12 Things To Do With Family in Kenai, Alaska

Kenai is a stunning peninsula jutting into the Cook Inlet on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. This vibrant city offers visitors plenty of fun things to see and do with the whole family.

Kenai River FishingWorld-class salmon and trout fishing
Beachcombing Cook InletDiscover coastal treasures, wildlife
Kenai Visitors and Cultural CenterExplore local history, culture
Kenai River Beach WalkScenic beach, views of Russian church
Exit Glacier VisitGlacier exploration, nature trails
Paddleboarding on Kenai LakeWater sports in a picturesque setting
Bear Viewing at Swanson RiverGuided wildlife observation
Cook Inlet Fishing CharterHalibut, salmon fishing adventures
Kenai’s Parks for Picnics & PlayPlaygrounds, picnic areas, sports courts
Old Town Kenai Boardwalk WalkHistorical sites, local crafts
Ninilchik Beach ExplorationTide-pooling, beachcombing
Flightseeing Kenai Fjords National ParkAerial views of glaciers, wildlife

From exploring intriguing museums and climbing massive glaciers to fishing for monster salmon and beachcombing for treasures along pristine shorelines, Kenai serves up adventure, natural beauty and lifelong memories around every corner.

Check out these top 12 family-friendly activities in Kenai to create a vacation packed with discovery, laughter and nonstop action.

Head Out on the Kenai River for World-Class Fishing

Name and Location: Kenai River, located in south-central Alaska, flowing from Kenai Lake to Cook Inlet.

History and Significance: The Kenai River is world-renowned for its exceptional fishing, particularly for its large King (Chinook) salmon. The river has been a popular destination for anglers since the early 20th century and continues to attract thousands of visitors each year.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy world-class fishing for King salmon, as well as other salmon species, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden. The river offers both bank fishing and boat fishing opportunities, with guided trips available from local outfitters.

Visitor Information: The best time for King salmon fishing is typically from May through July. Fishing licenses are required and can be obtained through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Visitors should be prepared for changing weather conditions and practice catch-and-release for certain species.

One of the top things to do in Kenai with kids is to head out onto the gorgeous turquoise Kenai River in search of trophy-sized salmon and rainbow trout. The mighty Kenai River is famous for its king salmon runs, with some massive fish topping 50 pounds caught here every season.

No license is required for anglers under 16 years old, making this an affordable Alaskan adventure for families. Pack a delicious picnic lunch, blankets, fishing gear and cameras to make a day of landing a lunker fish the whole crew will remember forever.

Go Beachcombing along Cook Inlet and Discovery Beaches

Name and Location: Cook Inlet and Discovery Beaches, located along the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska.

History and Significance: The beaches along Cook Inlet have long been a source of subsistence for the indigenous Dena’ina people, who have inhabited the area for thousands of years. Today, the beaches are popular destinations for beachcombing, wildlife viewing, and outdoor recreation.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the expansive beaches, searching for unique rocks, shells, and driftwood. The beaches are also excellent spots for observing marine life, such as whales, seals, and various seabirds. Spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers add to the natural beauty of the area.

Visitor Information: The beaches are accessible from various points along the Sterling Highway, with parking areas and trails leading to the shore. Visitors should be aware of the tides and should not venture out onto the mudflats during low tide. It is important to respect the delicate ecosystem and leave no trace while exploring the beaches.

Comb Cook Inlet and Discovery Beach on an incoming tide to uncover dazzling shells, colourful stones, crab shells, agates, driftwood, sea glass and other coastal treasures. Walk along the sandy shoreline and keep an eye out for beluga whales playing offshore. Bring buckets for collecting, a camera to capture scenic views across Kachemak Bay, and a picnic blanket for taking a shoreline snack break during a long, relaxing beach walk for the entire family.

Tour the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center

Name and Location: Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, located in the city of Kenai, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center was established to showcase the rich history and cultural heritage of the Kenai Peninsula. The center features exhibits on the area’s indigenous cultures, Russian colonial history, and the development of the fishing and oil industries.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the center’s exhibits, which include artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays. Guided tours are available, providing insight into the area’s diverse history and cultural traditions. The center also hosts cultural events and workshops throughout the year.

Visitor Information: The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center is open year-round, with hours varying by season. Admission fees apply, with discounts available for children, seniors, and military personnel. The center is located in the heart of Kenai and is easily accessible by car or on foot.

Learn all about the colourful heritage and vibrant culture of Kenai at this excellent museum located right next to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce. Exhibits detail Kenai’s native Dena’ina roots along with the pioneer and Russian periods that shaped this community.

Kids can try on traditional clothing in the dress-up corner, touch furs and artefacts in the Discovery Room and view intriguing films that bring local history to life. Friendly staff and cool displays like massive trophy mounts make this a top indoor family attraction even on rainy days.

