If you’re looking for an unforgettable destination that offers something for everyone, look no further than Alaska. With massive glaciers, vast mountain ranges, crystal-clear lakes, and diverse flora and fauna, the state provides the perfect backdrop for outdoor activities like hiking and fishing. With so much to see and do, it can be tough to know where to start. Here are some of the best places to visit in Alaska.
The state’s remote capital, Juneau, will make you feel the authentic Alaskan experience with its mountainous and glacier-studded terrain (accessible only by boat or plane). Denali National Park and Glacier Bay National Park are also fantastic options, the former being home to North America’s tallest peak (Denali/Mt. McKinley) and the latter boasting massive glaciers. All three provide their own unique experiences, like dog sledding, whitewater rafting, and whale watching (to name a few). Now that we have a glimpse of what awaits us at the Last Frontier, let’s go ahead and check out the rest of the best sights, tourist attractions, and things to do in Alaska.
A List of the Best Places to Visit and Things to Do in Alaska
1. Visit The Smallest National Forest (Adak)
Near the furthest tip of the Aleutian Island chain is Alaska’s tiniest ‘national forest’, Adak National Forest. It is so small that the signage says it all: “You are now entering and leaving the Adak National Forest.”
During WWII, a (Christmas) tree planting program was initiated between 1943 to 1945 to boost the troops’ morale on the site. Due to the harsh weather conditions, however, the program failed, and the signage was put up as a joke. Miraculously, around 33 pine trees survived to this day, clumped together like a large bush due to the climate.
Although it is not officially recognized as a national forest, it is a unique sight in Alaska definitely worth visiting. The local Aleuts decorate the whole forest each Christmas as a nod to its origins.
2. Visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center (Anchorage)
Opened in 1999, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a cultural institution dedicated to preserving and strengthening the cultural heritage of Alaska’s native groups. It is located a couple of miles northeast of Anchorage.
The Heritage Center houses several exhibits on the history, art, and traditions of the native groups of Alaska. The center also hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including dances, concerts, and workshops.
3. See the Burial Spirit Houses (Anchorage)
The native village of Eklutna in Anchorage is home to the colorful spirit houses, a combination of Russian Orthodox and Native Alaskan Athabascan tradition. It is located in the graveyard outside the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.
These tiny houses are painted by families in different colors and were said to provide a temporary dwelling place for the souls during the 40 days they are believed to linger in the world. A wooden three-bar Russian Orthodox cross is also placed in most of the spirit houses.
4. Hike Chugach State Park (Anchorage)
Chugach State Park is one of the best places to go hiking in Anchorage. The park has a variety of trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging climbs. And with nearly 500,000 acres of land, there’s plenty of room to explore.
Here are some of the best hikes in Chugach State Park:
- Eagle and Symphony Lakes Trail: This moderate hike offers stunning views of both Eagle and Symphony Lakes. The trail is about 12 miles long and should take around 4 to 5 hours to complete.
- Powerline Pass Trail: This challenging trail is only for experienced hikers. It runs along a powerline, so there are no views. However, it’s a great workout and the perfect way to get away from the crowds. The trail is about 11 miles long and can take up to 6 hours to finish.
- Bird Ridge Trail: Bird Ridge is one of the most popular trails in Chugach State Park. It’s known for its incredible views of Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountains. The trail is about 5 miles long and takes around 4 hours to complete.
5. Take in the Street Art (Anchorage)
You might not expect to find much street art in Anchorage, Alaska, but if you take a walk around downtown, you’ll be proven otherwise. The city is actually full of colorful murals, graffiti, and sculptures, all of which are made by local artists and depict the city’s history and culture. How many of them will you find?
6. See the World’s Largest Chocolate Waterfall (Anchorage)
Yes, you’ve read that right. Seemingly coming straight out of a sweet tooth’s dream, the Alaska Wild Berry Products factory in Anchorage is home to the world’s largest chocolate waterfall.
Made in 1994, this 20-foot waterfall churns out 3000 pounds of real chocolate cascading down authentic copper candy kettles and settling in a swirling chocolate pool at the bottom. As tempting as it may seem, however, you aren’t allowed to eat/drink from it. Fortunately, you can get yourself some delicious chocolate at the nearby candy counter. You can also watch the staff making delectable goodies in action by visiting one of their four kitchens.
