting from a drive along Eagle River Road and leading you to breathtaking views of glacially-carved mountains. At Mile 12 you'll find the log cabin nature center, which is a threshold for connecting to the ever-changing landscapes.
The Eagle River Nature Center is operated by a small, grass roots non-profit organization so your visit helps keep the center alive for more families to visit! During your stay, you can take to the trails, or enjoy the programs they offer. Known as a "miniature Yosemite", they feature trails for both the beginner and advanced hiker, offering stunning mountain views, glacier rivers and streams, and abundant Alaskan wildlife!
Image Credit: JodyO.Photos
6 Restaurants you HAVE TO TRY in ALASKA!
If you love enjoying a quirky, charming, small-town style experience, then our suggestion for a great day trip from Anchorage has to be Talkeetna!
Talkeetna can be found around 115 miles north of Anchorage in the Mat-Su Valley, and your journey when you arrive really should just be to walk down Main Street, and take it all in.
Image Credit: Juno Kim
Talkeetna's history really begins in 1916, when the site was chosen as a stop along the Alaska Railroad. As a result, the area built a Post Office, sawmill, Trading Post, a donkey store (of course!), and a host of cabins.
The local economy began to grow as a result of flightseeing, rafting, mountain biking, and hiking, as well as camping, fishing and hunting.
Main Street is two blocks of historic buildings, shops, art galleries, restaurants, and even a brewery. History is everywhere - the iconic red and white Nagley’s Store dates back to 1921 and is even on the National Register of Historic Places! Other historic buildings include the Fairview Inn which dates back to 1923, and Talkeetna Roadhouse, originally built back in 1917.
In fact, Talkeetna Roadhouse is so iconic, the restaurant even featured on the Travel Channel's hit TV series Man Vs Food, thanks to it's unusual breakfast!
In 2020, Talkeetna's population was just a little over 1,000, and welcomes visitors who are ready for history, charm, nature and adventure!
Here’s our top 5 Talkeetna things to do:
- Denali Zipline Tours
- Eat at Talkeetna Roadhouse
- Talkeetna Riverfront Park
- Talkeetna River Guides
- Talkeetna Historical Museum
We hope you found this content useful! Please share with your friends, and if you have any comments, or want to let us know what we can do to further help you find fun days out with the family, then just email our team at [email protected]!
Let's get the family adventure started!