Wasilla is less than 30 miles away from Anchorage and has a lot to offer the local Alaskan and the traveling visitor. The drive from Anchorage has beautiful views of the Knik River, the flats often inhabited by moose, and when the skies are clear, the hills of Hatcher's Pass and the infamous Sleeping Lady contrast against the blue backdrop.
I used to think of Wasilla as a drive-through town. Anytime I would find myself in Wasilla I would have another destination and I didn't have time to stop and enjoy what the city has to offer. It wasn't until I moved here that I started exploring and appreciating the community. Don't just pass through Wasilla as I had done for so many years. Make sure to set aside time to enjoy some of these awesome activities.
Children can have fun in the most basic environments. Their imagination can run wild and their joy emanates wherever they play but sometimes parents need a little 'fun-spiration'.
In the winter months, it can be hard to find a warm and fun environment to let children express themselves and burn off some energy. The Extreme Fun Center is a great place for children and adults. It is full of attractions, games, and rides.
There are several arcade games for all ages and my personal favorites: cart racing and laser tag. The cart races are competitive and thrilling for older teens and adults and laser tag burns so much energy! I was sweating by the end of it, but ready for round two because it was so much fun!
The good news to parents there is a sky lounge that overlooks the center where you can watch your family play while enjoying a cold beer or glass of wine.
The trampoline park is a wonderful indoor activity to combat the cold or unforgiving Alaskan weather. They offer virtual reality games, open jump hours, the foam zone to practice flips and jumps, an extreme ninja course, dodgeball events, a warped wall for climbing, a battle beam, a laser maze, slam dunk basketball, arcade games, and a cafe for when you need to refuel after having so much fun!
A friend of mine shared that whenever she goes on vacation, she researches the nearest dog shelter and registers to take a dog on a walk. I thought this was such a lovely idea. Most shelters will allow an adult to take a dog for a walk with a brief registration process. This activity gets you and your family outside, brings joy to an animal, and who knows - might even increase your family size by a furry and adorable member.
This is one of the largest parks that Wasilla has to offer. It has ample space to spread out and entertain all ages. There is a skate park, volleyball courts, basketball courts, tennis courts, an amphitheater, a bocce ball court, BMX track, and a mighty jungle gym. This is a great place to spend the day with the family and it is within walking distance of several restaurants. Order your food to go and enjoy it on a picnic table at the park while watching the ducks in the nearby pond.
Address: 594 W Nelson Ave #220, Wasilla, AK 99654
This indoor sports center offers space for activities and equipment rentals. Along with an ice rink, indoor turf, and batting cage, the facility also has a paved trail along the property line and a newly fabricated playground. The spacious building allows for all sorts of events to be hosted here. Just last year I saw Randy Houser live in concert!
I literally stumbled upon this attraction while hiking the trails around Lake Lucille Park. To my surprise, there was a tiny train track and miniature village just through the trees. I was so flabbergasted by what I was seeing that I immediately googled "small train village in Wasilla" and was directed to The Alaska Live Steamer's website.
This is a non-profit organization that focuses on preserving education of railroad history. Instead of creating long articles about the railroad's history or educational videos that may become outdated, this organization decided it was best to educate with a first-hand experience. This miniature train ride takes you by replica buildings and information is shared throughout the ride.
Rides are offered on Saturday and Sunday from May through September. Anyone can reserve a ride on this miniature train and they even offer a chair to accommodate special needs.
When you are looking for things to do as a visitor to a new town, what better place to go than the visitor's center? Dorthy Page is known as the "mother" of the Iditarod race. Her impact on the race and the history of Wasilla is captured in the museum's archives. Wasilla's visitor's center is also a museum full of information and interesting displays. There is even an exact replica of Wasilla's first post office, including the original mailboxes.
Another fun museum to check out is the Museum of Alaska Transportation and Industry. Many towns were established around the area's primary method of transportation, especially the railroad. COVID-19 has changed the museum's hours of operation and they are temporarily closed and will continue to update their website in alignment with the State of Alaska's Mandates.
