A few years ago, I and my wife and our son Dash (our second son wasn’t born at that time) got the life-changing opportunity to travel to Alaska by train. Whitney and I had long fancied trains, but neither of us had enjoyed luxury rail travel (the leisurely viewing of spectacular vistas streaming by) since our respective Eurail-pass college-age trips. Thankfully, we lived in a time where the renaissance for old-fashioned train travel was happening, with rails around the world being revived for family-friendly tourism. To our delight, the rails we would be riding were those of the brand-new first-class GoldStar service of the century-old Alaska Railroad; it’s among the best ways to sample the stunning beauty of the state’s interior.
I’d always figured we’d make our first trip to Alaska on one of those ubiquitous cruises, but train travel was perfect for our circumstances, what with Dash being at the “uncontainable” age of two. Travelling by rail also gave us the flexibility to get on and off the line for multiple stops as we pleased — thus letting us indulge in a thrilling helicopter tour over the scary-gorgeous peaks of Denali National. Our favorite stop, though, was the last and smallest: the little harbor town of Seward, where we managed to cram in a family dog-sled ride; a visit to the most comprehensive aquarium I’ve ever seen (and from Dash’s perspective, was the highlight of the whole trip), the Alaska SeaLife Center; and a breathtaking glacier cruise alongside a pod of orcas.
Be that as it may, our most vivid memories of the trip took place on the train. On boarding the Denali Star in Fairbanks, we had to banish our anxiety— you couldn’t blame us, we were about to do multihour stretches with a toddler. Gratefully, Dash took to the train immediately, imitating its whistle with his voice as we departed and soon, he had settled in comfortably. I started to relax until Whitney returned from the GoldStar open-air viewing deck, hair wild and eyes wide, telling me the experience bordered on “religious”. Before disembarking at Denali, I checked it out and saw exactly what she meant. (Remember those old York Peppermint Patties commercials? Felt kinda like that.)
The later train rides were also blissful; even the longest ride (from Denali to Anchorage—eight hours!) was a breeze. Dash succumbed (often) to the soporific rhythm of the train wheels and napped, giving Whitney and me the much-needed chance to share an Alaskan microbrew and lose ourselves in the immense snowcapped mountains just outside our window. As we disembarked (a bit reluctantly) from our last ride, we felt more relaxed than when we’d boarded—not the typical feeling for parents at the end of a 470-mile journey with their kids!
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POSTED IN: TRAVEL · TAGGED: ALASKA WITH KIDS, EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL, FAMILY TRAVEL, FAMILY TRIP, FAMILY VACATION