This will be where I will post about field trip ideas for the Anchorage, Eagle River and Valley areas (occasionally farther, depends on what we find that works), as well as more specific information about field trips we have taken as a family that have worked and as much detail as possible as you will need to know to do the same field trips with your family.
So far some of the ideas we have had are as follows with links when possible:
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: ~ This is a large organization, especially in terms of land size, that takes care of animals that have been injured and can be released to the wild, they also recently successfully raised, released/reintroduced a wood bison herd to the wild up here, and they have a couple resident animals that do not likely get released. They do not have a homeschooler page, but their entrance fee seems reasonable (caps for cars regardless of number of people in the car), they have events for the public like when the bears are being fed or calves are getting their bottles and tours are available. We went to this one Auugust 2013 for their Brown Bear Banquet, which means showing up at the bear enclosure at or a little before 6pm and getting to watch as they call the bears to dinner and they get really close to the fencing, but they seem really calm, and even respond when the caretaker calls to them by name. Below is an image of one of the bears.
Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm: ~ This is a local u-pick farm. There is not a lot of information on their website, other than the general times and what not. Website says no kids under ten, though friends have told me they are super friendly. However, we still took all of our kids with, even our baby! They allowed it, only caveat is they do not allow small children in specific areas where delicate plants (like green beans) are growing and they don’t allow them to handle knives. Not a big deal as I preferred them staying closer to the wagon and picking closer to the main trail anyways. Below is a picture of everyone out picking in the fields.
The Alaska Zoo: ~ This is really the only zoo in Alaska, and kids seem to love it. They do have field trips listed on their website that can be arranged, which I will likely look into more when I am ready to plan that trip, lol. They have a large number of species, though I am sure it is not as many as zoos in the Lower 48 have, it is huge for Alaskans, and each species has detailed information about them. They also offer Animal Adoptions that have their own perks attached, and can schedule birthday parties on site. I took my kids to this winter 2015/16, the pro to going in the winter is that there aren’t that many people, so it works well for me taking multiple children, including my littles; but the obvious downside id it is cold up here in the winter and the zoo is entirely outside.
However, my children had a blast. I think we spent the most time looking at the seals, otters and polar bear, but they had other bears, big cats, a wolverine (which they’ve since gotten a mate for), birds, moose and deer, even a pack of wolves. We were not able to see everything unfortunately as the children, especially the youngest ones, eventually started saying they were too cold, so we will have to make more of an efort to go when the weather is nice (even though it’s not winter now, we’ve been getting rain for weeks). Pictured below is the otters from the zoo.
The Reindeer Farm:~ This is a huge home for over one hundred reindeer, as well as other species. In the fall/winter, there are events like hay rides, wagon rides, hay mazes, visits with Santa, a reindeer tour and more. They also schedule private groups of more than fifteen people. We ended up going on a field trip to this location during the fall so there was a lot of Fall/Harvest type activities going on. Pony rides, hay rides, potato launching (my kid’s favorite), inflatable pony races, mazes, pumpkin patch and more…I don’t think we even made it to everything that was being offered while we were there, but the kids had a blast doing it.
The Bird Treatment and Learning Center: http://www.birdtlc.net/ ~ This is an organization that helps to rehabilitate injured birds while also educating the general public and allowing people to “adopt” a bird. This group doesn’t seem to do any classes or field trips, but they do have educators who come out into the community with their “bird ambassadors” and we were fortunate enough to be invited through a local homeschool group to go see a educator speak about a peregrine falcon, which absolutely fascinated my children. There were probably 20-30 children in attendance, ranging from toddlers to teens, but all behaved well and the event was a total hit. Below is a picture of the falcon showing off his wingspan with his community educator.
*Note we also got to see another bird from this program at the Eagle River Nature Center, info below.
Eagle River Nature Center: ~ This is a center that offers classes for homeschoolers, as well as allowing people to schedule for hikes and even rent cabins. For the most part, it seems like you need to be a member, but I would think for the average homeschooling family, if you take advantage of their numerous events and classes, a membership fee would be well worth it. We have gone to one class, where the kids used ice to make a glacier and then got to hike out to see a glacial valley and another event, where a lady brought in a rehabilitated sandhill crane (from Bird TLC). Events really vary and you do have to watch the webpage to catch things. Also of note, if you’re not a member, there is parking fee.
Alaska Museum of Science and Nature: ~ I am really looking forward to when we take the kids to this one. Like most museums, they have displays that rotate through, but seem to be very kid friendly and even have what they call their Dinosaur Dig, which means kids can go dig in the dirt, presumably for dinosaur bones, however, the website does ask that parents make sure their kids bring a clean pair of extra socks as children will not be allowed in the dig with bare feet. I have not done this yet, but will update when we do.
Thunderbird Falls Trail: ~ This is one that many Alaskans probably already know about, but one that probably appeals more to those who like outdoors trips. It is an easy one mile hike to see the Falls, and there are places with boardwalks. Last time I went on this (before kids) I was able to see beavers. I have as of recently done it with kids and found it was not as easy as I remembered, being much older, and with more kids running around. I found the hills to be challenging (packing a toddler didn’t help) and the trails were quite narrow at some points, it worried me, if you have young children (maybe under seven) I do not recommend this unless you have enough hands for all of them. Pictured below is the viewing deck for the fall, and another closer up picture as there is also another trail that will let you walk right up into the waterfall.
Alaska Wildberry Products: ~ This is probably more of a touristy spot, but we decided to take our kids to this one when our planned field trip got rained out. This locale has a huge chocolate water fall, which really amazed my children, as did the piano that played by itself. When we went to this location, there were no employees currently making chocolate, but that is one of the things they advertise themselves with, is that you can watch them make the chocolate on sight through a wall of windows. The rest of the store though was more about tourist products for purchase that for the most part, can be found at a lot of shops, though there were some unique, more expensive pieces, to the points they ask you not to touch them but to get an employee, which told us they were more expensive then we probably wanted to know.
Anchorage Museum: ~ Not to be confused with the Science and Nature Museum, this is a different one entirely, is generally the one that one thinks of when they think of history and art and rotating exhibits. We have been to this one a number of different times, and have found that with our family size it was more advantageous to outright by a membership, it paid for itself in one visit! We have gone during their big Lego expo and during a display on the plastic debris in the pacific ocean, which is what the picture below is from:
Home Depot: ~ I know, not something most people would think would qualify as a field trip, right, but come on Moms, you know how hard it is sometimes to get those Dads involved in the homeschooling aspect of their kids lives. Home Depot (and Lowes) offers monthly Kids building workshops that would give dads an excuse to go to their favorite toy stores and a reason to get the kids some time with their dads, and no dads do not get to drop off the kids. They are required to stay with the kids until their projects are completed and then they could do their shopping. Once completed, kids get a pin and a certificate and just for attending, they get a little orange apron with their name on it like all the employees’ wear!