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Need your advice on my final itinerary

San Diego...
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Need your advice on my final itinerary

Here is my itinerary for our first Alaska trip.

I am travelling with an 8 year old who loves to hike so we want to be outdoors as much as we can.

There are still some gaps so please let me know what you think. I may have planned too many activities so any advice on what are the must-sees among the ones I planned and the ones that can be let go if the time is short.

I want to focus on activities that will appeal to a kid. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Jun. 17

midnight: Arrive at Anchorage; Stay at Anchorage

Jun. 18

Flattop Hike (3 hours); Potter Marsh(1 hr); Beluga Point (1 hour); Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center; Ship Creek to watch "combat fishing"(when is the best time to see it?);

Drive back to the hotel (30 minutes).

Question: Should I go all the way to Beluga point and then go back one attraction at a time back to our hotel or the other way around or it doesn't matter? Should we just skip the museums altogether or leave it to the last day of our travel? I don't care for museums too much compared to just being outdoors.

Night at Anchorage

Jun. 19

Windy Point, Bird Ridge Trail; Bird Creek; Bird Point, The Flats; Begich-Boggs Vistor Center; Hike to Byron Glacier; Portage Glacier; Mt. Alyeska Tram.

How much time does it typically take to see these things?

Night: Hotel not booked, can't find any hotel at a good price in Girdwood. May be will find a place back in Anchorage.

Jun 20

12:30 pm Prince William Sound Tour. Do or Skip since we are doing Kenai Fjords and Portage Glacier Boat tour. Drive to Homer; Walk Homer Pit

Night at Homer

Jun: 21

Too many things to do here and I can't decide which ones are really good.

Visit Ocean and Islands Visitor Center & go Tidepool.

Should I do Danny J to Halibut Cove( I don't care for dinner at Saltry) or do Center for Alaskan Studies tour to Peterson station?Rainbow tour to Seldovia? Boat across Kachemak bay? Include Gull Island? Pratt museum? I want something different from Seward but they all look very similar.

Any hikes around here that are nice?

Night at Homer

Jun 22:

Morning in Homer and later in the afternoon, drive towards Seward

Stop at Ninchilik to see Russian Orthodox Church

Is it possible to see "Ring of Fire" in Cook's inlet? Salmon Cannery in Kenai or some other place? fishermen catching fish in Russian river? If so, how do we do it?

Night at Seward

Jun: 23

Take the Kenai Fjords 7.5 hours cruise. What do can we do after the cruise? The Sea Life Center and Exit Glacier would have closed by the time we return from the cruise.

Night at Seward

Jun 24

Seal Life Center and hike Exit Glaciier

Night at Seward

In hindsight, it seems I may have planned too many nights at Seward. There doesn't seem to be much to do here for a stay of three nights.

Jun 25

Visit Wildlife Conservation Center. Lots of empty time here; Any suggestions? Visit Eagle River Nature Center?

Night at Anchorage

Jun 26

Early morning drive to Denali; Reach Denali by noon.

Watch movie; Take McKinley Station Hike (is it worth it?); sled dog demo; do some campground program at night

Night at Denali

Jun 27 :

Do Discover Hike or take Shuttle bus to Wonderlake? I am unable to decide? Which one is better in your opinion?

If we take shuttle bus, then I am thinking of taking the 5:15 am bus to Wonderlake to try to get the view before clouds come over. Are there any trails to take us to Reflection Pool?

Get back on bus to Eileson for ranger led hike at 1 pm.

Get back on bus and do a campground program at night.

Night at Denali

Jun 28

Should we do shuttle bus into the park again or just do a Discover hike the second day? If we take shuttle bus, then I plan to take 6:15 am shuttle bus? What are some good hiking places where we can off to hike? 2-3 hours is plenty for us unless it is led by a ranger. We want to hike in a group and are not comfortable hiking by ourselves because of bears.

Night at Denali

Jun 29

Another day into the park? We don't have much time for Denali today because I want to reach Palmer by 3 pm for a tsunami tour. Is the tour any good? Otherwise we can skip it and spend more time in Denali. Does it make sense to cut short time in Denali to take a Tsunami tour?

I

Head back towards Palmer around 10 am. Reach Tsunami center in Palmer(3 pm) for a tour.

Visit Independence mine.Anything else we can do on this day?

Night at Palmer or Anchorage? I have a choice right now. Anchorage hotel is about $20 cheaper and the driving time between the two is 45 minutes.

