12 things to do and places to visit in Alaska
In 2016, I had the pleasure of exploring the dream destination of many fellow travelers, Alaska. And as soon as I arrived, I understood why: it’s absolutely gorgeous! From glaciers and national parks to mountains and a diverse wildlife, Alaska certainly exceeded my expectations. And since my mom and I recently visited the state again, I decided to update my list of Things I Enjoyed The Most. I strongly recommend you try out a few (or all) of them as well! I hope you like this post and let me know if you have been to Alaska and had a great time as well!
Please note that the attractions mentioned in this post were visited in August, when it was still late summer in Alaska. Several tourism companies and activities close in September and only open again in May, so check out weather conditions before booking your trip.
One of my most recent dreams was to stay at Alyeska Resort! I’d seen it from the outside on my first time there and fell in love with the region. So, on my second trip, I booked a room as soon as possible! The resort is beautiful and surrounded by mountains and glaciers with plenty of green! If you’re a hiker, there are plenty of activities for you in the area as well! The hotel has everything you could ever need and is very comfortable, with a swimming pool, a spa, restaurants, a gym… Not to mention the famous cable car. I’ll talk more about it below, but you can see more pictures HERE as well!
This one was 100% worth it! I love admiring views from the top of buildings, mountains, etc. Any type of observatory easily wins my heart, and I can’t help but visit it every chance I get. Good thing this one fulfilled all my expectations!
The view from the top of Mt. Alyeska is very, very, very beautiful, and you can make the most of the relaxed mood by having a delicious meal in one of the restaurants you’ll find up there! I talked more about the hotel and the cable car HERE!
KENAI FJORDS TOUR
This was one of the highlights of our trip! The landscapes are stunningly beautiful, regardless of whether it’s a sunny or cloudy day! It’s a great opportunity to see whales and other sea animals! I took tours with two different companies, but I really recommend the Kenai Fjords Tour. I think it was more thorough and informative than the other. Learn more about the available tours HERE and don’t forget to watch my Alaska vlogs in portuguese HERE!
HARDING ICEFIELD TRAIL
This is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done! It goes without saying, but diving headfirst into something when you don’t know what to expect can make it a million times better than what you could have ever imagined! Does that make sense? Haha! I used to enjoy going for a quick hike, but I had never done anything so crazy that demanded so much physical conditioning. That changed when I decided to try out the Harding Icefield Trail on August 14th.
The path is 8,2 miles long (round trip) and it took us almost 8 hours to complete. It starts out as an innocent trip at the paved portion of the park… and then you’re suddenly going up a trail to infinity and beyond, climbing rocks as if they were steps in a staircase and stopping several times to just admire the unbelievable beauty surrounding you. But it gets better: when you least expect it, it’s freezing and there’s snow and ice all around you. Not to mention the rain, of course, quite a normal occurrence in the area during the summer. I posted a video of this adventure, It is in Portuguese but you can see more about it HERE!
If you’ve watched Into the Wild, this bus is an old friend! That’s where Alexander Supertramp spent part of his journey and was unfortunately found dead. The original bus still exists, but it’s not so easy to get to it, so we settled for the replica that was used in the movie. If you’d like to venture into the trail that leads to the original one, THIS post explains it in more detail. The insides of the replica were just what we expected, and the walls were decorated with quotes and pictures from that time. Magic Bus is close to the Denali National Park. The address to the Magic Bus we followed was 248.4, George Parks Highway, Healy, AK, 99743.
A city with a population of about 200 people, most of whom seem to live in a single building. The cool thing about it is that you need to go through a one-way tunnel that only opens for 15 minutes every hour to reach it. The not-so-cool thing about it, on the other hand, is the toll of US$ 13 each car has to pay to enter the city.
What’s there to see and do? Whittier is located in the Passage Canal, so it gives you a nice view of many boats and ships taking cargo or tourists excited with the possibility of seeing sea animals and beautiful landscapes! I went on a similar ride in Seward with Major Marine Tours, and they also offer a tour departing from Whittier if I’m not mistaken. There you’ll find a few restaurants and cafes, a small museum (US$ 5), a supermarket and a laundromat. Oh, there are also two hotels nearby.
The small town is surrounded by amazing sceneries, but if you’re not going to have a meal or take one of the tours, you’ll barely spend half an hour there – it really is that small!
One of the cutest historical cities in Alaska! For starters, the previous mayor was a cat! Yes, his name was Stubbs, and he was born, raised and mayor-elect in Talkeetna from 1997 to 2017, when he unfortunately passed away. He was a tourist attraction and many people, like me, visited Talkeetna just to try and meet him.
Once we weren’t successful in that endeavor, we took the opportunity to explore every corner in the area. We found several craftworks and souvenir shops, a post office, a museum, restaurants and old bars, such as Fairview Inn and Roadhouse – still, we ended up having lunch at Mt. High Pizza. We also went to Aurora Dora’s shop, a store owned by a Brazilian woman who has an actual art gallery and sells beautiful pictures of the Aurora Borealis. Furthermore, we visited a memorial in the town cemetery dedicated to the mountain climbers who died while trying to climb Mt. McKinley.
