For a cool summer getaway, consider an Alaskan cruise. With its epic scenery and lots of outdoor activities, it’s an ideal vacation for families. For those who want to see the 49th state the easy way, book an Alaskan cruise to see the Alaska panhandle and the Inside Passage. For families, Alaska offers lots of learning opportunities to learn more about the land, animals and people of Alaska. To do that, families should visit National Park and earn a Junior Ranger badge, a fun and free acitivity. Here is where to earn Junior Ranger badges on an Alaskan cruise.
Where to Earn Junior Ranger Badges on an Alaskan Cruise
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Ketchikan
Did you know that national forests offer Junior Ranger programming too? Yes that do. Families can visit the Tongass National Forest’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Ketchikan’s Main Street for an overview of the largest national forest in Alaska.
The Tongass National Forest starts near Ketchikan and runs all the way to Skagway. It includes two ice fields, Stikine and Juneau along the Alaskan panhandle.
Visitors will learn about the symbolism used on the totems. Then learn about the unique plants and animals of the temperate rainforest, like the banana slug. Walk through the interpretive area to learn more about salmon and watch the park film.
Located at 50 Main St., visitors can walk from the cruise ship dock. Adult admission is $5 for 16+ and free for kids. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday during the summer season, May 1 to September 30.
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Juneau
A trip to Juneau isn’t complete without a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. Where the Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier are tidewater glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier is a mountain glacier.
At the Tongass National Forest’s Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, grab a Mendenhall Glacier Junior Ranger booklet then take a hike to get closer to the edge of the glacier. Mendenhall Glacier offers several hikes along with an interpretive film to learn more about the shrinking glaciers of North America.
Arrange for an excursion with your cruise ship to visit the Mendenhall Glacier. Or take a shuttle bus from Juneau, about $30 roundtrip. It’s less than 15 miles from the cruise ship dock.
Located at 6000 Glacier Spur Rd. Admission is $5 for 16+ and free for kids. Open from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily during the summer season, May 1 to September 30.
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Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Skagway
Learn how the Gold Rush swaggered into Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 19th century. Gold turned the sleepy town into a boomtown, busting with lawlessness. Watch the interpretive film to learn more about the gold rush and the treacherous White Pass Trail.
Head to the The Pantheon, a restored saloon and part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, for a facility dedicated to Junior Rangers. Find several hands-on stations with iPads prompts for kids to learn how to be a gold prospector on the Alaskan and Yukon frontier.
Located at 291 Broadway in the historic White Pass and Yukon Route building. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily May until September during the summer. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park includes 15 restored buildings across Skagway. Free admission for everyone.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park also has a sister location in Seattle, Washington.
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Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Glacier Bay
Cruisers can see the largest non-polar ice field in the world at Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks. Both parks are also protected as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Since the cruise ships don’t actually don’t dock in Glacier Bay, the Park Rangers climb onboard and spend the day on the cruise ship. Sail along the arms and inlets while see calving glaciers and marine animals.
The park rangers present activities for cruisers and help kids earn their Glacier Bay Junior Ranger badge. Don’t forget to ask for the Glacier Bay National Park passport stamp. Free
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Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Sitka
While at port in Sitka stop by the Sitka National Historical Park to learn about Sitka’s Russian heritage. Then see the short interpretive film at the visitor center. And then visit the separate building, Russian Bishop’s House, for more Russian history.
The Sitka National Historical Park visitor center is located at 106 Metlakatla Street. The Russia Bishop’s House is located at 501 Lincoln St. and both locations are walkable from the cruise ship tender dock. Free admission for everyone at both locations. Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the summer.
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge at the Hubbard Glacier
If your cruise itinerary includes cruising to Hubbard Glacier, it’s actually part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. It’s the largest national park in the National Park Service system.
If exploring the Hubbard Glacier on a cruise then a stop by the visitor center is impossible since cruise ships don’t dock at the Hubbard Glacier. Though kids can still earn this badge.
Download and print the booklet from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park website and take it with you. It’s makes a great sea day activity. Then when you get home, just mail the booklet back to the park and a ranger will look over it and mail the badges to your kids for free. And we know how much kids love mail.
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Steward
Many cruises depart or disembark in Steward, Alaska, south of Anchorage. Cruisers will find another opportunity to earn a Junior Ranger Badge at Kenai Fjords National Park.
As the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park find the visitor center in the center of Steward. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet and tour the visitor center. Arrange a boat cruise to see the fjords up close or take a cab to Exit Glacier Nature Center for hiking.
Located at 1212 4th Ave. Kenai Fjords Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Exit Glacier Nature Center is open from daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer and located at 24620 Herman Leirer Rd. . Free admission for everyone at both locations.
Be Bear Aware
The National Park Service recommends the following guidelines to reducing bear encounters. Alaska is home to brown, black bears (including Grizzly bears) and polar bears.
- Make noise when hiking, kids are good at this.
- Be aware of the possibility of bears at streams.
- Store food when not eating or preparing in the bear-proof storage lockers.
- Keep 100 yards between you and bears.
- Put all trash in a bear resistant trash container.
What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
Be prepared for cold and rainy days even during the summer cruising season.
- A winter coat with a waterproof shell for glacier exploring
- Quick dry hiking pants for rainforest hiking
- A fleece layer for most days
- Hiking boots preferably waterproof
- Waterproof packable rain jacket
- Fleece hat and gloves
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