Having Fun Under the Midnight Sun
Huge and wildly beautiful, Alaska is worth a trip in any season. The immensity of the state amazes everyone once they arrive. And kids of any age will be thrilled by Alaska's high mountains, magnificent parks, blue glaciers, indigenous cultures and incredible range of wildlife.
The question is not whether to go but in which weather to travel. Each season has its glory and its extremes. But since you are traveling with kids, there's really only one "best time" to visit Alaska.
See Alaska During Summer
The white winter world is made magical by the eerie green light of the northern lights reflected off the banks of sparkling snow. Wildflowers paint the hillsides in spring and autumn color can be fabulous. But if you are taking children to Alaska, you'll want to visit in summer.
June, July and August in Alaska are miracle months in the Last Frontier, long, golden days when the sun never sets, the fish always bite and the bears stroll the mountain slopes with cubs in tow. The weather fluctuates across the state's 663,000 square miles, but every inch is warmer in summer than in winter.
The downsides of a summer visit are higher prices, bigger crowds and mosquitoes, and not necessarily in that order. Depending on where you go and what you do, mosquitoes can be a problem. But in every village and town, you are likely to pay the heftiest prices of the year in the summer. And popular destinations like Denali Park are sure to draw crowds. Make reservations early if you decide to go.
Getting Around and About
Alaska's immensity is part of its glory, so you'll definitely want to travel a bit during your stay. You'll find several wonderful transportation options. One great idea is to take the Alaska State Ferry (Alaska Marine Highway System) up from Bellingham, Washington. You can tour the towns and villages of Southeast Alaska, and even across the Gulf of Alaska to central Alaska, including access to its biggest city, Anchorage.
Juneau, Alaska's capital, is a definite must along the way. Its a jewel of a city, tucked against high peaks. You can tour Glacier Bay from Juneau, as well as kayak in the blue waters and hike a glacier. This is the land of bald eagles and black bear, great blue herons and mountain goats.
While you're in Southeast, take a whale watching cruise from Auke Bay to see humpbacks and sometimes killer whales. Or, better yet, take a cruise to Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area, some 40 miles south of Juneau, to see stunning scenery, glaciers, whales, mountain goats and maybe bear.
Depending on what you and your kids want to see, you could take the ferry on up to Anchorage, then catch the train to Denali Park in the interior, one of the grandest parks you will ever visit. You don't need a car. In fact, cars are pretty much forbidden beyond the hotel area near the gate. Everyone travels on the gravel road into the heart of the park. A glimpse of the highest mountain on the continent is a magical experience.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.