Alaska's Playground: The Kenai Peninsula
The calving glaciers, shimmering waters and rugged mountains of the Kenai Peninsula are stunning. Discover the homesteading history and wildlife of “Alaska’s Playground.”
Rating (4.33)
Program No. 22671RJ
8 days
Starts at
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8 days
7 nights
18 meals
7 B 5 L 6 D
Getting There
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Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Anchorage, AK
Westmark Anchorage Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, visit the Road Scholar table outside our meeting room to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: In our private meeting room at the hotel with your fellow Road Scholars, we will have a plated meal including a house salad, entrée, and chef’s choice of dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes. We will also discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. All transfers and transportation during the program will be provided via motorcoach. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in available activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Anchorage Museum, To Soldotna, Conservation Center
Soldotna, AK
Aspen Hotel Soldotna

Activity note: Transfer is about 50 miles, taking approximately 1 hour and a 1/2 to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center; and about 100 miles, taking approximately 2 hours to Soldotna. Walk approximately 1/2 mile on Anchorage sidewalks.

Breakfast: In the hotel’s restaurant, we’ll use restaurant vouchers for a breakfast to include two eggs, breakfast potatoes, breakfast meats, toast, plus coffee, tea or juice, and water.

Morning: We will gather in the hotel lobby to check out and store our luggage before walking approximately 3 blocks to the Anchorage Museum for a self-led exploration. The Anchorage Museum's focus is on the art, history, ethnography, ecology and science of Alaska. The upper floors have displays of clothing and everyday pieces made by the various tribes of Native Alaskans. Following our visit, we will have some time to explore town independently, or to purchase any sundries needed for the week. Our Road Scholar Group Leader will provide you with suggestions on nearby (within walking distance) attractions.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Afternoon: At a predetermined time, we will gather at the hotel to meet our motorcoach and begin our travels with expert commentary en route to Soldotna, where we will spend the majority of our nights on the Kenai Peninsula. Soldotna is located along the Kenai River and is a popular vacationing spot for Alaskans. Our commentary will cover the settlement of Anchorage, the 1964 Earthquake, Mining, Gas and Oil Discovery in Alaska. We will travel just over 3 hours total to Soldotna with a stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for a narrated fieldtrip. The center cares for hundreds of displaced animals each year to rehabilitate them for return to the wild. They often have animals such as moose, deer, bison and elk in their care. Back on the coach we will drive an additional 2 hours to arrive in Soldotna late afternoon. We will check into the hotel and have an hour prior to heading to dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, order an entrée from a select menu, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure to continue enjoying the company of your new Road Scholar friends.

Old Kenai Cabins, Russian Orthodox Church, Homestead Museum
Soldotna, AK
Aspen Hotel Soldotna

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile throughout the day on city sidewalks and rough, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a buffet including fresh Belgian waffles, bagels & cream cheese, English muffins, hot oatmeal, cold cereal, milk, coffee, tea and juice.

Morning: Departing from the hotel via motorcoach, our instructors will join us as we drive to Kenai and make our first stop at the Kenai Visitor and Cultural for a self-led visit through its displays. This will provide us with historical information on the Kenai area. That will be followed by a walk with our instructors through the old Kenai settlement, concentrating on the Russian influence in the area with the opportunity to visit some of the historical homes. We will then visit Kenai's Russian Orthodox Church, built in 1895 to replace the original church, which was built in 1849 and dedicated as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. The parish house was built in 1887 and is currently the oldest standing building in the Cook Inlet region.

Lunch: At the Kenai Senior Center, we’ll stop for a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, water. As we share our meal with local seniors, our Road Scholar instructors will suggest topics for discussion enabling us to have interesting table-time conversations.

Afternoon: This afternoon we will head back to Soldotna to the Homestead Museum. Soldotna's homesteaders arrived in 1947. The museum grounds include some of the early homestead cabins. We'll see handmade utensils, pioneer objects and Alaska native artifacts accompanied by our local expert whose family were early homesteaders. We'll return to the hotel for a photo presentation on homesteading led by our instructors, followed by some free time to explore Soldotna on your own. Our Group Leader will provide you with some ideas on which sites you might want to visit.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure to explore on your own or rest and relax for our busy day tomorrow.

