Alaska Image Gallery
Alaska Image Gallery

© Alaska Convention and Visitors Bureau Alaska's diverse landscape appeals to adventurous visitors. See more Alaska pictures.

adAfterSmallInset

Family Vacations in Alaska

The fresh air is intoxicating, pristine waters are dreamlike, and glaciers literally glisten underneath blue skies -- aah, Alaska -- there’s no place like it in the world. Alaska’s unspoiled beauty and wilderness attracts millions of animal lovers, outdoor adventurists, sightseer's, and nature buffs year after year.

Alaska Image Gallery

Families can enjoy an abundance of amazing activities such as flightseeing, backcountry experiences, kayaking, canoeing, day cruises, camping, bicycle tours, glacier tours, dog sled rides, skiing, snowboarding, and a wide variety of historical, cultural, and educational activities.

­

Test your knowledge in the Iditarod­ Quiz.

In the following article, you’ll find profiles of some of the state’s most coveted attractions. Included is contact information to help you plan your trip as well as photos of each destination. Here’s a preview:

Iditarod Sled Dog Race

The longest dogsled race in the world covers 1,150 miles from Anchorage to Nome along an old mail route known as the Iditarod Trail. Many children know of its beginnings from the story of Balto, the famous sled dog.

Saxman Native Totem Park Saxman Native Totem Park is the world's largest totem park, consisting of two-dozen ornate totem poles. Each totem pole at Saxman Native Totem Park is unique. The colorful carvings share the stories of their makers and the stories of the villages where they once stood.

World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park

The world's best ice sculptors convene in Fairbanks in late February or early March to create dozens of frozen sculptures near the center of town. For children, the best part of the festival is a captivating four-acre ice playground with an imaginatively carved entrance that may take the form of a fairyland castle or an icy fortress with ice-cream-cone turrets.

Continue to the next page to read about the Iditarod.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Alaska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Alaska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

©2005 Robert Matheson. This totem is one of more than 20 ornately carved and painted poles on display atSaxman Native Totem Park.

adAfterSmallInset

Family Vacations in Alaska: Saxman Native Totem Park

This is the world's largest totem park, consisting of two-dozen ornate totem poles in Saxman, near Ketchikan in southeast Alaska. Most of the poles are not dated and were reclaimed from abandoned Tlingit villages in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the United States Forest Service. The poles were relocated to Saxman from villages on Cape Fox and Tongass, Cat, and Pennock islands.

Each totem pole at Saxman Native Totem Park is unique. The colorful carvings share the stories of their makers and the stories of the villages where they once stood. Among the fascinating totems in the park are the "Sea-Bear Pole," which has a bear-figure base capped by the long fin of a killer whale; a memorial pole to a man who died fishing for octopus, which has an eagle at its top and a rock oyster at its bottom; and a totem that relates to the Tlingit legend, "The Princess and the Frog Clan People." Master carvers create new poles for museums, corporations, and private collectors on-site using traditional techniques.

Saxman Native Totem Park Information

Address: S. of Ketchikan on S. Tongass Hwy., Saxman, AK

Telephone: 907/225-6166

Hours of Operation: Dawn - Dusk

Continue to the next page for details on family vacations to World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Alaska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Alaska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

­ Beautiful, but only for a short time, the amazing sculptures created at the World Ice Art Championships will last until the first thaw.

adAfterSmallInset

Family Vacations in Alaska: World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park

The world's best ice sculptors convene in Fairbanks in late February or early March to create dozens of frozen sculptures near the center of town. The ice in Fairbanks is considered some of the best in the business, and is so crystal clear that you can read a newspaper through a block that is four feet thick. For children, the best part of the festival is a captivating four-acre ice playground with an imaginatively carved entrance that may take the form of a fairyland castle or an icy fortress with ice-cream-cone turrets. Inside, kids will find an amazing world of slides, rides, mazes, and houses -- all made of ice. A favorite of many younger children is a ride known as "the twirly," made of giant ice-carved Easter baskets that hold the child as you spin them across the ice.

The imaginative ice slides take all forms, from giant roller skates to the slippery tentacles of a two-story octopus. The Brontosaurus slide is a favorite, as children glide down its frozen curving tail. Mazes carved into the ice are perfect for crawling kiddies, and cabins and carved ice trains complete the frozen playground. At night, the sculptures are illuminated with colored lights, giving the appearance of a stained glass landscape.

After the children enjoy the icy playground, take in the amazing sights of the ice art championship, which features three ice-sculpting events. The Single Block Classic consists of two-person teams that carve their magic from a 7,200-pound block of ice. In the Multi-Block Classic, four-person teams use 12 huge blocks of ice. The teams use everything from chainsaws to dental drills to shape their icy monoliths into works of art.

Their efforts often require them to climb atop high scaffolding. The final event, the Fairbanks Open, is reserved for people age 16 and older interested in trying their hand at ice carving. Visit the park while the sculptors are at work to fully appreciate the labor and imagination that goes into each creation.

World Ice Art Championships and Kid's Park Information

Address: Ice Park at 1925 Chena Landing Loop Rd., Fairbanks, AK

Telephone: 907/451-8250

Hours of Operation: Last week in Feb. - Last week in March, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Continue to the next page for details on the longest dogsled race in the world -- Idatrod Sled Dog Race.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Alaska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Alaska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

©Wayne Johnson The “Last Great Race on Earth,” the Iditarod Sled Dog Race attracts mushers.

adAfterSmallInset

Family Vacations in Alaska: Iditarod Sled Dog Race

The longest dogsled race in the world covers 1,150 miles from Anchorage to Nome along an old mail route known as the Iditarod Trail. Many children know of its beginnings from the story of Balto, the famous sled dog. In 1925, an epidemic struck Nome and the hospital needed medicine as soon as possible. The city had few roads and no railroads, frequent snowstorms had grounded airplanes, and boats couldn't navigate the frozen Bering Sea. Sled dogs saved the day, relaying the medicine from Anchorage across the snow and ice to Nome, and Balto was the lead dog of the final leg of the trip.

The present-day Iditarod kicks off on the first Saturday in March, when mushers and their teams of 12 to 16 dogs take off from Anchorage. Kids love watching the teams of eager barking dogs dash from their starting positions. Volunteers and non-mushers get involved in the race in a number of ways. Some people bid for the chance to ride with a musher for the first 11 miles of the race, while others make booties for the dogs to wear to protect their feet from the ice and snow.

Iditarod Sled Dog Race Information

Address: Kicks off from downtown Anchorage at 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK

Telephone: 907/248-MUSH

Hours of Operation: First Sat. in March

Learn more about family vacation destinations and Alaska travel:

  • Iditarod Quiz:  Test your knowledge of the world's most famous sled dog race.
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Alaska State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Alaska, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.