9. See the Barrow Whale Bone Arch (Utqiagvik)
The Barrow Whale Bone Arch is a unique arch made from the jawbone of a bowhead whale in Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska. Believed to have been built during the late 19th century, it serves as a constant reminder of the town’s whaling history and tradition. As Utqiagvik is quite remote, you can only reach it by plane.
10. Check Out Igloo City (Cantwell)
Igloo City is one of the most popular attractions in Cantwell, Alaska, located along the George Parks Highway. Constructed during the 1970s by builder Leon Smith, it was supposed to be a four-story hotel shaped into a massive igloo. Unfortunately, the hotel was never fully finished and remains closed to this day. Still, this giant igloo has continued to fascinate and attract visitors worldwide.
11. Visit the Quirky Town of Chicken
Chicken is a small town 200 miles east of Fairbanks in Alaska best known for its gold mining history and is one of the last surviving gold rush towns. It was supposed to be called “Ptarmigan,” after the birds in the area of the same name. However, due to conflicts with the spelling, they finally agreed to name the town “Chicken” instead.
The town has an official population of 7, with the numbers going up to 100 or more during the summer due to miners and tourists. They also have four shops: a lively saloon, a general store, a cafe, and a liquor store. Due to the town’s remote location, there is no electricity and plumbing (the locals do have generators though). For answering nature’s call, they have a three-door outhouse named ‘Chicken Poop.’
12. Explore Kennicott Ghost Town (Chitina)
Kennicott Ghost Town is a fascinating place to explore. Once a thriving copper mining town, Kennicott was abandoned in 1938 when the last of the mines closed. The ghost town was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Today, only a handful of buildings remain, offering a glimpse into the town’s past. The most iconic structure is the large red mill building standing a couple of storeys above the Kennicot glacier. Visitors can also explore the remains of the different mines in the area, such as the Bonanza, Jumbo, and Erie mines (all strenuous hikes).
13. Cross the Kuskulana River Bridge (Chitina)
The Kuskulana River Bridge is a historic steel truss bridge above the Kuskulana River in Chitina, Alaska. The bridge was created in 1910, sitting 238 feet above a deep rocky gorge and spanning 525 feet (160 m) in length.
With the addition of guard rails and new wooden planks on the bridge, it may not be as thrilling to cross as back then. Still, it offers a picturesque view of the surrounding area and the river below.
14. Tour the Husky Homestead (Denali)
Husky Homestead is a tour operation located in Denali National Park. Visitors to Husky Homestead can tour the kennels, meet the dogs, and learn about their lives as working animals. The tour also includes a short sled ride, weather permitting. Husky Homestead is a great place to learn about life in the Arctic and to get up close and personal with some of its furry residents.
15. Spot Wildlife at Denali National Park (Denali)
Denali National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alaska. Located in the heart of the Alaska Range, the national park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The park also contains Denali (Mount McKinley), the tallest mountain in North America.
Visitors can explore the park by foot, bicycle, or car (albeit only a short portion during the summer, as there is only one road). There are many hiking trails and camping sites available, as well as a variety of ranger-led programs. Whether you’re looking for wildlife viewing opportunities or a chance to challenge yourself with some difficult hikes, Denali National Park has something to offer everyone.
16. See the Lady of the Lake (Eielson AFB)
While it might sound like a supernatural entity or Alaskan legend, the Lady of the Lake is actually the remains of a WWII B-29 Bomber plane on a lake inside the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. It once flew between Alaska and Japan, serving as a recon aircraft for finding evidence of Soviet nuclear testing.
Although no one knows exactly how the aircraft ended up in the lake, it was believed to have been put there for water rescue training. Visitors can enter the base by providing a Military ID or a Visitor’s Pass (which you can get at the Visitor Control Center).
17. Check Out Cars at Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum (Fairbanks)
The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks is a must-see especially for anyone who loves cars. The museum houses an impressive collection of over 95 automobiles from the early 1900s, including a Model T and a 1906 Cadillac Model K. Most of these are operable, so you’ll get to see the vehicles in action as well.
In addition to the cars on display, they also have a collection of vintage clothing worn by people back in the day. The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum is a great way to spend an afternoon, and it’s sure to please any car enthusiast.
