It’s pretty hard to beat the breathtaking Alaskan views, which is just one of the reasons Dr. Chan loves being a Sitka and Juneau orthodontist. He also loves getting to know his patients and their families and in the process, he learns about all the fun stuff going on in the area. We know in the middle of winter, keeping children and teens entertained can be challenging and, let’s face it, expensive. Well, the Richard Chan Orthodontics team is here to help. We’re sharing the inside scoop on some of the best free and cheap winter activities for kids in Juneau, AK.
1. Storytimes at the Public Library – Multiple Locations
Storytimes at the public library are definitely among our favorite free things to do with kids in Juneau and the public library has plenty of them. The events, which are open to the public, nurture a love of reading in little ones. So, what’s on the agenda?
Well, Toddler Time is designed for kiddos who aren’t quite ready to sit still through longer books and involves shorter stories, games, songs and activities. The program meets on Mondays at 10am at the Downtown Library and Mondays at 11am at the Valley Public Library.
Storytimes are held at the three public library locations from September to May with a winter holiday break. They’re for kids of all ages but targeted more towards those aged three to five. Children and caregivers will enjoy stories, songs and music, rhymes and games, as well as the opportunity to socialize.
Check out Storytime at 11am on Wednesdays at the Downtown Public Library, Thursdays at 11am at Douglas Public Library and Fridays at 11am at Valley Public Library.
2. Marie Drake Planetarium – Marie Drake Building, 1415 Glacier Avenue
The Marie Drake Planetarium is such an amazing, unique community resource and one of the top free winter family activities in Juneau, AK because you can stargaze regardless of the weather and learn about astronomy. The planetarium is part of the Juneau School District and has been run by volunteers for more than 20 years.
It’s housed in the Marie Drake Building (between Harborview and a playing field). They model the current Juneau night sky using the planetarium projector, known as the starball, at nearly every presentation. The next free presentation will be held in February (topic and date TBA). Stay tuned to the events calendar.
3. Home Depot Kids Workshops – Home Depot, 5201 Commercial Blvd
If you’re at a loss for what to do in Juneau with kids in winter, Home Depot Kids Workshops are a great option. The free events are held year-round and offer the perfect opportunity to allow children to hone their DIY skills. The workshops are geared towards kids ages five through 12, though younger and older children are also welcome. Attendees must have a parent or guardian with them.
Kids get to keep their craft and while supplies last, they’ll receive a free certificate of achievement, a workshop apron and a commemorative pin. You can drop in at the workshops any time between 9am and 12n, however, we’d suggest getting their early or registering in advance to ensure there are plenty of kits left.
Up next: On Saturday, February 3, is Valentine Bean Bag Toss. Your and your child can build a bean bag toss game with a Valentine’s Day theme. After game board construction, decorate it with stickers and paint.
4. Indoor Playgrounds for Kids in Juneau
Turf for Tots is held on weekdays at the Dimond Park Field House (2961 Riverside Drive) with open turf time for toddlers from 8am to 1pm. There’s tons of space and all sorts of toys including tricycles, hula hoops, rubber balls, toddler slides, parachutes and more. Admission is $6 per child or $55 for a 20-visit punch card.
The Mt. Jumbo Gymnasium (909 4th Street, Douglas) turns into an indoor playground during its popular Preschool Open Gym program that runs September to April. Monday through Friday from 10:30am to 12n, little ones, ages one through six, can enjoy tumbling mats and play equipment for only $3 per child per day. Kids must be accompanied by a parent or daycare provider.
5. Go for a Swim – Dimond Park Aquatic Center (3045 Dimond Park Loop) and Augustus Brown Swimming Pool (1619 Glacier Avenue)
Juneau Pools, a division of Parks & Recreation, hosts programs, lessons and open swim times at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center and the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool all year long. With daily admission fees of $8 for adults, $6 for kids and teens (eight through 17) and $3 for those two to seven, it definitely tops the list of cheap winter activities in Juneau.
To save, you can also buy 10-visit, monthly or annual passes. The Augustus Brown Pool has a lap pool, recreation pool, sauna, climbing wall and exercise area and the Dimond Park Aquatic Center features a lap pool, a sauna, a hot tub, a workout area and, most importantly, a leisure pool complete with a current channel, vortex, a water slide and spray features.
Check out the schedule here.
6. Hang Out at the Zach Gordon Youth Center – 396 Whittier Street
While most of this list has been for children, we know parents are always on the lookout for Juneau teen activities too. The Zach Gordon Youth Center has a ton of drop-in options for kids and teenagers, including indoor and outdoor basketball courts, racquetball, weights, pool, ping pong, Wii, music, board games, televisions, arts and crafts, foosball, an outdoor toddler play area, homework and tutoring services, and a really awesome climbing wall.
The public climbing wall is free to people 20-years-old and younger and the staff will even show you how to climb if you’ve never done it before.
During the school year, the Youth Center is open Monday through Thursday after school until 9pm, Fridays from after school to 10pm and Saturdays from 3 to 10pm.
7. Mendenhall Glacier
Many residents have probably seen the spectacular Mendenhall Glacier, however, it’s a new experience every time because it’s constantly moving and changes with every season. To get some fresh air with the family, rediscover the natural wonder. For a great view and educational materials, go straight to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center.
During the fall and winter, it’s open October 1st through March 31, Friday through Sunday from 10am to 4pm. If it’s not too chilly and you’d like some exercise, you can also try one of the hiking trails and get a closer look at the glacier. There are even some short, easy, paved trails like Photo Point (1/3 mile) and Steep Creek (1/4 mile), which are ideal for kids.
8. Nordic Skiing – Eaglecrest Ski Area, 3000 Fish Creek Road
The Eaglecrest Ski Area isn’t called “Juneau’s winter playground” for nothing. It contains over 640 acres of skiable terrain. The community-owned ski area operates from the beginning of December through the second week in April and is open Thursday through Monday. While renting equipment and purchasing lift tickets for the whole family can be a bit pricy, day tickets for Nordic skiing are free for kids 12 and under and $15 for teens and adults.
9. Alaska State Museum – 395 Whittier Street
The Alaska State Museum is high up there when it comes to the best things for families to do in Juneau. It provides a glimpse into Alaska’s rich history and diverse cultures and showcases Alaska’s people, historic artifacts, works of art and pieces of natural history.
General admission is $7 for adults and free for youth 18 and under during the winter hours, which are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm. On the first Friday of the month, however, admission is free from 4:30 to 7pm.
10. Take in a Musical Performance – Into the Woods at Juneau Douglas High School Auditorium, 1639 Glacier Avenue
Take in a musical performance at The Juneau Lyric Opera, Alaska Youth Choir and the Juneau Douglas High School Theatre Department will come together to put on performances of Stephen Sondheim’s fairytale Into the Woods in the JDHS auditorium.
Shows will be held on Fridays, February 9 and 16 and Saturdays, February 10 and 17 at 7pm with a matinee on Sunday, February 11 at 2pm. Tickets for kids and students are $10 each while adults are $20 and seniors are $15. You can purchase tickets online or at the door. To see a performance for free, sign-up to volunteer!