Grandkids Alaska Trip

Jan 14th, 2009, 08:17 PM
  #1  
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Grandkids Alaska Trip

We are planning a trip to the Kenai region with 2 of our grandchildren, aged 10, in early June. We plan to fly to Anchorage and spend the night. The next day we will rent a car and drive to Seward to spend the next two nights. On day 3 we will take a Kenai Fjords full day trip. The morning of day 4 we will depart for Homer with a stop along the way at Exit Glacier. When we arrive in Homer we will stay for 4 nights. One day we will take the Katmai bear tour. A second day we will go halibut fishing, and day three we will go on a birding tour and a sightseeing flight to see the glaciers and wildlife. After all of this we will drive back to Anchorage for an early evening flight home. It is our intention to make this an unforgettable experience for our two grandchildren (gc). As I am in the real estate business, my bank account is not as flush as I would like it to be. Consequently I can't do everything I would like to so such as take the dome train from Anchorage to Seward.
The advise i am seeking is the following:
Someone has suggested halibut fishing out of Seward rather then Homer. Is that a good idea?
Who would you recommend that we go fishing with in Seward or Homer?
As I am not sure how prone to sea sickness our gc are or how likely the weather could be bad, should I stick to a large boat? Does this affect your suggestion?
Which tour operator would you use for the Kenai Fjord tour (want a full day tour)?
For the bear watching trip, who do you recommend?
For the scenic flight out of Homer, who should we use and what should we want them to show us?
For the bird watching tour (we are serious bird watchers and want to get our gc hooked on this pastime) we are considering a 3 hour tour with Karl Stolzfus. What is your experience or suggestion
We would appreciate any lodging suggestions in Seward and Homer as well as good places to eat.
On the drive from Anchorage to Seward and Homer, what sights are worth stopping for? What about a sled dog ride with Seavey's Ididaride Sled Tours?
On these drives, what are some good places to eat that have good food at a reasonable price?
tedandmarywayne is offline  
Jan 14th, 2009, 09:51 PM
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Only 2 answers based on our trip last summer.

One place to eat in Seward that the kids will find fun - there is an old railroad car at the beginning of town that is now an authentic diner. We had breakfast there twice - not sure how I would feel about it for other meals, but fun for breakfast.

Seasickness/boat tour. I get seasick just thinking about a boat. We took an all-day tour from kenaifjords.com. Great tour - saw glaciers calfing, lots of sealife, some birds, goats on shore. It was an average to slightly rough day. I was terribly sick for about 2 hours and I know how it happened - I was feeling fine until I spent a lot of time with the binoculors staring at the shoreline and later the sea. Something about this view magnified not only the creatures but also the motion. Once I figured out what was going on, stopped, got sick, took some Dramamine and avoided looking thru them - I was fine. I suggest giving your grandchildren some Dramamine or similar medication prior to trip if you know they are prone to seasickness. Of the perhaps 40 people on board, about 5-8 appeared to be feeling ill.
gail is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 04:10 AM
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This is going to be an incredible experience for all of you. My husband had great sea legs until a deep sea fishing trip here at home so he was very nervous about taking the Kenai Fjords trip. We wore the wrist bands and had no trouble at all but have the parents decide what medications they want the kids to take. There is one patch that I believe requires a prescription. I don't particularly care for zoos and aquariums so what really struck me about the Fjords trip was the animals and birds were free. The boat remains a respectful distance but gets really close. The synchronized grace with which a group of orcas swim and dive is breath-taking.
You will see a lot of eagles in Homer. You might want to read about the Eagle Lady of Homer before your trip. If she is still alive, I understand she's the only one allowed to feed the eagles and some local residents consider them pesky. There is a short book about her. She has had quite an interesting life.
Between Anchorage and Seward you will experience incredible scenery. Do some stops to check for animals up in the cliffs or whales out in the ocean (if it's high tide). You might want to time your trip based on birding info. We stopped at Potter Creek Marsh and didn't see a single bird but if was mid-afternoon. We aren't birders so perhaps the birds are around at certain times of the day. Our June trip was mid month. The wildflowers were great. Friends with young children who live near Anchorage like the wildlife center. The tram ride up Mt Alyeska in Girdwood is fun and there will be snow at the top.
It has been a few years since we took a small plane flightseeing trip between Seldovia and Homer. I believe it was with Smokey Bay Air. It was just a short flight but there is a glacier you can fly over and the pilot was great at spotting mountain goats and going back for a closer look. Expect a little turbulence and another possibility of getting air sick. Make sure the pilot mentions this before the flight starts. The kids will want to take pictures.
You will want a Milepost to help you choose places to eat. There are not a lot of choices between towns. The drive from Seward to Homer is about 3 hours. Soldotna is about half way. It's a big town with several choices. When we walked the beach in Kenai mid-June we encountered some guys net fishing. They didn't mind our questions and gifted us with a salmon. In Kenai we liked Ski-Mos across from the visitors center. It's just a very casual family place but they have peanut butter shakes and good deep fried halibut.
Cafe Cups in Homer is funky with good food. Make sure the kids watch the short video in the Pratt Museum about homesteading in AK in the 50s and what is what like to grow up in AK then.
Check before your trip to see if there are events going on at the Pratt Museum or at the visitors center in Kenai (next to Soldotna). We missed a free performance by Hobo Jim at the Kenai visitors center by one day. The volunteers were still talking about it when we visited. I think it was geared for families. We later heard him at a dinner show in Soldotna where we were one of the few tourists in the room. The GC would enjoy a family oriented show but maybe not a dinner show. Normally he plays in bars. He does the Iditarod Trail song which the GC might have heard if their school studies the Iditarod.
Back to day of arrival. There's a great new/used book store in Anchorage called the Title Wave. It has a terrific variety of books on Alaska or written by Alaskans. Make a stop there so everyone can choose some reading material.
It will be interesting to see if your GC notice the absence of fast food places outside of Anchorage. No MacDonald's drive thrus. Homer to Anchorage is about 5 hours. We ate at Gwinnie's which was ok.
dfrostnh is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 05:35 AM
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Sadly, Eagle Lady just died yesterday

