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Things to Do with Kids in Anchorage

Are you looking for things to do in Anchorage with kids? Alaska is a wonderful family destination full of adventure and awe inspiring scenery and wildlife. Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous city has tons of family friendly activities that the kids will love. Whether you are just passing through town on your way to a different part of the state or have a few days to hang out and see all the sights, you’ll love all the adventure that the last frontier has to offer.

anchorage with kids
Top photo: On a Ferry to see the Portage Glacier. Bottom photo: Downtown anchorage near the visitor center.

What is there to do in Anchorage for free?

Alaska is a very expensive state. The gas and food prices are quite high as things need to be shipped up all the way from the lower states.

There are plenty of things to do in Anchorage that don’t cost a dime.

Check out the downtown area

While the city is rather small, there is a couple of blocks of touristy shops to check out. The visitors center is a lovely log cabin in the center of town with a living roof growing wildflowers. Inside they have post cards that you can fill out and they will mail for free back home.

Anchorage Market

On Saturday’s and Sunday’s there is a farmers market set up in the downtown area. This is a fun place to check out local vendors and pick up some inexpensive souveniers

Potter Marsh

This is a fun wildlife viewing area  just off the highway heading south out of town. There are two long boardwalks that travel over a marsh area. There are lots of birds and wildlife to check out. We even saw a moose crossing the road as we were headed out.

Beluga Point

If you continue on the highway past Potter Marsh there is a rest stop area called Beluga Point. This is a nice spot to get out and stretch your legs and take a quick walk on the beach.

What is there to do in Anchorage on a rainy day?

There are plenty of activities to do on a rainy day. If the weather isn’t nice enough for a hike or outdoor excursion then you can head to some of the following places:

The Anchorage Museum

Most of the museum will be boring for kids however, as an adult I loved it. This is one of the best Alaskan landmarks to visit. On the lower level there is an entire kid-friendly space that they can get hands on and play with experiments like giant bubbles, craft rooms and plenty of geological exhibits.

Chuck E Cheese

This was my 5 year old daughter’s favorite part of the trip. The place is old, dated and kind of gross, but if the weather is terrible and you need an indoor park where the kids can burn off some steam, this will do the trick.

Indoor water park

Check out the indoor water park if it’s too rainy outside to get out and explore but you don’t mind getting wet! Save this one for a gloomy day you don’t want to spend outdoors.

Does Anchorage have an aquarium?

Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium, with wildlife response and education programs. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. 

This world-class, 115,000-square-foot facility was built with funds from the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and serves to remind visitors – in a highly interactive way – of the importance of understanding and maintaining the integrity of Alaska’s oceans.

anchorage with kids
Having fun with a stuffed grizzle in a shop in Downtown Anchorage.

Fun things to do with kids in Anchorage:

Eklunta Heritage Center

On the way back from the reindeer petting farm we stopped by the Eklunta Heritage Center. This is an old Russian Othodox Cemetary and church that you can tour. The grave sites are interesting because they are built up over the earth in little colorful boxes. You can view the old and new church which is still a funcitioning church. Kids might be a little bored with this excursion but it was interesting and we stayed there for about 45 minutes.

Does Alaska have a zoo?

The Alaska Zoo is a zoo in Anchorage, Alaska, located on 25 acres of the Anchorage Hillside. It is a popular attraction in Alaska, with nearly 200,000 visitors per year. The zoo is currently home to more than 100 birds and mammals representing some 50 species

Portage Glacier

The glacier is only viewable by boat so this is a fun family day trip. Drive down to the Girdwood area about an hour south of Anchorage and hop on a cruise boat for a fun, informational ride to the glacier. The ride lasts about 90 minutes and leaves every 90 minutes all day.

Indian Valley Gold Mine

This excursion was a lot of fun for the whole family. The Indian Valley Gold Mine is located halfway between Anchorage and the Portage Glacier. It’s an old-timey cabin set up where you can pan for gold. You choose a bucket of silt for either 20- 50 or 100 and they will teach you how to pan out the silt and get the gold. Our family split a $20 bucket between the 4 of us. There is plenty to see there as they have chickens, ducks and turkeys. You can view the entrance to the original mine from about 100 years ago. The owners are very friendly and will happily chat about the mine and history. We spent about 2 hours here and visited Beluga point and Potter marsh on the way back to the house. So it was a pretty full day of fun.               

Reindeer Petting Farm in Palmer

If you head up north from Anchorage you will get to the lovely farm town of Palmer. If you are headed up this way the Reindeer Petting Farm is a must-visit. Kids and grown-ups will both love to see reindeer up close and have a chance to pet and feed them. They have other animals as well like a moose and elk and horse back riding is available too.

Wildlife Conservation Center

The wildlife Conservation Center is located about 10 minutes away from Portage Glacier so if you are checking out one of these excursions you can hit both of them up in one day.

The conservation center is full of native Alaskan animals that have been rescued. You can see moose, bears, wolves and lots of other really neat animals up close and personal that you likely won’t see anywhere else.

There is a café and gift shop on the premises after you are done checking out the animals. Plan to spend one or two hours at the center.

What are the “bad parts” of Anchorage?

Like all cities, there are definitely some parts of Anchorage that look a little seedy. The neighborhood that our Air Bnb was situated in was particularly sketchy. We saw several prostitutes right near the house and plenty of homeless people. Here are some of the neighborhoods that have a higher crime rate to help you with planning your trip:

  • Mountain View
  • Mid Town
  • Downtown
  • Government Hill
  • Russian Jack Park
  • Spenard
  • Fairview
  • North East

FAQ about visiting Anchorage:

How many days should I spend in Anchorage?

I recommend 5-7 days if you can swing it. Many travelers will be just passing through the city on part of a road trip with a final destination at a different part of the state. We flew in to the city on a short, direct flight from Bellingham Washington.

Do I need to rent a car in Anchorage?

If you are planning to spend your entire trip in Anchorage you will need to rent a car. Anchorage does have Uber and other ride share services but many of the fun activities you will want to do are almost an hour away from the city. You can take day trips via the Alaska Rail or with a tour company via bus if you are travelling with a family a car will be the most economical way to travel around town.

Can you see the Northern Lights in Anchorage?

Yes, but only in the winter. We visited Anchorage in June, the day after the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year. Anchorage is so far north that it never gets truly dark out in the summer months. It’s wonderful to have so many daylight hours when you are on vacation there.

Where is the best place to see the Northern Lights?

I recommend taking a trip up to Fairbanks which is about a 6 hour drive north of Anchorage. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the world to view the lights and they are visible from September through April.

Is it always dark in the winter in Anchorage?

Keep in mind that just as the summer months have plenty of daylight hours, the winter months have almost total darkness. You will be able to see spectacular views of the northern lights but it comes at a cost- freezing cold temperatures and only 3-4 hours of daylight per day in the winter.

More travel posts you may like:

Have you traveled to Alaska? Let me know your best ideas for fun things to do with kids in Anchorage in the comments.

what to do in anchorage with kids
Top pic: Downtown Anchorage photo op. Bottom Image: at the Reindeer Petting Farm in Palmer.

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