12 Things To Do With Family In Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, located in the southeast region of Alaska, is a stunning and unique travel destination surrounded by snow-capped peaks, lush rainforest, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Although quite remote, this former capital of Russian Alaska has retained its Russian charm and history while developing into an eclectic community full of museums, galleries, attractions, and outdoor adventures perfect for families.

Visit Sitka National Historical ParkExplore historical sites, totem poles, and scenic trails.
Encounter wildlife at Fortress of the BearObserve rescued bears in a naturalized setting.
Engage with raptors at Alaska Raptor CenterEducational experience with birds of prey.
Discover local marine life at Sitka Sound Science CenterHands-on exhibits and aquariums showcasing local marine species.
Explore the outdoors with Sitka Trail WorksVariety of family-friendly hiking trails.
Learn history at Sheldon Jackson MuseumArtifacts and exhibits on Alaskan Native cultures.
Participate in community eventsLocal festivals and events that cater to families.

From whale-watching cruises and hiking trails to cultural sites and tasty seafood offerings, Sitka provides abundant family-friendly activities the whole group will enjoy. Here are the top 12 things to do with family in Sitka, Alaska.

Explore Sitka National Historical Park

Name and Location: Explore Sitka National Historical Park, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Sitka National Historical Park was established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka, a pivotal event in the history of Alaska. The park preserves the site of the battle and the ancestral lands of the Tlingit people, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the region.

What to Expect: Visitors to Sitka National Historical Park can explore the park’s scenic trails, including the Totem Trail, which features a collection of beautifully carved totem poles. The park also offers ranger-led programs, cultural demonstrations, and a visitor center with exhibits on the history and culture of the Tlingit people and the Russian colonial period.

Visitor Information: Sitka National Historical Park is open year-round, with reduced hours during the winter months. Admission to the park is free, and guided tours are available for a fee. The park is located just a short walk from downtown Sitka, with ample parking available at the visitor center.

Spread over 112 acres of Alaska’s Pacific coastal rainforest, Sitka National Historical Park allows visitors to immerse themselves in the area’s lush natural beauty while also exploring remnants of its past as a Tlingit homeland and Russian fur trading outpost.

The visitor center features cultural displays and hosts cultural demonstrations including dancing and storytelling. Easy forest trails lead out to Totem Trail featuring replica native totem poles, some originals remaining from the 19th century Russian settlement, as well as the site where the Tlingits made their last stand in 1804 against the Russians who sought to control the lucrative fur trade.

Kids will enjoy spotting wildlife and learning about Alaska Native and Russian history while families appreciate the stunning natural scenery of this easily walkable park situated just outside downtown.

Go Whale Watching

Name and Location: Go Whale Watching in the waters around Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Whale watching has become a popular activity in Sitka, as the surrounding waters are home to a variety of whale species, including humpback whales, gray whales, and orcas. The opportunity to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat has drawn visitors from around the world.

What to Expect: Visitors who go whale watching in Sitka can expect to embark on a boat tour that takes them out into the open waters in search of whales. Knowledgeable guides will provide information about the different whale species and their behaviors, as well as the local marine ecosystem. Tours may also include sightings of other wildlife, such as sea lions, seals, and bald eagles.

Visitor Information: Whale watching tours in Sitka are typically available from May through September, with peak season in July and August. Several tour operators offer whale watching excursions, with varying lengths and departure times. Visitors should dress in warm, layered clothing and bring a camera and binoculars for the best viewing experience.

Spotting magnificent whales and other marine wildlife makes for an exciting family adventure and a memorable shared experience. Several operators offer whale watching tours departing from Sitka harbor from April through September when humpback and other whales pass close to shore during their yearly migrations.

Allen Marine Tours provides narrated cruises to prime whale watching sites with onboard naturalists to educate about the different types of wildlife glimpsed along the way. Small, fast-covered vessels get visitors close-up views of these majestic creatures as they breach, tail slap, bubble feed and perform other behaviours.

Other common sightings include Steller sea lions, puffins, sea otters, bald eagles and more. The tour duration is around 2.5 hours. Dress warmly for the ocean breeze. Back at harbor, take time to explore exhibits at Sitka Sound Science Center highlighting local marine ecosystems.

Hike To Indian River Falls

Name and Location: Hike To Indian River Falls, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Indian River Falls is a beautiful natural landmark located within the Tongass National Forest, just outside of Sitka. The falls have long been a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts, offering a glimpse into the pristine beauty of the Alaskan wilderness.

