Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city and a strategic hub for many airlines… less than 10 hours from 90% of the industrialised world. So it’s the natural starting point for a first time visitor to Alaska.
It is not, however, the capital of Alaska.. that is Juneau which lies to the south East of the state. Though there are many persistent attempts to change it!
We chose to stay in the downtown area as I didn’t want to hire a car. Driving in such wintery conditions was simply not something I felt I could do safely. But, It’s not a big city and we found it very easy to walk everywhere. J thought the street names were inspired. It suits his logic completely to simply call all the longitude roads ‘A, B, C’ and all the latitude ones ‘1, 2, 3’. He liked that. A lot!
I’m glad we stayed downtown… our hotel (the Hotel Captain Cook) had a good range of shops and restaurants and a basic pool and hot tub for the kids to enjoy – and the location was ideal for us.
So, what do you do in Anchorage with kids?
- The Anchorage museum.
We loved it here!! It was super interactive and we spent far longer than we’d anticipated here. There is also a lovely restaurant here (Muse) so we ended up spending all day and felt that it was great value for the price of admission.
2. The Coastal trail. Even in the middle of winter, this is a beautiful path to take. We didn’t venture too far from the city – it’s possible to go WAY further, and there is a planet walk which I’d definitely recommend in warmer weather. it was a bit too far for the children in the cold!
But we had lots of fun just wandering in the fresh snow!
3. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre.
G absolutely adores all animals and one of her ‘bucket list’ adventures was to meet a moose in Alaska, so we headed to the conservation centre, which cares for injured or displaced animals until they are able to be retuned to the wild… though it’s fair to say a reasonable number of the animals we saw will not be released as they need a greater level of care.
The conservation centre is a little way from anchorage so we took a tour with Salmon Berry tours which we found very informative as the driver talked us through the journey and stopped at various places to point out areas of interest.
4. Paint-a-scarf… I do like for the children to be able to make something original when we travel… so I was over the moon to find a small business offering a painting experience. It, too, is a little way out of Anchorage and we only made it due to the kindness of a fellow painter who offered to pick us up and drop us back to our hotel.
It was a great evening, which gave us a real insight into life in Alaska and how life changes with the seasons. Most enjoyable indeed! J (as is J’s want!) decided not to follow any of the ‘rules’ and G had a crisis of confidence half way through the evening, but I can say our hosts took it all in their stride and I do hope that – in a few years – I’ll be able to visit some franchises in other cities around the world!
5. The train. Surely, it would be impossible to come to Anchorage and not mention the train!! A year round service between Seward and Fairbanks, it’s a train of iconic status! And there was simply no way we were going to miss the opportunity to travel on it!
It’s a 12 hour journey through some of the most magical lands you could imagine. We decided (because we wanted to spend some time in Fairbanks) that we would take the train there and back and we were blessed with two very different adventures!
Our adventure started at the railroad depot in Anchorage EARLY on a cold and dark morning. But, even then, there was an excitement in the waiting area. Our check in was quick and well managed, and we were free to explore the small gift shop and a range of memorabilia…
The staff on the railroad – while patently taking their job seriously – also seem to have a lot of fun. A young teen came to announce our train was ready to depart… and it was explained that he comes every week – week in and week out – to see the train off, so the conductor allows him to make the last announcements on safety and services. It was a lovely touch!! Then, we were waved off by some volunteers as part of a school work placement initiative.
There are regular information briefings on what to look out for and – being blessed with amazing weather, we got some wonderful shots of Denali – the highest peak in the whole of North America.
The train slows at various points to allow everyone a chance to get a great picture…. Even we managed it!!!
The journey really doesn’t feel that long – there were so many things to look at….
… and the services on the train were brilliant – the children enjoyed heading up to the buffet car for snacks and meals throughout the day!
But, by the time we were thinking about our arrival into Fairbanks, the sun was dipping behind the trees once again!
Our return journey was totally different! It snowed for most of the journey and the sun made only the weakest of attempts to break through!
It was equally beautiful and we spotted more animals on the way back – moose dashing over fields and a wolf that ran in front of the train for several miles. Sadly, the animals (unlike the train!) did not slow for long enough for me to take a good picture! We were very lucky to see very different landscapes on the journey back… It was almost like being on a different train!
We adore taking trains and the Alaskan Railroad will definitely go down as a highlight!!!
And, of course… I need to mention food. Now, I have to say… We didn’t struggle with food at all in Anchorage!
Breakfast at the hotel was top notch and both children were served JUST what they wanted – chocolate pancakes for G and bacon and eggs for J (on separate plates of course!!).
There were several good estblishments serving exactly what the kids wanted to eat… Muse at the Anchorage Museum, Fletchers at the Captain Cook hotel and Glacier Brewhouse all provided great service and food! But….
when there is a Hard Rock Café in town… well…. we were never going to miss it!!
I don’t think we will come back to Anchorage in the near future. If we did…. it would be in the summer and when the children are a bit older and able to hike further!