Jun 30

Visit Reindeer farm. Maybe Matsu Valley? Nothing much planned for this day

Night at Palmer or Anchorage? I have a choice right now. Anchorage hotel is about $20 cheaper and the driving time between the two is 45 minutes.

July 1

Nothing planned for the whole day.

Jul 2

Fly out at 1 am

Thanks for your help!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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1. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

Just a general comment that it seems like you are considering doing a bit of criss crossing in your planning and overnights. The added gas (at $4+/gallon?) will offset any minimal savings on hotel rates.

Hotel in ANC to GIrdwood, back to ANC and then to Whittier the next day is one example. Maybe you can find a room at the Whittier Inn?

I would also suggest if you have things to do in and around MatSu Valley (Palmer/Wasilla) that will take more than just a single day, to stay there rather than doing the back-and-forth to Anchorage.

While in that area, I would also suggest considering the Knik Glacier tour (Palmer).

Also doing all you're planning in Whittier and then driving to Homer seems like a lot to me too.

For much of your trip, I think you should have a list of "most see" things and then the more complete list of "other" things . . . you will probably have too much for some places and be looking for extra activities in others. June 18 & 19 are examples.

Hope this helps. I'll leave the rest for others to comment on (particularly Denali and Homer).

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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2. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

For the benefit of others who may be reading/responding . . . the OP's original post/thread on this trip: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k52663… .

Bristol, Connecticut
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3. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

June 18th, do Beluga Pt on your way to Girdwood on the 19th

June 20, visit the Wildlife Conservation Center and maybe Hope and hike Gull Rock trail then head toward Homer maybe staying in Cooper Landing. Do the PWS tour on the 25th on your way north.

June 23rd you can do Exit Glacier after the cruise, the Nature Center may be closed but the Glacier is always open. The 8 yr old will love Seward, lots of beach combing and hanging out on the docks looking for seals/otters. Since you have a full day do Exit and SeaLife Center that day and go out to Lowell Point after the day cruise. You may want to look into doing a behind the scenes tour at the SeaLife Center.

June 29/30-If you are going to Reindeer Farm stay in Palmer/Wasilla, if you have an active 8 yr old you will spend hours at Independence Mine/Hatcher Pass

July 1, you may want to explore Thunderbird Falls, Eklutna Lake or The Eagle River Nature Center

Plan at least 5 hours for the drive from Anchorage to Denali without stops. Another though is that you are doing a lot on your first day and you may want to save one of the museums for the last day. The kids I have taken to The Native Heritage Center have always enjoyed it.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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4. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

Yes, definitely a lot of back tracking. But given that you're leaving in 2 weeks! is there time to rearrange ?

Personally I would drive to Homer on 6/18 then start working my way back. It's a 5 hr drive to Homer but you can easily break it up with lots of stops.

Spend a few days in Homer, then drive to Cooper Landing. A good spot to watch fishing activities since you're timing is so close to a salmon run! Maybe do the Russian River Falls trail while you're there to watch salmon at the falls. Then move on to Seward for a few days, then Whittier or Girdwood (try Hidden Creek B&B) , then Denali, then Palmer.

San Diego...
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5. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

I didn't realize that there is so much backtracking in my trip or that there was too much/too little on certain days. Thanks for pointing it out.

The reason for going back to Anchorage is that I got a really good deal at Anchorage for $110/night. I would prefer to stay in Girdwood however the lodging there is around $200+/night. Inn at Whittier also costs about the same. That feels like quite a waste just to sleep somewhere. I would rather use this money to do another tour .

Going to Homer first probably makes more sense, but the dates for Seward can't be changed.

Moving PWS out to 25th sounds like a good alternative. But the drive from Seward to Whittier is 2 hours and then there is the tunnel to consider. Wouldn't it be too tight to do PWS on 25th? Since the drive is shorter from Anchorage I thought it would be better to get to Whittier from Anchorage rather than Seward. But I do see that doing PWS and driving to Homer may be too much to do in a day, so moving PWS out does make sense..

Is Knik glacier similar to Matanuska glacier? We will be doing hikes to Byron glacier and Exit glacier. Will Knik and Matanuska be very different?

Wake Forest, North...
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6. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

I just did alot of the same places with my 2 kids ages 8 and 10. (tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g28923-i349-k54746…)

I would consider doing the gold panning at Crows Creek in Girdwood. Huge hit with my kids, especially my 8 year old son. The Winner Creek Trail (behind Aleskya hotel) is also great for families, we didn't get too far because of the snow, but it was alot of fun what we did hike.

