The Ultimate 10-day Alaska Itinerary with Kids

Alyeska Resort, Alaska

This is the part 2 of our Alaska journey. You can read about how we planned our trip (how we booked and paid for it) in the first part here.

We landed in Anchorage at around 11 pm, and by the time we collected our luggage, picked up our rental car, drove to the hotel, and set things up, it was already 1 am. We had read some horror stories about people not being able to pick up their rental cars due to covid-related availability issues. However, everything went smoother than we thought; there were no problems with the rental car or luggage whatsoever.

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Day 1 — Anchorage

We booked two nights in Anchorage, so we wouldn’t have to drive somewhere far away the very next day, and we decided to spend the day exploring areas adjacent to the city.

We used 2 Free Night certificates to book a room at Hyatt Place Anchorage-Midtown; the cash rate was $248.25 per night, so we got some good value out of these certificates. The hotel is new, built in 2019, and has a restaurant and a large indoor pool.

Since we arrived late, it was great that the room included a complimentary hot breakfast as we didn’t have to drive somewhere and wait to get seated.

The breakfast at the hotel had good food options, such as scrambled eggs, pancakes, and fruits. Even little picky eaters were happy!

Chugach State Park

In the afternoon, we took a short drive to Chugach State Park (about 35 minutes from Hyatt Place) to hike the Albert Loop Trail. This short loop trail features picturesque views that can give you a little taste of Alaska.

Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park near Anchorage
Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park

It was raining when we were there, and a part of the trail was closed due to flooding. Living in California, we are accustomed to dry summers with virtually no precipitation, so that day, it didn’t even cross our minds to bring raincoats. On the bright side, the rain was warm, and we really enjoyed this little hike. Baby Zoe didn’t mind the rain; Sophia wasn’t impressed, though.

Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park near Anchorage
Albert Loop Trail in Chugach State Park

After we finished hiking, we drove back to the city for lunch. We didn’t make our lunch reservation since we didn’t know when we would be back. Unfortunately, it turned into an hour-long wait at Simon & Seafort’s restaurant, which we spent in a nearby park. That day we began our Alaskan fish-eating adventure, and for the next ten days, we had all kinds of seafood for breakfast, lunch, and dinner: halibut, cod, salmon, crab, shrimp, you name it!

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We headed back to the hotel where Sophia enjoyed some pool time while Zoe was napping.

Pool at Hyatt Place Anchorage

In the evening, we walked to the Cuddy Family Midtown Park. It was right by the hotel, with a playground and a little pond with ducks and geese.

We knew that we would spend another few nights in the Anchorage area at the end of our trip, so we didn’t plan too much for the first day. If you’re only staying in Anchorage for your whole trip, scroll down to Days 9 and 10 below.

Day 2 — Seward

After breakfast, we checked out from the hotel, and off we went to Seward. The drive was just about 2.5 hours from Anchorage, along the shore with breathtaking views. It was probably our favorite scenic drive of the trip.

Road to Seward, Alaska

Seward is a small port town on Alaskan southern coast, located on Resurrection Bay shaped by the glaciers.

We arrived in Seward around lunchtime and went looking for a place to eat. A colorful main street with shops and restaurants is right by the shore.

Downtown Seward, Alaska
Downtown Seward, Alaska

There were only a few restaurant choices due to many places being closed or having very specific hours of operation. It was all because of wait staff shortage, and not only due to Covid restrictions or people not willing to work in the food industry but also due to the fact that seasonal workers from all over the world weren’t able to obtain their visas and get in time to Alaska. Later we realized that an hour-long wait to get seated was common this summer.

We ended up having lunch at the Chattermark Restaurant, and the food was quite good.

Chattermark Restaurant in Seward, Alaska

After lunch, we checked in at Hotel Seward, located right in the historic downtown. This quaint and charming hotel was built in 1909 and offered a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Hotel Seward in Seward, Alaska
Hotel Seward, Seward

We had a spacious corner room with a fireplace, overlooking the Resurrection Bay.

