When you arrive in Anchorage the first thing you notice are the snow-capped mountains that are a part of the skyline. The second thing that becomes clear is that Anchorage is a city that takes pride in the diverse culture of its people. #anchorage #alaska
Anchorage is the starting city for many who visit our 49th State. It is home to the state’s largest cultural museums; and the country’s largest state and national parks.
Glaciers surround Seward, a historic town at the head of Resurrection Bay, it is known as the “Gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park. It is easy to get there, The Coastal Classic Train to Seward is voted the most scenic in the world. The Seward highway connects Anchorage to Seward and has been named the All-American Road. There are a wide range of accommodations and activities. It is the place to enjoy nature and outdoor adventures. #seward #coastalclassictrain
Whenever I travel I give my trips a title, my trip to Alaska I called Alaska Nature, Culture, Adventure or ANCA. I was the leader of a group of 15 teens and adults so I tried to find a good balance of activities that hit my ANCA theme but would also keep a group of teenage students invested in our trip. We started in Anchorage and made our way to Seward visiting cultural centers, ziplining, kayaking, dog sledding and hiking.
Here is my list of 10 things to do in Anchorage and Seward for all ages:
1. Hike Flattop Mountain
Why? The view at the top. The majestic panoramic views of Anchorage and the glistening waters of the Cook Inlet are breathtaking. Tiny white flowers peek out of the crevices in the snow laced rocks and the clouds appear to touch the mountain.
You become a part of the community of hikers, the parents hiking with a sleeping baby wrapped in a yellow blanket, the young man with his black lab, the grandfather hiking with his son and two grandchildren; all locals who shared that they regularly hike Flattops trails.
It’s 2,200 feet to the summit. While the locals will say it’s an easy hike, for our group it was a steep and at times a difficult climb to the top. The gravel on the path kept slipping under our feet and towards the top the trail turned into nothing but rock. The way down was even more challenging but it was worth it. Many of our group overcame their fear of heights and rose to the challenge of our first adventure. #flattopmountain
How to get there?
To get to Flattop Mountain it’s easier to reserve the Flattop Mountain Shuttle in advance, it drops you off at the base of the mountain and will wait for you to make your return trip back to downtown Anchorage.
2. Visit the Anchorage Museum
Why? The Anchorage Museum is the largest museum in Alaska. Be sure to check out the Discovery Center and Alaska Native culture exhibits.
Our group spent the most time in the Discovery Center, a cool hands-on science center with kinetic space, bubble space, earth and life science exhibits. Great for teens. #anchoragemuseum
3. Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Culture Center
When you visit the Alaska Native Heritage Culture Center make sure you schedule time to see the Native American dance performance or to play a Alaska Native game inside at the Gathering Place. We loved getting on stage and becoming a part of the dance. #alaskanativeheritagecenter
4. Visit the Wildlife Conservation Center
Why? See bears, moose, elk, caribou and other animals native to Alaska in their natural habitat at the biggest wildlife refuge in Alaska, the Wildlife Conservation Center. The center is 47 miles from Anchorage on the Seward Highway.
Seeing bears, reindeer with enormous antlers and bison up close is thrilling for all ages.
5. Eat Alaskan: Try Alaskan salmon and king crab, even try reindeer sausage.
Salmon! Reindeer! Why? Several species of salmon by the thousands find their way to Alaska's waters annually. Salmon is one of Alaska’s biggest exports. So have it served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, it is fresh and delicious.
Our group also tried Alaskan King Crab and reindeer sausage just because we had to, we were in Alaska. The king crab was succulent and reindeer sausage is lean meat so it’s juicy and flavorful.
6. Play Outdoors
If you are seeking thrilling outdoor adventures or great nature photo opportunities, Seward is the right place. Take a kayak trip in the pristine waters of Alaska as you pass breathtaking Alpine glaciers and watch for otters, sea lions and whales. Go horseback riding in fields to see bald eagles soaring above you. Take a zipline tour through the beautiful Pacific Temperate Rainforest on multiple ziplines, cross sky bridges and rappel from the treetops. Go hiking to a waterfall, an old fort or to the part of town that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1964.
There are many great adventure outfitters in Seward. We used Miller Landing because they had so many options and were reasonably priced. They start every tour with some practice and safety guidelines. Miller’s Landing provided us with great guides who took tons of pictures, worked well with teens and made all of our adventures a fun and challenging experience. #millerlanding
7. Go Hiking to Kenai Fjords National Park’s Exit Glacier
Take a free, ranger led hike to Exit Glacier and walk ¾ of a mile to the foot of the glacier.
Why? To touch a glacier, to experience the dense blue ice glistening in the sun while listening to it crackle. It’s a moderate hike. The ranger tells you about the history, environment and glacier recession over the past 120 years. It's one of the best photo ops in Seward.
8. Sleep in a Yurt
Staying in a yurt is a cross between staying in a tent and a mountain cabin.
We stayed in yurts at Sourdough Sue’s. As soon as we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Sue and her labradors.Two of the yurts comfortably fit our group of 15. The yurts had multiple bedrooms, nice roomy bathrooms, convertible sofas and chairs, porches with grills, the kitchens were fully equipped and there were fresh baked orange cranberry muffins for us. Sue even took our group on a two hour hike and shared unique stories about the area. We had a great time grilling and sitting around the firepit every night. We stayed for three nights and wished we could have stayed longer.
9. Lock-in overnight at the Alaska SeaLife Center
Yes, this is a thing you can do and it was one of the best activities that our group did on our trip. We were immersed in a behind the scenes look at the day-to-day care that is given to every creature. We even participated in a hands-on lab where each of us got to dissect a squid. Walking around in the quiet of an empty aquarium, watching the sea creatures, was a unique experience. Our favorite was Woody the sea lion with his great big neck and long flippers commanding attention as he moved in and out of the water in a repetitive circle.
10. Visit a Salmon Weir
What is a weir?
A weir monitors migrating salmon and helps to increase specific species population in the bay.
We stopped in at Bear Creek Weir to observe the process as thousands of fish leap through the falls to get upstream and at times appear to be swimming backwards.
How to get there?
Bear Creek Weir is located on Bear Lake Road in Seward.
Some other things our group found interesting to do while in Alaska was to stay up all night until it gets dark or light depending on the season. Take the time to talk to the locals. Everyone we met had a unique story. We all left Alaska feeling like we had experienced something bigger than ourselves and wanting to come back for another Alaska Nature, Culture, Adventure.