Posted by: Michelle Mitton | September 25, 2008

2008-2009 Winter Activities in Anchorage

Winter Activities for Families in Anchorage AlaskaI frequently get emails from people planning trips to Anchorage asking what kinds of things there are to do–here’s a list to answer that question. Hope you don’t mind the cold! Unless otherwise stated these activities are free.

1. Go ice fishing. The 21st Annual Ice Fishing Jamboree out at Jewel Lake is free with poles, warm-up tents and all equipment provided–perfect for kids and adults alike. My own children love it. The event is usually held in the middle of December though last winter it was pushed back to January from lack of ice. As of yet no 2008 date has been set, check this page for more details closer to December.

2. Go snow tubing at Alyeska Resort. The Glacier Tubing Park offers sledding on Mt. Alyeska, $15 for adults and $10 for kids, in 1 1/2 hour sessions starting at 10:00am. Beware that children must be 42″ to ride. Inner tubes are provided.

Winter Activities for Families in Anchorage Alaska3. Ice skate at Westchester Lagoon. Once the ice is declared thick enough it will be maintained for skating all winter and on Friday nights there are fire-barrels for added fun. Also, the Town Square ice rink in front of the Performing Arts Center for free skating fun. We did this last year and had a great time–see for yourself.

4. Tour Williams Reindeer Farm in Palmer (907) 745-4000 at 125 Bodenburg Road Palmer, Alaska. They’re open for regular tours in the summer but will do tours by appointment only during the winter if you call and schedule one. Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for children over 3 and that includes a cup of feed for the animals. You can also drive to the farm and watch the reindeer for free. Oh, and please note that when in the wild they are called caribou, the domesticated version is the reindeer. For an account of one of our visits read my post: Rudolph with Your Nose So Bright.

Musk Ox in Alaska5. Tour the Musk Ox farm (907) 745-4151. Also in Palmer, the farm offers a view of musk ox, an Alaskan animal that looks like a long-haired bison with the horns of a yak whose soft under wool (qiviut) is valued for its warmth. Winter tours are by appointment and run 10am-6pm October 1, 2008-Mother’s Day 2009. Admission prices are rather detailed so go to their website for more information.

6. Go Sledding. Here’s a link that describes the best sledding hills in Anchorage–but for the hardy sledder you can’t beat the old Arctic Valley road’s winding 1-mile course where my little brother lost his glasses (if you find them give him a call). To get there go up Arctic Valley Road and just past the power house on the left is a turnoff where you can park at the end of the trail and wait for sledders to come down. It’s the best sledding hill on the planet guaranteed. My post here proves it.

7. See the Town Square Tree Lighting. Friday November 28th 5:30-7:30. There’ll be cookies, music, stories, a visit from Santa and his reindeer and (of course) the tree lighting itself.

8. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at town square. With free events for families and children all evening long it’s a great way to ring in the new year. Likewise, at Alyeska they’ll be holding a “torchlight parade and fireworks display” starting at 8pm.

4-6 p.m. – Children’s Ice Skating Parties
6-8 p.m. – Fire & Ice Celebration
8 p.m. – Fireworks

9. Swimming at H2Oasis. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays when school is in session the water park opens at 11am-2pm for preschool children and their parents for $6 a child (adults are free). The large slides, wave machine, and river walk are not available though some days you can get lucky and they’ll be running for special occasions.

10. See the Christmas lights.
Every year during the week before Christmas the Anchorage Daily News publishes their list of best house lights accompanied by a map. You can’t beat free.

11. Snowshoe at Campbell Creek Science Center. (907) 267-1247. Tucked away on the west end of Dowling Road is the city’s best place to see wildlife (I’ve seen eagles and rabbits and even eagles eating rabbits). Get away from it all without getting out of the city. Bring your snow shoes, cross country skis or sleds and enjoy a hike to the beaver dam or break your own snow shoe trail. The trails are free but they also have educational programs listed at their site for a small fee. Do remember that it’s in a cold spot where the temperature is usually a few degrees colder than the rest of the surrounding area.

