While not technically overseas, Alaska is one of those duty stations that leave many military families scratching their head when faced with the move up north. It can be a great way to experience what “The Last Frontier” has to offer.
More than cold and snow, Alaska is known for spectacular scenery, diverse wildlife, and adventure. Alaska’s main base in the Anchorage area is Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. Since Anchorage is the largest city in the state, if you’re stationed here, you’ll be in a... major hub of culture and commerce.
Alaska also has another base in Fairbanks, about five hours away from Anchorage. Ft. Wainwright sees more of the climate extremes Alaska is known for, but still offers exciting opportunities for new families.
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Take a Ride on the Alaska Railroad
In Alaska, “getting there” really is half the fun. One of the unique features of the Alaskan tourism industry is the elaborate Alaska Railroad system. For a modest fee, you can take a tour to Alaska’s most popular destinations, right from downtown Anchorage.
The train travels to Seward, Alyeska (more on that below), Fairbanks, and many more. If your family is looking to tour Alaska, this is a great way to take in all the gorgeous scenery.
02 of 10
Walk on a Glacier
Looking for a uniquely Alaskan experience? Head out to the Matanuska Glacier. When visiting Matanuska, you can either take a guided tour or explore on your own, using the well-maintained trail, which takes you a third of a mile to the toe of the glacier. Matanuska is located about an hour from Anchorage, and makes for a great day excursion.
03 of 10
Watch the Iditarod Ceremonial Start
Known as The Last Great Race on Earth, this famous dog sled race has two starts: A ceremonial one in Anchorage, and the actual start in Willow. The ceremonial start is a fixture of the culturally rich Fur Rondy Festival. You’ll be able to see the mushers and their sled dogs eagerly preparing for the race to Nome.
The event occurs just a few miles away from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, making it a perfect daytime weekend activity. The festival takes place over 10 days in February-March, so... make sure you bundle up in your warmest snow gear!
04 of 10
Watch the Aurora Borealis
Also known as “The Northern Lights,” these dancing displays of color in the sky are a fixture in Alaskan lore and culture. While the events aren’t 100% predictable, they’re common in the depths of winter, when the dark sky is clear.
Fortunately for Aurora fans, winters in Alaska tend to bring shorter days and longer periods of darkness at night. That means that kids can catch the show from their own backyard before bedtime.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10
Dine at Moose’s Tooth
Named after the famous Alaskan peak, Moose’s Tooth is a world-famous pizza restaurant located in the heart of Anchorage. A favorite of locals and military families, the restaurant has won multiple awards for its tasty dishes.
Guests can choose from gourmet pies, including the Avalanche, Santa’s Little Helper, and fan-favorite Chipotle Steak. Looking for a tasty appetizer? Check out their famous Diablo Sticks or Smoked Salmon Spread.
06 of 10
Take a Talkeetna Flight-Seeing Tour
Talkeetna is about two hours from Anchorage and serves as a gateway for flightseeing touring of the statuesque Denali (Mt. McKinley). There are many reputable flight tour companies that operate out of the small town, and guests get the unique experience of viewing the mountain from a small bush-style aircraft.
Looking for more local culture? Talkeetna is known for quirky and unique shops and great food to suit any taste. After all, what else would you expect from a town run by a cat?
07 of 10
Go Halibut Fishing
Alaska is known for world-class fishing, the most notable of which are the tasty, bottom-dwelling halibut. There are many reputable charter companies in Homer, Whittier, and Seward that provide fishing gear, bait, and insight into the best spots.
Before you go, you’ll need to obtain a fishing license and understand your regulations. The State of Alaska offers complimentary annual hunting and fishing licenses for residents actively serving in the armed services.
08 of 10
Take a Hike
If you’re looking for an active outing, take a hike on one of the many trails and mountains near base. Just over an hour out of Anchorage is the Bodenburg Butte, a short hike that’s suitable for younger hikers. On average, it’ll take you 1-2 hours to climb up and back down.
Feeling more adventurous? Take a day hike over Lazy Mountain. This 2.5-mile trek is a bit more strenuous than the Butte, but it’s a good hike for intermediate hikers. Mt. Susitna, or Sleeping Lady as locals know her, is... another moderate level hike that’s less than an hour’s drive from Anchorage.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10
Take a Whale-Watching Cruise
Glacier Bay is a haven for wildlife, both in and out of the ocean. The Princess line runs cruises where visitors can see orcas, humpbacks, and beluga wales on their travels.
Also featured on these cruises are a variety of waterfowl, such as puffins. Cruise participants are also likely to see harbor seals and Dall’s porpoises dancing in the wake of the ship. Family members of all ages will enjoy this experience.
10 of 10
At the base of Mt. Alyeska sits one of the state’s premier ski resorts. A mere hour drive from Anchorage, the resort is a favorite of local military families. In addition to the world-class skiing, you’ll find a full-service spa, five restaurants, and a concert venue.
In the summer months, the mountain is open for a moderate hike that’s suitable for most families. You can also take the ski lift to the top of the mountain, enjoy a tasty lunch, and take the easier hike back down to the hotel.