12 Things To Do With Family in Wasilla, Alaska

Last Updated on March 6, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Wasilla is a charming city located in south-central Alaska, about 40 miles north of Anchorage. Nestled near the foothills of the Talkeetna Mountains and surrounded by lakes, rivers, and wilderness, Wasilla offers plenty of year-round outdoor recreation and adventure for families.

No.ActivityDescription
1Golfing at Wasilla LakeScenic golf course with views of nature and wildlife.
2Visiting the Transportation MuseumExplore Alaska’s transportation history with interactive exhibits.
3Relaxing at Wasilla LakeEnjoy the serene lake environment for relaxation or activities.
4Summer FishingExperience fishing in local lakes and streams.
5Hiking at Hatcher PassExplore scenic trails and historic mining areas.
6Biking TrailsRide through varied landscapes and family-friendly trails.
7Camping under the Midnight SunUnique overnight camping experience with extended daylight.
8Watching the Iditarod RaceWitness the famous long-distance sled dog race.
9Flightseeing ToursAerial tours offering breathtaking views of the landscape.
10Gold PanningTry your hand at gold panning in local creeks.
11Northern Lights ViewingExperience the awe-inspiring aurora borealis.
12Exploring DowntownDiscover Wasilla’s and nearby Palmer’s local charm and shops.

From exploring historic downtown and unique museums to fishing, hiking, camping under the midnight sun, viewing the northern lights, and playing on one of Alaska’s top-ranked golf courses, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Wasilla. The mild summer temperatures in the 60s and 70s make it perfect for being active outdoors. Winters offer world-class cross country skiing, ice fishing, snowmachining, and dog sledding opportunities.

No matter the season, Wasilla boasts top-notch cuisine, one-of-a-kind shopping, annual festivals, and attractions. It provides access to some of the state’s most treasured natural wonders too. Here are 12 of the top things to do with family in Wasilla year-round.

1. Play at the Wasilla Golf Course

Name and Location: Play at the Wasilla Golf Course – Wasilla Golf Course is located in the heart of Wasilla, Alaska, just off the Parks Highway. The course is situated on a beautiful piece of land surrounded by stunning mountain views.

History and Significance: Wasilla Golf Course has been a popular destination for golfers in the Mat-Su Valley since it first opened in the 1970s. The course was designed by local golf enthusiasts who wanted to create a challenging and enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels. Over the years, the course has undergone several renovations and improvements, making it one of the premier golfing destinations in the region.

What to Expect: At Wasilla Golf Course, visitors can expect to find a well-maintained 18-hole course that offers a variety of challenges and scenic views. The course features rolling fairways, strategically placed bunkers, and fast, undulating greens that will test even the most experienced golfers. The course also offers a driving range, practice green, and pro shop for all your golfing needs.

Visitor Information: Wasilla Golf Course is open seasonally from May to September, weather permitting. Tee times can be booked online or by calling the pro shop. The course offers a variety of rates and packages, including discounts for seniors, military, and juniors. Rental clubs and carts are available for those who need them. The course also features a full-service restaurant and bar, perfect for grabbing a bite to eat or a drink after your round.

Recognized as one of the top 75 public golf courses in America by Golf Digest magazine in 2021, the scenic Wasilla Lake Golf Course offers an exceptional playing experience for all skill levels. This 18-hole, par 72 course spans nearly 7000 yards amid glacier-fed Wasilla Lake and the surrounding woodlands in view of Pioneer Peak, the tallest mountain in the Talkeetna range.

Families will love playing a round together while taking in gorgeous scenery and potentially spotting wildlife like fox, moose, bear, bald eagles, ducks, and cranes. The course features several holes that play right along the shores of Wasilla Lake. There is also a restaurant and full bar on site to enjoy lunch or dinner after playing.

2. Tour the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry

Name and Location: Tour the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry – The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry is located in Wasilla, Alaska, just off the Parks Highway. The museum is housed in a large, modern building that showcases the state’s rich transportation and industrial heritage.

History and Significance: The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry was founded in 1967 by a group of local businessmen who wanted to preserve and celebrate the state’s unique history. Over the years, the museum has grown to become one of the largest and most comprehensive transportation museums in the country, with a collection that includes everything from vintage automobiles to historic aircraft.

What to Expect: At the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry, visitors can expect to find a fascinating collection of exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of Alaska’s transportation and industrial history. The museum features a wide variety of displays, including vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles, as well as historic aircraft, trains, and boats. Visitors can also explore exhibits on the state’s mining, fishing, and forestry industries, as well as learn about the role of transportation in Alaska’s development.