We stayed at Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge, which I have no hesitation to recommend! The experience was overall quite nice and relaxing!
DENALI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE
What can I say about Denali? It’s one of the most famous national parks in the US and gave me the opportunity to see a mama bear with her super cute cubs and lots of moose and caribous from up close, besides several types of birds. The park also has stunning biodiversity, and its mountains, which make up the dreams of every mountaineer, are a natural masterpiece. Seriously, they look just like a painting!
We spent two days exploring the area. On the first one, we took a 12-hour shuttle bus ride (VERY exhausting) that drove us to the end of the park road, once private vehicles aren’t allowed to proceed past a certain point. Honestly, I don’t recommend this trip, it is too tiring in my opinion (Kantishna); after a while, it all started to look the same and I ended up dozing off for most of it. There are shorter rides available (click HERE), so I suggest picking one of them instead.
On the second day, we went on the Discovery Hike, where we were basically assisted by a park ranger in discovering new trails with different lengths and difficulty levels in the forest. It was really challenging, so I recommend gearing up before going. My sneakers weren’t suitable for hiking and got soaking wet on the first 10 minutes, so I was cold like I had never been before at 2,000 ft above sea level. Guided trails must be paid separately. Learn more HERE!
We also watched a free sled dog show and got to learn more about the pups and how important they are in making sure the park operates smoothly. That’s especially true during the winter, when busses and cars aren’t allowed inside the parks and are replaced by dog sleighs. The free performance happens three times a day (learn more HERE), but you can visit and interact with the dogs at other times.
THE NORTH POLE
I was shocked to find out that the North Pole wasn’t in Greenland or some other magical land out there, but in Alaska! Yes, there is an entire city dedicated to it with candy cane-shaped street lights, Christmassy-named streets and the supposedly “real” Santa Claus in his Santa Claus House! For “real”!
Ok, but I confess I expected more of it, after all, it is the “original” one. The thing is that the house isn’t much more than a huge souvenir store where you’ll find all types of stuff decorated after the most magical time of year! If you’re lucky, a few reindeers might show up as well; but if it doesn’t happen, you can also pay about US$ 12 to go to the building right next to Santa’s House in order to feed them and take pictures. But overall, we had a great time, it was a fun experience!
I also loved the fact that you can send postcards from Santa Claus House and even order a personalized letter to a loved one for US$ 9,95. Of course I immediately got one for Ryu’s birthday. It arrived a few days ago, with a “nice boy” sticker (haha) and a postcard, in addition to a letter in English wishing all the best! I felt like a child again.
Santa Claus House is located at 01 St. Nicholas Dr., North Pole, Alaska 99705. Click HERE to visit the shop’s official website.
ALASKA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER
Picture an ethical zoo that rescues hurt or orphaned animals and cares for them until they’re ready to return to nature or, if that’s not possible, offer them a lifelong home. Thousands of people visit the center every year and get the chance to watch the animals interact with each other and with their somewhat natural habitat. It’s a great day trip if you’re traveling with little kids, since they’ll be able to see bears, bisons, moose, deers and several other rescued animals. Adult tickets cost US$ 12.50 each. Learn more about the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center HERE!
I think this was the town that made me fall in love with Alaska. Located on Kenai Peninsula, the city is home to almost 3,000 people and marks the Mile 0 of the Iditarod Historic Trail. It’s a cozy and tourist-friendly place, full of things to do. The highlight of our stay was the boat tour we went on with Major Marine Tours, where we saw whales, bears, sea lions and breathtaking landscapes. I’ll write a whole post about Seward soon, but, until then, click HERE to check out our videos about it!
FLATTOP MOUNTAIN IN ANCHORAGE
Flattop Mountain is one of the most beautiful places in Anchorage, the biggest city in Alaska with about 300,000 inhabitants. Don’t worry, I’ll write a guide to the best attractions there soon, but first I had to talk about this wonderful park Bianca (from the Brazilian page SOBREviver no Alaska) took us to! By the way, she gave us a great tour of the city and made me like Anchorage even more. She took us to places only locals would know and showed us very, very, very beautiful landscapes. I could even picture myself living there, and that only happens when you really like a city. So, thank you a lot, Bianca!
On the next day, we went hiking to the top of Flattop Mountain. I didn’t take my professional camera with me for safety reasons (I can easily drop it), so I’ll post a few pictures of the park in general instead of the trail itself, which is awesome and quite challenging!
Yes, we went to Fairbanks in hopes to see the Northern Lights but it was too early for them. We ended up visiting a few spots but honestly I didn’t love Fairbanks to add as a must see. We decided to drive to Chena Hot Springs, about an hour away and that was the highlight of your trip to Fairbanks, simple but fun. If you have been to Fairbanks let me know what places we should visit next time!