Winter Family Fun
Got a case of cabin fever this winter? Don’t despair! Here are lots of winter wonderland cures to keep your family happy and busy all winter long.
Go snowshoeing. Possibly the easiest, family-friendly way to get out and enjoy the winter months. Snowshoe rentals are available at nature centers like the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies in Homer (akcoastalstudies.org) or sporting good stores like REI (rei.com). In Fairbanks, the Running Club North (runningclubnorth.org) hosts the Fairbanks Snowshoe Series on select Saturdays from Dec.-Feb.
Visit the Alaska Zoo. The popular Zoo Lights season runs from late Nov. to early March on Thurs.-Sun. nights with a special showing during ASD’s winter break. Enjoy strolls along zoo trails with dazzling canopies, animal lights and moving displays. Free with general admission. Be sure to check out their weekly sing-alongs and story times every Mon. and Wed. Visit alaskazoo.org.
Lace up your skates. From Jan.-Feb., Westchester Lagoon is transformed into a Norman Rockwell scene of frolicking skaters. Join in the fun with a different theme and activities each Sat., 1-3 pm. Enjoy live music, toasty drinks and warming barrels.
Go ice fishing. Jamborees are a great way to introduce kids to ice fishing. Every Feb., Swim Like a Fish Foundation (swimlikeafishfoundation.com) hosts the Jewel Lake Ice Fishing Jamboree. They drill the holes, provide loaner rods and bait as well as warming tents with hot chocolate, coffee, popcorn and treats.
Visit Denali. Hardy souls w ill find great winter camping opportunities as well as snow machining, mushing, snowshoeing, skiing and more. Every Feb., Denali hosts the Winterfest Celebration (nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/winterfest.htm) featuring a community potluck, presentations, live music, ice and snow sculpting, children’s activities and more.
Learn to ski. The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage’s non-competitive youth program, Junior Nordic, is for kids ages 6-14. Lessons take place at three different locations: Hillside Park, Kincaid Park and Russian Jack Springs Park. For info: anchoragenordicski.com/junior_nordic. Outside the Anchorage area? Check in with your local Nordic ski club for lessons near you. For younger tots, Kinder Ski at Hilltop Ski Area (hilltopskiarea.org) is a specialized two-hour group class for ages 4-5 years. Kids ages 6-16 can participate in their after-school program, Hotdoggers.
Visit the Stargate Observatory. It’s one of the largest Newtonian Reflector telescopes in Alaska and the only public observatory in the state. Open each Fri. and Sat., 7-11 pm by appointment only from mid-Sept. to April. Donations are welcome. Dress warm! Visit matsuk12.us/domain/2782.
Go dashing through the snow. Take a leisurely sleigh ride through Anchorage’s beautiful winter wonderland with Alaska Horse Adventures in Palmer (alaskahorseadventures.com). In Anchorage, the Horse Drawn Carriage Company (horsedrawncarriagealaska.com) operates year-round in front of the Hotel Captain Cook and Glacier BrewHouse from 7-10:30 pm Friday and Saturday nights. Weather permitting.
Chill out and read. Let the kids be entertained and educated at a storytime or a book club event at a local public library or Barnes & Noble. To find a library near you, visit worldcat.org/libraries. For a Barnes & Noble near you, visit stores.barnesandnoble.com/event.
Go sledding. Some of Alaska’s most popular sled hills are Kincaid Park, Russian Jack Park and Centennial Park in Anchorage; Wonderland Park, Government Peak and Hatchers Pass in the Mat-Su Valley; and the UAF campus hill in Fairbanks. Snow tubing is also available at Arctic Valley’s Tube Park (skiarctic.net/tube-park) and Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area in Fairbanks (wainwright.armymwr.com/pacific/wainwright/programs/ski-snowboard).
Go bowling. Alleys across the state offer youth leagues, neon bowling, karaoke nights and more. Contact your local bowling alley for times and rates. In March, the Peanut Farm hosts the annual Fur Rondy Ice Bowling competition. $8 gets you 10 frames of bowling on their pond and a commemorative Ice Bowling T-shirt. Kids 12 and under get a free breakfast or lunch from the Ice Bowling kids menu. For details, visit furrondy.net or call the Peanut Farm at 563-3283.
See a show. Winter is a great time to introduce kids to the theater. The Nutcracker Ballet is showing at the Atwood Concert Hall Nov. 25-27. On Dec. 3, the Alaska Junior Theater presents 360 All Stars. For tickets to either of these shows, visit alaskapac.centertix.net. Additionally, the TBA Theatre is performing The Miracle on 34th Street, Dec. 9-18. For tickets, visit tbatheatre.org.
Visit the Ice Park. Ice Alaska’s kid’s park in Fairbanks features slides and rides for all ages, challenging mazes and life-sized sculptures of favorite animals and popular characters, Feb. 20-March 26. Ice Alaska hosts the World Ice Art Championships (Feb. 27-March 17). The event has grown to a month-long attraction involving over 70 teams from all over the world. icealaska.com.
Go night skiing or snowboarding. At Alyeska Resort, from mid-Dec. to late March, ski or ride under the stars every Thurs.-Sat., 4-9 pm. It’s a thrill for all ages. Visit alyeskaresort.com.