Hotel Seward in Seward, Alaska

Alaska Sealife Center

Since the hotel was right by the Alaska Sealife Center, we decided to check it out on the very first day in Seward. The center has an aquarium and marine research. There, you can find sea lions, puffins, otters, fish, and a giant octopus. It is also the only permanent marine mammal rescue facility in the state.

Alaska Sealife Center
Alaska Sealife Center

Sophia was very excited to see puffins and explore the touch pools with prawns and sea stars.

We had dinner at the Seasalt restaurant right there downtown. It’s funny how we had the same waiter from the Chattermark restaurant where we went for lunch hours earlier. He tried his best to help everyone as fast as he could and even offered us free drinks when the kid’s food was running late.

After dinner, we treated our tastebuds to some gelato from Sweet Darlings.

Sweet Darlings in Seward, Alaska

It was the week of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and we couldn’t help but notice that every shop and restaurant window had a “Go Lydia” poster.

Lydia Jacoby is a 17-year-old high school student from Seward who qualified for the Olympics on the USA Olympic Swimming Team. Later, when we were already in Denali, we learned that she won the gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, and that was Alaska’s first Olympic medal in swimming!

Day 3 — Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise

For breakfast, we went right across the street from the hotel to a little coffee shop called SeaBean. They had delicious coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches. You ought to try the smoked salmon bagel!

SeaBean cafe in Seward, Alaska

That was basically our breakfast spot for the rest of the stay in Seward.

Major Marine Tours

We had booked a half-day tour with Major Marine Tours to explore the waters of Resurrection Bay and see some wildlife, so after a light lunch, we headed to the harbor to board our boat. We decided to go with the 4-Hour Kenai Fjords Wildlife Cruise instead of a full-day tour as it seemed more appropriate for younger kids. It was a chilly rainy day, so we had to bundle up and put on our hats, mittens, and rain jackets.

You could sit inside at your pre-assigned table in the main cabin, but we went to the outside upper deck anyway to experience being out in the ocean to its fullest extent.

Sophia, for some reason, was very sleepy and actually fell asleep there, and baby Zoe was also sound asleep in her Ergo Baby carrier.

We saw jellyfish, harbor seals, otters, goats, and puffins. The was only one orca passing by, and we missed it!

Sophia had a little obsession with penguins and puffins, so we were really looking forward to seeing puffins on this tour, and it did not disappoint.

The boat captain, who chose the route based on recent wildlife sightings, fully narrated this cruise. We really enjoyed the tour as it offered breathtaking views of the bay, waterfalls, and fjords, and we even had a little glimpse of the Bear Glacier in the distance.

It was a long and eventful day, so we decided to top it off with delicious halibut burgers, prawns, and seared scallops from the Chattermark restaurant.

Day 4 — Exit Glacier

In the morning, after breakfast, we ventured on a short stroll on the paved trail of the Seward Waterfront Park.

The Seward Waterfront Park campground looked like a nice place to park an RV as it was right by the bay; there were a lot of campers there.

In the afternoon, we drove to the Exit Glacier at the Kenai Fjords National Park, which was a short drive of about 40 minutes from Seward. That was our first glacier of the trip, and it was roughly 23,000 years old!

As you get closer to the Exit Glacier, you can see signs along the road that date when the Glacier’s toe was there, a sad depiction of climate change.

Just eleven years ago, in 2010, you could come closer to the glacier, but now it has receded so much that you can only observe it from a distance.

Exit Glacier

Harding Icefield Trail

We decided to hike the Harding Icefield Trail, which was somewhat strenuous, and we knew that we wouldn’t be able to finish the entire hike, so our plan was to hike as much as we could and then turn back when we get to see the glacier up close.

We were prepared for colder weather, but it was actually hot and humid, with lots of mosquitos (ugh, of course, we left our bug spray in the car). A certain amount of whining may have occurred, and the infamous phrase “How many minutes until the car?” may have been said, but we survived it anyway! We ended up hiking 6.5 miles in 3.5 hours with a 1620ft elevation gain!