Kenai Wildlife Refuge, Gaede-80 Homestead
Soldotna, AK
Aspen Hotel Soldotna

Activity note: Hike in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge approximately 1/4 mile on a combination of paved pathways and rough, uneven terrain.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will ride to the Kenai Wildlife Visitor’s Center, located just outside of Soldotna. The refuge center's mission is to conserve and protect the diversity of fish and wildlife in their natural habitats. This includes moose, bears, mountain goats, Dall sheep, wolves and salmon, plus waterfowl and other migratory and non-migratory birds. We'll explore the exhibits as a group, enjoy a movie about the refuge and have the opportunity to experience a local spruce forest with a short hike.

Lunch: At the Soldotna Senior Center, we will have a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, water. As we eat, our instructor will show a short film and lead a presentation open to any who wish to attend – including any local seniors eating lunch – about the local area and early life in the Kenai Peninsula.

Afternoon: After lunch we will ride to a working homestead, the Gaede-80 Homestead, which is the family homestead of our Road Scholar instructors. We will learn about the homesteading process, including cabin-building and house construction. We will also hear about the Gaede homestead's experiences during the 1964 earthquake, the peculiarities of the Gaede airstrip, Gaede plane crashes on the homestead, and Alaska aviation. We'll then return to the hotel with some time to prepare for dinner.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a catered dinner featuring hearty soups, salads, bread, plus coffee, tea, water and a special dessert treat.

Evening: At the hotel our Road Scholar instructors will offer a presentation on life in Alaska, a continuation of our lunchtime presentation on early life in the Kenai Peninsula, with additional discussions, slides, and a video on gold mining in Alaska.

Ninilchik & Homer
Soldotna, AK
Aspen Hotel Soldotna

Activity note: Drive to/from Homer, with a stop along the way in Ninilchik, takes approximately 2 hours one way. A brief stop at the Ninilchik Russian cemetery will include walking on uneven terrain. Presentation in Homer will take place on floating docks, which may cause unsteadiness.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will view the Russian-influenced community of Ninilchik overlooking the Cook Inlet. It is the oldest settlement on the Kenai Peninsula. The Russian-American Company established Ninilchik in the 1820s to house its employees who were unable to travel back to Russia due to age or health after completing their work with the company. Eventually others of Russian descent settled in the area and remained after Russia sold Alaska to the United States in 1867. The descendants of these early settlers make up the majority of its current population. We'll visit the Russian Orthodox church, built in 1901, and the town's cemetery to learn about the Russian culture that still survives. As we continue to Homer, our Road scholar instructors will provide commentary on topics of interest such as volcanoes, marine life, fishing, and flora of the area. Homer is situated on Kachemak Bay with an incredible panoramic view of mountains, snowy peaks, and glaciers. We'll travel down the Homer Spit, a long strip of land that stretches into the bay to the town docks for a presentation by the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies. Their mission is to bring the coastal ecology to everyone! Learn about sea life in the bay through their presentation on creatures of the dock. We’ll then get down to the docks to see and handle some of these creatures.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, enjoy views of fishing boats and wildlife. Order from a select menu offering soups, salads, and sandwiches, plus coffee, tea (hot/iced), water.

Afternoon: After lunch we'll stay in town for a visit to the Pratt Museum for a self-led exploration, including short videos and exhibits on the Kachemak Bay region of Alaska. Exhibits focus on art, natural history, Native cultures, homesteading, fishing and marine ecology. The adjacent Harrington Cabin reflects the life of early pioneers with hand tools, diaries, needlework and kitchen supplies. Outside the house is a small garden with a variety of produce, staples of the early settlers. We will then board our motorcoach to travel to the Norman Lowell Gallery, near Anchor Point, to find fine art tucked away in an unassuming location. Artist Norman Lowell came to Alaska over 50 years ago to paint the 'wild north.' The gallery, built on his old homestead, now exhibits over 300 pieces in various mediums and also offers an excellent opportunity to see a wilderness homestead. Following our visit here, we will return to Soldotna.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a salad and entree, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At your leisure.