Visitor Information: The Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. Admission is charged, with discounts available for seniors, military, and children. The museum also offers guided tours and educational programs for school groups and other organizations. The museum gift shop features a variety of unique souvenirs and gifts related to Alaska’s transportation and industrial heritage.

One of the top attractions in Wasilla, the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry (MATI) documents the history of transportation, aviation, industry, and everyday life in early territorial Alaska. This 13-acre outdoor museum complex contains thousands of fascinating artifacts and historic buildings to explore.

Families can climb aboard steam engines, a true dogsled, log cabins, float planes, the historic Roadhouse Inn, and even a retired Boeing 727 that kids can play pilot in. Costumed interpreters offer guided tours and provide context around the many buildings and equipment on display that were integral to helping Alaska grow throughout the past 150 years. There are 1902 Winton cars, model Ts, mining and roadbuilding equipment, snowmachines, and more.

3. Relax at Wasilla Lake

Name and Location: Relax at Wasilla Lake – Wasilla Lake is located in the heart of Wasilla, Alaska, just a short drive from the city center. The lake is surrounded by a beautiful park that offers a variety of recreational opportunities for visitors.

History and Significance: Wasilla Lake has been a popular destination for locals and visitors alike for many years. The lake was formed by glacial activity thousands of years ago and has been an important resource for the community ever since. In the early 1900s, the lake was a popular spot for fishing and boating, and today it remains a beloved natural landmark in the Mat-Su Valley.

What to Expect: At Wasilla Lake, visitors can expect to find a peaceful and picturesque setting that offers a variety of recreational activities. The lake is surrounded by a paved walking trail that is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a vigorous run. The park also features a playground, picnic areas, and a sandy beach that is popular for swimming and sunbathing in the summer months. Visitors can also rent paddleboards, kayaks, and other watercraft to explore the lake.

Visitor Information: Wasilla Lake is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. The park is free to enter and offers ample parking for visitors. The lake is stocked with fish, and fishing is allowed with a valid Alaska fishing license. The park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and other community gatherings.

Just minutes from downtown Wasilla off the Parks Highway lies the beautiful 530-acre Wasilla Lake. This peaceful setting with spectacular views provides plenty of family-friendly recreational opportunities year-round from boating, jet skiing, and paddleboarding in summer to ice fishing, skating, and cross country skiing over its frozen surface come winter.

Families can rent various watercraft from two marinas or launch their own to tool around by plane float or wooded shoreline and take in gorgeous vistas of the surrounding Talkeetna Mountains. Several public parks dot the shoreline, offering green space, playground equipment, picnic tables, boat launches, and more. Don’t forget the fishing gear as the lake gets frequently stocked with rainbow trout!

4. Do Some Summer Fishing

Name and Location: Do Some Summer Fishing – The Mat-Su Valley in Alaska is home to some of the best fishing in the world, with a variety of species available depending on the season. Summer is a particularly popular time for fishing in the region, with long daylight hours and warm weather making for ideal conditions.

History and Significance: Fishing has been an important part of life in the Mat-Su Valley for thousands of years, with the region’s abundant rivers, lakes, and streams providing a vital source of food and livelihood for generations of Alaskans. Today, fishing remains a beloved pastime for locals and visitors alike, with the region’s world-class fisheries drawing anglers from around the globe.

What to Expect: Summer fishing in the Mat-Su Valley offers a wide variety of options for anglers of all skill levels. The region’s rivers and streams are home to salmon, trout, and grayling, while its lakes and ponds offer excellent fishing for pike, perch, and other species. Guided fishing trips are available for those who want to learn from experienced local anglers, while those who prefer to go it alone can find plenty of opportunities for shore fishing or boat rentals.

Visitor Information: Fishing in the Mat-Su Valley requires a valid Alaska fishing license, which can be purchased online or at local sporting goods stores. Regulations vary depending on the specific location and species being targeted, so it’s important to check the latest rules and regulations before heading out. Many local lodges and resorts offer fishing packages that include accommodations, meals, and guided trips, making it easy to plan a memorable fishing adventure in the Mat-Su Valley.

In addition to Wasilla Lake, families have endless fishing opportunities in the many rivers, streams, and smaller lakes surrounding Wasilla. From fly fishing for salmon or trophy-sized rainbow trout on the world-renowned Talkeetna River to casting for Arctic grayling in pristine Montana Creek, there are bountiful fishing holes and stocked lakes within a short drive.