Walk along Kenai River Beach

Name and Location: Kenai River Beach, located in the city of Kenai, Alaska, along the banks of the Kenai River.

History and Significance: The Kenai River Beach has long been a popular spot for locals and visitors to enjoy the scenic beauty of the Kenai River and engage in various outdoor activities. The beach is easily accessible and offers a great vantage point for observing the river’s wildlife and natural surroundings.

What to Expect: Visitors can take a leisurely walk along the beach, enjoying the views of the river and the surrounding mountains. The beach is also a popular spot for picnicking, fishing, and birdwatching. During the summer months, visitors may spot anglers fishing for salmon or observe wildlife such as bald eagles and seals.

Visitor Information: The Kenai River Beach is open year-round and is easily accessible from the city of Kenai. There are several parking areas along the beach, as well as restroom facilities and picnic tables. Visitors should be aware of the tides and any posted warnings or regulations regarding river access and fishing.

Just steps from Old Town Kenai, this half-mile-long beach beside the mighty turquoise Kenai River serves up plenty of room for kids to roam and play. Search for unique stones, driftwood and seashells along the shoreline while enjoying gorgeous views and snapping selfies with the picturesque Russian Orthodox Church as a backdrop. Great for leisurely family strolls any time of year, though beware of currents if swimming here. Pack a picnic basket and make it an afternoon of relaxation and scenic vistas.

Head Up to Exit Glacier

Name and Location: Exit Glacier, located within the Kenai Fjords National Park, near Seward, Alaska.

History and Significance: Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska, offering visitors a unique opportunity to witness the effects of climate change firsthand. The glacier has been rapidly retreating over the past several decades, providing a stark example of the impact of global warming on the environment.

What to Expect: Visitors can hike the well-maintained trails leading up to the glacier, offering stunning views of the ice and the surrounding mountains. The trails range from easy, wheelchair-accessible paths to more strenuous hikes that lead to overlooks of the glacier and the Harding Icefield. Guided tours and ranger-led programs are available during the summer months.

Visitor Information: Exit Glacier is accessible from the Seward Highway, with a paved road leading to the glacier’s parking area and trailhead. The area is open year-round, with limited services during the winter months. Visitors should be prepared for changing weather conditions and bring appropriate gear for hiking on uneven terrain. The Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center in Seward offers additional information and exhibits on the glacier and the surrounding area.

One of Kenai’s most popular attractions, this dazzling blue glacier is located just a 15-minute drive from town within the spectacular Harding Icefield. Exit Glacier is the only area glacier accessible by car here, allowing families an up-close look at a natural phenomenon rapidly vanishing across Alaska.

Walk right up to cliffs of creaking ice on hiking trails ranging from easy to more challenging. Rangers lead free daily tours and talks during summer. Be sure to visit the Nature Center to learn about the glacier’s rapid retreat.

Try Paddleboarding on Kenai Lake

Name and Location: Kenai Lake, located in the Kenai Mountains of south-central Alaska, near the town of Cooper Landing.

History and Significance: Kenai Lake is a stunning glacial lake that serves as the headwaters of the Kenai River. The lake is surrounded by the Chugach National Forest and is known for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and stunning mountain views. It is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and water sports.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy paddleboarding on the calm, clear waters of Kenai Lake, taking in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding mountains and forests. The lake is also popular for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. Several campgrounds and lodges are located along the lakeshore, offering accommodation and amenities for visitors.

Visitor Information: Kenai Lake is accessible from the Sterling Highway, with several pullouts and boat launches along the lakeshore. Visitors can rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from local outfitters in Cooper Landing. It is important to wear a life jacket and be aware of weather conditions and boat traffic on the lake. Camping and fishing regulations apply in the surrounding Chugach National Forest.

Rent a stand-up paddleboard, canoe or kayak to explore the calm turquoise waters of Kenai Lake, located around 9 miles north of town. Paddling is an awesome way to take in scenic shorelines packed with spruce forest and views of the Kenai Mountains from the water.

See if you can spot a soaring eagle or leaping salmon. No experience is required for newbies since Kenai Lake is typically very calm and ideal for beginners. Pack a camera to capture majestic reflective views of Mount Skilak from the water.

Go on a Bear-Viewing Trip to Swanson River

Name and Location: Swanson River, located in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, near the town of Sterling, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Swanson River area is known for its abundant wildlife, particularly brown bears. The river and its surrounding wetlands provide a rich habitat for bears, as well as other species such as moose, wolves, and various birds. Bear viewing in this area offers a unique opportunity to observe these majestic animals in their natural habitat.

