Thursday, November 05, 2009

Winter Activities in Anchorage 2009

Winter Activities in AnchorageIt's been cold this past week but still . . . no snow. Though I'm preparing and sending out my annual winter activities list because you know it can't hold off forever. One of these days we're going to get some of the white stuff.

Never had a green Christmas yet.

Here, in no particular order, are some of our favorite winter activities which we'll be sure to partake of this year. See you on the ski trails!

1. Go ice fishing. The 23rd 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 the second week of December though it can be been pushed back into January if weather isn't cooperating. This year it's scheduled for December 12 and 13 at Jewel Lake.

2. Look at rocks. The annual Rocks and Mineral Show will be held November 6-8th at the Sheraton. Admission is free and kids can look at dinosaurs, metal detectors and all sorts of things about geology and rocks. See the website for hours of operation.

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 27th 5:30-7:30. There'll be cookies, music, stories, a visit from Santa and his reindeer and (of course) the tree lighting itself. Lots of fun.

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 through 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.

They also have adult astronomy lectures once a month starting in November and running through February starting at 7pm. Check the site for information.

Ice Sculpture in Anchorage, Alaska12. See live dolls. At the annual Christmas Village celebration kids can see "dolls" from around the world where performers dress in authentic clothing and stand . . . very . . . still. December 12 and 13 at the Dena'ina Center, admission is free.

13. Enjoy some folk music. The Anchorage Folk Festival runs January 21-31 with more than 120 acts from around the world. All workshops and concerts are free to the public, see the site for more details.

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 Seward December 5th. Price is $115 for adults, $57 for children 11 but more if you want breakfast with the trip. 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 25-28, 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

17. See a crafts fair. The Christmas Arts and Crafts Emporium is November 21st and 22ndd 10am-6pm and 11am-6pm and the Alaskan Christmas Bazaar is November 7 9am-4pm.

18. See some Alaska Native culture. November 7 is the Intertribal Gathering and December 5 is the Holiday Bazaar, both free to the public. December 12 is the Make and Take Native Art Workshop which I've wanted to do--you can learn all sorts of fun Native crafts. See their calender for even more events.

19. 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 School20. 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.

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. 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.

Also, there are art classes October 12-December 10 where for $20 you can get art supplies and an art lesson at the zoo where children can sketch the animals. Wildlife Wednesdays run through winter and feature behind-the-scenes lectures about the animals.

24. 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.

25. 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 26-March 7, 2010. For more about this annual festival read my post: Fur Rendezvous 2007.

26. Go to the theater. With many small theater companies in town performing all winter, what's not to like?

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.

The Little Magic Snowman Dec 11-13, 18-20
Mother Goose Feb 19-21, 26-28
Illusions; Wild Things Mar 19-21
The Sound of Music May 7-9, 14-16

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
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Into the Woods, Jr.
Seussical, the Musical

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
Jason and the Argonauts
Dec 1-8
Tap Kids
Feb 2-5
Edgar Allan Poe: Tales of Terror Mar 15-16
Borders of the Mind Mar 18-20
Stone Soup Apr 12-17

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
Miracle on 34th Street Nov 27-Dec 20

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

27. 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 Chugach Express operates in Girdwood. And speaking of sled dogs, don't miss opening day of the Iditarod on March 7 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.

If you want a bit of dog sledding fun with a better price tag you could check out the downtown dog sled show that runs each day. Tickets are around $19 for adults. See their website.

Gingerbread Village at The Captain Cook Hotel28. Go to the Anchorage Museum of Art. (907) 343-4326 Check their web page for exhibits and concerts such as "Science of Toys" runs October 9-December 31. Admission is $8 adults, $5 kids unless you have a membership. December 13th is a holiday concert 1:30-4:30 and Wells Fargo Free Day and there are also concerts on December 6 and 20th free with admission.

29. 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.

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branda50 said...

Oh, I wish we were closer....What a list of things to do...I would love to be there for a few days in December just to experience day darkness...

Patricia L said...

You are going to have one busy, fun-filled winter! It cracked me up on #11 when you said, "do remember that it's in a cold spot". I know it's information and true, but still made me giggle.

Shelly Wildman said...

I love this list. It kind of says "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" to me. I sure would love to see that Reindeer farm.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that you don't have snow yet... it's already snowed here! :-) This list is so encouraging to me. This southern girl can get out in the cold of Connecticut, because after all, it's not Alaska!

Heart2Heart said...


I guess the best part about living in Alaska during Christmas is you can really participate in things there we can't here, like dog sledding, sleigh riding, etc.

Love the ice sculptures that come out each and every year. Dress warm, stay healthy and drink lots of hot chocolate!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Amy said...

Thanks for the great list. I love that there are things I have never done and would not have thought of. Lets hope it snows soon though.

CountessLaurie said...

Wow, what a great list of fun! And aren't the northern lights more active in the winter?

Not sure I will ever convince the wimpy husband to go to Alaska in the winter, but maybe the girls and I will brave it when they are older!

Oldfangled said...

Do you ever get to Fairbanks for the World Ice Art Championships at the end of February? My husband has competed there the last two years in the multi-block competition, and he'll compete in 2010 in both the single and multi-block. Plus, the National Ice Carving Association (NICA) Nationals competition is in Fairbanks this year, so my husband will be there for that as well. You can find more information on the World Ice Art Championships at I went last year (my first visit to Alaska!) and really enjoyed it.

Susan said...

You are making me homesick for my hometown, Scribbit! I have great memories of much of the list. Especially the Alaska Zoo in the winter.

AND Fur Rondy, of course. We used to book a night at the Hilton downtown for the whole family, and go swimming (after freezing ourselves outside!) The Pioneer Pancake breakfast that weekend was always fun. Plus my husband ran the Frostbite Foot Race. AH the memories!

Of course, my favorite time to come back to Anchorage to visit my folks is May!

Thanks for blogging -

Kathryn said...

Yeah! I love this list! I can't wait for the snow and winter fun! Thanks for posting all these great ideas!

Jolanthe said...

I have to say I am SHOCKED that you still haven't had snow - especially since we 'almost' had it over 3 weeks ago! :)

Howard Family said...

Having just arrived here in Anchorage, this list is a perfect way for us to appreciate the city- and get me away from the fireplace and hot chocolate maker. We'd love to see you guys some time!

Kim said...

"I don't appreciate this list . . . not one bit! If there's no snow, it's not yet winter!" screamed the crazy Alaskan woman in denial.

Seriously, though, a great list! (Although I don't see my personal favorite, Shovel the Driveway)

The Texas Bakers said...

AH, memories. We went to the sledding hill at Arctic Valley for a youth activity the day I had received my tetanus booster. One massive crash later and my shoulder ached for days. Your list almost makes me want to be back in Anchorage this winter. Almost.

Unplanned Cooking said...

Sounds like winter in Minnesota! I love doing cold winter activities with my kids. Of course, I'm also thrilled when summer rolls around. It's much easier to get them outdoors when I don't have to bundle them in snowsuits.

Neeraj said...

This is in itself a good list. All lots of thins are to be done.