THINGS 101 to do this summer in alaska
The perfect list of summer fun for your family
It’s official: School’s out. Fun’s in! But if you need some help planning summer activities for your family, here’s a bucketful of suggestions to get you started. Now when you hear those dreaded words, “Mom, I’m bored!” you’ll be ready with this list to try. Some are free, some require a few dollars – all come with the promise of fun.
Visit your favorite local Farmers Market and make a feast out of your fresh finds. Repeat weekly.
Teach your kids the most popular card games. Keep a weekly tournament going throughout the summer.
Pet and feed the reindeer at the Reindeer Farm. (You will also get up close to Dolly the Bison, hand feed elk, pet and hold bunnies, and look for eggs in the chicken coop!) reindeerfarm.com
Let your kids design and construct an obstacle course in the backyard. Invite the neighbors and have a parents vs. kids race.
Volunteer as a family. So many options to choose from but find one your entire family is passionate about!
Take the plunge. Sign up the kids for swimming lessons – it’s an awesome skill every kid should have. Check out your community pool for lessons, or local YMCA (ymcaalaska.org) or Alaska Club (thealaskaclub.com).
Grab a cheap dinner. Alaska has dozens of places where kids eat FREE (or nearly free)! Check out the list at alaskaparent.com/_pages/kids_eat_free.
Go to story time at the library or book store.
Try out the Kids Bowl Free program at participating bowling alleys across Alaska. Sign up and your kids can bowl up to two free games a day – all summer long. kidsbowlfree.com
Visit a museum. From art and history to science and creative play, there are a variety of interesting museums with hands-on exhibits geared toward kids, like the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Aviation Museum, Fairbanks Childrens Museum, and the Transportation Museum.
While in Seward, take to the bay with Kenai Fjords Tours to capture great views of the glaciers and the many species of wildlife (puffins and otters and orcas – oh my!). kenaifjords.com
Adopt an elderly neighbor and take care of his/her lawn all summer.
Pack up a blanket, some sandwiches, finger foods and utensils and have a good old-fashioned picnic out in nature – whether it’s a local park or your own backyard.
Learn about other ethnicities. Attend a cultural festival, start learning a foreign language or visit a local ethnic restaurant.
Plant a tree.
Don’t miss the late-summer fun at the Alaska State Fair, from Aug. 25-Sept. 5, featuring carnival rides, record-setting giant vegetables, farm animals, and action-packed performances. Don’t forget the funnel cake. alaskastatefair.org
Adopt a new pet. Check the local rescues and shelters to find that special friend. alaskaspca.org
Go to a minor-league baseball game or other outdoor sporting event. At the Anchorage Bucs games, for example, it’s free for children under 6.
Are your kids climbing the walls? Lucky for your little monkeys (and your sanity) Alaska offers an assortment of indoor climbing walls. indoorclimbing.com/alaska.html
Teach the grandparents to Skype or FaceTime.
Budding scientists will get a kick out of the Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks, which gives summer tours of the institute and Poker Flat Research Range (the world’s only scientific rocket launching facility owned by a university). gi.alaska.edu
Bounce and boing at a trampoline park. Check out Get Air Anchorage. getairanchorage.com
Make s’mores! Aug. 10 is National S’mores Day so slap together that classic combo – graham crackers, chocolate bars and toasted marshmallows – and make a batch over the campfire or firepit.
Have a garage sale. It’s a great way to clear out old junk, earn a little cash and maybe even squeeze in a financial lesson or two. Get ready to wheel and deal.
Wash the car in swimsuits (and get ready for a water fight!).
Master a new skill together. Learn to juggle, play guitar, do the hula hoop, etc.
Create a wind chime made from driftwood, rocks and shells found on local beaches.
Take a selfie during an iconic ride on a carousel or Ferris wheel. For a list of events featuring classic carnival rides, visit goldenwheelamusements.com.
Write letters to Grandma.
Tour the historical buildings in your city.
