Everybody enjoys free things. When it comes to traveling, however, the word ‘free’ seems to disappear from the English language. Going on vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but the constant swiping of debit cards can sometimes get in the way.
If you’re looking for things to do in Seward, Alaska, give your wallet a break with these five free ways to spend your time.
A visit to Seward obviously can’t be entirely free, but supplementing your ‘big-ticket items’ with some smaller activities is a great way to take full advantage of your time spent in town (without having to break open your piggy bank).
As a local in Seward, these are things that I am recommending to visitors all the time.
Whether they just need a way to burn some time before their boat tour or want to squeeze in one last thing before leaving Seward, this list of free things to do in Seward has something for everyone.
5 Free Things to Do in Seward, Alaska
1. Go for a walk at the Waterfront Park.
Location: Downtown Seward
Duration: 1 – 2 hours
Seward’s Waterfront Park is a fantastic place to go for a relaxing stroll. The park begins just past the Small Boat Harbor and stretches south all the way to the end of town.
The park occupies nearly the entire east side of Seward, right along the rocky shores of Resurrection Bay.
Within the boundaries of the Waterfront Park, there are a handful of distinct campgrounds that welcome RVs, as well as a section for tent camping.
In the summertime, the whole park comes to life. As you walk the paved path found along the whole park, you will pass groups of people having campfires with loved ones, dogs eager to say hello, and cool RVs.
If you’d rather sit and chill while soaking in the views, there are a number of benches along the path too. The benches face east towards the Kenai Mountains, with the towering Mount Alice standing most prominent.
Enjoy access to the public shores of Resurrection Bay
As you walk the Waterfront Park path, keep an eye out for wildlife in the Bay. There have been a few occasions where I have seen humpbacks only 100 feet out into Resurrection Bay. It is a special sight indeed.
For those who are wanting to get a little more up close and personal with the ocean, feel free to venture towards the water onto the rocky beach. It can be quite fun to explore the shore.
But pay close attention to where you’re stepping! The rocks can be incredibly slippery, and nobody needs to get injured on their vacation.
As you carefully peruse the beach, you may spot seashells, washed-up jellyfish, and other interesting sights.
Visiting the Waterfront Park in the evening may also give you the opportunity to watch boats gently floating towards the harbor. You will get to see all kinds of ships, from fishing boats to tour boats.
Don’t be surprised if you feel compelled to go on a boat tour of your own afterward.
2. Take a self-guided art tour of Seward’s murals
Location: All over town!
Duration: Anywhere from an hour to a whole day can be spent seeking out Seward’s murals.
The Mural Capital of Alaska
Upon the completion of Seward’s 12th mural in 2008, the town was designated as the “mural capital of Alaska”. This is a designation that many Seward residents take pride in, including myself.
The tradition of covering this small town with unique works of art began in 1999 with Jennifer Headtke bringing together a group of enthusiastic creators.
That small group of people eventually took the shape of The Seward Mural Society, an arm of the non-profit Seward Arts Council. The Seward Mural Society is still to thank for Seward’s growth as a cultural icon within the state of Alaska.
As Jennifer Headtke once said, “Art is truly an international language.” This small oceanside city has a story to tell, and that story is, I believe, most effectively told through art.
Each mural is a window through which visitors can glimpse the soul of the city.
How to Plan Your Mural Tour
While there were only 12 murals back in 2008, there are now triple as many to seek out.
I will not be going into the specifics of finding each and every mural throughout Seward in this article, but I will point you towards resources that will greatly aid you on your art walk.
The first way to plan out your tour would be to visit the Seward Mural Society website. The website has a gallery page full of murals, each with a brief written history and its location.
There is also an interactive map that allows you to select a specific mural and visually understand where it is located.
This is a great resource for planning out which murals you would like to see, while also getting to learn some of the history behind the Seward Mural Society and its devoted muralists.
Another great resource to learn about Seward’s murals is actually a paperback book! Can you believe it?! Real print!
Framed By Sea & Sky: Community art in Seward, mural capital of Alaska by Jacquelin Ruth Benson Pels is a journey through the heart and soul of Seward.
Full of thoughtful prose and eye-catching images that show perspectives not often appreciated in daily life, this book is a true gem.
As a local of Seward for the past two years, I will say that this book has greatly deepened my love for our small community.
Reading the stories behind these spectacular murals, with Jackie Pel’s gentle telling, instills calm and leaves me full of admiration for the little things.
For those looking for a deep-cut into Seward’s community consciousness, I encourage you to take a look at this book.
The publication is equally as useful for planning a trot around town in search of murals, but make sure to slow down and cherish the people and stories that are attached to the art.
3. Take a hike, bucko!
Location: Between the Small Boat Harbor and Downtown
Duration: 1 – 4 hours
In my opinion, the best way to spend time in the Seward area, without spending money, is to explore its many hiking trails.
For a large portion of Seward’s population, spending time outside, enjoying the mountains that we call home, is our primary activity. Seward is an active town that holds endless options for enjoying the outdoors.
Regardless of your ability level, there is a trail waiting for you with open arms (branches?).
The Two Lakes Trail
The Two Lakes Trail is a perfect trail for people who want a little taste of Seward’s temperate rainforests without committing to anything too long or strenuous.
The trailhead is located directly behind an AVTEC building near the intersection of Second Avenue and B Street. Typing in ‘Two Lakes Trail’ on AllTrails will allow you to map there with ease. There is a good amount of space to park.