18. Visit Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (Fairbanks)
Nestled deep in the heart of Alaska, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is one of the most remote and untouched corners of the world. There are no roads or trails in the park, and visitors must travel by foot, canoe, or small plane. This wild setting provides an incredible opportunity to experience true wilderness and see firsthand the beauty of the natural world.
The park is home to an amazing array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, caribou, wolves, and wolverines. It is also a birder’s paradise, with nearly 150 species of birds having been observed in the park. For those looking for a true adventure, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is an unforgettable destination.
19. Visit the Museum of the North (Fairbanks)
If you’re looking to learn more about Alaska’s culture and history, then a trip to the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North is a must. It boasts a whopping 2.5 million artifacts in its collection, organized into ten research disciplines like archaeology, fine arts, ethnology, and more.
Some of the museum’s highlights include the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery, which showcases native (and non-native) Alaskan art; The Place Where You Go To Listen, an audio-visual exhibit featuring the sounds and movement of the sun, moon, earthquakes, and auroras; and two auditorium shows during summer called Dynamic Aurora and Winter. They also have a Museum Store where they sell Alaska-made products such as art, books, and jewelry, perfect for finding your souvenir.
20. Tour the Running Reindeer Ranch (Fairbanks)
The Running Reindeer Ranch is a family-owned business located north of Fairbanks, Alaska, providing visitors with an up-close and personal look at Alaskan reindeer for over 15 years. They offer a variety of interactive experiences that allow guests to get to know these amazing animals.
These include walking alongside reindeer through the surrounding birch forest, doing yoga with reindeer, enjoying the local music with reindeer, and even having a unique Alaska-style wedding with, you’ve guessed it, reindeer!
21. Soak In Natural Hot Springs At Chena Resort (Fairbanks)
Chena Hot Springs Resort is a world-famous hot springs destination located 61.3 miles northeast of Fairbanks. The resort features an open-air naturally-heated rock lake (adults only) and an indoor hot tub and pool, making it a popular spot for visitors to soak and relax in its mineral-rich waters. It is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, which is always a plus.
In addition to the hot springs, the resort also offers cabins, RV sites, and a variety of other amenities like relaxing massages and delicious dining.
22. Chill-ax at The Aurora Ice Museum (Fairbanks)
Located at Chena Resort, the Aurora Ice Museum is home to a collection of intricate ice sculptures created from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow by husband-and-wife duo Steve and Heather Brice, who are both accomplished ice sculptors as well.
The ice sculptures range from giant chess sets to igloos to entire rooms built entirely out of ice and so much more. Even the ice bar (including the glasses and stuff) are all made of ice. Adding to the museum’s charm are the glimmering lights resembling the colors of the Aurora Borealis.
23. See the Northern Lights (Fairbanks)
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is one of the most beautiful natural light displays in the world, with different color shades dancing around the sky. While the aurora is technically present all year round, it can be seen clearly during the Aurora Season (late August to early April) when the skies are dark enough.
Some of the best spots in Fairbanks include the Chena Hot Springs, Cleary Summit, and Murphy Dome.
24. See the Animals at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Girdwood)
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is a non-profit animal sanctuary dedicated to the conservation, education, and care of Alaska’s wildlife. They primarily take in orphaned and injured animals, the majority of which call the center their permanent home due to lacking the necessary skills needed to survive in the wild.
With over 310 acres of land (110 acres of which are dedicated solely to wood bison), the center has plenty of space which allows the animals to live in large, natural environments. Some of the animals include lynx, brown bears, moose, wolves, and more.
25. Be in Awe of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Gustavus)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Alaska. The park is best known for its glaciers, which can be seen up close on a cruise (I visited while on a Holland America Alaskan cruise!)or from the air. The glaciers are a major draw for visitors, but the park also offers opportunities to see wildlife, explore inlets and coves, and experience the Alaskan wilderness.
The park is located a couple of miles west of Gustavus, Alaska, and covers an area of 3.3 million acres. It was established as a national monument in 1925 and was upgraded to a national park in 1980. Glacier Bay National Park is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in glaciers or Alaska’s natural beauty.