Watch paragliders sail off the mountain in Girdwood near Alyeska Resort. Other paragliding hot spots include Kincaid Park, Hatcher Pass in the Mat-Su Valley and Harding Lake, Fairbanks.
Take a hike along nature trails or at a nearby forest. For example, kids of all ages and abilities enjoy hiking to Exit Glacier, a short half-mile through the forest.
Get wet n’ wild at home. Have an all-family water balloon or water gun fight.
Catch a $1 movie. Regal’s Summer Movie Express runs for 9 weeks with select titles playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays throughout the summer at the Regal Tikahtnu Stadium in Anchorage and at the Regal Goldstream Stadium in Fairbanks. For a schedule, visit regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express#alaska
For an absolutely free - and fun - family outing, head the Thunderbird Falls in Chugach State Park. The one-mile trail is suited for small children (and even strollers) and leads to a roaring waterfall. There's a viewing platform and boardwalks.
Tour Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey’s homestead kennel in Seward, go for a two mile dog sled ride, and cuddle adorable husky puppies. ididaride.com
Throw a pajama party and spend a few days lounging on the couch in your most comfortable PJs, enjoying a marathon of your family’s favorite movies.
For a bird’s eye view, take the scenic aerial tram ride up Mt. Alyeska (Girdwood) or Mt. Roberts (Juneau). Then hike around the top of the mountain and have a picnic lunch.
Go bird watching. Head to Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks where many different migratory birds (Sandhill cranes, shovelers, mallards and more) make their summer home. Walk the 5 miles of family-friendly trails through the meadows and forest to spot even more wildlife – moose, snowshoe hares, squirrels or red fox. creamersfield.org
Take a World Famous Ice Worm Safari. Yes, iceworms are real! Meet a Forest Service Ranger at the Byron Glacier Trailhead on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 3 pm throughout the summer. It’s an easy 3/4-mile hike to the snowfield, and after you’re given an “ice worm hunting license,” take an easy ¾-mile hike to the snowfield where kids can dig in the snow to find ice worms (it’s “hunt and release” only, you can’t keep the ice worms). For info, call the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at 783-2326 or visit fs.usda.gov.
Ride the ramps at Joel’s Place Skate Park and Youth Center in Fairbanks – a positive outlet for that adrenaline-seeking kid. This indoor/outdoor skate park offers weekly skateboarding lessons on technique and tricks. joelsplacealaska.org
Play croquet or bocce ball in your backyard.
Visit Denali National Park. Kid-friendly activities include the sled dog demonstrations, hands-on exhibits at the Denali Visitor Center and the Murie Science and Learning Center, scenic short hikes (including ranger-led hikes), and the Denali Junior Ranger Program. Bonus: This summer, enjoy free admission to the park Aug. 25-28. Visit nps.gov/dena.
Ride the rails. Take a trip on the Alaska Railroad between Seward and Denali (or extend it to Fairbanks) for a real trip through the wilderness – and through time.
Go blueberry picking (August is the prime time). Hot spots include Chugach State Park, Denali National Park, Denali State Park, Chena River State Recreation Area, even just around Anchorage, such as Flattop Mountain Trail.
Go horseback riding. Enjoy fresh air, incredible sights, and a beautiful horse to bond with. Take a guided trail ride with Alaska Horse Adventures (alaskahorseadventures.com) or Bardy’s Trail Rides (sewardhorses.com). For ages 6 and up.
Zoo knew? The Alaska Zoo offers extensive summer family activities, including live music on the zoo lawn, Fridays at 7 pm, and wildlife talks on Tuesdays at 7 pm. alaskazoo.org
Go on an I Spy Scavenger Hunt. Kids of all ages can enjoy a free, self-directed hunt at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center in Fairbanks. morristhompsoncenter.org
Feed a fish. Every Tuesday and Friday at 4 pm, the public is invited to help feed the sea creatures in the aquaria at the Pratt Museum, Homer. It’s free and fun for all. prattmuseum.org
Host a neighborhood sidewalk chalk drawing competition.
