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Alaska With Kids - part 2

GROUP SHORE EXCURSIONS

Although I am an advocate of independent port exploration, I do feel that many shore excursions in Alaska offer some very unique experiences. Thus, you may want to splurge and book a few activities that would be hard to do on your own. If your children are older, you should consider one of the float plane or helicopter rides over the glaciers, since the scenery is incomparable. (Note, however, that these rides are very expensive.

There are several other shore excursions that children will particularly enjoy. These are not typical bus sightseeing tours; instead, they get kids involved in hands-on activities. Following are some of the highlights that most major cruise lines offer. Prices vary depending on the cruise line, so I have not included rates.

KETCHIKAN:

  • Alaskan Lumberjack Show: Kids can cheer on their favorite competitor as modern frontiersmen saw and chop wood and engage in other typical Northwest activities.
  • Saxman Native Village Tour: This tour, which my daughter loved, included a tribal dance in a long house along with a tour of the totem park.

    JUNEAU:

  • Glacier Helicopter Ride and Dogsled Adventure: This once-in-a-lifetime experience is available May through mid-August. Check with the shore excursion desk for the minimum weight requirement for kids.
  • Taku Wilderness Lodge: A floatplane will take you over the glaciers to isolated Taku Lodge. When we visited there, we were greeted by a black bear who likes to hang around and get some scraps of the grilled salmon that is served!

    SKAGWAY:

  • White Pass & Yukon Railroad: If your children are train fans, you will all enjoy this experience, with its panoramic views. Since the excursion is about three hours, it may be too long for younger kids.
  • Klondike Gold Panning: A costumed prospector will teach your family how to pan for gold -- if you find it, you get to keep it!

    PRE- OR POST-CRUISE VANCOUVER

    Vancouver is one of those rare cities that offers the best of both worlds -- it is very clean and cosmopolitan yet boasts breathtaking sea and mountain vistas. This fine mix of town and country means that there are plenty of green spaces for children to blow off some steam after a long day of sightseeing.

    Adults and children alike can spend hours in world-renowned Stanley Park. This 1,000-acre gem is right in the city, yet boasts small beach areas, hiking trails, rose gardens, playgrounds and cricket fields. Children will be fascinated by the cluster of totem poles in the park and will have fun at the Children's Farmyard, Miniature Railway and small Vancouver Aquarium. From May through September, there is a free shuttle bus between major points of interest in the park. Better yet, treat your family to a horse-drawn carriage ride through the park.

    If your family prefers indoor pursuits, there are several kid-friendly museums. These include the hands-on Science World British Columbia, with its IMAX movie theater; Pacific Space Centre; Children's Maritime Discovery Centre, which is part of the Vancouver Maritime Museum; and the UBS Museum of Anthropology, with its rich collection of Northwest Indian totem poles and long houses.

    For mealtime, explore historic Gastown and colorful Chinatown, with their proliferation of shops and restaurants. Kids will enjoy Gastown's steam clock with its musical salute every 15 minutes. While these two areas are in walking distance, I found the blocks between both tourist areas to be a bit shabby; thus you may want to drive or take a taxi between Gastown and Chinatown.

    Reserve a rental car ahead of time, since there are many must-see spots within a short driving distance of downtown. Head to Grouse Mountain Tramway for a bird's-eye view of Vancouver and lots of outdoor fun. In addition to some easy hiking trails, you can enjoy logging shows for some good, clean lumberjack fun. Continue on to nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge, which is the longest and highest suspension bridge in the world. Kids will find crossing the swaying bridge by foot to be very exciting, especially since there is a river beneath it!

    First Page: Alaska With Kids


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