Things to Do with Family in Kenai, Alaska

Kids holding salmon on the Kenai River

Taking a family trip to Alaska is a fantastic way to experience the great outdoors and create unforgettable memories with your loved ones. The Kenai Peninsula is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, from towering glaciers and stunning coastlines to vast national parks and pristine forests. Whether you’re traveling with young children or teenagers, we know you’re counting on family-friendly activities and attractions. 

Kenai and its surrounding areas are one of the most family-friendly places in Alaska. Here, you’ll be able to find something for everyone year-round.


Do Some Flightseeing

Flightseeing is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that offers an unforgettable way for families to see Alaska’s natural wonders together. Whether you and the kids are interested in a thrilling adventure or a peaceful sightseeing experience, flightseeing around Kenai, Alaska is an amazing way to take in the unique beauty of this region. From the air, you and your family will have a chance to see the Kenai Peninsula from a new perspective. From this vantage point, you’ll have a breathtaking view of stunning landscapes, various wildlife such as moose, bears, and eagles, crystal-clear lakes, volcanoes, and massive glaciers.

A flightseeing tour typically lasts between one to two hours and can be customized to suit individual preferences. Kenai Aviation, operating on the Kenai Municipal Airport as well as other flightseeing tour operators offer a variety of flightseeing opportunities for families to explore the beauty of the Kenai Peninsula. 

A wide stream flows timidly under the view of distant mountains in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.


Plan a Trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

A trip to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at any age is guaranteed to be a memorable experience. As soon as you arrive, the stunning natural beauty of the area will beckon the inner wildlife enthusiast and explorer in you to take in all this area has to offer. Whether your goal is adventure or relaxation, there’s simply no shortage of something for everyone here.  Come for a day, a weekend, or a week-plus to enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing, fishing, swimming, meditation, exploration, and so much more. You and your family are guaranteed to find fun, peace, awe, and inspiration among the towering mountains, pristine lakes, and thick forests here. 

Hiking at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

The refuge features an abundance of trails, varying in length and difficulty. Two consistently popular trails here are the Skilak Lookout Trail and the Cottonwood Creek Trail. Both of these trails showcase the beauty and diversity of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and are must-do hikes for anyone visiting the area.

Skilak Lookout Trail is a challenging 6.5-mile trail that rewards hikers with stunning panoramic views of Skilak Lake and the surrounding mountains. The trail climbs steeply through a forested area before opening up to the lookout point for a truly breathtaking experience.

Skilak Lookout Trail has two trailheads. The Lower Skilak Lake Campground Trailhead is located at the Lower Skilak Lake Campground off Skilak Lake Road and provides the shortest and easiest route to the trail’s lookout. The Upper Skilak Lake Campground Trailhead is located at the Upper Skilak Lake Campground, which is about 4.5 miles further down Skilak Lake Road from the Lower Skilak Lake Campground. While it’s further from the lookout, the Upper trail offers a more gradual ascent and is slightly longer than the Lower Skilak Lake trailhead. Both trailheads have parking, and visitors can choose which one to use based on their preference for trail difficulty and distance.

The Cottonwood Creek Trail is a moderate 4.8-mile round-trip hike that follows a creek through lush forests, meadows, and wetlands. This trail offers hikers the chance to see a variety of wildlife, including moose, bears, and beavers, as well as a stunning waterfall. The trail also offers several options for shorter loops, making it a great choice for families with children or less-experienced hikers.

The Cottonwood Creek Trail has two trailheads. The first trailhead is located at the end of Ski Hill Road in Cooper Landing, which is approximately 10 miles east of the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula. The second trailhead is located on the Russian River Campground Road, which is about 3 miles west of the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula. Visitors can turn onto the campground road from Sterling Highway and follow the signs to the trailhead, which is marked with a sign and offers parking. 

Staying in a Cabin at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Staying in a public-use cabin in the refuge is an exciting adventure and a great way to teach kids about local nature and wildlife, fishing, preservation, preparation, and more. The public-use cabins in the refuge are equipped with some basics such as bed frames, brooms, shovels, fire extinguishers, picnic tables, and an outhouse, but essentially serve as bare-bones shelters ready to be stocked. Many are also accessible in the winter.

Cabins that are easily accessible with kids include Kelly Lake Cabin, Engineer Lake Cabin, and Upper Ohmer Lake Cabin. Public use cabins

Kelly Lake Cabin is located on the secluded north shore of Kelly Lake. Enjoy the peaceful surroundings, wildlife viewing, fishing, and more while you stay in this rustic cabin in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. To access Kelly Lake Cabin, visitors can boat or hike in. From Kelly Lake Campground at mile 68.3 of the Sterling Highway, visitors can take the Seven Lakes Trail about a quarter mile to the cabin, which is open year-round.