Go (sea) star gazing. With the huge tidal ranges of Kachemak Bay, Homer is the perfect place to explore Alaska’s amazing tidepool creatures. Bring a pair of rubber boots! To help ID these creatures, visit the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. Take their 1-hour “Creatures Under the Docks” tour for $5. akcoastalstudies.org
Plant a vegetable garden. Studies show that kids are much more likely to eat vegetables they have grown themselves. No space? Many vegetables can be grown in containers on a porch or deck railing. Potatoes can easily be grown inside plastic storage bins with holes drilled in bottom for water drainage.
Visit Alaska’s only historic theme park: Pioneer Park. In the summer, attractions include a miniature passenger train that meanders through the park, mini-golf, a carousel, food vendors, a playground and free daily outdoor concerts. co.fairbanks.ak.us/pioneerpark.
Build and fly a kite.
Go disc golfing. If you’d rather fling than swing, disc golf might be your game. Hilltop Ski Area (hilltopskiarea.org/discgolf) has a 9-hole course intended for kids as well as a full 18-hole course. For a list of Alaska courses, visit discgolfscene.com/courses/Alaska.
Jump aboard the Alaska Live Steam miniature train. The 7.5-inch gauge railroad in Wasilla, offers train rides every Saturday during the summer from 10 am-4 pm. Rides are suggested donations of $5 per person. Visit alaskalivesteam.org.
Hammock Day. Yep, there’s a date for that: July 22. Whether it’s the real deal or a lounge chair, grab a cool drink and a good book and do some hardcore outdoor loafing.
Fill a plastic kiddie pool with sand for an instant sandbox to keep the kids creatively occupied for hours.
Have a watermelon seed spitting contest.
Prospect for gold at the Crow Creek Mine in Girdwood, The Petersville Mine in Petersville near Trapper Creek or Independence Mine in Hatchers Pass.
Get your own duffel of discovery. While visiting the Botanical Gardens, kids ages 4-9 can check out a Discovery Duffel bag, crammed full of kids’ activities and books aimed at elevating the garden experience from “cool” to “amazing.” alaskabg.org
Go “Where The Wild Things Are.” Visit with the furry, horned beasts at the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer. Added bonus: the chance to see a baby musk ox! muskoxfarm.org
Bike the Coastal Trail. The 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail follows the Anchorage Coastline from downtown Anchorage to its present end at Kincaid Park. With beautiful scenery it’s a great bike ride for kids and there are plenty of parks along the way for picnics and rest stops.
Go to summer camp. Check out the Camp Guide here.
Join a summer reading program. Alaska’s public libraries will be sponsoring statewide summer reading programs for kids, teens and adults. Stop in at any library branch or check out your local library’s website for more details.
Make play dough. In a pan, mix together 2 cups of flour, 2 cups warm water, 1 cup salt, 2 Tbs vegetable oil, 1 Tbs cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity). Cook over a low heat until formed and not too sticky. Knead in some food coloring (liquid, powder or unsweetened drink mix) and scented oils.
Designate your own Earth Day and help your kids with cleanups in your local community.
Participate in nature programs. City park systems that have nature centers usually offer free programs for children that let them explore the outdoor world.
Assemble food boxes for children and seniors at a local food bank. foodbankofalaska.org
Help clean up your favorite park.
Set up an old-fashioned lemonade stand to help raise money for fun or charity.
Swap it. Help your kids go through old clothes, books, games and toys to figure out what they no longer use. Ask a group of friends to do the same; then, set up a swap meet in your garage. Or donate the items to a local shelter or charity.
Ride the city bus – just for fun.
Go on a family camping trip and tell stories around the camp fire. Or just pitch a tent and camp in your own backyard.
Visit the Alaska Islands & Ocean Visitor Center in Homer – it’s free! Engaging exhibits will surround you with the sights, sounds – and even smells – of the coastal seabird and aquatic habitats. Kids can earn their Jr. Biologist Badge by completing activities at the Center. Outside, take a scenic walk down to the bay for a birder’s paradise. islandsandocean.org
Take a class at a local craft store like JoAnn Fabric and Craft stores or Michaels.
