An Alaskan cruise offers the easiest way to see Alaska’s panhandle and the Inside Passage. Simply sit back and let the scenery and animals of Alaska float by. With a rugged landscape, adventure awaits. So let the National Park Service and the National Forest Service teach your family all about the uniqueness of Alaska by earning Junior Ranger badges during your cruise. Here’s 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! So 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.
It starts near Ketchikan and runs all the way to Skagway. The Tongass National Forest runs along the Alaskan panhandle and includes two ice fields, Stikine and Juneau.
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.
Admission is $5 for 16+ and free for kids. Open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily during the summer season, May 1 to September 30. Located at 50 Main St., visitors can walk from the cruise ship dock.
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.
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. Located at 6000 Glacier Spur Rd.
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.
Free admission for everyone. Open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily May until September during the summer. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is located at 291 Broadway in the historic White Pass and Yukon Route building and includes 15 restored buildings across Skagway.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park also has a sister location in Seattle, Washington.
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge in Glacier Bay
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
Where to Earn a Junior RangerBadge 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.
Free admission for everyone at both locations. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer. The Sitka National Historical Par’s visitor center is located at 106 Metlakatla Street. And the Russia Bishop’s House is located at 501 Lincoln St. and both locations are walkable from the cruise ship tender dock.
Where to Earn a Junior Ranger Badge at the Hubbard Glacier
If your cruise itinerary includes visiting Hubbard Glacier, it’s actually part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. And 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. 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.
Free admission for everyone at both locations. Kenai Fjords Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily during summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Located at 1212 4th Ave. 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.
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
I use and recommend the following guides for more information for your trip.
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