The Engineer Lake Cabin is located about one mile from Engineer Lake Campground on the Seven Lakes Trail. This secluded getaway can be accessed by boat or hiking trail, and a stay here provides the perfect opportunity for a wide range of family-friendly activities including wildlife viewing, fishing, and more.

Upper Ohmer Lake Cabin is seasonally accessible for mobility-impaired visitors. Located .2 miles from mile marker 7.5 on Skilak Lake Road, this peaceful cabin offers plenty of wildlife viewing, fishing, sightseeing, and more.


Go Whale Watching

Kids absolutely love whale watching in the Cook Inlet near Kenai. Seeing a beluga whale can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity up close and personal guaranteeing an unforgettable experience and lasting memories for everyone involved. The best time to watch whales in Cook Inlet is typically from mid-May to early September. During this time, the waters of Cook Inlet are teeming with humpback whales, beluga whales, and orcas as they migrate to and from their feeding grounds. We recommend checking with local tour operators and experts for the most up-to-date information on the best time and locations, however, whale watching in Cook Inlet is guaranteed to appeal to all ages.

Fly fishing for Sockeye salmon in Kenai


Go Fishing

Kids absolutely love whale watching in the Cook Inlet near Kenai. Seeing a beluga whale can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity up close and personal guaranteeing an unforgettable experience and lasting memories for everyone involved. The best time to watch whales in Cook Inlet is typically from mid-May to early September. During this time, the waters of Cook Inlet are teeming with humpback whales, beluga whales, and orcas as they migrate to and from their feeding grounds. We recommend checking with local tour operators and experts for the most up-to-date information on the best time and locations, however, whale watching in Cook Inlet is guaranteed to appeal to all ages.

Visit the Kenai River Festival

The Kenai River Festival is a fun and educational event that offers plenty of activities for kids to enjoy and learn from.This annual event takes place in early June in Soldotna, just about 15 minutes south of Kenai. The festival features a variety of fun activities and plenty of entertainment for kids of all ages. Listen to live music, explore local food vendors, do arts and crafts, and visit a variety of educational exhibits. 

Kids can participate in the Kid’s Fishing Pond, where they can learn how to fish and catch rainbow trout. The pond is stocked with fish for the festival, and experienced guides are available to help kids learn the basics of fishing.

The festival also offers a variety of educational programs and presentations about the local wildlife and natural resources of the Kenai River. Here, kids of all ages can learn about the importance of conservation, local wildlife habitats, and the environment.

Girl and dog on Kenai Beach in the summer.


Head to the Beach

Kenai Beach is a beautiful and popular destination located in Kenai, Alaska. The beach stretches for several miles along the coast of Cook Inlet and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers.The beach is a great place for families to spend the day playing in the sand, building sandcastles, searching for agates, and flying kites. The water is often calm and shallow, making it a fun place for kids to swim and splash around. There are also plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing, with the possibility of seeing eagles, and other marine life along the shore. The beach also has picnic tables, grills, and fire pits, making it a great spot for a family barbecue or campfire. 

Kenai 4th of July Parade

See the Kenai 4th of July Parade

The Kenai 4th of July Parade is an annual event featuring a variety of floats, marching bands, and other community participants who showcase their patriotic spirit and creativity. Celebrating the 4th of July in Kenai typically begins in the morning and attracts thousands of spectators each year. In addition to the parade, this event features a range of family-friendly activities and events scheduled throughout the day, including live music, food vendors, face painting, games, inflatable play areas, and fireworks displays. 

Go Golfing at the Kenai Municipal Golf Course

The Kenai Golf Course is a favorite local destination year-round. Here, you’ll be transported to a world of pure golfing bliss, surrounded by Aaska’s pristine beauty.

The Kenai Golf Course features 18 challenging holes, but as you play your way through the course, you’ll have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of Alaska’s most majestic creatures, including moose, caribou, eagles, ducks, cranes, and maybe even a bear! Kenai Golf Course is a family-friendly establishment boasting full-service amenities and rental equipment to ensure that everyone can have a great time on their own unforgettable golfing adventure.

Kayaking in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge in Alaska


Go Kayaking

The Kenai River offers calm and shallow waters that are perfect for beginner kayakers. Paddlers can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding mountains, forests, glaciers, bald eagles, moose, and bears. Whether you are an experienced paddler or a beginner, kayaking on the Kenai River is a unique and unforgettable way to experience the natural beauty of the Kenai Peninsula.

The lower Kenai River, downstream from Skilak Lake, is known for its calm and gentle waters, making it an ideal location for novice paddlers. The lower Kenai River also offers opportunities for fishing, with the chance to catch species such as salmon, trout, and Dolly Varden. To get to the Lower Kenai for kayaking, head south from Kenai on the Sterling Highway, then turn onto Skilak Lake Road, which leads to the lake. The river can be accessed by boat or kayak launch points located at the campground and day-use areas on the lake. 