Get up close and personal with some incredible marine animals at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. alaskasealife.org
Take a halibut fishing trip in Homer; the best in the world halibut fishing is right there.
Get the scoop. July is National Ice Cream Month – a great excuse to eat ice cream. Grab a cheap soft-serve cone on the fly. Or make your own ice cream – in a bag! It’s a great activity for the kids. For recipes, check out Food.com or Allrecipes.com.
Go to a free outdoor concert. Many cities have a variety of family-friendly musical events on their summer calendars, such as Music in the Park at Peratrovich Park in Anchorage or at Iditapark in Wasilla. Check city websites for event details.
Chill, literally, at the ice-cool inside rinks throughout Alaska.
Make a bird feeder. It’s as easy as filling an orange peel with bird seed! (Biodegradable too.)
See wildlife up close at the 200-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Bring your cameras and binoculars to catch these animals displaying their natural, “wild” behaviors.
Visit some of Alaska’s lakes. Go for a swim at Goose Lake, kayak on Eklutna Lake, jet ski on Big Lake, canoe and camp at Nancy Lake or picnic at Lake Hood and watch the planes take off at the world’s largest and busiest floatplane harbor.
Have fun on the Farm. Visit a local farm to bottle feed a calf, scratch a goat behind its ears, see food being pulled from the ground – or, if possible, witness an animal giving birth. Try thelearningfarm.net and calypsofarm.org.
Take a Geocaching journey. Explore Alaska in a high-tech adventure game using GPS-enabled devices and apps to navigate and find a hidden geocache. Kincaid Park and the BLM Campbell Tract are great locations for families to start geocaching. For a full list of Alaska caches, visit geocaching.com. For more info on local geocaching events, visit geocachealaska.org.
Make homemade pizza. Ingredients for pizza dough: 1 package yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1 cup warm water, 2 Tbs oil, 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt. Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and add oil. Combine flour and salt. Pour yeast mixture over dry ingredients and mix. Let rest five minutes. Roll dough onto greased pan. Add favorite pizza toppings. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes.
Go fishing. The Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game stocks many lakes throughout Alaska, increasing your kids’ chances of taking home their very own catch. Jewel Lake in Anchorage, for example, is stocked with Chinook salmon, rainbow trout and Arctic char.
Can’t get to the Brooks River? Watch the bears on the Bearcam! July is the best time to see them fishing at Brooks Falls; however, bears are in the area from mid spring until mid fall. nps.gov/katm/learn/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm
Create a photo scrapbook of all your fun summer adventures together. Let your kids write the captions.
Play a round of mini golf with a neon glow at Putters Wild. The 18-hole indoor course features wild, colorful sea life paintings under black light as well as air cannon blasters and other games. putterswild.com
Pick a recipe and let your child apply their knowledge of measuring and fractions while you cook or bake together.
Pick new areas of town to go for walks each week.
Make homemade play slime. To whip up the iconic good, mix 1/2 cup white glue and 1/2 cup water. (Add food coloring if you want colored slime.) In another bowl, mix 1 tsp borax with 1 cup water until the borax is dissolved. Add the glue mixture to the borax solution, stirring slowly as the slime begins to form. Then dig in and knead it with your hands.
Walk Eklutna Historical Park. Take a guided tour to the old log Russian Orthodox Church, see the Spirit Houses, and visit the new Orthodox Church. You’ll learn about the history, culture and customs of the Dena’ina Athabascans in combination with Russian Orthodox traditions. eklutnahistoricalpark.org
Decorate T-shirts. You’ll need two plain white 50/50 polyester-cotton tees (less shrinkage), fabric paint, brushes, fabric glue, and glitter, rhinestones or other embellishments.
Go play in the mud. June 29th is International Mud day – this is official permission to play in the mud. Seriously!
Have a family movie night complete with popcorn.
For more fun things to do this summer, check out our Out & About calendar on page 58 and our online Calendar at AlaskaParent.com/calendar.