26. Visit the World’s First Hammer Museum (Haines)
The city of Haines is home to the world’s first hammer museum, aptly called The Hammer Museum. Founded in 2002, they have a massive collection of hammers amounting to over 2000 and coming from different time periods and trades. They also have a giant hammer standing at around two stories tall just outside the museum!
27. See the Rescues at Kroschel Wildlife Center (Haines)
The Kroschel Wildlife Center is a 60-acre wildlife refuge located 28 miles north of Haines, Alaska. They feature rescued animals from over 15 different Alaskan wildlife species, such as grizzlies, wolves, moose, snowy owls, and more.
Aside from the animals, they also have a 600-yard groomed trail where you can enjoy an easy hike while taking pictures of the scenery and animals. There’s also a gift shop where you can get some handmade Alaskan souvenirs.
P.S. Reservations are required before you can visit the center.
28. Drive One of the Famous Highways
Drive the Alaska Highway
The Alaska Highway is one of the most iconic roads in North America. Spanning almost 1,400 miles, it traverses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrains in the world. The highway was originally built during World War II as a way to connect Alaska to the continental United States.
Today, it is a popular route for road trippers and adventure seekers from all over the globe. While the journey can be challenging, it is also incredibly fulfilling. Those who make the journey are rewarded with stunning views, unique experiences, and a sense of accomplishment from conquering one of the most challenging roads on the planet.
The Dalton Highway is a 414-mile long road that runs through the heart of Alaska. It was originally built as a supply route for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, but has been open to the public since 1994. Despite its remote location, the Dalton Highway has become a popular destination for adventure seekers worldwide. The road winds its way through stunning mountain scenery, offering opportunities for hiking, fishing, and wildlife watching. In addition, the Dalton Highway is one of the only roads in North America that crosses the Arctic Circle.
For many visitors, driving the Dalton Highway is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Due to its extreme weather conditions and remote location, the highway can be a challenging drive. However, with a little preparation and caution, anyone can enjoy a safe and unforgettable journey on one of North America’s most scenic roads.
The Denali Highway is one of Alaska’s most scenic drives. The road winds its way through the Alaskan mountains, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Wildlife is commonly seen along the highway, including caribou, moose, and bears. The drive can be challenging at times (watch out for potholes!), but it is well worth the effort. The Denali Highway is a great way to experience the beauty of Alaska.
Seward Scenic Highway
The Scenic Highway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. The winding road takes visitors through some of the most beautiful scenery in the area, including towering mountains, rushing waterfalls, and pristine lakes. Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the view or explore the many hiking trails.
The Scenic Highway is also a popular destination for bicyclists and motorcyclists who enjoy the challenges of the winding road. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a lengthy vacation, the Scenic Highway is sure to provide an enjoyable experience.
29. Leave a Dollar Bill at the Salty Dawg Saloon (Homer)
One of the most iconic landmarks on Homer Spit, the Salty Dawg Saloon is one of the first cabins ever built in the city of Homer. What makes the place a popular destination are the thousands upon thousands of dollar bills signed and tacked to its walls by visitors (which you should too!), a beloved tradition of the saloon.
Although there is no food, you can enjoy their wide selection of drinks and beers while socializing with the locals. They also have other items for sale, such as shirts, mugs, and more.
30. Ride the World’s Largest Zip Rider at Icy Strait Point (Hoonah)
Alaska is renowned for its natural beauty, and the ZipRider at Icy Strait Point is one of the best ways to experience it. With a height of over 1,300 feet and a length of 5,495 feet, soar through the air at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour as you descend down the mountain. Of course, being high up lets you have the chance to take in the surrounding landscape… while screaming at the top of your lungs!
31. Walk on Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau)
You probably already knew that you could see A LOT of glaciers in Alaska, but did you know that you could actually walk on one? Yep, that’s true! Enter Mendenhall Glacier, one of its most popular tourist destinations. Covering an area of 95.27 km² and reaching elevations of up to almost 5,200 feet, it has attracted thousands of people each year to see and walk on its surface.
The glacier can only be reached by helicopter or guided walk. Fortunately, you’ll find a few Alaskan cruise excursions that take you from downtown Juneau to Mendenhall Glacier via helicopter.
(We did the Holland America standard guided walk, where we flew around the glacier for a bird’s eye view before landing and walking on the glacier. I even drank glacier water, which is also an option!
