Thursday, May 15, 2008

Twenty Free Summer Activities for Kids in Anchorage, Alaska

Highland Bagpipe Competition, Music in the Park Anchorage, AlaskaThis has been a popular list the past two summers so, following tradition, I've updated it with current times and locations along with a few new events.

I get frequent emails from people new to Anchorage who want to know about activities for kids and this post is my answer. If you're not in Anchorage it might give you ideas for activities in your own community--try putting together a list for your own town. Every parent there will thank you.

1. Visit the Loussac Library. Sign up for the 2008 Summer Reading Program "Catching the Reading Bug" where children earn rewards for reading.

Some extra events to see (click links for more details):
June 13 Beekeepers and Bees
June 26 Alaskan Insects
June 24-25 Bugs on the Big Screen movies and crafts
July 1 Creepy Crawlies
July 8 Don Russell, magician
July 15-17 Bugs on the Big Screen 2 movies and crafts
July 22 Mad Science in Alaska bug expo
July 29 Megan Holtan, juggler

Join one of the reading groups at the story theater in the Loussac Library:

Mother Goose (birth-18 months) on Thurs 10:30 am, Fri 2:30
Lapsit (18 months-3 years) Tues 10:30, 11:30 Wed 10:30, Thurs 7pm, Friday 10:30
Storytime (3-5 years) Thurs & Fri 11:30 am

2. Enjoy outdoor concerts at "Music in the Park". These free outdoor concerts are Wednesdays & Fridays noon-1pm at Peratrovitch park downtown and are always fun. We never miss the bagpipes because who doesn't like bagpipes, kilts and a picnic in the sun? There is also "Music for Little Ones" concerts every Monday noon-1pm, "Theater Thursdays" productions every Thursday noon-1 pm, “Live After Five concerts every Friday 5-8pm and "Cultural Faire" cultural events every Saturday 2-3 pm. All are held at the same location downtown.

Jun 4 Central High Band
Jun 6 Carhart Brothers
Jun 11 Dixie Express (AF Band of the Pacific)
Jun 13 Arctic Rock (9th Army Band)
Jun 18 Jomala Jazz Quintet
Jun 20 The Asteroids
Jun 25 Karenodie & Paul
Jun 27 Highland Bagpipe Competition
Jul 2 Alaskan Express (AF Band of the Pacific)
Jul 9 Melissa Bledsoe Fisher (jazz)
Jul 11 Jammin' Salmon Dixie Band (9th Army Band)
Jul 16 Folk's Tales
Jul 18 Robin Hopper
Jul 23 Karenodie & Paul
Jul 25 Derry Aires
Jul 30 Alaska Brass (AF Band of the Pacific)
Aug 1 Galway Days Band (Irish)
Aug 6 Sneaky Feeling
Aug 8 Alaska Brass (AF Band of the Pacific)
Aug 13 Top Cover (AF Band of the Pacific)
Aug 15 Jared Woods
Aug 20 Midnight Starlight
Aug 22 Melissa Bledsoe Fisher (jazz)
Aug 27 Top Cover (AF Band of the Pacific)
Aug 29 Alaska Button Box Gang

3. See auto racing at The Northstar Speedway. This track in Wasilla has Saturday and Sunday racing May 17th through September 6th (but not August 30th). The gates open at 2 pm and races start at 5pm. GCI customers can go to any GCI store for free tickets, otherwise it’s $10 for adults, $5 for kids and free for kids 10 and under. We went a couple years ago and had a great time--there was even a demolition derby before the races.

4. See a free movie at the Dimond Center Theaters. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10am the theaters hold their Free Family Family Film Festival where two movies are shown, no age limit. Movies are shown concurrently all three days.

May 27-29 Doogal & Shrek 3
Jun 3-5 Jonah: Veggie Tales & Bee Movie
Jun 10-12 Veggie Tales: Pirates & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
June 17-19 Mr. Bean's Holiday & Nancy Drew
Jun 24-26 Charlotte's Web & The Water Horse
Jul 1-3 Wallace and Gromit & Surf's Up
Jul 8-10 Mr. Magorium's Emporium & Alvin and the Chipmunks
Jul 15-17 Everyone's Hero & Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Jul 22-24 Arctic Tale & Firehouse Dog
Jul 29-31 Jimmy Neutron & Happily N'Ever After

5. Catch a Bucs Baseball game. Playing at Mulcahy Stadium several evenings a week (usually at 7pm) June 9th-August 2nd, this is great fun. Bring a big bag of peanuts and show your kids what baseball at sunny 10pm feels like. The library's summer reading program often gives out free passes for four to the games otherwise admission is $5, six and under are free.