The Swanson River Canoe System is located on the Kenai Peninsula about 20 miles east of the city of Kenai, and covers an area of over 60,000 acres. With four interconnected lakes – Swanson, Swan, Echo, and Kelly – and over 70 miles of waterways to explore by canoe or kayak, you’ll find endless opportunities for paddling here. This system is located within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Swanson River Road, which can be accessed from the Sterling Highway.

The Swan Lake Canoe Trail is a 66-mile-long waterway located in the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska. Featuring serene lakes, cascading waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife such as moose, black bears, and bald eagles, Swan Lake Canoe Trail offers ample opportunities for paddling, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Getting to the Swan Lake Canoe Trail from Kenai requires a flight or a ferry to Ketchikan. From there, visitors can travel by car to the town of Klawock, which is located near the trailhead.

Aerial View of rafting on the Kenai River

Go Rafting on the Kenai River

River rafting is a fun family-friendly activity, and the challenges and excitement of navigating through rapids and currents can create unforgettable memories.

Rafting the Kenai River is an adventure for the whole family. The river is known for its stunning scenery, clear water, and abundant wildlife, including bald eagles, moose, and salmon. 

Cooper Landing, located about 45 miles east of Kenai, is the closest place to go rafting on the Kenai River with kids. Cooper Landing has several outfitters that offer guided rafting trips suitable for families with children of all ages. These trips typically cover calm stretches of the river with mild rapids, providing a fun and safe experience for everyone. Some outfitters also offer guided fishing trips and scenic float trips, providing visitors with a variety of ways to experience the beauty of the Kenai River.

Family in boat for the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby
Kenai Silver Salmon Derby


Do the Kenai Silver Salmon Derby

The Kenai Silver Salmon Derby is a must-attend event for fishing enthusiasts as well as curious beginners. With its breathtaking scenery and abundant salmon populations, the Kenai River simply provides an unforgettable experience for anglers of all skill levels. The derby is a family-friendly event with plenty of activities and events that kids can participate in, such as face painting, balloon animals, and other fun activities. It is a great way for families to bond and create lasting memories while enjoying the beauty of Alaska’s natural environment.

Attend the Kenai River Marathon

The Kenai River Marathon is a yearly event that attracts runners from around the world. The marathon features a challenging mix of gravel roads and dirt trail stretches, but this event also includes shorter distance races that children and families can participate in. 

Whether you and the kids want to participate in the 5K race at the Kenai River City Marathon or simply enjoy the festive atmosphere, food, and activities surrounding the event, the Kenai River Marathon is a great way for families to come together and enjoy the outdoors. 

Explore Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier is located in Seward, Alaska. Glaciers are fascinating natural wonders, and kids can explore their icy surfaces, peer into wonderous ice caves, and learn about how these permanent sheets of ice are formed and how they impact the environment. 

For kids interested in glaciers, Exit Glacier is well worth the 2-hour trip. Its well-maintained trails make Exit Glacier one of the most accessible glaciers in the state. As you hike up the trail, you’ll learn about the history and science of glaciers from sign posts along the way. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a close-up view of the glacier and its unique features, and kids can explore the ice caves including ice caves and crevasses. It’s a challenging but rewarding hike that provides a unique and unforgettable experience in the Alaskan wilderness.


Enjoy the Annual Pumpkin Festival

The pumpkin festival in Kenai is an annual fall event featuring a wide range of activities, including pumpkin carving, a pumpkin weigh-off competition, a scarecrow contest, live music, carnival games, and a variety of other family-friendly activities.

The Kenai Pumpkin Festival has become a beloved tradition in the community, drawing visitors from all over to celebrate the fall season and the harvest of one of the season’s most iconic symbols, the pumpkin. Locals and visitors particularly love the giant pumpkin weigh-off, where growers from around the region bring their biggest pumpkins to be weighed and judged. 

Visit the Kenai Fine Arts Center

For those who prefer indoor activities as winter begins to settle in the peninsula, we recommend a trip to the Kenai Fine Arts Center. The Kenai Fine Arts Center can be a fun experience for kids, particularly those who have an interest in art or enjoy creative activities. This non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting and supporting the arts in the Kenai Peninsula and features a gallery that showcases local and regional artists, providing a space for them to exhibit their work and connect with the community. In addition, you’ll find a variety of art classes and workshops for all ages and skill levels, including painting, drawing, ceramics, and more.