When you think of things specific to Alaska, the Iditarod is high on the list. Wasilla is the home of the Iditarod Headquarters. Here you can visit the gift shop for Iditarod memorabilia, watch an educational video on the history of the race, and mosey through the photo and memorabilia displays.
When I moved to Wasilla I was really excited about being within a short driving distance of several hiking trails. I immediately downloaded the AllTrails app and started a summer bucket list of trails I could do after work during the week. These hikes were all so fun that I ended up hiking them time and time again.
The Lake Lucille Park and trail systems are very close to the Iditarod Headquarters. The trails around the lake are bountiful and overlap one another. You can get quite a few steps in without traveling too far from the park. Back at the park itself you can play soccer, enjoy lunch, and let the kids frolic in the playground. If you're having too much fun and you don't want to leave, no worries. The park offers overnight camping spots as well!
Wasilla Creek Trail is a short walk, less than one mile, on a boardwalk over the marsh near the Knik River. It twists and turns throughout the woods and opens up to a patio with a picnic table. This is a quiet and peaceful place to have lunch and stretch your legs.
This is one of my favorite hikes in Wasilla. The lake is named appropriately and creates a beautiful reflection of the surrounding areas. The trail is very flat with a small section of boardwalk. There is a neat viewing area that sits high above the tree line so you can watch for wildlife. I've seen a coyote, a moose, and various birdlife while sitting quietly on this bench. The loop is just under a mile long and just past the parking lot is the Knik River boat launch.
Scout Ridge Trail is tucked away in the trees just above the Palmer Hay Flats. The loop has various terrain from hilly and rooted to flat and smooth. It overlooks the hay flats for half of the journey and then wraps around by a lake before returning to the parking lot. There are no public bathrooms at this trailhead but just down the hill, the Palmer Hay Flats offers a restroom.
There are countless beautiful things to see in Wasilla as well as attractions on the outskirts of the city.
The Knik River twists and bends up the valley to the Knik Glacier. If you have your own means of transportation (boat, plane, four-wheeler, or dirt bike) you can follow the trails and riverway all the way up to the edge of the glacier. If you are visiting or you do not have your own transportation you can contact Knik Glacier Tours to schedule a trip.
Hatchers Pass has views for miles and many mountains to explore. There are several hiking trails, both long and short, and the Hatchers Pass Lodge offers a great place to warm up with a hot meal. You'll feel so at home that you may even rent one of their cabins.
The old mining village that is now abandoned has beautifully preserved buildings and mining equipment to get a close-up look of what life was like for the minors in that era. My dog and I both enjoy sitting on a hillside and watching the ground squirrels scurry on the open terrain from one hole in the ground to another.
Big Lake is such a large body of water that can be explored in so many ways. In the summer months, you can find people boating, kayaking, tubing, or racing their jet skis. If you don't have something to explore the lake with you can visit Big Lake Boat Rentals to find the toy that is right for your adventure.
Centrally located on a floating dock is a small coffee shop. You can boat right up to the window like you would for drive-through or tie up and sit on the dock while enjoying an iced coffee in the summer fun. If you prefer a different sort of beverage the Islander Bar & Grill is just across the water from the floating coffee shop. Dock up, head inside, grab a drink, and go back out onto the lawn and enjoy.
Everyone defines relaxation a little differently and Wasilla has a diverse list of activities to help you unwind from the busy schedule Alaskan vacations often adhere to.
Enjoy 18 holes of golf at the Settlers Bay Golf Course with your friends and then banter with your buddies about who had the best score over drinks and dinner at the lodge. The building's atmosphere is welcoming and offers fine dining. When you sit out on the deck you get beautiful views of the ocean and the Chugach Mountain range.
If you want to taste beer brewed in Alaska you can taste them all at the Matanuska Brewing Company. Don't forget to check out the monthly beer of choice that may not be available in liquor stores yet!
Do you prefer wine over microbrews? No problem. The Grape Tap has an extensive wine list and unique atmosphere. From the roadside, you wouldn't guess that this humble home is actually a fine dining establishment with a rich wine cellar.