Free Summer Activities for Kids in the Anchorage Area

September 20, 2017

At the beginning of the summer, I set myself a goal of taking Cullen to a new (to him) place each week. Sometimes it was a new park, sometimes it was traveling out of town for a hike or camping adventure.

All of the things we did were free and almost always outside. They were activities that could have lasted 15 – 20 minutes or an entire hour depending upon weather and his level of happiness.

Here’s what we did each week, and a little bit about each of the places we visited. (Each date is the start of the week–not necessarily the date we actually did the activity.)

May 8Kincaid Park

Kincaid Park is huge and offers a lot of different activities for people of all ages, but there is a small (but great) little playground area for kids that is comprised of several large play structures for climbing on: a giant moose to climb on, ropes, etc. When we went there, Cullen was a little young to be able to climb on the structures, but in the future I’ll definitely be taking him there.

May 15Suzan Nightingale McKay Park (Government Hill)

This park quickly acquired the nickname of the “Dinosaur Park” because there was an area where you could dig for dinosaur bones. Cullen is really into dinosaurs, so he really liked this park. It overlooks the inlet, so there’s a great view as well.

May 22 – Train Depot (downtown Anchorage)

Along with dinosaurs, Cullen’s other obsession is with trains. (Probably why he loves Dinosaur Train so much.) We drove down to the train depot to look at the trains. We also ran to the train depot a couple of times from Westchester Lagoon.

May 29Potter Marsh Wildlife Viewing Boardwalk

Potter’s Marsh is a popular place to go for tourists and locals alike. It is a bird estuary and you can see salmon running up the stream in late summer. There is a long boardwalk in two directions, so plenty of space for everyone. On a warm, sunny day (like we had), the views were amazing.

June 5Lake Hood Floatplane Base

Another one of Cullen’s pastimes is watching planes take off and land. At Lake Hood, you can watch the seaplanes take off and land on the water, which is even entertaining for adults. The planes are relatively close, which makes it even cooler. We packed a picnic lunch to eat at Spenard Beach Park and while watching the airplanes.

June 12University Lake Dog Park

This week we took Sadie on our adventure too and took her to the dog park around University Lake. Usually we will go to the Conner’s Bog Dog Park because it is a lot closer to our house, but it is fun to mix it up every once in a while. There is a great trail around the lake, but we didn’t get too far with a toddler who likes to stop every three feet to pick something off the ground.

June 19Balto Seppala Park

We met up for a play date at this park one afternoon. This park was recently redone with turf and new playground equipment. There is also a large grassy area for other activities.

June 26 – Cullen’s choice: Westchester Lagoon

We’ve been to Westchester Lagoon before, but Cullen loves this park. There is playground equipment, but he also loves the water: throwing rocks in the water and watching the birds/ducks. We will often start and end our stroller runs from this area because there is so much to see.

July 3 – 4th of July parade

Cullen, Craig, my mother-in-law, and Craig’s aunt, and I went to the 4th of July parade downtown. Cullen loved the fire trucks and watching the bands.

July 10Portage Pass Hike (Whittier, AK)

My sister and her husband were in town, so we took them to the Portage Pass Trail just outside of Whittier. It is a “medium-intensity”, short hike, so it is great for kids. I did carry Cullen in the backpack on the way up and down though. Once you get to the top, there are several look-out points to see the glacier and the town of Whittier below.

July 17 – Camping + fishing

This was the first time we had taken Cullen camping, and now I know why. It was SO difficult to get him to fall asleep at night since it barely gets dark in the middle of the summer. The first night I think he fell asleep at 12:30 a.m., the next night was 12:00 a.m., and the last night I can’t even remember I was so exhausted. He had fun watching everyone fish and kept requesting a pole of his own.

July 24 – Trip to the cabin

Technically we did take Cullen to my in-law’s cabin this past winter, but this was a trip in the summer and we went to new places we hadn’t been during our winter trip. He loved building a fire and stacking firewood. (I’m sure he won’t love stacking firewood as a teen!)

July 31SteamDot Coffee Shop

This was our one indoor activity. The rains started this week, and I wasn’t feeling the strong desire to spend time in the rain. I knew Cullen would have a good time playing with different toys. This particular coffee shop is nice because there are quite a few toys for kids of all ages.

August 7 – Anchorage International Airport

I have been running on the Coastal Trail many times and have seen the airplanes take off and land right next to the trail, but I didn’t know this was a thing to do with your kids until I heard other moms talking about it. We didn’t pick the best day to do this as it was drizzly, (It hit August and the fall rains started.), but Cullen still loved it nonetheless. We watch big cargo planes and passenger jets take off and land that were so close it felt like you could touch them. (FYI – The highest concentration of airplane traffic is right around the noon hour.)

August 14 – Cullen’s choice: Dinosaur Park

This week I let Cullen pick where we went, and he chose to go back to the “Dinosaur Park.” We brought our lunch along, and he had the entire park to himself.

August 21 – I think this was the one week we didn’t get out and do anything.

August 28Beluga Point and McHugh Creek

This is a really quick drive from Anchorage (10 minutes from the south side of town). There’s a couple look-out points at Beluga Point, and we walked down to the water to throw rocks into the water. It was fun–but windy! After spending about 30 minutes at Beluga Point, we drove back down the road just a little ways to McHugh Creek. We didn’t hike the trail but instead just checked out the creek, waterfall, and look-out point from the top parking lot.

September 4 – Cullen’s choice: Beluga Point

Cullen wanted to go back to Beluga Point, and I wanted to see if there were any beluga whales in the Turnagain Arm as I had heard they were there, but sadly we couldn’t find any. We did see some dall sheep though.

After that, we left for Minnesota, so our summer adventures in Alaska concluded. It was a lot of fun “forcing” myself to explore different places, although I like to do this anyway. I definitely see ourselves doing the same thing next summer.

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