http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/654023.html
NewPlaces is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 06:11 AM
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We took our kids, then 9 and 11, to Alaska in 2007. They, especially the dog lover one, really enjoyed Seavey's Iditaride. Don't miss the SeaLife Center is Seward.

You itinerary looks great. We went fishing in Soldotna.

For bird watching, I'm sure you know that each grandchild should have his own binoculars. It's no fun to miss seeing a bird because your cousin/sibling had the binoculars. Our kids carried their small binoculars (and cameras) in their daypack (small backpack). Those binoculars also come in handy on the glaciers tours. We saw several bald eagles (or perhaps the same eagle several times) on our Kenai Fjord tour.

Your grandkids are going to have such a good time. Have fun!
padams421 is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 09:29 AM
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NewPlaces, thanks for posting the link. I'm sad to hear of her passing. She had a colorful life.
dfnh is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 07:56 PM
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Gail, thanks for the suggestion about the railroad car. We will give it a try. We had already planned to go on the Kenai Fjord tour to the northwestern glacier as we did that several years ago. I don't think I'm worried about sea sickness on that trip as it is a very large boat and they can go inside if necessary.
tedandmarywayne is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 08:07 PM
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padams421

Thanks for the suggestion about the binoculars. I think I would have figured that out, but at my age that is not certain.
tedandmarywayne is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 08:13 PM
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dfrostnh

I'm not thinking about eagle watching for our bird watching experience as they are so plentiful. I would like to see some of the birds that are never seen in my home state of Florida. That is why i would like to hire a professional bird watcher which the gentleman I am inquiring about is supposed to be. We will get to see puffins and meurrens, which we don't have in Florida, on our Kenai Fjords trip. What I most want to see is are some loons in full color up close. Everyone i have ever seen before was either not in full color or was too far away to get a good photograph of. Anyone out there have a suggestion for accomplishing that?
tedandmarywayne is offline  
Jan 15th, 2009, 08:16 PM
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padams421

Thanks for the recommendation on Seaveys Sled Ride.
tedandmarywayne is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 10:08 AM
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I think you should check out The Alaska Coastal Studies Center in Homer which has some great programs and field trips for kids. They can even participate in 2-3 days camps or the center can organize a private outings for your family. Visits to Peterson Bay Field Station across the bay is fascinated for kids of any age and for adults too. You can even stay in that area overnight in a yurt. I highly suggest this approach instead of getting on the boat with Karl who is, by the way, very good but I donít think kids can get hooked on birding while on a small boat. You wonít see loons on this trip since he stays in the bay. Our trip with him wasnít very successful but we liked him and had a nice time.
http://www.akcoastalstudies.org/youth.htm

Also check out The Islands and Ocean Visitor center in Homer. There are often walks and trips for families
http://www.islandsandocean.org/

For more information on birding around Homer check this link
www.birdinghomeralaska.org
Behind McDonald in Homer there is a path and a dock made just for watching birds. Another one is in the end of the road leading to the airport. You can often spot there besides bald eagles, swans, moose. Great spot for shorebirds in a low tide is next to the Lighthouse.