What to Expect: Visitors who hike to Indian River Falls can expect a moderate to challenging trail that winds through the lush temperate rainforest, crossing several bridges and offering scenic views of the Indian River. The trail culminates at the impressive Indian River Falls, where hikers can take in the stunning vista and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Visitor Information: The trailhead for Indian River Falls is located just a short drive from downtown Sitka, with parking available at the trailhead. The hike to the falls is approximately 4 miles round trip and can take 2-4 hours, depending on hiking speed and time spent at the falls. Visitors should wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring plenty of water, snacks, and rain gear, as weather conditions can change quickly in the Alaskan rainforest.

An easily accessible trail leading to a magnificent waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest, Indian River Trail is perfect for families seeking some Alaskan wilderness adventure just minutes from downtown Sitka. This well-maintained US Forest Service Trail starts across the road from Sitka Visitor Center parking lot and follows gently sloping terrain along the Indian River where unified families or groups appreciate the boardwalks, bridges and viewing platforms showcasing the river rapids, waterfalls and spawning salmon in season.

Benches allow resting along the 1.5-mile trail while kids enjoy exploring side paths to the river’s edge. 30 minutes hike time leads to crashing 50 foot Indian River Falls. Retrace steps back or continue onwards over footbridge crossing river connecting to Cross Trail and several other Sitka pathways traversing beautiful coastal rainforest scenery.

Take An ATV Wildlife Tour

Name and Location: Take An ATV Wildlife Tour in the Tongass National Forest near Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: ATV wildlife tours have become a popular way for visitors to explore the vast wilderness of the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States. These tours offer a unique opportunity to observe the diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes of the region, including the temperate rainforest, alpine meadows, and rugged coastline.

What to Expect: Visitors who take an ATV wildlife tour can expect a thrilling and informative adventure through the Alaskan wilderness. Knowledgeable guides will lead the tour, providing information about the local flora and fauna, as well as the history and culture of the region. Along the way, visitors may spot a variety of wildlife, including black bears, Sitka black-tailed deer, bald eagles, and other species native to the area.

Visitor Information: ATV wildlife tours in Sitka are typically available from May through September, with several tour operators offering a range of tour options and durations. Visitors should dress in warm, layered clothing and bring a camera and binoculars for the best viewing experience. Some tour operators may provide safety gear and training before the tour begins.

Alaska has an abundance of wildlife, but viewing opportunities may require long hikes through dense forest and wilderness terrain difficult for children. Sheldon Jackson College ATV Tours offer the whole family, even young kids, an easy journey by lead ATV seeing Sitka area bears, deer, eagles and more from the comfort of a specialized vehicle riding gently groomed trails.

Friendly guides narrate the rich variety of animal life along this remote stretch of coastline while drivers follow at a leisurely pace for optimal viewing. Starting at scenic campus perched over Crescent Harbor, groups follow old logging roads through the Tongass National Forest stopping frequently for photo opportunities like massive old growth trees, views over Silver Bay and sightings of brown bears foraging along the shoreline. Allow 3 hours for this backcountry adventure through beautiful landscapes not accessible by highway vehicles.

Sea Kayak In Alaska’s Forests And Coves

Name and Location: Sea Kayak In Alaska’s Forests And Coves around Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Sea kayaking has long been a popular way to explore the stunning coastal landscapes and marine ecosystems of Alaska. The sheltered bays, inlets, and coves around Sitka offer some of the best sea kayaking opportunities in the state, with the chance to paddle through pristine forests and observe a variety of marine wildlife.

What to Expect: Visitors who go sea kayaking in Sitka can expect a peaceful and immersive experience in the Alaskan wilderness. Guided tours are available for all skill levels, from beginner to advanced, and can range from a few hours to a full day on the water. Along the way, kayakers may spot whales, seals, sea lions, and a variety of seabirds, as well as explore the rugged coastline and lush temperate rainforest.

Visitor Information: Sea kayaking tours in Sitka are typically available from May through September, with several tour operators offering a range of tour options and durations. Visitors should dress in warm, layered clothing and bring a waterproof camera or dry bag for personal belongings. Some tour operators may provide all necessary kayaking gear and safety equipment.

Paddling stable tandem kayaks, entire families can traverse lush coastal rainforest waterways or explore wildlife rich bays and coves under your own power while experienced guides teach beginners kayaking basics. Sitka Outdoor Recreation Center leads a variety sea kayaking adventures suitable for ages 5 and up including half day and full day tours departing from Jamestown Bay 15 minutes drive north of downtown.