Alaska SeaLife Center, Seavey Ididaride
Seward, AK
Breeze Inn

Activity note: Drive is about 100 miles to visit the Seavey Iditarod Racing Team's facility. Dog sled ride for approximately 2 miles on summer “sleds.”

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Checking out of the hotel, we will ride across the Kenai Peninsula for our transfer to Seward. Upon arrival we will visit the Alaska SeaLife Center. This public aquarium is Alaska's only permanent marine mammal rehabilitation facility, and is located on the shores of Resurrection Bay. SeaLife Center staff will provide an educational talk.

Lunch: We will take a lunch break at the SeaLife center to enjoy boxed lunches that will include sandwiches, chips, a hearty cookie, and a beverage.

Afternoon: Following lunch, we will continue exploring the Alaska SeaLife Center with an expert-led Behind-the-Scenes visit through the facility. This is followed by a self-guided exploration of exhibits. After our visit, we will continue to the Seavey Iditarod Racing Team's facility. Here we will take a thrilling, 2-mile dog sled ride on their summer "sleds," offering a chance to feel the power of the dogs as they pull us along. Then we'll visit with a member of the team to learn about the trials of this demanding race and meet some of the puppies in training! After our visit we'll return to Seward via a short coach ride and check into our hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will have a plated meal including salads, an entrée, and more, plus coffee, tea, water.

Evening: At leisure.

To Anchorage, 26 Glacier Boat Ride
Anchorage, AK
Westmark Anchorage Hotel

Activity note: Drive is about 60 miles to Whittier; about 60 miles to Anchorage. Ramp aboard the ship may be steep depending on the tide; the vessel’s staff will be available for assistance.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will have a buffet including eggs, breakfast meats, pancakes, and more, plus coffee, tea, juice, water.

Morning: We'll have a relaxing morning, checking out of the hotel and departing around 9:30 a.m. We'll travel via coach to Whittier, arriving at the Whittier Tunnel in time for the 11:30 a.m. tunnel access time. The tunnel is the world's longest highway tunnel. It provides vehicle access to Whittier, AK in Prince William Sound. Once we arrive in Whittier, we will board a 137-foot high-speed catamaran for a cruise into the sound. We will sail into Passage Canal towards Egg Rocks or Perry Island in search of migratory Stellar sea lions with commentary from a park ranger.

Lunch: Aboard the vessel, we will have a warm meal with dessert, plus coffee, tea, water.

Afternoon: We will continue sailing into scenic Esther Passage, where only small ships can navigate the waterway. High mountains protect this narrow channel from rough seas and winds. We may have the opportunity to see bald eagles, black bears, whales, sea lions, harbor seals, or sea otters and a variety of birds in this narrow passage. From here we will venture into College Fjord, where the vessel turns north for a panoramic view of all the glaciers named after the Eastern Colleges during the Harriman Expedition. Next, we'll cruise towards Surprise Glacier and Barry Arm, located in Harriman Fjord. We'll travel through ice filled waters up to the front of the glacier to watch for glacier calving. Although this happens only occasionally, it is quite a sight to see a chunk of ice fall into the water! On our return we will visit a kittiwake bird rookery and then return to Whittier. Back on dry land, we will make our way to Anchorage and our hotel for the night.

Dinner: En-route to Anchorage we'll stop for a dinner to include a salad, an entrée, and coffee, tea, and water.

Evening: We will arrive at the hotel in Anchorage and check in.

Wrap Up, Program Concludes
Anchorage, AK

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11 a.m.

Breakfast: Hotel vouchers.

Morning: We will meet our Group Leader for a program wrap up, reflecting on our exploration of the Kenai peninsula and provide some time for farewells. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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