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What is the only state capital not accessible via roads?  How can we get the most from our cruise travels and yet learn something along the way?  By devoting some research to it beforehand and working with a certified, knowledgable cruise advisor!

Yes, it is a fact that the capital of Alaska, Juneau, is only accessible via plane or water.  Many people incorporate a stop in Juneau along a cruise to Alaska, such as we have done.  In an effort to get our children to all fifty states, we visited Alaska during summer 2017 for the first time as a full family and incorporated and learned about many modes of transportation for this trip: train, ship, car, airplane, funicular, tram, walking, sled dogs, you name it!  Pack some age-appropriate literature books to accompany any trip to Alaska worth reading either in advance of a trip to Alaska, or once in the area during relaxing times to enhance the trip and educational aspect (shhhh…. don’t tell the kids they are learning while reading!).

Being the actual birthday of our youngest child that trip, we contemplated several things: hiking Nugget Falls at Mendehall Glacier, riding the tram up for some activities and hiking, and even a flight to Taku lodge (which she and hubby both agreed to, but not big sister due to being a small aircraft).   We eventually settled on doing the tram, as it was walking distance to the ship and about $100 for our family of four for the day.  We did not want to plan something and have inclement weather, so we decided to wait until the morning of.  Having seen whales previously on a trip to Victoria, we chose to skip the whales in Juneau (albeit that is one of the big things Juneau is known for).

A quick purchase of tickets for the tram outside the ship, we stepped aboard and ascended 1,800 feet above the cruise ship dock, giving us a great view of the ships below.  For one of us who hates heights, I can attest we all survived without any tears!  Once at the top, we had an opportunity to visit the Nature Center, see a bald eagle up close, listen to live local music, and explore the area.  The exhibits were all family friendly, where we could stroll and learn at our own leisure.  We also had the opportunity to watch a man carving a totem pole; in fact, a large totem pole!  The intricate detail and artwork to convey history and a story was evident, and hearing him explain it on his break from carving brought the totem pole to life for our children.  Sitting inside a replica beginning of an eagle nest brought back memories from when we watched a family of five eagles in Utah two years prior.  While that eagle nest was up in a tree, we could see that it was large but sitting inside a portion of a replica eagle nest help our children see just how huge it could be.  Taking a break to listen to the live music incorporated some fine arts into the day, and helped provide a well-rounded experience for our time at the top of Mount Roberts.

We did a little hiking (after all, we did bring those hiking boots on this cruise that was also visiting Ketchikan, Skagway and Seward prior to our post-cruise trip to Denali).  The weather was perfect, and what we loved about our tram ticket was that we could return as often as we wanted.  Having a late port time, we would be able to return for later hours, although with the summer solstice soon, seeing sunset would be out of the question.  However, for other ships with different itineraries, this may work perfectly for their port schedules in helping them get the most out of their tram tickets with multiple journeys.  We never had a wait, as we would board the very next tram to arrive.

While we did want to walk to the state capital building downtown, the kids were a little pooped, so we chose not to push their limits.  When returning to our stateroom, we found the door decorated with balloons, so that put a smile on someone’s face (and warmed this momma’s heart!).  We grabbed a quick bite from the Neptune Lounge across the hall from our suite onboard Holland America, and the girls decided they wanted to go to “their club”.  We dropped the kids off at kids’ club for a little while to venture out again: this time to the Red Dog Saloon. Another historical place to visit (and visited again on a subsequent cruise).  While we did not stay long and essentially walked through it to visit the gift shop this time, it was definitely neat to see.  Being such a short, level walk from the cruise ships helped, and sidewalks provided safety from local traffic in the area along with people directing traffic around pedestrians.  Nobody wants any accidents, so everyone works together: the tourism industry, local officials, and guests.  One thing we love about cruises is

that there is always a place for the kids to go if they want to have some time to themselves.  That includes hubby and I getting some time to ourselves, either on or off the ship as we did this evening!  The girls being in the kids’ club onboard left us with a secure feeling they would be fine, and we had the opportunity to stroll the street hand in hand for a quick getaway.  Sometimes when we arrive back in port early, we can just hang out on the balcony, prop up our feet, and enjoy a glass of wine or hot chocolate while admiring the views from our stateroom balcony.  Juneau was an excellent day to combine fresh air, exercise, and learning about the local area in our endeavor of using the world as an amazing classroom.  Whatever we do, we make sure to maximize our cruise vacation either as a couple… or as a family… yet still learn about the local area, geography, wildlife, and more!  The scenery was stunning from both the water level as well as 1,800 feet on the mountain top, and definitely will not be our last visit there!  In fact, my fifth cruise for Alaska will be in May 2022!

Possible Curriculum Correlations in Texas:

(5) Geography. The student understands physical and human characteristics of place. The student is expected to:

(A) identify the physical characteristics of place such as landforms, bodies of water, natural resources, and weather; and

(B) identify how the human characteristics of place such as ways of earning a living, shelter, clothing, food, and activities are based upon geographic location.

(7) Geography. The student understands the concept of regions in the United States. The student is expected to:

(A) describe a variety of regions in the United States such as political, population, and economic regions that result from patterns of human activity;

(B) describe a variety of regions in the United States such as landform, climate, and vegetation regions that result from physical characteristics such as the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and Coastal Plains;

(C) locate on a map important political features such as the ten largest urban areas in the United States, the 50 states and their capitals, and regions such as the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Southwest;


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