While theme parks and zoos certainly have their place on the family vacation calendar, there's just something therapeutic about getting away from it all to a place where you're free to enjoy the natural splendor of the country. If you're looking for that perfect destination to take the kids where you can commune with nature – and each other – give Alaska a closer look.
Killer whales in Alaska — Photo courtesy of Rennett Stowe
One of the most worry-free ways to experience Alaska with the family is on a cruise of the state's Inside Passage. You'll experience a good mix of small towns and pristine wilderness areas with all your food, accommodation and transportation taken care of. Most cruise lines have children's programs, but for the ultimate Alaskan family vacation, you'll be hard pressed to do better than the Disney Wonder.
If you want the absolute best views of the scenery on your Alaskan vacation, you'll get them from the air. From the charming capital of Juneau, hop on a seaplane to any number of destinations depending on your interests. For your animal-loving kids, take the short 25-minute ride to the Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary where you'll be able to view bears in their natural habitat. Or fly to Sitka Sound or the Icy Strait to try and spot humpback whales.
Grizzlies in Denali National Park — Photo courtesy of Denali National Park and Preserve
If a seaplane excursion falls outside of your price range, it certainly doesn't mean you and your kids have to miss out on all the wildlife action. A visit to Denali National Park is probably the most economical wildlife-viewing experience in Alaska. Trains service the park daily during the summer months from both Anchorage and Fairbanks (offering some stunning views along the way), and once inside, park shuttle buses will take you and your family to some of the park's best destinations where you can spot grizzlies or watch a dog sledding demonstration.