Visit the museum. Get out of the house for a day during the cold winter months and learn something new at your local museum. To find a museum near you, visit greatmuseums.org/find_a_museum/alaska.
View the Aurora Borealis. Interior Alaska provides some ideal and almost 100-percent guaranteed Aurora viewing opportunities. At the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center (morristhompsoncenter.org), view the aurora and take home your personalized Aurora Certificate available from tour operators. Other Aurora hot spots include the Eagle River Nature Center (ernc.org), Alyeska Resort (alyeskaresort.com) and Flattop Mountain. To check the Aurora forecast, visit gi.alaska.edu/auroraforecast.
Tour the Musk Ox farm. Observe and photograph these Ice Age animals at close range, as you learn from guides and educational exhibits about their fascinating natural history. Winter tours are available by appt. only. Call 745-4151 or visit muskoxfarm.org.
Visit the North Pole. Drive down streets like Santa Claus Ln., Kris Kringle Dr. and Mistletoe Ln. At the North Pole Post Office, more than 400,000 letters arrive for Santa Claus and a team of community volunteers work to respond to each one. The Santa Claus House (santaclaushouse.com), home of the Original Letter from Santa, features Santa’s sleigh, a 42-foot 3D fiberglass Santa and real members of Santa’s reindeer team. In Dec., the annual Christmas in Ice competition attracts ice sculptors from around the world and features a winter festival including activities and fireworks. christmasinice.org.
All Aboard! Witness Alaska’s winter beauty including scenery, wildlife and aurora without the worry of icy roads. The Alaska Railroad’s Aurora Winter train operates from mid-Sept. to mid-May and provides flag stop service between Talkeetna and Hurricane Gulch before continuing on to Fairbanks or Anchorage. Alaska residents and military receive 20-percent discount from regular published fares. Children’s fares (ages 2-11) are 50-percent off the published fare for the adult they ride with. Visit alaskarailroad.com.
Cheer on the Alaska Aces. Become part of the Fan Zone online and earn rewards throughout the season. For a schedule and tickets, visit alaskaaces.com.
Get ready to Rondy. The Fur Rendezvous is Alaska’s largest winter festival, hosting nearly 50 Rondy “Round Town” events – from costumed races and running reindeer to fireworks and a carnival. Feb. 24-March 5. For a schedule of events, visit furrondy.net.
Dog sledding. From Nov. 15-April 15, Dream a Dream Dog Farm in Willow (vernhalter.com) offers 2-3 hour tours as well as full-day family tours including a mushing 101 course, lunch and an afternoon of dog-mushing. The Winterlake Lodge (withinthewild.com) offers sled-dog tours and instructions on driving your own dog team from Jan. 20-April 30. The lodge is also a checkpoint for several dog sled races, including the Iditarod.
Do the Iditarod. On the first Sat. in March, lineup with thousands of spectators along 4th Ave. in downtown Anchorage for the Iditarod’s ceremonial start. The celebration continues at the BLM Campbell Creek Science Center (blm.gov) from 10:30 am-1:30 pm with Iditarod National Historic Trail exhibits, activities and hot cocoa. The official race start begins the following day in Willow at 2 pm. Be one of thousands of fans to cheer on the 60-70 dog teams while vendors sell food and souvenirs at the Willow Community Center (waco-ak.org). For more Iditarod checkpoints and events, visit iditarod.com.
Snowmachining. The Mat-Su Borough is a well-known snowmachiner’s paradise with their extensive network of multiuse trails. Popular areas include Hatcher Pass, Willow and Big Lake – home of the longest snowmachine race. The Iron Dog Race (irondog.org) kicks off during the Big Lake Winterfest (biglakewinterfest.com) every Feb. featuring vintage snowmachine exhibits, food, live music, children’s races, ice bowling and more.
Get Crafty. Keep kids occupied during the coldest time of year with fun and easy winter craft activities. Michael’s Craft store offers craft classes, most cost $2/child. For info, visit Michaels.com. Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores offer courses, usually centered on the season and holiday. For info, visit joann.com/classes/kids-and-teen-classes. Blaines Art offers more in-depth, month-long art classes. For info, visit blainesart.com/kids-classes. For a fun afternoon, visit Color me Mine and pick a piece of pottery to paint or throw a party there. For info, visit anchorage.colormemine.com.
Catch a college game. Whether it’s hockey, volleyball or basketball, cheer on the UAA Seawolves or the UAF Nanooks. Ticket prices vary depending on team and location. For scheduling and ticket info, visit goseawolves.com or alaskananooks.com.
Compete in a card tournament. Before Pokemon was an app on your phone, it was a card game. Take your kids and try your hand at a Pokemon, Yu Gi Oh, or Magic the Gathering tournament at Bosco’s. Cost to play is $6-7, $25 for Pokemon release tournaments. For event times and more info, visit boscos.com.
Go snow tracking. Have you ever taken the time to discover wildlife in your area during the winter? Animals leave loads of clues to let you know they have been there. In January, go on a Winter Track Walk with the Friend’s of Creamer’s Field (creamersfield.org). For info, call 452-5162.
Go biking. Don’t let the winter cold stop you from hopping on your bike. With a properly equipped mountain bike, you can avoid cabin fever and enjoy the outdoors. To see if you enjoy winter biking, try a bike rental shop near you. For more info on staying safe while winter biking, visit fairbankscycleclub.org/winter.