Last month we headed out on a little weekend road trip. We’ve explored a lot of this state, but mostly in the summer time and mostly south of where we live. And by a lot, I mean as much as we possibly can with small children, a limited road system, and no private plane or boat. For something different we decided to head north and explore some of Interior Alaska.
Day 1: We left the house at 7am and drove almost nonstop for 7 hours, until finally arriving at Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena is a popular winter destination located about 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks. I will say, it’s not the fanciest place I’ve ever been, but it’s definitely very Alaskan. The main attractions are hot springs rock lake, the ice museum, and the northern lights. There were people staying from all over the world, all hoping to see the northern lights.
Our favorite attraction was the pool. After grabbing a bite to eat at the resort restaurant, we headed to the pool and spent the rest of the day there. The girls had a blast! Lillian found a friend and was swimming all over the place in her Puddle Jumper. Hazel just chilled out in her floatie with a cute little smile on her face. They weren’t able to sit in the hot springs but could sit in the outdoor hot tub. Pretty cool stuff when you’re one and two years old. ;)
Day 2: The next morning Lillian and I went to the pool. Again. After we checked out of our room, we took a tour through the ice museum. The ice museum was interesting. Unfortunately, the girls were getting hungry and tired so we kinda rushed through it.
On to The North Pole. I mean, North Pole. North Pole, Alaska. I have been dying to visit North Pole, ideally around Christmas time but I’ll take what I can get. North Pole is a little town south of Fairbanks, where it’s Christmas year-round. We had lunch at a restaurant featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, visited the famous Santa Claus House, and stopped to take pictures in front of the ‘Welcome to North Pole’ sign. There’s not a ton to do in North Pole, but it’s one of those “go there just to say you’ve been there” type places. Personally, I thought it was great. The street lights look like candy canes. How cute is that?
Next up, Skinny Dicks Halfway Inn. Oh my gosh, I feel dumb even typing that. It was a highlight for Blake, so I guess I better mention it. Just like I’ve been dying to visit North Pole, he’s been dying to have a beer at Skinny Dicks. Our first summer in Alaska he and his buddies actually planned an entire motorcycle trip around Skinny Dicks. They ended up running into snow near Denali National Park and had to turn around and head home. He’s been bummed out about that trip for three years. Seriously, three years. He finally got his wish. He and my brother had a beer in the bar and browsed the gift shop. The girls and I had a snack in the car and stretched our legs. Good stuff.
Our last stop on Day 2 was our rental house in Healy. Blake found a nice little place with a great view. We spent the rest of the night eating and watching Netflix. The perfect way to end a busy day.
Day 3: We had planned to head right home, maybe stopping for lunch along the way. However, we woke up to beautiful weather and decided that we might as well take a drive through Denali National Park. The park entrance is only a short drive from Healy, in the direction we were headed. How could we not? We’ve been through the park a few times, but only in the summer and fall when it’s pretty crowded. It was a treat to be one of the only vehicles on the park road. The highlight (maybe of the entire trip) was when a small herd of caribou crossed the road right in front of our vehicle. Blake spotted them a long way out and could tell that they were looking for a place to cross. So we sat and waited and sure enough, they crossed… right in front of us! Very exciting.
When we reached the turnaround point of the road we got out to take a short hike. There are few things in life Lillian loves more than hiking. She’s such a little explorer. She’s always leading the way and sprinting down the trail. At one point she wanted to go down by some water. Of course, Uncle volunteered to take her down. The rest of us stayed on the trail and watched. When they got back she said, “Mom, it’s pretty dangerous down there. You gotta stay here. You can’t go down there. It’s too dangerous for you.” Ooooook, Lillian. Got it. ;)
On the drive home we had bluebird views of Denali, maybe the clearest I’ve ever seen. It was breathtaking. We did make one last stop in Trapper Creek for lunch before heading home.
Traveling with kids is an adventure in itself. The girls are pretty good travelers, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about how they’d handle all the driving, sleeping in weird places, and getting in and out of their car seats so much. They did so great! I packed a ton of food and books to keep them entertained. We didn’t even have to bust out an electronic device until the last half hour from Chena and from home. Proud mama right here! Towards the end of the trip Lillian was actually excited to get back in the car because that meant we were headed to a new and exciting place. When we buckled them in after our final stop for lunch she said, “Where we going now guys?!?!” We felt bad telling her that we were headed home.
Until next time,
p.s. I did a quick calculation and we traveled about 850 miles in 3 days. Not bad.