Little Susitna River, Deshka Landing, Lake Lucille, Cottonwood Creek, Fish Creek, Talachulitna River, and Montana Lakes are prime fishing spots. Visit one of Wasilla’s local tackle shops like Three Rivers Fly and Tackle to get the inside scoop on what’s biting where. They also offer guided trips and equipment rentals.

5. Hike Hatcher Pass

Name and Location: Hike Hatcher Pass – Hatcher Pass is a scenic mountain pass located in the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska, about an hour north of Anchorage. The pass is a popular destination for hiking, with a variety of trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding wilderness.

History and Significance: Hatcher Pass has a rich history dating back to the early 1900s, when gold was discovered in the area. The pass was named after Robert Hatcher, a local prospector who staked many of the early claims in the region. Today, the pass is known for its stunning natural beauty and its role in Alaska’s mining history, with several historic mines and buildings still visible along the trails.

What to Expect: Hiking in Hatcher Pass offers a variety of options for adventurers of all skill levels. The pass features several well-maintained trails that range from easy nature walks to challenging backcountry routes. Some of the most popular hikes include the Gold Cord Lake Trail, which leads to a stunning alpine lake, and the Reed Lakes Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Hikers should come prepared for changing weather conditions and bring appropriate gear, including sturdy shoes, warm layers, and plenty of water.

Visitor Information: Hatcher Pass is open year-round, although some trails and roads may be closed during the winter months due to snow. The pass is located about an hour north of Anchorage, and can be accessed via the Hatcher Pass Road. There are several parking areas and trailheads located along the road, with restroom facilities and picnic areas available at some locations. Hikers should be aware of the potential for bear encounters in the area and take appropriate precautions, such as carrying bear spray and making noise while on the trail.

Located just 30 miles north of Wasilla, spectacular Hatcher Pass within the Talkeetna Mountains provides phenomenal hiking for families among gorgeous alpine scenery. Designated as a state park and recreation area, Hatcher Pass contains old gold mining ruins, historic buildings, two alpine lakes, waterfalls, and ridge after ridge of rugged granite peaks open for exploration via over 150 miles of hiking trails catering to all levels.

Must-do hikes include the scenic Fishhook Trail to Fishhook Mine remains, the Grasshopper Valley Trail overlooking long Independence Mine, and the scenic hike to rapidly melting April Bowl with its vibrant wildflowers and mountain vistas. NUMEROUS black bears and other wildlife sightings occur frequently within the park boundaries too.

6. Bike Around Wasilla Lake

Name and Location: Bike Around Wasilla Lake – Wasilla Lake is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts in the Mat-Su Valley, and biking around the lake is a great way to explore the area’s natural beauty. The lake is located in the heart of Wasilla, just a short drive from downtown.

History and Significance: Wasilla Lake has been a popular recreation spot for locals and visitors alike for many years. The lake was formed by glacial activity thousands of years ago and has been an important resource for the community ever since. In recent years, the city of Wasilla has invested in developing the area around the lake, creating a network of trails and parks that make it easy to explore the area by bike.

What to Expect: Biking around Wasilla Lake is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise at the same time. The lake is surrounded by a paved trail that is perfect for cycling, with stunning views of the water and the surrounding mountains. The trail is relatively flat and easy to navigate, making it accessible for riders of all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll pass by several parks and picnic areas, as well as a variety of wildlife, including birds, moose, and even the occasional bear.

Visitor Information: The Wasilla Lake trail is open year-round, although the best time to bike around the lake is during the summer months when the weather is warm and dry. There are several parking areas located around the lake, making it easy to access the trail from different points. Bike rentals are available at several local shops in Wasilla, or you can bring your own bike if you prefer. Be sure to wear a helmet and follow all posted trail rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable ride.

Wasilla Lake offers a delightful, mostly flat, 11.3-mile bike riding loop along its forested shoreline that families can enjoy at their own pace while soaking up gorgeous scenery. Several access points allow starting or stopping anywhere around the lake’s perimeter.

Well-maintained paths connect various lakefront parks and campgrounds, providing opportunities for picnics, playgrounds, and resting when pedaling with small children. The route provides a safe alternative to biking along the highway while taking in beautiful views of the lake and Talkeetna Mountains that surround it on three sides. It requires no specialized bike skills, making it fun for all ages.

7. Camp Under Midnight Sun

Name and Location: Camp Under Midnight Sun – Camping under the midnight sun is a unique and unforgettable experience that can only be had in the far northern latitudes of Alaska. The Mat-Su Valley is home to several campgrounds that offer stunning views of the surrounding wilderness and the opportunity to experience the long, bright nights of the Arctic summer.