As the weather can be unpredictable, make sure to dress appropriately, and of course, always follow the park service’s rules and regulations to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
32. Go Whale Watch in Juneau
If you find yourself in Juneau during whale watching season, you’re in for a treat! Humpback whales can be seen in the waters around Alaska from May through September, and Juneau is one of the best spots to see them.
There are several tour companies that offer whale watching excursions, and most of them depart from the downtown area. While on tour, you’ll have a chance to see humpback whales up close as they feed, play, and breach. You might even see a whale tail or two!
So whether you’re a nature lover or just looking for a unique activity, be sure to add whale watching to your Juneau itinerary.
33. Take a Glacier Trail at Tongass National Forest (Juneau)
If you’re looking for a breathtaking outdoor adventure, check out the Glacier Trails at Tongass National Forest in Juneau! Some of these include East Glacier Trail, West Glacier Trail, Herbert Glacier Trail, and Laughton Glacier Trail.
The trails wind through some of the most beautiful scenery in Alaska, including glaciers, mountains, and forests. There are trails for all skill levels, so everyone can enjoy the views. In addition, the area is home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, eagles, and salmon.
The Glacier Trails are a great way to experience the beauty of Alaska and get some fresh air at the same time. So whether you’re an experienced hiker or just looking to take a leisurely walk, be sure to check out the Glacier Trails at Tongass National Forest in Juneau.
34. Explore the Mendenhall Ice Caves (Juneau)
The Mendenhall Ice Caves are one of the most enchanting tourist destinations near Juneau, Alaska. These are formed when the ice inside the glacier melts, transforming its insides into ever-changing ‘ice caves.’ And because the ice reflects blue light from the sun, it gives the caves an otherworldly feeling you should experience at least once.
As the caves are only formed because of the melting ice, their appearance and location inside the glacier can vary. Sometimes there are no caves at all. Be sure to check with the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center first if you’re planning to go inside the ice caves. You can also check out this FAQ for more information.
35. Explore Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park is one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations. And it’s no wonder, because the park offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are just a few of the best things to do at Kenai Fjords National Park:
- Take a cruise: A cruise is the perfect way to see the stunning scenery of Kenai Fjords National Park up close. There are a number of different cruise options available, so you can choose the one that best suits your interests and schedule.
- Hike: There are plenty of trails to explore in Kenai Fjords National Park, ranging from easy walking paths like the Exit Glacier Overlook Trail to challenging hikes such as the Harding Icefield Trail. No matter what your fitness level, you’ll be able to find a trail that’s right for you.
- Wildlife watching: Kenai Fjords is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including whales, dolphins, harbor seals, sea otters, and birds. A wildlife tour is the perfect way to see these fascinating animals in their natural habitat.
- Camping: The park has a 12-site, tent-only campground at Exit Glacier on a first-come, first-serve basis. Backcountry camping is also an option. As for RV camping, the closest ones would be around the city of Seward, which is east of the park.
36. Visit the Totem Bight State Historical Park (Ketchikan)
Totem Bight State Historical Park is a state park located ten miles northwest of Ketchikan, Alaska. The park features a replica of a traditional chieftain house and 14-15 totem poles, all of which were restored by skilled Tlingit and Haida carvers. Visitors can learn about the culture and history of the Native peoples of Alaska through totem poles, artwork, and exhibits. The park also offers opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
37. See Misty Fjords (Ketchikan)
The Misty Fjords is one of the must-see (and should-see) places in Alaska. It is part of the Tongass National Forest, comprising the largest wilderness area in the forest (2.3 million acres of the forest’s 16.7 million acres.) It is known for its breathtaking mountain views, deep fjords, rainforests, and wildlife. The Misty Fjords is also only accessible by boat or floatplane due to the area’s remoteness.
Visitors can take advantage of the many hiking and camping opportunities in the area, with plenty of activities to enjoy like kayaking/canoeing, flightseeing, wildlife viewing, and visiting attractions like the New Eddystone Rock (a 237-foot basalt pillar covered in trees.)
38. Go Bear Watching at Katmai National Park (King Salmon)
Located near King Salmon, Alaska, Katmai National Park is known for its abundance of different bear species and sockeye salmon (which the bears love to eat). Moose, caribou, wolves, sea otters, and the occasional humpback whale are just some of the other animals you will find in this bear country.