What to Expect: Visitors can embark on guided bear-viewing trips along the Swanson River, led by experienced naturalists. These trips typically involve a combination of hiking and boating, with the goal of spotting bears from a safe distance. Visitors can learn about bear behavior, habitat, and conservation efforts while enjoying the stunning wilderness of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Visitor Information: Bear-viewing trips on the Swanson River are typically offered from June through August, when bears are most active. Trips can be booked through local outfitters and guide services, who provide necessary equipment and expertise. Visitors should be prepared for outdoor conditions and follow all safety guidelines provided by the guides. It is important to respect wildlife and maintain a safe distance from bears at all times.

One of the most thrilling things to do in Kenai for families is heading 25 miles north to Swanson River for a guided bear viewing tour. The rivers attract huge brown bears grazing in meadows and scooping salmon from streams.

Reputable guides like Alaska Wildland Adventures use spotting scopes so visitors can safely watch giant bruins in their natural habitat during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Prime viewing is July through September when salmon runs are strongest.

Explore Cook Inlet on a Fishing Charter

Name and Location: Cook Inlet, the large tidal estuary that stretches from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage, bordering the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula.

History and Significance: Cook Inlet has long been an important waterway for transportation, fishing, and oil and gas development in south-central Alaska. The inlet is named after Captain James Cook, the British explorer who navigated the area in 1778. The waters of Cook Inlet are known for their extreme tidal fluctuations and abundant marine life.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore Cook Inlet on a fishing charter, targeting various species such as halibut, salmon, and rockfish. Charters typically depart from the coastal communities of Ninilchik, Homer, or Seward, and range from half-day to multi-day trips. In addition to fishing, visitors can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains, glaciers, and wildlife, such as whales, seals, and seabirds.

Visitor Information: Fishing charters on Cook Inlet can be booked through local outfitters and guide services, who provide necessary equipment and expertise. Visitors should be prepared for potentially rough seas and cold weather, and follow all safety guidelines provided by the crew. Fishing licenses and regulations apply, and it is important to respect catch limits and conservation measures. Charter trips are typically available from May through September, depending on the target species and weather conditions.

Climb aboard a charter boat and cast your line in search of massive halibut and salmon in the rich waters of Cook Inlet off the Kenai Peninsula. Reel in monster fish nearing 300 pounds as a family-bonding adventure.

Top fishing charters like No Limit Halibut will take care of all the gear, bait and fishing licenses so families can simply relax and soak in gorgeous ocean scenery between catches. Whale sightings are common too.

Picnic & Play at Kenai’s Awesome Parks

Name and Location: Various parks in the city of Kenai, Alaska, including Cunningham Park, Erik Hansen Scout Park, and Municipal Park.

History and Significance: Kenai’s parks have long been popular gathering places for the local community, offering a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities and amenities. These parks provide a sense of community and serve as important green spaces within the city.

What to Expect: Visitors can enjoy picnicking, playing on playgrounds, and participating in various sports and activities at Kenai’s parks. Cunningham Park features a large playground, picnic areas, and a disc golf course. Erik Hansen Scout Park offers nature trails, a campground, and access to the Kenai River. Municipal Park hosts community events and festivals throughout the year, and offers a skateboard park, sports fields, and a pavilion.

Visitor Information: Kenai’s parks are open year-round, with some amenities and facilities closed during the winter months. Parking is available at each park, and some parks may require a small fee for certain activities or facilities. Visitors should respect park rules and regulations, such as properly disposing of waste and keeping pets on leashes. Information on park events and amenities can be found through the City of Kenai Parks and Recreation Department.

Kenai offers families several excellent parks for picnicking and burning off energy on fun playgrounds. Petersen Park beside the Kenai Spur Highway features a large playground with monkey bars and swings set among lush forest.

Nearby Leif Hansen Memorial Park offers barbecue grills for cookouts plus tennis and basketball courts. Just outside town, KENAI Kidz Zone Park packs exciting rock-climbing walls, a zip line, swings and shaded woodlands for the ultimate outdoor play space.

Walk the Historic Boardwalks of Old Town Kenai

Name and Location: Old Town Kenai, located in the heart of Kenai, Alaska, along the banks of the Kenai River.

History and Significance: Old Town Kenai is the historic center of the city, with buildings and sites dating back to the early 20th century. The area reflects the city’s rich history, from its indigenous Dena’ina roots to the influence of Russian fur traders and American settlers. The historic boardwalks provide a glimpse into Kenai’s past and offer a unique walking experience.

What to Expect: Visitors can stroll along the historic boardwalks of Old Town Kenai, exploring the unique shops, galleries, and restaurants housed in the preserved buildings. The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center, located in Old Town, offers exhibits and information on the area’s history and culture. Visitors can also enjoy views of the Kenai River and observe the bustling activity of the nearby fishing docks.