History and Significance: Camping has long been a popular pastime in Alaska, with the state’s vast wilderness and stunning natural beauty drawing outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Camping under the midnight sun is a particularly special experience, as it allows visitors to witness the unique phenomenon of the sun never setting below the horizon during the summer months. This natural wonder has been celebrated by Alaska’s indigenous peoples for generations and continues to draw visitors from around the globe.

What to Expect: Camping under the midnight sun in the Mat-Su Valley offers a truly unique and unforgettable experience. During the summer months, the sun never fully sets, bathing the landscape in a soft, golden light that lasts for hours on end. This means that you can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and exploring well into the night, without ever needing a flashlight. Many campgrounds in the Mat-Su Valley offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, as well as easy access to nearby trails and recreation areas.

Visitor Information: There are several campgrounds in the Mat-Su Valley that offer the opportunity to camp under the midnight sun, including the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area, the Matanuska River Park, and the Kesugi Ken Campground in Denali State Park. These campgrounds offer a range of amenities, from basic tent sites to full-service RV hookups, and are open during the summer months. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as these campgrounds can fill up quickly during peak season. When camping under the midnight sun, be sure to bring plenty of warm layers and insect repellent, as the temperatures can drop quickly at night and the mosquitoes can be fierce.

Few experiences compare to summer camping in Alaska under the legendary midnight sun. From late May to early August, Wasilla enjoys up to 19 hours of daylight with the sun barely dipping below the horizon even late into the evening. This allows for nearly round-the-clock adventures and gorgeous lighting all night long.

Several family-friendly public campgrounds make great home bases, including Wasilla Lake State Recreation Site and Cottonwood Creek Campground, or families can easily disperse camp virtually anywhere responsibly on public lands. Spending time outdoors under the midnight sun allows for extra hours of fishing, boating, biking, regional sightseeing, and late-night hikes not interrupted by darkness. Just don’t forget the eye shades for eventually getting some sleep!

8. Cheer on the Iditarod

Name and Location: Cheer on the Iditarod – The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is one of the most iconic and beloved events in Alaska, drawing mushers and spectators from around the world. The race starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome, covering over 1,000 miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness along the way. The Mat-Su Valley is a popular spot for spectators to cheer on the mushers as they pass through the area.

History and Significance: The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has a long and storied history dating back to the early 1900s, when sled dogs were used to transport mail and supplies across the rugged Alaskan wilderness. The race itself was first run in 1973 as a way to preserve the sled dog culture and the historic Iditarod Trail. Today, the race is a beloved Alaskan tradition and draws mushers and spectators from around the world.

What to Expect: Cheering on the Iditarod in the Mat-Su Valley is an exciting and unforgettable experience. The race passes through several communities in the valley, including Wasilla, Willow, and Knik, giving spectators plenty of opportunities to see the mushers and their teams up close. Many local businesses and organizations host Iditarod-themed events and parties during the race, with live music, food, and other festivities. Spectators can also visit the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla to learn more about the history and culture of the race.

Visitor Information: The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race typically takes place in early March, with the exact dates varying from year to year. The best place to view the race in the Mat-Su Valley is in Willow, where the official restart of the race takes place. There are several designated viewing areas along the trail in Willow, as well as plenty of parking and shuttle services available. Be sure to dress warmly and bring plenty of snacks and hot drinks, as the weather can be cold and unpredictable during the race. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of the Iditarod, be sure to visit the Iditarod headquarters in Wasilla, which offers exhibits, films, and other educational resources.

No visit to Wasilla is complete without experiencing Alaska’s iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which starts just north of town in Willow annually in March. Known as “The Last Great Race on Earth,” mushers and their dog sled teams traverse 1000+ miles of rugged Alaska terrain racing from Anchorage to Nome.

While the competitive portion on wilderness trails takes place too remotely for spectators, the well-attended ceremonial Iditarod start allows families to meet the mushers and teams, learn about sled dog care, take dogsled rides, hear Native stories, and soak up the contagious excitement of this legendary race at the heart Alaskan culture. Don’t miss it!

9. Flightsee Denali and Glaciers

Name and Location: Flightsee Denali and Glaciers – One of the most breathtaking ways to experience the natural beauty of Alaska is by taking a flightseeing tour over Denali National Park and the surrounding glaciers. Several tour operators in the Mat-Su Valley offer flightseeing tours, with departures from Talkeetna, Palmer, and other nearby communities.