Visitors to the park can enjoy different activities, such as hiking, camping, fishing, and of course, bear-watching. One of the best spots for bear-watching is Brooks Camp, which has four viewing platforms. One other highlight of the park is a hike to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, an ash-filled valley.
39. See the Eldred Rock Lighthouse (Lynn Canal)
The Eldred Rock Lighthouse is the oldest and the last of ten other lighthouses built in Alaska still standing today. It sits upon Eldred Rock island in Lynn Canal, around 55 miles northwest of Juneau.
The lighthouse stands at 17 meters (56 feet), with an octagonal-shaped base, and once has a unique lens that allows flashing of red and white lights alternately. The lighthouse can only be viewed from cruise ships or ferries passing through the canal, as there are no tours or docks in the island.
40. Go to Santa Claus’s House in the North Pole
Would you believe me if I told you Santa Claus is real? And it’s not just him, by the way. Even his helpers and house in the North Pole pretty much exists!
That’s right, in the city of North Pole, Alaska, stands the Christmas store called Santa Claus House, where every day is Christmas Day. They have a wide assortment of products ranging from pastries to Christmas ornaments to color-changing mugs and so much more. And in keeping with the Christmas tradition, you can even write Santa a letter or meet his reindeers next door. Of course, you wouldn’t want to miss good ol’ Santa Claus and his wife for some picture taking!
41. Walk the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes at the National Park (Arctic Borough)
Sands and sweltering temperatures. These two are probably the last things that will cross your mind (or if it will even cross your mind) when in Alaska.
Enter the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, one of Kobuk Valley National Park’s most iconic sights. These sand dunes reach up to 100 feet in height and cover an area of about 30 square miles. Due to the wind, the landscape’s appearance changes ever so often. Temperature-wise, it reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.
Of course, it is not all sand. The surrounding woods and tundra is home to different animals like bears, wolves, and moose. During spring and fall, you might even see a massive caribou migration.
42. Get Your Photo at the Arctic Circle Monument Sign
While it may not seem as much at first glance, you can think of the Arctic Circle Monument Sign as a ‘save point’ of sorts for travelers, serving as the entrance to the Arctic Circle and a rest stop before continuing your journey. Before you cross over to the Arctic side, be sure to commemorate it by having your photo taken!
As a bonus, the back of the sign features stickers placed by visitors indicating where they came from. Be sure to bring one of your own :)
43. See Hubbard Glacier (Wrangell-St. Elias National Park)
The Hubbard Glacier is one of the most active glaciers in the world, where it grows and advances at a rate of around 80 feet per year towards the Gulf of Alaska. With a total height of 600 feet (where 350 feet is above water) and stretching out 76 miles long and 7 miles wide, it is also one of the largest glaciers in North America.
One of the glacier’s most thrilling sights is its calving. Visitors can go on a cruise that takes them close to the glacier’s face, where they can see icebergs calving off into the sea. Adding to the experience are the thunderous sounds it makes as the ice separates from the main glacier.
44. Cruise the Inside Passage
For many people, an Alaskan cruise is the trip of a lifetime. And one of the highlights of an Alaskan cruise is the Inside Passage (I did mine with Holland America!). The Inside Passage is a network of waterways that runs along the coast of Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington. It is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, including towering mountains, pristine glaciers, and lively wildlife. Cruising through the Inside Passage is a truly unforgettable experience. And it’s no wonder so many people choose to take an Alaskan cruise each year!
45. See the Tracy Arm Fjord
There is no shortage of stunning places to visit in Alaska, and Tracy Arm Fjord is just one of them. The fjord is located about 45 miles south of Juneau and is known for its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife. Visitors to Tracy Arm Fjord can see glaciers (don’t miss the twin Sawyer Glaciers!), waterfalls, and mountains, as well as whales, seals, and other marine life. There are also numerous hiking and camping opportunities in the surrounding area.
46. Pan for Gold at Independence Mine (Palmer)
The Independence Mines was once the site of a gold mining operation in Palmer, Alaska during the 1950s. It became a part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and a state historic park was established on the site in 1980.