We had a dinner reservation at the Cookery, which was a restaurant recommended by many Seward guides, we made this reservation two days prior, and they only had an early 5 pm opening. Unfortunately, we underestimated the time needed for our hike, so we ended up missing this reservation.

On our way back to the car we picked up a Junior Ranger Adventure Guide for Sophia so she could earn her Junior Ranger badge.

We drove back to the city, and of course, all open restaurants were fully booked! We had to try the harbor to see if anything was available there. Finally, almost in a time of desperation, we found a little shack called Alaska Seafood Grill that served deep-fried seafood. We waited for food for about 45 minutes; Roman initially misheard it as 4 or 5 minutes and thought it “wasn’t too bad” but realized it was way longer. There was outdoor seating with majestic mountains and harbor views.

It was our last evening in Seward, and we got to admit it was definitely the right choice to spend at least three nights there.

Day 5 — Drive to Talkeetna

In the morning, after breakfast, we stopped by the Exit Glacier Nature Center in Kenai Fjords National Park. Sophia earned her Junior Ranger badge by turning in the activity book and taking the pledge. This was actually the very first time we had ever done that, although we had already been to many National Parks. Sophia was really proud!

It was finally time to leave Seward and head for Denali National Park. Denali National Park and Preserve is six million acres of wild land with the tallest mountain in North America, which is also called Denali (6,190 meters or 20,310 ft), and it’s the 3rd tallest mountain in the world!

Our plan was to spend the night in the little town of Talkeetna since it would have been quite the drive (Seward to Denali is about 6.5 hours) otherwise and then try to see Denali from two viewpoints called South and North before heading into the park itself.

If you look at the map, Talkeetna is somewhere between Anchorage and Denali, making it a perfect spot for a lunch/dinner stop. The South viewpoint is about an hour away from Talkeetna, followed by the North viewpoint, which is about 1.5 hours from the South one.

Since the road from Seward to Talkeetna goes through Anchorage, for lunch, we went to the Snow City Cafe in the city, which is a popular spot for breakfast/brunch. Later on, we realized that Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman had lunch in this very restaurant back in 2004 while filming their travel documentary “Long Way Round,” which you can catch on Apple TV+.

The final leg of our road trip took us about 2 hours, and then we finally arrived at our hotel for the night, which was the rustic-style Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

As we arrived pretty late, we headed straight to the restaurant in the lodge. For dinner we had… you guessed it right, Alaskan salmon and halibut.

Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is famous for its views of Denali, but unfortunately, we couldn’t see anything because of the overcast. Another thing that you should keep in mind is that the Alaskan weather is unpredictable, and you have a slim chance of joining the 30% club (only 30% of people visiting Denali get to see her fully).

Day 6 — Drive to Denali

There’s an option to have a full breakfast in the restaurant at the lodge, but we opted out for a lighter fare with coffee and pastries from the market.

We bypassed Talkeetna downtown entirely because we were going to visit it on our way back to Anchorage (see Day 8 below for more information about this town), and for now, our next destination was the Denali National Park!

We stopped at Denali South and North Viewpoints on our way to the park, hoping to catch a glimpse of Denali peaks. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t see anything because it was raining cats and dogs.

Finally, we made it to McKinley Chalet Resort which was 2.5 hours from Talkeetna and it was only 2 miles from the Denali National Park entrance.

McKinley Chalet Resort is a beautiful upscale lodge bordering the Nenana River that spans across a few acres of land and has two full-service restaurants. There are multiple buildings on its property, and the hotel operates a shuttle service since the property is quite large.

When booking the stay, we didn’t know what kind of room we would get. With this hotel, we hit the jackpot; we had a modern room with an amazing little balcony with the Nenana River view. We definitely recommend this hotel!

Day 7 — Hiking in the Denali National Park

There is a little plaza with various shops and restaurants right across from the hotel. In the afternoon, we grabbed a quick bite from the Prospectors Historic Pizzeria & Alehouse, bought a bear spray in a shop next door, and then headed to the Denali National Park.

