Few places in the world compare to Alaska when it comes to majestic grandeur and rugged, awe-inspiring beauty. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing cruise experience, a thrilling glacial adventure or even train travel through untamed wilderness, an Alaska vacation is sure to be unforgettable.
Get acquainted with the state’s largest city, Anchorage, known as the City of Lights and Flowers. There’s plenty to do and see here, as Anchorage is host to a variety of museums, parks and recreational facilities. Explore the Anchorage Museum, see the large, busy floatplane base at Lake Hood or visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about the distinct culture and traditions of Alaska’s first people. Downtown, shop for souvenirs, peruse native art galleries or enjoy ocean views along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Nestled in the state’s interior and straddling the Chena River is Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-largest city. Try your luck panning for gold at the El Dorado Gold Mine, browse artifacts at Pioneer Park’s replicated native village or spend time exploring the Fairbanks Museum. Get firsthand knowledge about Athabascan native culture during a stop on a stern-wheeler cruise along the Chena and Tanana Rivers.
Admire stunning backcountry en route to Denali National Park, where grizzly bears, moose, elk, caribou, wolves and many species of birds reside. However, the park’s main attraction is impressive Denali, North America’s highest mountain peak, which stands at an astounding 20,320 feet (6,194 meters). Amid the pristine alpine beauty, visitors can hike the trails, take a float trip down the Nenana River or enjoy a helicopter ride over the glaciers.
On a scenic cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage, travel through glacier-carved fjords and past a maze of bays. Keep your cameras handy for spouting whales, soaring eagles and other wildlife. A stop in the pretty capital city of Juneau is a must for close encounters with nature and astonishing views of Mendenhall Glacier. Walk on the sprawling Juneau Icefield (the fifth-largest ice field in the Western Hemisphere), stroll narrow streets to browse rustic shops or ascend Mount Roberts by gondola for views of the harbor and mountains.
West of Juneau in the Alaska panhandle is the marine wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve where magnificent glaciers, looming snowcapped mountains, abundant wildlife and miles of unspoiled coastline coexist. Behold glacier calving when massive blocks of ice crash into the ocean accompanied by a thunderous sound, but don’t be surprised to see whales, harbor seals, sea lions and dolphins swimming unperturbed in the icy waters. Within the park’s protected borders, spot bears, moose, mountain goats, Dall sheep and a great variety of birds, including puffins.
Tracy Arm is another wonder of nature with 1,500-foot-high vertical cliffs and hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the sides of this fjord. You’re sure to catch sight of lounging seals. The idyllic port city of Valdez is encircled by soaring snow-topped mountains and sometimes is referred to as the Switzerland of Alaska. Hike to scenic Bridal Veil and Horsetail waterfalls, see impressive Worthington Glacier or take a kayak tour to Shoup Glacier. On a cruising excursion through Prince William Sound, keep your eyes open for harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters, bald eagles and even 40-ton humpback whales.
Known as the Salmon Capital of the World, Ketchikan is a popular port stop located on Revillagigedo Island. Home to the world’s largest collection of totem poles, Ketchikan is steeped in Native Alaskan culture. Watch local totem carvers at work at Saxman Native Village, catch a performance of traditional Tlingit and Haida dances or explore Creek Street’s art galleries and quaint boutiques.
The city of Seward is flanked by a stunning mountain backdrop. From here, you can enjoy a boat tour around Kenai Fjords National Park, where you’ll view marine wildlife and glaciers. Hike up Exit Glacier to the Harding Icefield, ride on a dog sled or take a flight over Kenai Peninsula for gorgeous vistas of sculpted icebergs. Charming Homer sits on the shore of Kachemak Bay on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula, with its most distinguishing feature being the 4.5-mile-long Homer Spit. Homer has long been called the halibut fishing capital of the world, so sport and commercial fishing are a big part of its economy, but there’s also a winery and breweries in town.
Explore historic Skagway, gateway to the Klondike Gold Fields and home of the famed Chilkoot Trail. Ride back in time on the exciting White Pass & Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway that was built in 1898 to take miners over treacherous terrain to the faraway gold fields. Learn more about the gold rush days during a visit to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.