Want to give your kids the journey of a lifetime? They’ll never forget this five-day, ferry-based itinerary through Southeast Alaska. Featured activities include zip-lining, ancient rock carvings, museums, and a visit to an animal rehabilitation centers.
Day 1 Juneau
Arrive in Juneau via plane, cruise ship or Alaska Marine Highway ferry. Once you’re checked in to your hotel, the whole family will enjoy a tram ride up Mount Roberts, which looms over the cruise ship docks. The upper tram terminal offers sweeping views of the rainforest below and the surrounding mountains. Back in town, explore the newly renovated Alaska State Museum‘s collection of historic artifacts. You should have just enough time left for a stop at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where kids can wander walking trails, stroke animal pelts, and use spotting scopes to get a closer look at the glacier’s blue ice. Overnight in Juneau.
Day 2 Juneau to Sitka
Hop on one of the Alaska Marine Highway’s fast ferries for the four-and-a-half hour journey to the beautiful island community of Sitka. Once you land, head to either the Alaska Raptor Center or the Fortress of the Bear. Both facilities care for rescued animals, although the bears are not released back into the wild. The eagles are released whenever possible, and watching them regain their ability to fly within the enclosed “flight training center” is a real treat. Other kid-friendly destinations include the Sitka Sound Science Center, which includes a hatchery, aquarium and touch tank; the nearby Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, where they can watch master artisans at work; and the nearby “totem trails,” where you can roam the forest among dozens of totem poles. End your evening with a stroll on Sitka’s charming coastal walk that stretches from the science center to the cruise ship docks, then spend the night in Sitka.
Day 3 Sitka to Wrangell
Spend the day taking in the sights on your ferry trip from Sitka to Wrangell. The trip takes about 14 hours in total; think of it as a delightful sightseeing cruise and make sure to keep an eye out for playful humpback whales. Many ferries offer kid-friendly amenities like playrooms, arcades and observation decks. (This journey can also be done overnight.)
Day 4 Wrangell
Stretch your legs in Wrangell on the mile-long walk to Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park, where you and the kids can stroll the beach at low tide to spot ancient carvings left by early Alaska Native people. Next, walk back through town to Chief Shakes Island—accessible via a short footbridge—to explore a traditional Tlingit longhouse. Want to try and spot some wildlife? Older children will never forget a trip to the Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory, where bears come to feed on the largest pink salmon run in the Inside Passage. Overnight in Wrangell.
Day 5 Wrangell to Ketchikan
Hop back aboard the ferry for the six-hour sailing to Ketchikan. You’ve spent plenty of time on the water and the ground: Now it’s time to see Alaska by air with a zipline adventure that sends you soaring through the massive trees of Tongass National Forest. Other fun, family-friendly excursions include a trip to Totem Bight State Historical Park, strolling the elevated boardwalks of the historic Creek Street and, for older kids, an unusual snorkeling adventure in near-shore waters. Spend the night in Ketchikan and get ready to fly—or sail—home the next day.