Another option for great birding and wildlife is to take a wildlife tour to Seldovia. The boat stops for birds on Gull Island. You stay on a boat, nobody is allowed to go ashoreon this island except birds and sometimes scientists. .
http://www.rainbowtours.net/Nature_Tour.html

One more option is a trip to Halibut Cove. The boat stops for birds on Gull Island.
http://www.centralcharter.com/HalibutCove.htm

The Pratt Museum in Homer used to have cameras which showed puffins on Gull Islands in their barrows. We observed one time parents feeding their chicks. Iím not a kid and enjoyed watching them. The museum conducts programs for children as well
http://www.prattmuseum.org/education/summer.html

Since you asked about bear watching trip from Homer I highly recommend a trip with emerald air. Read reviews here on this board. I went with them several times. The flight is very scenic and on the way back the pilot flies around Augustine Volcano. Often you can see a steam coming out. If you take bear watching tour with emerald you have also scenic flight so no need for a separate flight.www.emeraldairservice.com

There is so much to do in Homer. You can keep your grandkids busy for a few weeks. You are a very thoughtful and generous grandparent so I hope the above information may help you with some decisions.









NewPlaces is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 10:36 AM
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I reread dfrostnh's comment about turbulance while flying in small planes. Don't worry about it if you decide to go on a bear tour with emerald air. The pilot won't go if it is too windy or too foggy. Every flight we took was always very smooth.

If you need recommendations for lodging in Homer what are your requierments and cost? Do you want b&b, cabin, hotel, motel?
Many great options in Homer.
www.homerbedbreakfast.com
www.cabinsinhomer.com


NewPlaces is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 01:56 PM
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REL Fishing in Seward vs. Homer. I actually prefer Seward because there's generally a better chance of catching a wide variety of fish (and the halibut fishing is just as good), plus your chances of seeing marine mammals is better out of Seward.

Sure, you'll likely see plenty on the KF tour, but it's a great second opportunity and you can never see too many whales ...

Don't really have a good rec for a charter there because I had my own boat.

repete is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 02:46 PM
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I was worried about seasickness (me) but my husband wanted to fish. I was worried about attention spans (husband and kids) on a long day trip to see bears. We found a great compomise by combining bear viewing and salmon fishing out of Soldatna (talonair.com). A small plane flies you over Cook inlet. You get in a smaller boat with your guide and then you fish. The bears are along shore. Fishing too. We ended up with lots of salmon which we had processed in Soldotna and shipped home.
If you don't have lodging yet in SEward, we really liked Bear Paw Lodge. It's a little out of town and had a great Alaska feel
keymom is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 03:03 PM
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I believe it was Emerald Air that we used for our bear tour. The bear tour was the highlight of our Alaska trip. It's expensive but worth it.

I recall the SeaLife Center in Seward has a camera on puffins on an island.

"Another one is in the end of the road leading to the airport. You can often spot there besides bald eagles, swans, moose. Great spot for shorebirds in a low tide is next to the Lighthouse." We enjoyed both of these spots.

Just walking along the Homer spit was fun for our kids. They also enjoyed watching the big fish being unloaded in Homer from the day fishing trips.
padams421 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 01:43 PM
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<Emerald Air is excellent and have some of the best pilots>

The above statement is incorrect since Emerald Air has only ONE pilot who is also the owner. The pilot/guide, Ken, and Chris who is a guide own the company. They do not have or hire any other pilots or guides. They work for themselves and do not use anyone else. They have ONE excellent pilot/owner. That's it

BTW, what is a policy on this forum about promoting own business? Can I post here a link to a cabin my friends own in Valdez? LOL!
NewPlaces is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 03:16 PM
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Emerald Air used another pilot on the day we went in 2007. The owner took one plane and another guy (who we had) took another plane.
padams421 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2009, 05:54 PM
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With all do respect, padams421, I think you are confusing Bald Mountain and Emerald Air Service. Emerald Air has only ONE plane, one pilot (who is also a guide) and one guide. Please call them to confirm #1-907-235-6993

Below is your own post

Author: padams421
Date: 11/12/2008, 05:22 pm
We had a great experience with Bald Mountain in summer 2007. I would book 2 bear trips a couple of days apart with diffferent tour operators so you can try to beat the weather issue and hopefully, see 2 different areas.




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