Now about the bear spray, yes, you have to buy it (and you have to buy it in Alaska if you’re flying there because you can’t put it into your carry-on or checked luggage); yes, you’re really hoping not to use it, it’s like having insurance, and it’s highly encouraged to have it with you. Thankfully, we didn’t get to use it, but again we didn’t do much off-trail hiking. You can also have little bear bells and add a few “hi bear” to your singing hiking repertoire.

The Denali National Park is huge, but it has only a few well-maintained trails in proximity to the visitor center with trailheads accessible by car; you can do mostly off-trail hiking and backpacking (that requires a permit).

Denali National Park, Alaska

Driving in a personal vehicle in the park is not allowed past mile 15 on Denali Park Road (the only road there), so many tourists opt for a bus tour. A few bus tour choices span from 4.5 to 12 hours, and it is the best way to see the wildlife. Denali is the perfect place to spot Alaska’s “big five” animals – grizzly bear, moose, caribou, Dall sheep, and wolves. Unfortunately, a bus tour didn’t sound too compelling for us with two kids, one of them being an 11-month-old infant, so we decided to find the best possible hike in the area accessible by car.

Savage Alpine Trail

We researched a few hiking options before going to the park and ended up choosing the Savage Alpine Trail, which was supposed to offer a view of Denali peaks on a clear day; it was 4.5 miles point-to-point and rated as difficult. Usually, we are not afraid of challenging hikes, and it seemed that Sophia got strong enough to endure a 3-4 hour strenuous hike.

We started our hike from the Mountain Vista parking lot (mile 13 of Denali Park Road). Unfortunately for us, we were hiking in an overcast which was good for the photos but bad for the views. Nevertheless, the trail was beautiful; we saw fireweed glimmering with purple colors on the slopes of the mountains, pikas, and big, arctic squirrels sneaking around. We completed this hike in about 4 hours and gained 1,454ft in elevation.

Essentially, in the first half of the hike, you go up the mountain, and then you go down. We thought it was the right choice to start the hike from the Mountain Vista parking lot area since it was a bit easier to scale up the mountain from that side.

We were supposed to take the Savage River Shuttle back to our parking lot, but due to some miscalculation on our part, we got to the Savage River Check Station at around 7 pm.

We asked a ranger if the bus was coming and were notified that the last bus left 2 hours ago at 5 pm. It was a 2-mile walk along the road to the Mountain Vista parking lot, and we didn’t have a choice but to start walking. We tried to hitchhike a couple of cars so Roman could get back to our car and pick up the rest of the family afterward. Predictably, no one stopped, so we kept walking, tired and hungry. Luckily for us, a tour bus was returning from a day-long tour, and the driver was kind enough to let us hop on the bus and give us a ride to our parking lot. That was such a blessing!

We finally made it to the hotel at around 8 pm and had dinner at the restaurant there.

After putting baby Zoe to sleep, the rest of us stayed up late on our balcony, enjoying the river view and talking. Sophia was working on her Denali Junior Ranger adventure guide.

Day 8 — Talkeetna

After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove to the Denali National Park and Preserve to take a short hike around the visitor center and to get a Junior Ranger badge for Sophia.

We were going back to Anchorage and planned an afternoon in Talkeetna (Denali to Talkeetna is about 2.5 hours drive).

Yet again, we stopped at the Viewpoints hoping to see the Denali, and on the South one, we were finally able to catch a glimpse of the peak for a few minutes!

We arrived at Talkeetna way past our lunchtime, so we hurried downtown, looking for a place to eat. We ordered some pizzas at the Mountain High Pizza Pie. They had a charming big outdoor patio.

We walked around little downtown that had restaurants, shops, and a historical museum.

The fun fact about Talkeetna that we learned later is that the cat named Stubbs was the town’s honorary mayor from 1997 to 2017.

Alaskan birch syrup shop & Wild Harvest

We also stopped at the famous Alaskan birch syrup shop located in Talkeetna. They had a tasting room and offered free birch syrup samples. The syrup is made from 100% birch sap and, depending on the early-mid, or late runs can be used for pancakes or fish! This little shop also had birch caramel, birch mustard, and even birch caramel ice cream topping! Yum!

