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Alaska

Alaska

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Broad but very distinct appeal: Authentic types like cruising and tours-Venturesome types enjoy outdoor adventure

Did You Know…?

  • Alaska has more active glaciers (100,000) than the rest of the inhabited world.
  • The state sport is dog mushing.
  • The largest U.S. city by area is Juneau, with 3,108 square miles.
  • The state’s lowest recorded temperature was -80 at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.
  • Alaska has 3 million lakes and more coastline (47,300 miles) than the entire lower 48.

Folly indeed!

Alaska was called Seward’s Folly when U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward agreed to purchase Russian America for $7.2 million in 1867.
The critics were dead wrong. The 49th state provides many and valuable resources, including an unspoiled and breathtakingly beautiful natural environment that enchants visitors worldwide.

There’s plenty for those who crave an adrenaline rush. The state — with its bays, glaciers, rivers, mountains, wildernesses, wildlife — seems made for adventurous travelers. However, even the least venturesome love the beauty, clean environment and friendly locals.

Unlike other choices, America’s northernmost state offers no sandy beaches, a cold climate and little in the way of luxury. Nevertheless, visitors say the experience — of largely untouched nature, distance from home and limited human contact — helps them get their lives into better perspective.

Much of that inner satisfaction comes even as visitors pursue many interests. Active vacationers exult about fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain climbing and skiing. But the list goes on: kayaking, bear watching, camping, trekking on a glacier — or traveling on the ice by dogsled.

Others, including those at the center of the personality scale, find plenty to occupy their time in cities, towns and national parks. Indeed, just getting to and from many attractive spots in the largest state requires something of the adventurer’s soul. Flightseeing — sightseeing by air — is a distinctively Alaskan solution to the logistical challenges, plus a way to grasp the size and grandeur of the place.

The more cautious traveler may feel overwhelmed by this big, vigorous and sometimes cold young state, but they, too, appreciate the scenic beauty, and they can see it in more passive ways aboard dome-covered trains traveling the countryside or comfortable cruise liners in the Inside Passage. These cautious visitors are drawn to the state’s history and to a place that seems like a throwback to earlier times in the lower 48.

Alaskans are welcoming, and — while winters can be dark and cold and the mosquitoes numerous on still summer nights — the weather gets favorable reviews from those who like the crispness in the spring and fall. Besides, it’s a great place to eat salmon.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Organized bear watching is an option in several parks and sanctuaries, often involving access by charter aircraft, floatplane or boat, camping out and visitor permits (with a maximum number of permits issued in each summer season). The most adventurous of all would be polar bear trips departing from Barrow or Kaktovik.
  • Mush the dogs yourself. Operators offer tours ranging from half-hour dogsled rides to weeklong excursions into remote areas, and you are in charge.
  • Go fishing in a state that claims 386 species of fish including five kinds of salmon. Sportfishing can involve chartering a boat or flying into a remote area; it can involve luxury fishing lodges or fish camps. (It definitely requires knowledge of state fishing regulations).
  • Stay at the Chena Hot Springs Resort and ask to stay in one of the four rooms that are made of ice. By blowing REALLY cold air on metal walls, the place keeps its ice and operates on a year-round basis.
  • Rent a plane with a good bush pilot and flightsee over distant areas of the Great Land.
  • A number of native villages offer packages to their remote communities where you can sample local foods, watch arts-and-crafts demonstrations and learn more about Alaska’s first inhabitants.

Things to do for Centrics

  • From Skagway, take a tour along the White Pass and Yukon Route, a Gold Rush era narrow-gauge railroad linking Skagway to Whitehorse in the Yukon. Today, visitors enjoy narrated excursions in traditional parlor cars.
  • Take a ranger-guided walking tour through the restored buildings of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway.
  • Attend the Moose Dropping Festival in Talkeetna. Shellacked moose nuggets are dropped (their second dropping, as it were) from a balloon onto revelers below; also on offer are souvenirs like Moose Poop Earrings and Gourmet Poopon Mooseturd plus the Mountain Mother Contest.
  • For a fishing experience without chartered transport and overnight camps, try your luck bringing in salmon on Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage.
  • Ask your concierges or guides about your chances of seeing an Eskimo blanket toss. (The blanket toss originated as a way to raise a hunter in the air for a better view of faraway game.)
  • To see the eagles in the wild, go to Haines where, each October, the birds flock to the nearby Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Eagles come for the late run of salmon and tourists come with their cameras.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend the amusing, educational, corny but well-done Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan. It pits professional lumbermen against one another in various competitions based on the lumberjack’s duties. Members of the audience may then be asked to compete, after a fashion.
  • In Sitka, visit the Alaskan Raptor Center, a bald eagle hospital and educational center.
  • Take the tram to the top of Mount Roberts in Juneau for a look at the landscape.  Take tours of the McCauley Salmon Hatchery and the historic Alaska Juneau Gold Mine.
  • Join a walking tour of Fort William H. Seward in Haines, now a center for native arts, and see a performance of the Chilkat Indian Dancers,
  • Take a whale watching tour.
  • In Fairbanks, visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North, where you can see musk ox, an ice-age survivor, and reindeer at the university’s Large Animal Research Station.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Alaska Travel Industry Association at www.travelalaska.com and, to find a travel agent who is an Alaska Certified Expert, go to https://www.travelalaska.com/Planning/ACESearch.aspx