Visitor Information: Old Town Kenai is open year-round, with some businesses and facilities operating on seasonal schedules. Parking is available on nearby streets and in designated lots. Visitors should respect private property and be mindful of the historic nature of the buildings and boardwalks. Guided walking tours of Old Town Kenai are available through the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center during the summer months.

Transport back in time with a lively walking tour of Old Town Kenai’s wooden boardwalks, historic log cabins and intriguing museums that preserve Kenai’s rich heritage and cultural traditions. Grab an ice cream cone and stroll the colourful harbour populated by fishing boats.

Have cameras ready for selfies in front of the iconic Holy Assumption Russian Orthodox Church, constructed in 1895. Pick up Native Alaskan crafts and local art at the charming galleries and shops lining the wooden boardwalks of this historic district.

Comb the Shore for Treasures at Ninilchik Beach

Name and Location: Ninilchik Beach, located in the village of Ninilchik, on the western coast of the Kenai Peninsula, approximately 40 miles southwest of Kenai, Alaska.

History and Significance: Ninilchik Beach has long been an important subsistence and recreational area for the local community, particularly the Ninilchik Tribe. The beach is known for its unique geological formations, including the “Ninilchik Needles,” a series of dark, jagged rocks that protrude from the shore. The area also has a rich history of Native Alaskan and Russian settlement, as evidenced by the nearby Russian Orthodox Church.

What to Expect: Visitors can explore the expansive beach, combing the shore for unique rocks, shells, and driftwood. The beach is a popular spot for razor clamming during low tides, and visitors can often observe local residents digging for clams. The stunning views of the coastline, with its rugged cliffs and distant volcanic peaks, make Ninilchik Beach a popular destination for photography and beachcombing.

Visitor Information: Ninilchik Beach is accessible via a short drive from the Sterling Highway, with parking available at the beach access points. Visitors should be aware of the tides and any posted warnings or regulations regarding beach access and clamming. It is important to respect the delicate coastal ecosystem and leave no trace while exploring the beach. The nearby village of Ninilchik offers additional services and attractions, such as the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ninilchik Tribal Council’s Cultural Center.

Located about 39 miles from Kenai off the Sterling Highway, this stunning stretch of coastline offers incredible scenery and excellent tide-pooling prospects for families. Search rocky outcroppings and the sandy shoreline for colourful stones, seashells, interesting driftwood and other coastal keepsakes.

Keep an eye out for soaring eagles overhead as you beachcomb. Pack a tasty beach picnic to enjoy on the shore after working up an appetite from all the exploring across this ruggedly beautiful coastline.

Go Flightseeing Over Kenai Fjords National Park

Name and Location: Kenai Fjords National Park, located on the southeastern coast of the Kenai Peninsula, near the town of Seward, Alaska.

History and Significance: Kenai Fjords National Park was established in 1980 to protect the unique glacial landscape and rich marine ecosystem of the area. The park is home to the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States, and numerous glaciers that flow from the ice field into the fjords and bays of the park. The park is also an important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including marine mammals, seabirds, and terrestrial species.

What to Expect: Visitors can experience the stunning beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park from the air on a flightseeing tour. These tours typically depart from Seward and offer a bird’s-eye view of the park’s glaciers, fjords, and wildlife. Visitors can witness the scale and grandeur of the Harding Icefield, spot calving glaciers, and observe marine mammals such as whales, seals, and sea lions from above.

Visitor Information: Flightseeing tours of Kenai Fjords National Park are offered by several operators based in Seward, with tours ranging from 30 minutes to several hours. Visitors should be prepared for potentially cool temperatures and bring a camera to capture the stunning aerial views. It is important to book tours in advance, as they are popular and may fill up quickly during peak season. The Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center in Seward offers additional information and exhibits on the park’s natural and cultural history.

Treat the family to a once-in-a-lifetime flightseeing adventure over the magnificent glaciers, mountains and turquoise lagoons of Kenai Fjords National Park. Skilled bush pilots with organizations like Family Air Tours take off from Kenai Municipal Airport for breath-taking one-hour tours that will have kids glue to window views.

Marvel at towering peaks, massive glaciers like Bear and Aialik and abundant wildlife like whales, mountain goats, bears and more. Photo stops allow capturing glittering glacial lakes and crashing waterfalls.


From monster salmon fishing excursions and spectacular glacier hikes to beachcombing shorelines and exploring local culture and heritage, families will never run out of awesome things to see and do across the vibrant community of Kenai, Alaska.

Pack up the kids and adventure awaits with bucket-list wildlife viewing, epic fjord flightseeing, world-class fishing, tasty picnics and plenty of laughs together in the gorgeous Great Land.

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