Alaska Birch Syrup & Wild Harvest

We had two more hours of driving until Anchorage. In fact, our next destination was Girdwood (a little town about 1 hour away from Anchorage). We knew it would be a long day on the road, and when booking hotels three months prior, we couldn’t predict how the baby would do on the longer road trips; even one more hour could be a game changer.

So we decided to spend the night in Anchorage at the Hyatt Place Anchorage Midtown hotel again (we used 12,000 Hyatt points, so at least we didn’t have to pay cash for the night) and head to Girdwood area first thing in the morning. You can absolutely skip staying in Anchorage and go straight to Girdwood!

Day 9 — Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and Byron Glacier

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

In the morning, we checked out of our hotel and left for our last destination of the trip. First, we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It is a wildlife sanctuary with 200 acres of land. It has a lot of wild Alaskan animals, such as bears, moose, caribou, bisons, reindeer, wolves, and others. You can explore the center on your foot or by car. It was pretty windy that day (so passing cars would stir up the dust from the road), not sure if it’s the common thing for that area.

We had hotdogs for lunch right there from the food stand, and the girls played on the little meadow afterward.

Byron Glacier

We had planned a little hike at the Byron Glacier before heading to the hotel (the trailhead was only 10 minutes away from the center).

It’s an easy and short hike (1 mi) to the Glacier along Byron creek. We started on a dry path along the beautiful green trees and ended up on a snow patch surrounded by the gorgeous mountains with the glacier. Sophia was really excited to play in the snow!

We finished the hike and drove to our last hotel of the trip, Alyeska Resort. The resort is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, has several dining options, and has a big indoor pool with a hot tub featuring fantastic mountain views.

You could take a scenic tram ride right from the hotel to the top of mount Alyeska.

Day 10 — Portage Glacier

We had breakfast at the cafe in the hotel and went to the pool since we had planned a busy afternoon.

In the afternoon, we drove to the glacial Portage Lake (30 minutes drive from the hotel) to take a cruise to see the Portage Glacier.

On the way to the Glacier along the shorelines of Turnagain arm, we had one of the “tell me you are in Alaska without telling me you are in Alaska” moments — it was a moose swimming in the waterway with snowy mountain peaks in the background!

Portage Glacier Cruise

We booked the Portage Glacier cruise in advance, and they had a few time slots available to choose from. The cruise is only 1 hour long and takes you up close to the glacier. The glacier is retreating rapidly, making the lake deeper and deeper. Interestingly enough, only just about 100 years ago, the lake wasn’t even visible; there was just a glacier sitting in the valley.

Big chunks of glacial ice are floating in the water; you can take a piece with you to make some Glacieritas at home!

After the cruise, we drove back to Girdwood to have dinner at the Jack Sprat restaurant. There weren’t any outdoor sitting available, which was a bummer because they had a lovely patio with fire pits.

That’s Roman NOT enjoying his dinner because the kids weren’t behaving

After dinner, we took a short hike by the hotel. It was our last evening in Alaska, and it was a perfect place to end our Alaskan adventure by enjoying the scenery.

So, here we were, almost asleep, packed, and ready to leave the next day, when we got a very loud tsunami warning on our phones and watches. Apparently, there was an 8.2 earthquake that occurred southwest of Perryville, Alaska. It was the largest since 1965 and was felt on the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island. The warning said we needed to get away from the shore and move to the higher grounds. Luckily, we were far enough inland in the mountains. Thankfully, the warning was lifted a few hours after the earthquake, but it definitely got us worried.

Day 11 — Anchorage → San Francisco

We had an afternoon flight to San Francisco, so we had some time to go to the pool after breakfast. At around 11 am, we checked out of the hotel and drove to the airport (about 50 minutes from Girdwood).

So, this is our Alaskan story! Alaska is beautiful, big, adventurous, and welcoming! Fjords, mountains and glaciers, rivers and forests — Alaska is unique and unforgettable! Of course, there is so much that we didn’t get to do or see, but we did pretty well for the first time with two small kids.

We’re definitely coming back!

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