Enjoy spectacular scenery and fascinating tribal history on Neva Strait crossing or chance upon seals, sea otters, eagles and bears midst verdant islands and inlets of Krestof Sound.

Packed lunches fuel day trips while kids enjoy beach stops to explore intertidal zones. Double kayaks keep families together so no one gets left behind. Orca Adventures provides a similar array of guided family kayak tours from picturesque Sitka Harbor centrally located downtown. With kid sized paddles and life preservers, young novices take to the water easily.

Learn About Russian History

Name and Location: Learn About Russian History in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Sitka played a significant role in the history of Russian colonization in Alaska, serving as the capital of Russian America from 1808 until the United States purchased Alaska in 1867. The city’s Russian heritage is still evident today, with several historic buildings and cultural sites that offer a glimpse into this fascinating period of Alaskan history.

What to Expect: Visitors who want to learn about Russian history in Sitka can explore several cultural sites and museums, including the Russian Bishop’s House, St. Michael’s Cathedral, and the Sitka Historical Museum. These sites offer exhibits, artifacts, and guided tours that provide insight into the Russian colonial period and its impact on the region.

Visitor Information: Many of the Russian historical sites in Sitka are located within walking distance of downtown, with guided tours available for a fee. Visitors can also take a self-guided walking tour of the city’s historic district, which includes several buildings and monuments from the Russian colonial period. The Sitka Historical Museum is open year-round, with reduced hours during the winter months.

Once the capital of Russian Alaska, Sitka retains much history and heritage from this era even today. Wandering amidst St Michael’s Cathedral, the Russian Bishop’s House and the blockhouse ‘Castle of the Two Headed Eagle’, families gain insight into Tsarist Russia’s 19th century colonial efforts in the Americas. Start your Russian history quest at Sitka Historical Museum overlooking Crescent Harbor.

Outstanding exhibits using historic artifacts, models and multimedia displays recount Russia’s fur trade exploration of Alaska, conquest of the Tlingits, America’s 1867 Purchase of Alaska and more. Russia’s influence continues in Sitka’s Russian Orthodox churches.

Attend a chanted service amid glittering icons and golden domes for a memorable cultural experience. The Russian Marketplace is the spot to find lacquer boxes, nesting dolls and other Russian crafts, cuisine and culture.

Charter A Fishing Boat

Name and Location: Charter A Fishing Boat in the waters around Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Fishing has long been a way of life in Sitka, with the surrounding waters home to a variety of fish species, including salmon, halibut, and rockfish. Chartering a fishing boat allows visitors to experience this important aspect of Sitka’s culture and economy, while also enjoying the thrill of sport fishing in some of the most productive waters in the world.

What to Expect: Visitors who charter a fishing boat in Sitka can expect a full day on the water, with knowledgeable guides who know the best spots for catching fish. Depending on the season and the type of fish being targeted, visitors may use a variety of fishing techniques, including trolling, jigging, or mooching. All necessary fishing gear and equipment is typically provided by the charter company.

Visitor Information: Fishing charters in Sitka are available year-round, with peak season from May through September. Several charter companies offer a range of trip options, from half-day to multi-day excursions. Visitors should dress in warm, layered clothing and bring a camera, sunglasses, and any personal items they may need for a day on the water. A valid Alaska fishing license is required for all anglers over the age of 16.

Fishing is big sport in Southeast Alaska’s waters, but kids may lack the skills or attention span for an all day catch. Family fishing charters cater specially to young novices offering flexible shorter excursions focused more on fun than bags limits. Local guides know all the best spots to hook some halibut or salmon providing help baiting and landing fish for youngsters while also educating groups on habitat, technique and sustainability.

Custom charters allow determining duration, location and target fish. Options range from trolling for salmon amongst stunning ocean scenery to anchoring at a secret cove helping kids reel up bottom fish after bites. Creative guides turn the outing magical by grilling catch on the beach or even hosting survival skills lessons. Fish processed by the charter may be cooked up back at your campsite or rented condo. Check regulations for size, catch limits and seasons. No license required.

Learn To Paddle Board

Name and Location: Learn To Paddle Board in the sheltered bays and inlets around Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) has become an increasingly popular way to explore the calm, protected waters around Sitka. This low-impact water sport offers a unique perspective on the stunning coastal landscapes and marine ecosystems of the region, while also providing a fun and accessible way to get out on the water.