Take a Trip to The Kenai Extreme Fun Center

The Kenai Extreme Fun Center is a great place for families to spend an afternoon or evening together, as there is something for everyone to enjoy. The center is also a popular destination for birthday parties and other group events, because it offers a wide range of activities for people of all ages. Here, kids can ride go-karts, bumper cars, play laser tag, arcade games, and more.


Go See a Brown Bears Game

Head to Soldotna this November to catch a Kenai River Brown Bears game! The Brown Bears are known for their family-friendly entertainment, including in-game contests, giveaways, and appearances by the team mascot. 

This junior ice hockey team competes in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and has been a staple of the Kenai Peninsula community since 2007. The team plays its home games at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, where families can take in hours of thrilling excitement and fun during the season.

Ride a Fat Tire Bike on the Beach

Taking a fat tire bike to the beach is a truly thrilling and one-of-a-kind adventure. While the summer months draw crowds for fishing and water activities, the winter provides a serene and peaceful environment for visitors. The snow-covered beach offers a picturesque winter wonderland, and the quiet atmosphere is perfect for a relaxing stroll or an invigorating fat tire bike ride. 

Get Festive with Christmas Comes to Kenai

Christmas Comes to Kenai is Kenai’s annual holiday festival to celebrate wintertime with activities for people of all ages, including a parade, a tree lighting ceremony, and various live music performances. Here, children can enjoy visiting with Santa Claus, taking a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, and participating in holiday-themed games and activities. The festival also offers a great opportunity for families to shop for unique gifts and crafts from local vendors and businesses.


Go Ice Skating

Kenai has several indoor and outdoor ice skating rinks that are open to the public during the winter months. The outdoor rinks offer picturesque views of the surrounding snow-covered landscape, while the indoor rinks provide a warmer and more controlled environment for skating with the family. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skater, there are options available for all skill levels in Kenai, Alaska.

Kenai Multi-Purpose Facility: This is an indoor facility that offers ice skating and hockey. It has a regulation-sized ice rink and is open year-round.

Kenai City Park Ice Rink: This is an outdoor ice skating rink located in Kenai City Park. It is open during the winter months and is a popular spot for families and locals to enjoy ice skating.

Soldotna Regional Sports Complex: This is an indoor sports complex located in the nearby city of Soldotna. It offers ice skating and other activities such as hockey, curling, and ice fishing. It has a full-size ice rink and is open year-round.

Cross Country Skiing at the Kenai Municipal Golf Course


Go Cross-Country Skiing

Kenai has some of the best Nordic ski trails in the region, making it not only a popular destination for seasoned cross-country skiing enthusiasts but also providing plenty of opportunities for fun at any age. 

During the summer, the Kenai Golf Course boasts an 18-hole course with lush greens and plenty of natural scenery. But during the winter, the golf course transforms into a cross-country skiing complex that winds through towering trees, past expansive fairways, and scenic views. The Kenai Golf Course is a local’s favorite destination to get in some wintertime exercise. 

The Tsalteshi Trails in the heart of Kenai feature over 25 kilometers of groomed trails that are suitable for skiers of all skill levels. These trails wind through the beautiful boreal forest, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Kenai’s Nordic trails are a local favorite for parents and kids looking to explore Alaska’s natural beauty while enjoying a challenging and rewarding outdoor activity.

Visitors can also find several Nordic ski trails at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Many of these trails are suitable for beginner skiers, including children, and offer a chance to observe the Refuge’s wildlife up close. Families can enjoy trails that wind through snowy forests, across frozen lakes and over rolling hills in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. While it’s important to prepare accordingly by dressing warmly, bringing plenty of snacks and water, and taking breaks as needed, cross-country skiing in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is guaranteed to create unforgettable family memories.


Attend the Soldotna Winterfest

Get ready to shake off the winter blues and indulge in family fun and plenty of activities at the Soldotna Winterfest. Between snowshoeing, ice skating, snowman-building contests, and sled dog races, this event has it all! Winterfest can truly be enjoyed by kids and adults of all ages. This annual event features local musicians to add to the festivities, as well as plenty of local food vendors on-site to keep you fueled and energized.

Socialize with new friends and bond with family as you discover a new side of winter. Embrace the winter spirit and create lasting memories at the Soldotna Winterfest this year!

Go Dog Sledding

Dog sledding is an important part of Alaska’s history and culture. In addition to the plain excitement that dog sledding naturally provides, taking a dog sled tour is a great way to learn about sled dogs and their training, as well as the history and culture of dog sledding in Alaska. 

Dog sledding is an exciting way to experience the Kenai Peninsula’s winter landscape with kids. There are several tour companies in the area that offer guided dog sledding tours. Tours typically take place in scenic areas around Kenai, offering breathtaking views of the snowy landscape. 

While it takes some preparation, with the guidance of experienced tour guides, taking kids dog sledding around Kenai can create lasting memories for the whole family.