An Alaskan cruise gives families the opportunity to discover the rugged landscape of the Inside Passage from the comfort of a cruise ship. Seeing calving glaciers, breaching whales and soaring eagles offers bucket list to-dos for families during summer vacation. Our National Parks TravelingMom shares how to earn Junior Rangers badges on an Alaskan cruise.
How to Earn Junior Rangers Badges on an Alaskan Cruise
Several popular ports-of-call offer families opportunities to earn National Park Service Junior Ranger badges. And many of the park sites are free to enter. Here’s seven National Park Service sites that offer Junior Ranger badges.
Glacier Bay National Park
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Tongrass National Forest
Mendendhall Glacier in Tongrass National Forest
Sitka National Historical Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park
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 of the bay while see calving glaciers and marine animals.
The park rangers present activities for cruisers along with helping kids earn their Glacier Bay Junior Ranger badge. Don’t forget to ask for the Glacier Bay National Park passport stamp. Free.
Learn how the Gold Rush swaggered into Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 19th century. Gold turned the town to a boomtown, busting with lawlessness. Watch the interpretive film to learn more about the Gold Rush and the treacherous White Pass Trail.
Free admission for everyone. Open daily from May until September from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center is located at 291 Broadway in the historic White Pass and Yukon Route building.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park also has a sister location in Seattle, Washington.
Did you know that national forests offer Junior Ranger programming too? So visit Tongrass National Forest’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center on Ketchikan’s Main Street.
The Tongrass National Forest runs along the Alaskan panhandle and includes two ice fields, Stikine and Juneau. Learn about the symbolism used on the totems along with the plants and animals of the temperate rainforest.
Walk through the interpretive area to learn more about Alaska 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.
A trip to Juneau isn’t complete without a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. Where the glaciers of Glacier Bay are tidewater glaciers, Mendenhall Glacier is a mountain glacier.
At the visitor center, grab a Mendenhall Glacier Junior Ranger booklet. Mendenhall Glacier offers several hikes along with an interpretive film.
Arrange for an excursion with your cruise ship to visit the Mendenhall Glacier. Or take a shuttle bus from Juneau, about $30 round trip and 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.
While at port in Sitka, stop by the Sitka National Historical Park to learn about Sitka’s Russian heritage. The visitor center also shows a short interpretive film. Or visit the separate building, the Russian Bishop’s House.
Free admission for everyone at both locations. Open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the summer. The Sitka National Historical Park’s visitor center is located at 106 Metlakatla Street. And the Russian Bishop’s House is located at 501 Lincoln St. and both locations are walkable from the cruise ship tender dock.
If your cruise itinerary includes Hubbard Glacier, it’s part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. And it’s the largest national park in the National Park Service system and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If exploring the Hubbard Glacier on a cruise, a stop by the visitor center is impossible since it’s inland from the glacier. But kids can still earn this badge.
Download the booklet from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park site 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.
Many cruises depart or disembark in Seward, south of Anchorage, Alaska. 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 Seward. 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 located at 1212 4th Ave. and open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Located at 24620 Herman Leirer Rd. Exit Glacier Nature Center is open from daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer.
Be Bear Aware
Alaska is bear country. The National Park Service recommends the following guidelines to reducing encounters:
- 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.
Explore Alaska the Easy Way
The Panhandle of Alaska is not drivable. The only way around is by boat or seaplane. So sit back, relax and watch the scenery float by on a cruise.
What to Pack for an Alaskan Cruise
Be prepared for cold and rainy even during the height of 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