Anchorage is one big classroom: Here’s how to make the most of it

Anchorage offers plenty of outdoor (and stay-at-home) classroom opportunities — places for kids of all ages to fill up on fresh air, learn about local history, and experience Alaska nature and culture, all while avoiding crowds and following state and local public health recommendations. Family friendly outdoor activities, educational attractions, and virtual connections abound: Here are a few favorites.

  1. Tour the solar system: The Anchorage Lightspeed Planet Walk features a scale model of the solar system, spread across downtown Anchorage and along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. With the sun situated at the corner of 5th Avenue and G Street and Pluto located at Kincaid Chalet, the immersive astronomy lesson allows students to explore Anchorage by foot or bike.  

  2. Set out on an urban safari: Anchorage is home to hundreds of urban moose — found ambling along city trail systems, foraging in forested parks, and wandering through neighborhood wetlands. Pack snacks and hit the road for a moose search safari of Anchorage: Drive out to Point Woronzof and Kincaid Park, down to Potter Marsh, and up to Glen Alps. You’re sure to find a four-legged friend somewhere along the way. Just remember to stay at a safe distance: Wild animals can be dangerous if they are surprised or agitated. 

  3. Learn about local history: Immerse yourself in local history virtually via the Cook Inlet Historical Society, which offers a range of online resources, photographs, and other information documenting the history of the Anchorage region. Or sit in on a historical presentation online, like this one about the Nike Site Summit, presented via Zoom by the Eagle River Nature Center.

  4. Stroll the Ship Creek Trail: Learn about Anchorage’s tent city history with an educational walk along the Ship Creek Trail. From the trail’s western terminus behind the Ulu Factory, visitors can follow the trail east, walking in the footsteps of some of the city’s earliest residents, and learning about the railroad construction camp that helped lay the groundwork for the Anchorage we know today.  

  5. Visit the Alaska Zoo: Whether you explore the zoo in person or make plans for a virtual visit, there are lots of other ways to enjoy an animal encounter. Tune in to the zoo’s live feed from the polar bear habitat, or consider adopting a zoo animal online. A polar bear at the Alaska Zoo

  6. Skate at Cuddy Park: When temperatures dip below freezing, Cuddy Family Midtown Park becomes the perfect place for a skate. The park is home to the city’s online outdoor skating oval, giving users space to enjoy the ice at a safe distance from others. Take a spin around the rink, or walk or bike the paved path around the 15-acre park. 

  7. Take a walk at Westchester Lagoon: Watch for waterfowl and moose, lace up your ice skates if the weather permits, or bring a bike and look for connections to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and the Chester Creek Greenbelt. The area offers something to explore in all seasons, filled with fresh air and plenty of room for safe social distancing. 

  8. Experience Earthquake Park: Reshaped by the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, this wooded park in West Anchorage is the perfect place for students to learn more about one of the most formative seismological events in the city’s history. Explore interpretive signage, then take a walk on a secluded stretch of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to see where the land dips and was reshaped by the quake.  

  9. Hit the trails at the Eagle River Nature Center: The center itself is temporarily closed, but the trails are open for social distancing with scenic views. Stretch your legs in the heart of the Eagle River Valley, stopping to learn about the area from educational signs installed at points along the way.  

  10. Create crafts with the Alaska Native Heritage Center: The Alaska Native Heritage Center is offering online instructions for student DIY crafts, sharing contextual information and step-by-step instructions for projects like this Yup’ik men’s dance fan.  

  11. Sit in on a virtual storytime with the Anchorage Public Library: Visit the Anchorage Public Library online for virtual storytimes, digital downloads, and ideas about other all-ages activities to enjoy while spending time at home with students.  

  12. Coloring with Seymour of Anchorage: Download and print these Anchorage-inspired coloring-book pages, and students can spend hours exploring their artistic side. With scenes from Town Square Park, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, and beyond, it’s the perfect way to explore Anchorage while staying inside. Bonus: an all-about-Anchorage word search, crossword puzzle, and scavenger hunt.