6. Go gold panning at Indian Valley Mine. Off of the Seward Highway just before the turnoff to Indian and open from May 15th-September 15th 9am-9pm. Admission is $1 per person for the mine and museum and then $5 and up for a bucket of dirt to pan--depending on the amount of dirt. It's very clean and very easy for small children and the views of Turnagain Arm are worth the trip. This isn't quite free but it's nearly so.

7. Build something at The Home Depot and Lowe’s kid clubs. Free to children of all ages, each store's kids' club provide aprons (to keep), tools, safety goggles and kits to build various easy woodworking projects such as birdhouses, bookshelves and wooden toys. Home Depot on Abbott holds their kids' club the first Saturday of every month 9am-12pm while supplies last (and I've never seen them run out but it can get crowded around the tables). Lowe’s on Old Seward and O’Malley holds theirs the 2nd Saturday at 10am. Children get certificates of completion and patches to put on their aprons each time they complete a project.

8. Go fossil hunting in Sutton. Anywhere where the rock is layered and loose you can find plant fossils from the late Cenozoic period (50-70 million years old). Bring a good map, take any road into the Talkeetna Mountains, find a good place to turn off and you'll find fossils. The kids like carrying picks and buckets--but the picks are more for fun than necessity. It's just fun banging rocks. I've got a post coming on this one later this summer with pictures from when we went.

9. Visit some of Anchorage's lakes. Rent paddle boats at Cheney Lake (on Baxter road), swim at Goose Lake (the corner of East Northern Lights and Providence Drive) or picnic at Lake Hood (near the airport) and watch the planes take off at the world’s largest and busiest float plane harbor. There's also the dinghy sailboat regatta held at Jewel Lake June 27th 12-4pm which sounds fun--or you can just fish at Jewel Lake any Saturday you want.

10. See paragliders off the mountain in Girdwood near the Alyeska Prince Hotel. On a clear day the updrafts start around noon and though it's free to sit and watch them land down around the hotel grounds for the best view take the tram ride ($14 with an Alaska ID, $7 for kids 7 and under) up the mountain for a picnic and first-hand view of their takeoffs. Hatcher’s Pass is a bit farther from Anchorage in the opposite direction but also has a great view and is popular with the paragliders--and it's free from all viewpoints.

11. Pick blueberries on Flat Top or at Hatcher's Pass. The Flat Top trailhead starts at the top of Upper Huffman Road and though the entire trail (2 miles) may not be suitable for small children, the lower alpine area known as Blueberry Hill is great for picking berries in town. It's best to check about the first week of August to see if the berries are ripe, if you wait too long they'll be all gone. Hatcher's Pass, though farther, has more blueberries than you could ever pick if you're up for a two-hour drive. For an easy hike (even with a stroller) try the beautiful Thunderbird Falls. Follow the signs from the Glenn Highway twenty minutes north of Anchorage. For a longer hike that has a spectacular prize at the end try the Winner Creek Trail in Girdwood. Andrew and I were there for our anniversary last year.

12. Ride Alaska Live Steamers miniature train. In Wasilla between the Museum of Transportation and the airport this 7.5 gauge miniature train is big enough for children and adults to sit on the individual cars as the train travels through the woods on a 20 minute train ride. The train runs the 1st and 3rd Saturdays the middle of May through the middle of September 10am-4pm. Cost isn't free but it's minimal ($4 for adults, children under 2 are free) children under 3 need a car seat but the owners have one to loan in a pinch. We did this last year and had a fun time if you'd like pictures and video footage.

13. Attend the annual 4th of July parade or the Governor’s Picnic. Festivities for the Independence Day celebration include a parade and fireworks, all free to the public. The governor's picnic is an annual event usually held toward the end of July at the Delaney Parkstrip between 9th and 10th Avenues downtown with activities and free food for all. Check the Anchorage Daily News for times as July draws closer. There are usually summer solstice events as well every year.

14. Visit the Eagle River Nature Center. I have wanted to visit ever since I discovered their claim to be home to Alaska's 27 indigenous species of orchids (or something close to that, the details were sketchy). Who would have thought? Open every day from 9am-5pm (7pm on Fridays and Saturdays) the center has nine miles of hiking trails and conducts free nature events for kids all summer long. See their website for details but they're planning "Welcome Back Birds" (May 24th) and "Exploring Streams and Ponds" (May 31st) as an example. Here in Anchorage there is also the Campbell Creek Science Center that has trails of its own where you can see eagles and bunnies and even eagles eating bunnies (seen it). Check their calender for lectures and programs.