The trail will remain relatively flat the entire time as it leads around a couple of small lakes, aptly named First Lake and Second Lake. The tree coverage along the trail is near-constant, but if you’re willing to explore a bit you may find a nice lookout point.
Complete the entire 1-ish mile loop to get back to the start of the trail.
Even though this trail barely leaves the safety of the city, it is still a good idea to carry bear spray on your person when venturing onto Alaska’s trails.
A friend of mine once upon a time ran into a black bear on the Two Lakes Trail. He barely spotted it in time. Always hike with caution in bear territory.
If you are willing to walk just a tad more, there is a beautiful cascading waterfall feature located to the south of the main loop trail. Walk past the pavilion and tables to hop on a short trail, and you will soon hear the soft rumbling of the waterfall.
If you do check out the waterfall, be sure to not trespass on other people’s property! Head back the way you came once you have enjoyed the waterfall, rather than continuing to walk towards the house that sits very close by.
The Mount Marathon Trail (Jeep Trail to Skyline Trail)
If the Two Lakes Trail isn’t quite enough to fill up your satisfaction meter, just a hop and a skip away rests the trailhead for the Mount Marathon Jeep Trail. The trailhead sits at the corner of First Avenue and Monroe Street.
Starting at the Jeep Trail and meeting up with the Skyline Trail will take you directly to the Mount Marathon Bowl: a pristine area with rolling hills, a crystal clear stream, and spectacular views of the city below.
Coming in at close to 4 miles roundtrip and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain, this trail is much more challenging than Two Lakes.
The initial climb below the tree line is pretty strenuous. Once out of the trees, the trail levels out for a bit, kindly giving your legs a break.
The last push to the Marathon Bowl picks up in steepness again, but with each passing step, the views become grander.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Mount Marathon Trail, as well as other trails, I went into greater detail in my 3 of the Best Hikes Near Seward, Alaska article. Check it out!
4. Visit Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park
Location: About 8 miles out of town via Herman Leirer Rd.
Duration: 2 – 8 hours
Perhaps the most popular destination for those visiting Seward is Exit Glacier. Within Kenai Fjords National Park, the Exit Glacier area is the only part accessible by car.
There are a couple of options for experiencing the glacier, including walking down to the Outwash Plain, hiking up to the Glacier Overlook, or even trekking all the way up to the Harding Icefield.
Kenai Fjords is a free National Park, in part thanks to the residents of the area.
During talks to designate the land as a National Park, Alaskans were hesitant. They certainly wouldn’t let the government do whatever they wanted to, so they came up with terms.
One of those terms was for entry into Kenai Fjords National Park to be completely free. This is how the park remains today.
There is not even a booth at the entrance of the park; instead, a welcome sign lets you know that you’re within park boundaries.
You could spend an hour or more just driving down Herman Leirer Road towards Exit Glacier, pulling over at scenic spots. The Resurrection River flows alongside the road, creating a picture-worthy scene a thousand times over.
To learn about Kenai Fjords National Park and Exit Glacier, head over to our “Local’s Guide to Kenai Fjords National Park“.
5. Visit the Seward Library & Museum
Duration: 30 min – 2 hours
If you’re needing to kill a bit of time in the downtown area, give the Seward Community Library a visit. The upstairs features the library, while the downstairs has community rooms and a museum documenting the history of Seward.
Not everyone finds enjoyment out of browsing through books, but if you do, the Seward Library has a pretty good selection for a town of this size.
First off, the library building itself is a piece of art. If you’re going on a tour of Seward’s murals, you need to check the library off your list.
The blue, purple, and green siding takes the appearance of scales, shimmering in the sunlight. It is a truly unique and beautiful building.
Make sure to take a look at the photos and mural that are displayed on the outer walls of the library too. They include a picture of Benny Benson, the young boy who designed the Alaska state flag, as well as a photo of Seward from the early 1900s.
The section for publications about Alaska offers plenty of interesting books to skim through. Take some time to brush up on your Alaska history, or simply look at some pretty pictures. ‘When in Alaska’, am I right?
Sidenote: The view from the second story of the library might just be the best view from a library ever.
I’ve taken a bit of liberty by including the Museum in this list since it is not technically free. If you are wanting to check out the museum, the price of admission is $5 per person.
This is the summer rate, but in the winter it is free. Since the museum is a part of the free library, it seemed worth it to include. (Do note that children ages 12 and under are free).
The Seward Museum is the place to be if you’re interested in learning about the history of our small city.
Besides a large number of artifacts and awards on display throughout the museum, they also show short films. The two films currently being shown at the museum are Iditarod National Historic Trail: A History and Waves Over Seward: The Good Friday Earthquake.
Each film lasts about 25 minutes, and they are shown back-to-back. The Seward Museum politely requests a small donation of $5 if you’d like to watch these films. That donation will be split between the organizations that made the films possible.
Overall, gaining a greater appreciation for Seward’s story, all for the price of a cup of coffee, is a great way to spend some of your time in our enthusiastic community.
Josiah B gained invaluable experience while living on the road with his family, during which time he felt overcome with the desire to continue exploring. That search landed him in Seward, Alaska, where he currently resides. His love for the outdoors is welcome with open arms in the Last Frontier, and with an endless amount of hiking and backpacking to be done, he’s eager to share the best that Alaska has to offer.