Spring is that time of year that makes the local Alaskans itch to get outside and start enjoying the warmer weather and longer days filled with sunshine. Tourist season hasn’t started yet (May 15th to September 15th), so a lot of things aren’t open yet. But what is open is often at a much better price. Thanks to Seward’s Day (a State holiday) being a three day weekend, I decided to see what there was to do in Southcentral Alaska for $20 or less, preferably free! (This list is in no particular order.)
1. Anchorage Museum – for an AK resident it’s only $12, ages 3-12 $7, 2 and under are free. Located in downtown Anchorage. preferably
2. Hatcher Pass – A State park in the mountains over Palmer is perfect for snowshoeing, sledding, snowmachining, hiking, and taking lots of great pictures! Parking is $5 per day, or a season pass, which is good for all State parks is $40.
3. Palmer Visitors Center and Museum – Free!
4. Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum – Free! Located in Wasilla.
5. Climb Bodenburg Butte – A fun little hike which gains only 800 feet in elevation, but gives you amazing 360 degree views of the Matanuska Valley. Parking at the northside trail is $5 and $3 is “suggested” at the trailhead next to the Reindeer Farm. About 10 miles outside of Palmer.
6. Climb Lazy Mountain – A much taller hike in Palmer, but again, amazing views! Free.
7. Drive to Matanuska Glacier – About 60 miles north of Palmer following the twisty Glenn Highway, you can get gorgeous views of the glacier. The park is closed in the winter, but the drive and views from the highway are still worth it.
8. Dorothy Page Museum in downtown Wasilla – Adults are $3, children under 12 are free, and on Fridays everyone is free!
9. Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry – Adult $8, kids $5. A family of 3 plus get a discount, so it’s only $18. Active Military get in free! Located a couple miles north of Wasilla.
10. Tony Knowles Coastal Trail – From downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park, this trail is great for walking, biking, cross country skiing all year long! Free!
11. Drive the Seward Highway – Always a gorgeous drive with lots of great stops along the way from Anchorage to Seward.
12. Alaska Museum of Science and Nature – Adults are $5, kids are $3. Located in north Anchorage.
13. Eagle River Nature Center – Hiking trails and a great, hands on nature center, its fun all year! Parking is $5.
14. Alaska Botanical Garden – Adults are $7, 3-18 are $5, kids under 3 are free. Open all year. Beautiful gardens and wildlife too! Last time I was there, I ran into a black bear enjoying the flowers too. Located in west Anchorage.
15. Alaska Zoo – AK residents are $13, Kids $7. Located in south Anchorage.
16. Alaska Aviation Museum – Adults are $10 and kids are $6. In Anchorage, near the international airport.
17. Hike Flattop – A very popular hiking spot with multiple trails on the outskirts of Anchorage. Parking is $5 per day, or $40 for a State Park parking pass.
18. Eklutna Lake– Hiking, camping, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, boating, or just a picnic, this State park has a lot to offer! Camping is $10 and parking is $5, or again, if your Statewide park pass will work. Between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley.
19. Kincaid Park – An Anchorage city park with lots of activities all year long!
20. Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary – A beautiful wildlife viewing area open year round and free! Located in southern Anchorage.
21. Point Woronzof – A fun little park in Anchorage to watch wildlife, enjoy amazing views of Sleeping Lady and on a clear day, Mt. McKinley, and watch the airplanes from Ted Stevens International Airport take off right over your head! Free.
22. Imaginarium Discovery Center – A great part of the Anchorage Museum, the Imaginarium is a great center for the kids to explore science hands-on!
23. Alaska Law Enforcement Museum – Located in downtown Anchorage and it’s free!
24 . Resolution Park – A nice little park in Anchorage dedicated to Captain Cook, who sailed into Turnagain Arm, looking for the northwest passage.
25. Portage Glacier – Tourists flock to this area in the summer time and part of the visitor center is free (there is a cost of $5 for the entire center), but it’s only open in the summer. In the winter, explore the grounds on your own. Trails go along part of the lake and the views are amazing all year long. About an hour drive south of Anchorage.
26. Earthquake Park – The only remnant of the 1964 Good Friday ‘quake in Anchorage, the park is full of historical markers and amazing views!
27. Crow Pass National Historical Trail – Hike the full 24 miles from Girdwood to Eagle River, or just do a day hike from either end. Right through the mountains, you’ll never get these views from any highway!
