It’s only been two months since we got home from Alaska, haha! I guess life got in the way and I forgot to post this, but we had so much fun that it seems like I should share anyway. Better late than never! 🙂
We spent a week in Sitka, Alaska in May. D had a conference so we decided we’d make it a family trip. I’ll try to limit the pictures, but we were there over a week and took over 700 pictures so this is a very picture heavy post.
We stayed at the Westmark Sitka, which was nice enough, but unimpressive for the price (and we got a discounted rate due to the conference). The view from our room overlooking the harbor was really nice and the location is central (hard not to be in a town as small as Sitka)
Day 1: We started the day with a walk through Sitka to find coffee. Since it was a few days before the summer tourist season actually started there weren’t many options, but we found Backdoor Cafe where we had good coffee and baked goods. From there we walked to the Russian Block house – an old guard tour from the Russian settlement.
Sitka is small and the main road only runs about 20 miles from one end to the other so we got a car for the first two days so we could explore some. First on the list was Whale Park and Fortress of the Bear. We didn’t see any whales, but we did see bears, bald eagles, and plenty of ravens. The views are breathtaking – just as I pictured Alaska. We finished the day with a pre-bedtime walk up Castle Hill (there’s never actually been a castle there, but that’s what it’s called).
Day 2: At the other end of the road we found Starrigavan Natural Area where we walked on the Estuary Life Trail & the forest trail. Bug walked most of it on his own. On the way back we stopped at Halibut Point Recreation Area to play by the water some. Thank goodness we had the Tuffo! Bug wore that thing all the time the first few days before the weather improved.
We were back in the hotel most days by 1 for nap time and then in the evening we’d go for a long walk and find dinner somewhere. We just embraced the crazy long days and didn’t worry too much about bedtime! This day we walked around Totem Park – we spent a lot of time there. It was so beautiful and a great place to let Bug run and explore.
Day 3: We took it easy – an early morning walk on the Gavan Hill Trail (most mornings we were out of the hotel by 7!). It seems like most trails we went on had these board walks to keep the trail elevated over the muskeg. It’s also great for containing a toddler on a hike! Afterwards, Bug and D hung out in the hotel room for a bit while I took a little time to visit shops without the toddler. Today was the “official” start of the summer season and the first cruise ship arrived bringing almost 2000 people into Sitka. In the afternoon we went for another walk, the welcome social for the conference, and then dinner at the Bayview Pub. We got a nice booth in the corner where Bug could wiggle, draw, and look out the window and watch boats.
Day 4: The conference began so the kiddo and I were on our own. We took our time walking to the coffee shop for our morning breakfast and coffee and since it was so cool and rainy still Bug played in the play area of the coffee shop for a while. We made our way slowly to the Sitka Sound Science Center which is a neat little aquarium/marine science center. We were the only ones there so we looked at the touch pools and the aquariums for a long time and then went out to their small hatcheries. They were moving salmon fry (a.k.a. baby salmon) from the hatchery to a big holding net in the ocean where they will live for a few weeks to adjust to the open water before being released. It was very cool to watch – they basically use a giant vacuum to suck them out to sea.
That night we had dinner and then joined D for the poster session and (more importantly) the ice cream social.
Day 5: Finally, the weather was sunny and warm! Bug and I took full advantage of the nice weather and spent the morning alone playing in the intertidal zone at a quiet part of Totem Park. After an early nap we met up with D and everyone else from the conference for a private boat tour of a small part of the inside passage. While didn’t get to see a whale (we really were hoping to) we still had a nice time. Bug did well considering it was over 5 hours long – he spent a lot of time walking around the boat, watching out the windows, and drawing. We only had to resort to the tablet at the very end.
Day Six: By this point we were all feeling ready to go home, Bug especially who kept asking to go home. There were still things to see though! We walked to the Alaska Raptor Center which is an amazing raptor rehabilitation and rescue center. They have birds sent to them from all over Alaska and the PNW. Bug wasn’t terribly into it, but I really enjoyed seeing all the different types of birds. Bald Eagles are everywhere in Sitka, but it was amazing seeing them at such close range and of course the other birds were great too.
On the way back to the hotel we walked through Totem Park and had a picnic at the beach. He stayed in the stroller most of the time which is weird for my kid so I knew he wasn’t feeling so well and was ready to be back to our normal routine.
Funny story. He finally perked up and we played at the beach for a long time. He had a great time burying his little toy plane and uncovering it and burying it and…we got halfway back to town for lunch and he asked for his plane. Which is when I remembered we had left it in the sand. Needless to say we decided to walk back and I found it! Hooray!
That night we went to the conference banquet where Bug had his first chocolate cake. Coincidentally, that was also the first time I felt Baby Girl move – chocolate cake will do that to a fetus I guess!
Day Seven: Our last day! It was a mellow day of visiting some of our favorite places, playing at the playground, and walking. D was done by lunch time so we had some family time and then I got to tour the Russian Bishops House alone. What an amazing building filled with history!
So…What went well?
- Bringing the B.O.B. stroller. I really didn’t want to haul our huge stroller all the way to Alaska, but since we were going to be without a car most of the week I figured it was a good idea. Even though Bug doesn’t like being in it very often, it was good to have when he was tired and it also hauled the extra gear we needed.
- Being prepared for the weather. The first few days were cold and rainy, the last three were warm and sunny – we had everything which was a lot to bring, but I’m glad we had it. Because we were prepared with our Tuffo Muddy Buddy (perhaps the best $35 I’ve spent since becoming a parent in the PNW) we could go out in all kinds of weather.
- Being flexible and willing to go at toddler speed. We didn’t have much of an itinerary and I made sure to allow plenty of time to do what we wanted to do. It made everything go fairly well despite the fact that Bug didn’t feel well, was off his schedule, didn’t have normal food, and generally wanted to go home a lot.
What didn’t go so well?
- Hotel – I failed to think about how difficult vacation with a toddler could be. We’ve only ever been camping or to visit family since Bug was born and I didn’t take into account meals, laundry, etc. If we had rented a little house we would have had a much easier time!
- Shorter stay – we had a good time, but we probably could have made the trip a few days shorter. There isn’t that much to do in Sitka when the weather is crummy and we were there over a week.
- Not going during the summer tourist season. The difference in what was available to us to do and eat was huge between the first few days when everything was closed and the last couple days once things opened for the cruise ships. Sitka is small, but it didn’t feel crowded with the cruise ship people, even those with a few thousand people. Of course, when we went was totally out of our control since we had to go when the conference started. I’m also sad we missed the opening of Glacier Bay NP by a week or so – I would have LOVED to go there since we were so close, but the timing didn’t work out.
Favorite places to visit:
- Totem Park
- Starrigavan Estuary Trail
- Alaska Raptor Center
- Whale Park
- Fortress of the Bear
Favorite places to eat:
- Homeport Eatery
- Larkspur Cafe
- Back Door Coffee Shop
- Mean Queen Pizza
- Bayview Pub