What to Expect: Visitors who want to learn to paddle board in Sitka can take a guided lesson or tour with a local outfitter. These lessons typically include all necessary equipment, including a board, paddle, and safety gear, as well as instruction on proper paddling technique and water safety. Once on the water, paddle boarders can explore the sheltered bays and inlets, taking in the scenery and wildlife at a relaxed pace.

Visitor Information: Paddle boarding lessons and tours in Sitka are typically available from May through September, with several local outfitters offering a range of options for all skill levels. Visitors should dress in comfortable, quick-drying clothing and bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for protection from the sun. No prior experience is necessary, but participants should be comfortable in the water and able to swim.

All ages can master balancing atop a paddleboard gliding across Sitka’s coastal waters with a beginner lesson from Alaska Stand Up Paddle and Yoga. Even little kids get the hang of this fun water sport as knowledgeable instructors teach newbies how to navigate sit-on-top paddle boards using special extra stable designs perfect for family excursions. Lessons start on land practicing stances and paddle techniques before heading out onto scenic Alice Lake ideal for calm practice sessions.

Instructors tailor teaching to each group’s abilities so entire families can participate together. Those hook after an intro may rent boards to practice newly acquired skills along the beautiful Sitka shoreline or even arrange private custom tours suitable for kids like exploring the personalities of vowels amid the Baranof Islands. Stand up paddling promises good family fun for all ages under the summer midnight sun.

Visit Alaska Raptor Center

Name and Location: Visit Alaska Raptor Center, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Alaska Raptor Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured birds of prey, as well as education and research on these magnificent animals. Founded in 1980, the center has treated over 200 birds per year, including bald eagles, hawks, owls, and other raptors.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Alaska Raptor Center can take a guided tour of the facility, which includes a behind-the-scenes look at the rehabilitation process and the opportunity to see birds of prey up close. The center also features educational exhibits on the biology and ecology of raptors, as well as a gift shop with books, art, and other raptor-related items.

Visitor Information: The Alaska Raptor Center is open year-round, with guided tours available on a regular schedule. Admission fees support the center’s rehabilitation and education programs. The center is located just outside of downtown Sitka, with ample parking available on site. Visitors should dress in comfortable walking shoes and be prepared for cool, damp weather.

When bald eagles, owls, hawks and other impressive raptors of Alaska become injured, they receive expert treatment and if possible rehabilitation back to the wild at this one-of-a-kind avian hospital and research center thatalso provides an enriching visitor experience through displays, presentations and encounters with these magnificent birds.

Sitka’s remote location limits veterinary services so Alaska Raptor Center, founded in 1980, fills both conservation and education roles. Interactive exhibits detail species and habitats of these birds of prey while stationed volunteers demonstrate live raptor handling allowing visitors to get selfies alongside birds like vulture, hawk and owl.

Outside, the real stars seen through expansive windows are resident eagles, hawks and owls recovering within large enclosures emulating the cozy perches and environmental stimulation to promote wellness. Well-curated trails wind past additional mews housing raptors too sensitive for on view rehabilitation. Plan ample time to take in various daily flighted raptor demonstrations held in arena.

Explore Sheldon Jackson Museum

Name and Location: Explore Sheldon Jackson Museum, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Sheldon Jackson Museum is the oldest museum in Alaska, founded in 1888 by Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson. The museum houses an extensive collection of Alaska Native artifacts, including totem poles, masks, baskets, and other cultural objects from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples of Southeast Alaska.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sheldon Jackson Museum can explore the museum’s exhibits at their own pace, with informative displays and labels providing context and insight into the cultural significance of each object. The museum also features a gift shop with books, art, and other items related to Alaska Native culture and history.

Visitor Information: The Sheldon Jackson Museum is open year-round, with reduced hours during the winter months. Admission fees support the museum’s collections and educational programs. The museum is located in the heart of downtown Sitka, within walking distance of several other cultural and historical sites. Guided tours are available for an additional fee.

Claiming one of the finest collections of Alaska Native artifacts and art in the state, this small college founded museum introduces visitors to the incredible craftsmanship and ingenuity of tools, carvings, baskets and other daily implements created by indigenous peoples across Alaska.

Hallway cases arranged geographically display items used for fishing, hunting, travel, ceremony and survival by Aleut, Inuit, Athabaskan and Northwest Coast tribes.

Kids gain an appreciation for the Tlingit people original to Sitka area through carved totem poles and a replicated traditional communal house interior while all visitors admire the intricate Chilkat robes revealing how early peoples derived both utilitarian and aesthetic value from region’s natural resources.