Ice Sculpture in Anchorage, Alaska12. See the ice carvings and children’s carnival of ice. December 26-28 is the Crystal Gallery of Ice Carving Competition and Children’s Ice Park at Town Square. The sculptures are beautiful and the kids like sliding down ice slides and skating at the town square ice rink.

13. Join the Family Sing and Skate. With music by Fiddle Dee Dee in the Performing Arts Center. Sundays, January 4-March 8, 2009, 2-3 p.m.

14. Ride a train with Santa. Okay this one is expensive but it was so cool that I had to include it anyway. Ride the Alaska Railroad to Palmer with Santa and some hot cocoa on an all-day event December 13th or go the other direction and ride to Seward December 6th. Price for Palmer trip is $39 for adults, $19 for children 11 and under it’s unclear if the Seward trip is the same price, see this site for details.

15. See some art. Every Friday from 5-8pm local galleries stay open late to highlight new artists–usually with h’ors doeuvres. They call it “First Friday Art Walk” and it’s a fun way to explore the downtown area, see this site for more details.

16. Catch some hoops. The Great Alaska Shootout is November 26-30, 2009 and features some of the top teams in college basketball. This one will cost you but for the money you get some good basketball. For more information see GoSeawolves.com.

17. See a crafts fair. The Christmas Arts and Crafts Emporium is November 22 and 23rd 10am-6pm and 11am-6pm and the Alaskan Christmas Bazaar is November 8 9am-4pm.

18. Catch the latest Warren Miller movie. “Children of Winter” is playing at the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts October 28th at 6pm and 8pm. You can bet Andrew and I will be there. $15.50 for a ticket.

19. See some Alaskan Native culture. The Alaska Native Heritage Month kickoff activity is October 30th from 5:30-8:30pm at the Anchorage Museum. Should be fun–Pamyua will be there to provide the music.

20. Get a free concert. The Alaska Sound Celebration is October 11th, 7:30pm at the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts and highlights music from young local musicians. A great way to introduce children to the performing arts.

21. Catch a sleigh ride. The Horse Drawn Carriage Co. offers sleigh rides through Birchwood, just outside of Anchorage for small groups of 2-4 or for large groups of up to 20. My own family did this several years ago and had a great time riding through the forests and enjoying a bonfire and cocoa at the end. They charge $130/hour for a 20-person sleigh ride with extra for the bonfire at the end but for an afternoon of sleighing it’s a great deal.

Also, every Friday and Saturday night 8pm-midnight in front of the Captain Cook Hotel this same company offers carriage rides through downtown, $35 for two people for 15 minutes, $5 for each extra person which is a little more but for a special event it would be fun.

Stargate Observatory at Burchell High School22. Visit Stargate Observatory in Wasilla. Burchell High School’s 26-inch Newtonian telescope is the largest in the state and the third largest telescope owned by a an American high school. Just north of Wasilla at 1775 West Parks Hwy it will be open Saturday February 24th and Saturday March 10th 7-11pm for $5 per person. Call (907) 355-9055 for more details.

23. Visit the Port of Anchorage. Not exciting? Oh just find a day when a ship is in and they’re unloading or loading and it’s something any child would enjoy. Inside is the biggest pile of sand in the Free World, used for winter road maintenance and lots of fun to climb.

24. Join a bookstore reading club. Most bookstores in town have a reading hour for kids, some with crafts and other things. Barnes and Noble has Storytime for preschoolers at 1pm on Saturdays and 11 am Wednesday and an American Girl club that meets Tuesdays at 6:30pm. Borders has Storytime with Gracie at 11am on Saturdays, repeating at 11 am and 1pm on Tuesdays. Go to the stores’ home pages, search for a store nearest you and view their calendar of events.

25. Visit the Alaska Zoo. Though summer viewing is more popular, the animals are more active in the winter and the Zoo has educational programs scheduled regularly throughout the winter. Visit their web page for details, admission is $10/adult, children 3 and over $6–the Storytime At the Zoo program costs $2 after regular admission.