History and Significance: Flightseeing tours have been a popular way to experience the beauty of Alaska’s wilderness for decades, with the first tours taking place in the 1930s. Today, flightseeing is a thriving industry in Alaska, with hundreds of thousands of visitors taking to the skies each year to witness the state’s stunning natural wonders from above. Denali, in particular, is a popular destination for flightseeing tours, as it is the tallest mountain in North America and is surrounded by a vast expanse of glaciers, valleys, and pristine wilderness.

What to Expect: Flightseeing tours over Denali and the surrounding glaciers are an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the natural beauty of Alaska. Tours typically last between one and three hours and take place in small, high-wing aircraft that offer stunning views of the landscape below. During the tour, you’ll fly over the rugged peaks and glaciers of the Alaska Range, with the chance to see wildlife like bears, moose, and Dall sheep from above. Many tours also include a landing on a glacier, giving you the opportunity to step out onto the ice and experience the otherworldly beauty of the glacial landscape up close.

Visitor Information: There are several tour operators in the Mat-Su Valley that offer flightseeing tours over Denali and the surrounding glaciers, including K2 Aviation, Talkeetna Air Taxi, and Alpine Air Alaska. Tours typically depart from Talkeetna, which is located about two hours north of Anchorage, or from Palmer, which is located about an hour north of Anchorage. Prices for flightseeing tours vary depending on the length of the tour and the specific operator, but typically range from $200 to $500 per person

Few aerial adventures compare to flightseeing Alaska’s famed peaks, glaciers, and wilderness, which families can easily access via air taxi from Wasilla Lake Airport or nearby Talkeetna. Just ask anyone who has witnessed 20,310’ Denali’s grandeur up close! These once-in-a-lifetime floatplane and helicopter tours allow you to visit otherwise hard-to-access places like the Ruth Glacier ice caves inside Denali National Park or walk across the glassy surface of Matanuska Glacier while learning all about their formations.

Seeking more adventure? Opt for a guided glacier climb or dog sled experience on snow-covered glaciers and mountain ice fields after landing. Expert mountain guides ensure fun for all skill levels during warmer months. Seeing Alaska’s natural wonders from the air and up close offers memories to last a lifetime.

10. Pan for Gold

In 1898, Felix Pedro struck gold in the Susitna River basin close to modern-day Wasilla, launching the Cook Inlet Gold Rush that put Alaska on the map. Families today can relive some mining history by panning for alluvial gold flakes and nuggets at Independence Mine State Historical Park or on Crow Creek near Girdwood 45 miles away. Or enjoy easier access to guaranteed gold panning low in the Little Susitna River right in downtown Wasilla!

Gold Panner Kenai Mining offers several public gold panning stations using special recovery systems that filter raw glacial sediments from the river so visitors can take home tiny flakes flecked with gold gathered across a few hours of panning. As Alaska has no sales tax, the gold is yours to take home once mined. Who knows what riches await!

11. View Northern Lights

While summer enjoys nearly endless daylight, Wasilla experiences equally long nights and unrivaled northern lights viewing come September through April each year. This celestial phenomenon occurs when solar flares from the sun collide with gases in Earth’s atmosphere, creating vibrant green and sometimes purple dancing lights across the dark winter skies.

Wasilla’s position directly beneath the Aurora Oval in Alaska allows remarkable front-row seats to this magical light show on clear nights. Many lodges offer after-dark northern lights wake-up calls when activity flares up. Or families can bundle up to stay up late on their own seeking night sky action or even take northern lights photography tours to capture the colors.

12. Explore Downtown Wasilla and Palmer

Both Wasilla and nearby Palmer provide plenty of opportunities for family-friendly shopping, dining, and cultural attractions within their historic downtown districts. From summer farmers markets and brewery tours to boutique shops and museums, families will enjoy wandering tree-lined streets offering a variety of restaurants, cafes, local stores, parks, and free museums like the Wasilla Museum at the Dorothy Page House and Valley Museum of Pioneer History detailing Matanuska Valley history since Alaska statehood.

Don’t miss the iconic reindeer and bison statue out front that make for perfect photos. Palmer also hosts summer food and music festivals like the Alaska State Fair, while wintertime transforms downtown into a magical wonderland alight with twinkling lights, holiday markets, and seasonal parades.

Conclusion

With its unmatched wilderness and adventure opportunities interwoven with Alaska Native cultures, Wasilla makes the perfect basecamp for active families seeking memorable outdoor experiences amid gorgeous landscapes in every season paired with small-town hospitality.

From sled dogs and northern lights in winter to epic summer days fishing, boating, flightseeing and endless golden daylight for hiking, biking, golf and more, Wasilla serves up a genuine taste of real Alaska filled with laughs and incredible memories built together that will last a lifetime.

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