Things to do in Sitka Alaska with kids: three not-to-miss attractions

Whether you’re embarking upon an Alaska cruise from Sitka or charting a fishing excursion, there are multiple things to do in Sitka Alaska with kids. The town is rich in Russian and Tlingit (Alaska Native) history, and is a bustling fishing port to this day. Be sure to schedule at least one extra day in town to explore the natural, historical, and cultural sights. Sitka boasts 8,500 residents, but the central downtown area is entirely walkable; no need for a car. The three attractions for kids in Sitka below are all within a few blocks of one another, and all walkable from Sitka hotels.

Sitka Alaska

Alaska Raptor Center:

Spend a few hours at the Alaska Raptor Center, located just outside of town just past Sitka National Historic Park (walk through the trails to get there!). This rehabilitation center for as many as 30 Alaskan birds of prey includes permanent housing for raptors who cannot be reintroduced back into the wild, as well as ‘rehab’ exercise and observation rooms for those who are recovering from injuries. The staff is well-educated on the goings on at the center, and can answer any questions about the rescue process.

Alaska Raptor center

Start at the birds of prey presentation to ‘meet’ some bald eagle friends and get an overview of the center, then tour the rehab area and the outside viewing areas. The kids loved the owls best–especially the very animated snowy owl–and the ravens. There’s a nice walking path where wild bald eagles can be spotted (and perhaps a bear or two) and a gift shop, of course. The good news: proceeds help the raptors.

Located at 1000 Raptor Way, off Lincoln Street. Admission is $12 for adults and $6 for kids, and the center is open May through September 8 am to 4 pm.

Sitka National Historic Park:

En route to the Raptor Center is Sitka National Historic Park, which we were told is the smallest national park in the nation. Don’t judge it by its size, however: Sitka’s historic park has enough to do to keep a family busy for several hours. Start at the small but well-designed visitor’s center: view the short film which gives a good overview of the history of the area, then take a walk through the coastal rain forested trails to see the site of the Russian-Tlingit battle of the late 17th century and many authentic totem poles. Better yet: take one of the park’s guided walks to learn the most about the significance of each totem.

Sitka National Historic Park

The walk deposits visitors near the beach, where great tide pool and intertidal viewing is possible at low tide. Either way, stop to take a photo of beautiful Sitka Sound and see if you can spot any large cruise ships anchored off-shore (the harbor cannot accommodate them). Back in the visitor’s center, check out the indoor totem poles and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet to complete in Sitka.

The park is free to visit and open 8 am to 5 pm. Located on Lincoln Street (a main thoroughfare), the park is a 10 minute walk from another historical site, the Russian Bishop’s House (also on Lincoln, toward town). Download a walking map.

Sitka Sound Science Center:

Sitka Sound Science Center

The Sitka Sound Science Center is easy to overlook, located in a set of warehouses by the bay, but we found it to be a hidden gem of Sitka. Locals enjoy the center’s educational day programs and camps, and there’s plenty to see as a visitor as well. Plan to spend at least one hour to tour the outside salmon hatchery (where you can learn about the process of tagging and tracking Alaskan Wild Salmon) and explore the indoor touch tanks. These tanks are extensive, showcasing the abundance of wildlife in the intertidal zone. Kids and adults can touch everything in the tanks (with one finger to ensure nothing gets accidentally pinched or squished), and we had a great time learning what all these critters felt like! The water in the touch tanks is very cold, so be prepared for a numb hand after a while!

In the touch tank room are also several exhibits about the intertidal zone, marine wildlife, and eco-conservationism. An orca whale skeleton draws the eye, too. The guides here comprise mostly of scientists and students, and are very knowledgeable about the animals and SE Alaska.

Admission is $5 per person (over age two), which includes the hatchery. The center is located at 834 Lincoln.

While walking Sitka, Castle Hill, the site of the signing of Alaska over to the U.S. from Russia, is also worth a stop. A series of stairs takes visitors to the best views around, with cannons kids enjoy seeing and vistas of both the town and the sound. Find Castle Hill at the end of Lincoln Street, by the Sitka Hotel and Totem Square.

Looking for a place to stay in Sitka? Read our review of Totem Square Inn.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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