28. Town Square Municipal Park – Music, flowers, and a water fountain in the summer or Christmas lights, ice sculptures, and ice skating in the winter! In downtown Anchorage, this free city park is always a fun stop.
29. Thunderbird Falls – An easy one-mile hike near Eklutna, Thunderbird Falls produce beautiful scenes all year around. Expect the usual $5 per day fee or use your annual pass.
30. Alaska SeaLife Center – This is on the higher end of the price range, but so much fun! Kids and adults alike will enjoy the SeaLife Center in Seward. Adults are $20 and kids range from $15 to free.
31. Seward Museum– Open year ’round and free!
32. Talkeetna Historical Society Museum – Open throughout the week in the summers and on the weekends in the winter (or by appointment during the week), this museum is located in the “Little Red Schoolhouse” in Talkeetna. Only $3 per person.
33. Knik Museum and Musher’s Hall of Fame – Pretty sure this one is free, but don’t quote me. Located outside of Wasilla, the museum is in one of the only two remaining buildings of the town of Knik.
34. Prince William Sound Museum – Located in downtown Whittier. Whittier may be small, but it has an amazing history! Only $3 for adults and $1.50 for kids under 12.
35. Whittier Tunnel – Just getting to Whittier is an adventure by itself! Take turns with the Alaska Railroad using the tunnel through the heart of the mountain! $12 for a regular car or $20 per motorhome.
36. Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center – A museum of the beautiful city of Kenai.
37. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge – The drive is amazing year around and the visitor center is open 7 days a week in the summer and Monday through Friday in the winter. Can’t beat free!
38. Resurrection Pass Trail North – Start from Hope or link with other trails from Seward. Great for hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Expect the usual $5 a day fee (but by now you have realized it’s really worth it to get the season pass…)
39. Soldotna Homestead Museum – A great little museum featuring the area’s early homesteads, including Alaska Native crafts, boats, and the original schoolhouse. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
40. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center – A GREAT way to see Alaskan wildlife up close and personal! Located about an hour south of Anchorage, see bears, moose, musk ox, elk, wood bison, eagles, and much, much more! Admission is $12.50 per adult, $9 for ages 4-12, and under 4 are free. Carpool and the maximum price is $35.
41. Bear Tooth Theatre Pub – Can’t beat only $4 to go to the movies! Granted, they may not be the newest releases, but who cares with that price! Not to mention the best theater food ever!
42. Go Geocaching – This outdoor activity is getting more and more popular and Alaska is not to be left out! With caches all over AK, this one will get you outside for a long time!
43. Depot Farm Market – Meet the locals and get some great goodies! Located in the old Train Depot in downtown Palmer, this is the Mat-Su Valley’s first ever “Open all year” farmer’s market! Don’t forget to let the kiddies play on “Ol’ #5” train engine out front! (Not in Palmer? Find a local market HERE.)
44. Ice Skating at the Palmer Ice Arena – Only $5 on the weekends!
45. Check out community calendars- See what’s happening in your area! Local bands, fundraisers, community get togethers are all great ways to have an awesome time and meet great people in your local community!
46. Get a book or movie from the library – I have rediscovered my love of the library!
47. Take a scenic drive and update your Instagram/ Facebook – This time of year, the weather has been amazing! Pile into the car and go for a drive. Find a great new hidden gem to feature on your Facebook or Instagram!
48. Volunteer at the food pantry, homeless shelter, or a local animal shelter – These places are almost always looking for more volunteers and you’ll feel great about helping out your community too!
49. Join a local crafting club – I just found out about a local knitting club that meets every week at the library. Start a new hobby and learn from pros or find a group that fits your hobby! Not only fun, but a great way to meet new friends!
50. Check out your local coffee shop – Even if you’re not a fan of the Java (I’ll just pretend I didn’t say that), many of the local coffee shops will host live music on the weekends for free or at great prices!
Alright Local Alaskans, what else should be on this list? What’s YOUR favorite “cheap” thing to do year ’round?
Want to see more FREE things to do in Alaska? Check out 30 Free Summer Activities in Alaska!
Traveling with kids? This book by AK On the Go is a must!
(*Prices are subject to change. These prices are according to 4/1/14 web searches. I hope they don’t change, but I don’t have any control over it.*)