This state-owned collection originated 1889 when Presbyterian missionary founder Reverend Sheldon Jackson curated cultural objects for displays at early World’s Fairs educating about Alaska’s indigenous cultures.

Relax At Sitka Sound Science Center

Name and Location: Relax At Sitka Sound Science Center, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Sitka Sound Science Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting scientific research, education, and stewardship of the marine and coastal ecosystems of Southeast Alaska. Founded in 2007, the center hosts a variety of research projects and educational programs, as well as a public aquarium and touch tank.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Sitka Sound Science Center can explore the center’s aquarium and touch tank, which feature a variety of local marine species, including sea stars, anemones, and other invertebrates. The center also offers guided tours and educational programs on topics such as marine biology, oceanography, and environmental science.

Visitor Information: The Sitka Sound Science Center is open year-round, with reduced hours during the winter months. Admission fees support the center’s research and education programs. The center is located on the historic Sheldon Jackson Campus, just a short walk from downtown Sitka. Guided tours and educational programs are available for an additional fee, and advance reservations are recommended.

Right downtown on harbor walkway, Sitka Sound Science Center allows families to explore Alaska’s fascinating marine environments hands-on style through a variety of rotating interactive exhibits, touch tanks alive with sea stars and anemones and guided activities.

Budding ocean enthusiasts will be enthralled by the working water table displaying models of commercial fishing and Native boats to move around a rendered Sitka Sound seascape while parents appreciate regional ecosystem overviews and wildlife viewing opportunities from the Observation Lab’s floor to ceiling windows.

Free family programs offered most weekend days feature topics like “Oceans of Data” having kids record information about seawater samples or “Fish Printing” demonstrating Japanese Gell printing using real fish to create art. Scavenger hunts, crafts and summer camps immerse kids in science learning while parents find the gift shop stocked with stuffed otters, books and unique coastal themed gifts.

Tour Alaska Pioneers Home

Name and Location: Tour Alaska Pioneers Home, located in Sitka, Alaska.

History and Significance: The Alaska Pioneers Home is a state-run assisted living facility that has been serving Alaska’s elderly population since 1913. The Sitka Pioneers Home, one of six such facilities in the state, is housed in a historic building that dates back to the Russian colonial period and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Alaska Pioneers Home can take a guided tour of the facility, which includes a look at the historic architecture and a glimpse into the daily lives of the residents. The tour also includes information on the history of the Pioneers Home system and its role in providing care for Alaska’s elderly population.

Visitor Information: Tours of the Alaska Pioneers Home are available by appointment only and must be arranged in advance through the facility’s administrative office. The tour is free of charge, but donations to support the Pioneers Home are appreciated. The facility is located just outside of downtown Sitka, with limited parking available on site. Visitors should be prepared for several flights of stairs and some uneven surfaces within the historic building.

Once housing elderly Alaskan pioneers and sourdoughs who helped settle “Seward’s Folly”, today this historic Sitka campus serves as assisted living offering public tours showcasing over a century of history. Costumed guides bring stories alive about governors, prospectors, nurses and other influential residents who lived out their final decades at this sweetly nostalgic Gold Rush era facility.

Visitors hear tales ranging from the first death after the 1867 transfer from Russia to territorial days when only the most adventurous came North to modern times as the still operational Pioneers Home fulfilled its mission of housing and caring for needy elderly Alaskans. Allow an hour to view displays of vintage clothing, mining equipment and other everyday artifacts evoking frontier life in Alaska’s early American period.

Historic buildings house beds, gathering rooms, nurses stations and a fondly remembered soda fountain lunch counter looking much as they did generations ago when sourdoughs reminisced about settling this great land.


Boasting magnificent wilderness scenery, an abundance of wildlife, traces of Russian heritage and native Alaskan culture intermixing with modern attractions, the small city of Sitka offers visitors exceptional sightseeing, outdoor adventure and family fun.

Whale-watching cruises, hiking and kayaking tours experience Alaska’s pristine natural environments while cultural sites like Totem Park, Russian and Alaska Native museums and St Michael’s Cathedral reveal this region’s storied past.

Numerous family-run attractions cater specifically to kids introducing tiny adventurers to regional raptors, sea life and even Alaska-sized ice cream treats! With mouthwatering fresh seafood restaurants everywhere, Sitka serves up wholesome dining options after days packed with singular Alaskan experiences and rarely matched family bonding opportunities.

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