At each stop we went to, I had a must do and also things we can do if we are in the mood/have time. With kids that seemed work best for us. We do some of my "can do" list, but not all. We made it to Exit Glacier, but not to the Sea Life Center (both were on Can do)

We spent 3 nights in Seward last week and I honestly didn't feel it was too many at all. The wildlife is very accessable in Seward and my kids LOVED it. Be sure to spend time just walking around the water front, you can see eagles, seals and sea lions right there. Go to Lowell point and spend time on beach there, but also keep you eyes peeled on the drive because there are alot of marine animals right along that area. The pond near safeway usually has Eagles in the trees. The kids also liked watching the fisherman bring in the fish at 5:30 each night.

My kids were exhusted after the 7 hour boat ride and wanted to just run around outside, so I wouldn't worry about planning anything after that long trip with an 8 year old.

We also did the Seavey's Ididaride dog sled tour in Seward and was great for your son's age. And we enjoyed it as well.

In Denali be sure to get the backpack from the ranger station. Lots of great stuff for kids this age. Also, my kids LOVED the savage river hike especially hiking to the top of the small stone mountain there.

Your son is a great age for Alaska. You are going to have a blast.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

>>>Is Knik glacier similar to Matanuska glacier? We will be doing hikes to Byron glacier and Exit glacier. Will Knik and Matanuska be very different?<<<

Yes, I believe so in that the Knik Glacier tour is an airboat trip to the face of one of the largest glacier faces in AK. As you approach, the magnificence of the huge icebergs is really close to you in the boat.

The boat then docks where you walk up to his overlook camp that gives yet another great view of the glacier.

Matanuska is a glacier that you can hike on. Byron Glacier, I think is one that you can hike through the woods to.

Here is the review with photos from Knik Glacier (Sept 2010) that I wrote: igougo.com/review-r1378339-One_of_the_Best_T… . Hopefully the photos will help to illustrate the difference.

San Diego...
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8. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

Thanks TimeshareVon, I will look into the Knik glacier tour.

Jennifer, I noted down all the things that you mentioned for Seward. It does look like there are enough things to do there. My son loves to skip rocks too. I also read your trip report and it was very helpful.

Can someone please give advice on Denali and Homer too.

I want to book the shuttle buses now. But I am debating whether to do shuttle one day and Discovery Hike the next day or do only shuttle bus.

I realize that registration for Discovery Hike can be done only about 2 days in advance and that there are limited spots. On top of that, it is upto them to decide if we are in a good enough shape to do it.

Is Discovery Hike appropriate for a kid? Any advice here will be very helpful.

New England
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9. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

When you go to sign up for the Discovery Hike you will be given a description of available hikes so you can decide if the hike is right for you. The descriptions are very thorough and include the length of the bus ride required to get to the spot. You will need to purchase a bus ticket for the Discovery Hike shuttle which you do after you sign up. They will give you a form to take to the WAC to purchase the bus ticket and will tell you what time to be at the WAC on the day of the hike.

Once the hike is over and you are back at the road you will get on the next available bus that comes by. Your ticket is valid as far as Eielson so you can continue to there or head back to the entrance. As with any shuttle you can get on and off as you like.

I would book at least one shuttle day now and then when you arrive see about availability for the Discovery Hike.

Edited: 10 June 2012, 15:37
Wake Forest, North...
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10. Re: Need your advice on my final itinerary

I'm so glad you found it helpful. I didn't see Talkeenta on your plan and that was probably one of my kids favorite parts. Our favorite rock skipping venue was on the river in Talkeenta watching Denail peek through the clouds. How often to you get to skip rocks with Mt. McKinley in the background. My son also loved talking to the climbers and watching the video at the ranger station. If your son is interested in climbing or likes that kind of stuff, make sure you meet some climbers in Talkeenta or even the ranger.

As far as Denali, my son wouldn't have managed two days on the bus, but yours might be different, so I would lean toward the discovery hike or another activity. (there are float trips in the area that were highly recommended to us and were on our "can do list". We really liked the Savage River hike, very kid friendly and saw lots of wildlife the river and on the hill - there is a small "mountain" there that they spent over an hour climbing on. And the hike was fun for them. Be sure to hit the visitors center (lots of good displays there) and the dog sled demo at the NP.

We didn't go to Homer, so I can't help there.