Tourists can learn more about the mines’ history through the visitor center and their interactive exhibits. You will also find restored buildings around the mining complex, which include a timber shed, warehouse, and mess halls. As the place is a gold mine, visitors can also experience panning for gold from a stream below the mines. And did I mention you can also take it home with you?
47. Take a Farm Tour at Musk Ox Farm (Palmer)
Founded in 1954, Musk Ox Farm is a unique non-profit organization dedicated to the domestication of the musk ox, a mammal that has existed since the Ice Age (how cool is that?!). This 75-acre farm is located in the Matanuska Valley just north of Palmer, Alaska.
The 45-minute walking tour will take you around the farm, where you’ll get up close and personal with these friendly oxen. They also have a lovely gift shop where they sell products made from musk ox wool called qiviut.
48. See the Salmon Run at Lake Clark National Park (Port Alsworth)
Lake Clark National Park in Port Alsworth is one of the best salmon fishing spots in the state. The park offers a variety of salmon fishing opportunities, especially during salmon runs (around May to September), where the fish come in droves to spawn. They can be found in both the Kenai and Copper Rivers, and Lake Clark is home to several species of salmon, including sockeye, pink, and chinook salmon.
In addition to salmon fishing, the park also offers opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.
49. Take a Train Trough the Alaskan Wilderness
The McKinley Explorer is an Alaska Railroad train that offers daily service between Denali and Anchorage. The train’s upper level features comfortable seating, large windows, and plenty of legroom, making it a great way to relax and take in the stunning scenery of Alaska.
In addition to gorgeous views of mountains, forests, and wildlife, the McKinley Explorer also offers an onboard dining car on the lower level, where passengers can enjoy Alaska-inspired cuisine while traveling.
The Alaska Railroad is a Class II railroad that runs from Seward to Fairbanks, traversing some of the most scenic and remote territories in the United States. It is owned by the state of Alaska and operated by a non-profit corporation.
The railroad’s main line is over 470 miles long, making it one of the longest railroads in North America. Several branch lines also exist, including one at the city of Whittier.
There are many different ways to experience the Alaska Railroad, from short scenic rides to multi-day excursions. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or just a way to relax and take in the scenery, the Alaska Railroad has something to offer everyone.
50. Visit the Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward)
The Alaska SeaLife Center is a world-class marine research facility and aquarium in Seward, Alaska. Visitors can learn about the center’s research programs, see diverse marine life up close, and join in on educational programs. Different public exhibits such as touch tanks, pools, and aviaries also exist within the center.
One of the center’s key roles is the rehabilitation of sick and injured marine animals. Depending on the circumstance, the marine animals are returned to their natural habitat once they’ve been nursed back to full health.
With its commitment to scientific research and public education, the Alaska SeaLife Center provides an inspiring and informative experience for all who visit.
51. Take the Totem Pole Trail at Sitka National Historic Park
Totem Pole Trail in Sitka National Historical Park is probably one of the most unique trails one can experience in Alaska. The trail winds through a dense forest of spruce and hemlock, and offers stunning views of the ocean and nearby mountains.
It is also home to a variety of wildlife, including otters, eagles, and salmon. Totem poles line the trail, providing visitors with a glimpse into the rich culture of the Tlingit and Haida people.
52. Visit the Most Popular Park in Alaska: Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Skagway)
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park commemorates the stampede to the Klondike gold fields and the achievements of those who succeeded in reaching the gold fields. It consists of four units: the Skagway Historic District, Chilkoot Trail/Dyea Townsite, White Pass Trail, and Seattle Unit (which is in Seattle). Each unit preserves and interprets different aspects of the story of the Klondike Gold Rush.
53. Get a Drink at the Red Onion Saloon (Skagway)
The Red Onion Saloon is a popular bar and restaurant in Skagway, Alaska. The Saloon is located in an old mining town and is known for its historical significance. The bar was originally established in 1897 and was a popular hangout for miners during the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, the Saloon is still a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
The bar features a wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails, as well as a menu of American comfort food. The Saloon also has a stage for live music and events, making it a great place to enjoy a night out. Whether you’re looking for a place to have a drink or to experience Skagway’s rich history, the Red Onion Saloon is definitely worth a visit.