26. Check out the Home Depot and Lowe’s kid clubs. They’re free and children are provided aprons, tools and kits to build various projects. Home Depot on Abbott’s is the first Saturday of every month 9am-12pm while supplies last (I’ve never had supplies not last). Lowe’s on Old Seward and O’Malley is the second Saturday 10am.

27. Attend Fur Rendezvous. Two week’s worth of winter celebrations including snow sculpture competitions, a blanket toss, art exhibits, amusement park rides, an antique car show, a Native crafts bazaar and so many other things–some free and some not. Dates are February 27-March 8, 2009. For more about this annual festival read my post: Fur Rendezvous 2007.

28. Go to the theater. With many small theater companies in town performing all winter, what’s not to like? I’m excited to see the magic show Illusions.

Training Better Artists Theatre Company
This theater company’s ticket prices and productions are perfect for families with small children and are a great introduction to the dramatic arts–of all the troupes in town they’re definitely the best for introducing children to the dramatic arts. We’ll be going to most of these this season.

Illusions: The Origin Sep 12-14
Legend of the Wolfman Oct 24-26 & Oct 30-Nov 1
A Christmas Carol Dec 12-14 & 19-21
Romeo & Juliet Feb 20-22, Feb 27-Mar 1
Amazing Tales: Myths and Legends Come Alive! Mar 20-22
Frog and Toad May 8-10 & 15-17

Showtimes: Fri & Sat at 7pm, Sat & Sun at 3pm.
Special Halloween Performance 7pm and 10pm
Location: APU’s Grant Hall
Tickets: $7 general $5 kids

Anchorage Theater of Youth
Bunnicula Oct 2-12
Fiddler on the Roof Dec 4-13
Merry Wives of Windsor Feb 12-22
The Velveteen Rabbit Apr 3-May 3

Location: Sydney Lawrence Theater, Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts
Showtimes: Thursday-Saturday 7pm, Saturday & Sunday 3pm
Tickets: $18.75 general admission, $16.25 (including all taxes) 18 and under

Alaska Junior Theater
Maori Dance Theater
Oct 24
Madeline and the Bad Hat
Dec 13
Soul Street Dance Feb 20, 2009
The Black Violin Apr 3, 2009
The Frog Bride May 8, 2009

Location: Discovery Theater, Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts
Showtimes: 10 am and noon for childrens’ performances, 7:30 pm for public performance
Tickets: $14-16

Anchorage Community Theater
Alice in Wonderland Sep 26-Nov 2

Showtimes: Wednesday-Saturday 7pm, Sundays 3pm
Tickets: $12 adult, $8 children 12 and under, students $10

29. Go dog sledding. We’ve taken rides with the Lucky Husky Sled Dog Kennel near Willow and had a wonderful time charging through the snowy wilderness with only our Trusty Guide and eight animal friends but they appear to be out of business. Susitna Dog Tours is another operation in Willow that offers dog sled tours, and though they can be expensive at $85/person the experience is certainly something that you’ll remember. Here is another site that lists other companies that offer dog tours in Anchorage, Willow or Girdwood. And speaking of sled dogs, don’t miss opening day of the Iditarod on Saturday March 7, 2009 at 10am on 4th and D Street in downtown Anchorage. Pray for snow and take the kids, they’ll be almost as excited as the dogs.

Gingerbread Village at The Captain Cook Hotel30. Go to the Anchorage Museum of Art. (907) 343-4326 Check their web page for exhibits and concerts such as “Wonderland of Toys” runs November 28-December 31. Concerts are held on each afternoon Sunday in December performing holidays favorites. Admission is $8 adults, $5 kids unless you have a membership. November 9th and December 11th are AT&T Free Day.

31. See the gingerbread village at the Captain Cook Hotel. Every year the chefs at Anchorage’s finest hotel create a gingerbread village–complete with an electric toy train–that is guaranteed to delight.

32. Celebrate Alaskan statehood. It’s our big old Golden Celebration of 50 years of American-ness. The party starts January 3, 2009 2-7 p.m. with free entertainment in the Egan, PAC and Dena’ina Centers. Fireworks at approx. 7:15 p.m.

Sponsored by Pak Naks–Decorate your stuff with these adorable rubber charms.

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