It is easy when traveling to place art in a series of “boxes.” The art gallery box, the theater box, the music box; all absolutely worthy to explore and appreciate, for sure, but sometimes difficult to attempt with kids. While I am ever-impressed by the continuing efforts of museums, galleries, and the like to draw children in and engage their busy, hands-on natures, I also think there is always more to the concept of art, especially in Alaska. In a state where the very texture is crafted by the people who live here, I can think of few other places where a family can actively participate in the richness of culture while at the same time be delightfully entertained. Here are a few of our favorite activities across the state that truly exemplify art at its most beautiful, kid-friendly best:
Fairbanks: The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, located on the property of Fountainhead Hotels off College Road is an incredible walk back in time for all visitors, no matter their age. More than 70 sparkling-clean cars and vintage fashions await you, along with interesting stories of Alaska’s love affair with the automobile. Kids will have fun pushing toy cars around on the floor rug and trying on vintage dusters and hats while sitting in the “photo-op” car. Open all year.
Anchorage: The Alaska Museum of Natural History is known as the “Little Museum That Could.” Located in the Mountainview neighborhood northeast of downtown, this museum fills your brain with everything related to our state’s wondrous geography, biology, and geology. Dinosaurs? They got ‘em. Ice Age? Yep, they know all about it. Dig in their pits or participate in one of their special, self-guided tours.
The Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center boasts the Imaginarium Discovery Center, a place where kids of all ages (really) can find something fun to poke, prod, pull, or push. Little ones will have fun at the water table or tree house; bigger kids will simulate an earthquake or check out their own body heat. A real moon rock and planetarium complete the picture, and most kids will have to be dragged out at the end of the visit. Maybe their parents, too.
Juneau: We discovered the Juneau-Douglas City Museum last summer, and had a fabulous time walking our son through the Activity Book for Kids. We checked out a real miner hat, found a fish trap, and answered questions about the Tlingit tribes nearby. Small but crammed full of interesting things just right for kids, this museum is a must-see. Oh, and check out the awesome exhibit of chainsaws. Trust me on this.
Sitka: I was somewhat reticent to take our wiggly six year-old to see the New Archangel Dancers , an all-women troupe who provide 1/2 hour shows to hordes of visitors. Worried, I had a chat with our little man about manners and proper theater behavior, but I shouldn’t have fretted. He loved it. Every minute, and there were only 30 (a big plus, I think). These ladies perform the traditional, vibrant dances of Russian culture that have existed for hundreds of years, and it shows. Authentic music, hand-made costumes, and most important, true dedication to the art; it all makes for a super kid-friendly opportunity, and I would definitely make time to see them. Hint: Seat kids as close to the stage as possible for maximum enjoyment, and be sure to clap and stomp your feet as directed.