54. See the Tiny Church of Soldotna
As the name implies, the Tiny Church of Soldotna is a church located in the small village of Soldotna, Alaska. Beside it is a larger domed church, both of them being owned and managed by the Trinity Christian Center.
What’s peculiar about the church (aside from its size) is that it is left open throughout the day. The idea behind it is that it allows anyone a quiet and private spot for prayer/access to God, whatever time of day they might need it. Inside the tiny church are three pews, songbooks, and Bibles.
55. See Proenneke’s Cabin (Sterling)
Proenneke’s Cabin is a historic site in Sterling, Alaska, built by hand by Dick Proenneke, a man of many trades who lived alone in the cabin for nearly 30 years. Construction began in 1968 and it took Proenneke around two years to complete. It features a log cabin with a beach stone fireplace, a raised storage shed, and a woodshed that doubles as an outhouse.
Today, the cabin is a popular tourist destination and an inspiring reminder of Proenneke’s incredible self-sufficiency. Visitors can explore the area around the cabin at any time, however entering it is only allowed during the summer months.
56. Get a Peek at the Dr. Seuss House (Talkeetna)
If you ever catch a glimpse of this quirky house in the woods outside Talkeetna, Alaska, you’ll agree that it looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.
Officially called the Goose Creek Tower, this 14-17 story house was originally planned to be a two-story log cabin. That is until owner Phillip Weidner decided to add more and more floors throughout the years (and still ongoing!.)
As the house is on a private, heavily-monitored property, seeing it up close is out of the picture (let alone its exact location). Luckily, its 185 feet frame stands out from the surrounding trees, making it easier to spot during a flightseeing trip in Talkeetna. It is also possible to see from Parks Highway or while riding through the Alaskan Railroad.
57. Visit the Quirky Mukluk Land (Tok)
Located 3 miles west of Tok, Alaska, Mukluk Land is a theme park built by husband and wife George and Beth Jacobs. Throughout the years, they have collected lots of Alaskan memorabilia, from busted machinery to doll collections to mini-golf and so much more. They also own the world’s largest mukluk (reindeer/sealskin soft boots). Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, Mukluk Land will surely be an unforgettable Alaskan experience.
58. Witness the Alaska Bore Tide
If you love surfing, this one’s for you! We know that Alaska is a hotbed for new adventures and experiences, and it just so happens that it is also one of the few places on Earth to see (or even surf) a tidal phenomenon called bore tides.
Simply put, bore tides are typically formed following a low tide when strong waves from the ocean’s rising water push inland against a river or a long, narrow inlet. One of the best spots to see this in action is Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm in Anchorage.
59. Go Through the Longest Highway Tunnel in North America – Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America, stretching up to 2.5 miles in length and connecting the cities of Porter and Whittier. It is built beneath Maynard Mountain and shared by cars and trains coming from both directions.
As the tunnel is one-lane only, an advanced computer system handles the traffic’s flow at regular intervals (usually switching directions every 30 mins). Vehicle turnout areas are also present along the tunnel, complete with safehouses, PA systems, and telephones, in case of emergencies.
60. See the Rock Carvings at Petroglyph Beach (Wrangall)
Petroglyph Beach is a beach near Wrangell, Alaska, famous for its rock carvings that date back 8000 years ago and are only fully revealed during low tide.
The petroglyphs were believed to be made by the Tlingit people who once called the area their home. The etchings range from what seems to be animals to geometric patterns to faces and more. Although the history and meaning behind the petroglyphs remain a mystery, it is still one of the most fascinating sights to see in Alaska.
And that’s a wrap on our Alaska Bucket List! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about all the best places to visit and things to do in Alaska. We’ll definitely be back to check off a few more items on the list, and we hope you’ll join us! If you have any suggestions for other must-do Alaska experiences, be sure to let us know in the comments. In the meantime, happy travels!
1 thought on “Alaska Bucket List: 50 Best Things to Do & See”
Wow there is so much to see and do in Alaska!! It has been on my list to visit for a while but as it is quite difficult to access I haven’t made it yet. I think I would probably spend most of my time at the National Parks, I would love to go to Glacier Bay, Gates of the Arctic and Denali. I would also like to experience hiking on Mendenhall Glacier and I would have to do the whale watching too. I think I need months to see everything I want to see!!