15. Visit Seward for the 81st Annual Mountain Marathon. Every 4th of July Seward, Alaska hosts the Mountain Marathon and though you may not be prepared to participate it's fun to see. I quote from the website:

The foot race is a climb and descent on Mt. Marathon - a mile and a half up and a mile and a half down, complete with cliffs, scree fields, waterfalls, and a spectacular view. This annual event draws runners from around the world.

Over the years, this home town historical event has drawn increased participation ~ resulted in new milestones. 54 women finished the first-ever women's race in 1985, juniors began logging their records in 1994, and 2005 heralded the beginning of the "staggered start" for the senior races. The popular Mini Marathon race starts them out young - toddling just a few feet to victory!

The tradition of the Mt. Marathon Race, according to folklore, began when two sourdoughs had an argument about whether it was possible to climb and descend the mountain in less than one hour.

If you think running is hard, you need to see running Alaskan style. When they come down they're sliding and skidding and tumbling--usually a bit cut up--but it's quite the sporting event to see. We're thinking about going this year.

16. Visit Elmendorf State Fish Hatchery. Here you can view fish at various stages of growth at the facilities located at the corner of Reeve Boulevard and Post Road. The best time for viewing coho salmon is September but the hatchery is open from late May-September 8am-10pm.

17. Join a bookstore reading club
. Most bookstores in town have a reading hour for kids, some with crafts and other activities. Many have reading programs that offer rewards in the form of coupons and free books to children who complete the reading goals. Barnes and Noble has Preschool Storytime on Wednesdays at 11am and Beginning Readers Storytime on Saturdays at 1pm. Call (907) 279-7323 for more details. Borders has their Storytime on Tuesdays at 11am and 1pm and Saturdays at 11am, call (907) 344-4099 for more details.

18. See dogs catching frisbees. Skyhoundz is the local canine frisbee catching championships (not to be confused with the canine catching frisbee championships--watch those modifiers folks). June 8 9am-4pm at Delaney Park strip. All the cool dogs will be there.

19. See "Arctic Thunder." Because of budget restraints the annual Elmendorf AFB airshow has been canceled the past couple years but it's back June 28-29th 9am-4pm with the Thunderbirds airshow. BRING THE EARPLUGS! (See how I shouted that? That was irony you see, because it's really loud during the show). You must bring plugs, if nothing else to protect your kids' ears. Oh, and bring a picnic. I've heard rumor that in years past they've had a special day open to children with special needs because the crowds are usually too large on the regular public days. Email them at their site if this is something you're interested in to see if it's going to happen this year too.

20. Bike the coastal trail. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail reaches 10.5 miles from downtown Anchorage, along the coast of Cook Inlet and down to Kincaid Park. With easy terrain and beautiful scenery it's a great bike ride for kids--there are plenty of parks along the way as good places to stop for a picnic if little legs get tired. The Copper Whale Inn on L Street above Elderberry Park near the beginning of the trail has bike rentals. Pictures of one of our trips can be seen here.

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The Dunns said...

Awesome list, Michelle! I'm in Fairbanks and I can definitely adapt this list to where we are. Thanks for your great blog. ~Holly

Anonymous said...

Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!! There are qutie a few things I have never heard of to do around town and I have lived in Anchorage all my life!!

Derick & Becky said...

You will never know what could happen in Seward on the 4th. My husband proposed to me there, at the stage and where the people are announcing the finishers of the marathon!

Sheila said...

I hate to be a stickler but I was skimming your list (since I don't live in Alaska) I noticed the Lowe's Kids Club. Here in Washington state they have a strict age policy. The kids have to be going into grade 2 or something silly like that. We are super bummed since my 4 1/2 year old would love their projects. I just wanted to point it out in case someone tried it and had a disappointed child. Not good! :)

Jeni said...

I just found your blog, and this list is making me miss Anchorage summers! (I went to high school there.) Now I'm in Tennessee, where it gets HOT.

Born Librarian said...

Thanks for including our events! All of our branch libraries will also be having storytime reading groups this summer as well. Find one at the library closest to you.
-Elizabeth Moreau
Youth Librarian
Loussac Library/Anchorage Public Library

Brandy said...

Lowes may vary from location to location. In the Mat Su Valley they are great about accepting children of all ages. I love their projects - Kudos to Lowes!

Bird Houses said...

Thanks for sharing all these insights, tips and resources. I will surely take note of all of these. I have in fact bookmarked your site.

Accommodation Croatia said...

Awesome list, Michelle!
Thanks a lot!