The Getaway
Unique Things to Experience in Alaska

There is no other state quite like Alaska. Here you will see things that you just cannot find anywhere else. Because the state is located so far north, it has a unique environment that provides amazing views and unique ways to experience the great outdoors. Visit an isolated coastal town for a quiet getaway or stay in one of the few major cities to experience all the comforts of a five-star hotel with the mountains calling from right outside your window.

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01 See the Northern Lights

You have to be awake in the middle of the night to see them, but the Northern Lights are worth staying up for. While they are visible at the end of summer and into early fall, the best time to see them is from the end of September until mid-April between midnight and 4 am, depending on the season. There are plenty of places to see them, too, but some of the most reliable spots are Fairbanks and Anchorage. Wait until a clear night for best viewing.

Norther Lights Fairbanks Alaska Elizabeth M. Ruggiero / Getty Images

02 Denali National Park

It takes three hours by car or four hours by train to get to Denali National Park from Fairbanks; the closest major city located northeast of the park. Once you get there, there are plenty of ways to explore the wilderness. Take an ATV tour, go rafting, or use the park shuttle to get to the hiking trail of your choice. Bring your camera along because Denali has some of the most breathtaking views in the country, including Mount McKinley, glacial rivers, and a lot of wildlife like moose, wolves, and grizzly bears.

Denali National Park dhughes9 / Getty Images

03 Kuskulana Bridge

The Kuskalana Bridge is located in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, in the southeast part of the state west of the Yukon border. This 535-foot-long bridge was built by the railroad in 1911. Later in the 1960s, the state pulled up the railroad tracks, and you can still cross the bridge on foot or in a vehicle today. Park the car on either side and walk across the span of the bridge for gorgeous views of the Kuskalana River and Wrangell Mountains.

Kuskulana Bridge Alaska cweimer4 / Getty Images

04 Go whale watching

There are plenty of places to spot whales along the coast of the state, so be sure to look for opportunities in the area when planning your trip. The best place to whale watch is on a boat, and there are plenty of tours offered at most coastal towns. Alaska is a popular spot for humpback whales, but gray whales, killer whales, and beluga whale are common sights, too. You might even see dolphins and belugas, too.

Whale Watching Inside Passage Andrew Peacock / Getty Images

05 Seward Highway Scenic Drive

There are a lot of gorgeous scenic drives in Alaska, but the Seward Highway is one of the best. This route goes from Anchorage to the small seaside town of Seward. It takes you past gorgeous mountain peaks and provides views of the Northern Pacific Ocean as well as the Turnagain Arm in the Gulf of Alaska. Along the way, there are several places to stop and take pictures of the view as well as several National Heritage Areas.

Kenai Mountains Seward Highway Alaska_icons / Getty Images

06 Explore the glaciers

There are a lot of opportunities to experience glaciers in Alaska. One of the best ways to get up close an personal is taking a cruise or kayak trip. For a completely different perspective, flightseeing tours are also available. There are also plenty of roadside tours available for hiking, ATVs, and even ice climbs. Some of the best areas for viewing are Prince William Sound and the Kenai Fjords in the southeastern part of the state near Anchorage. These opportunities are scattered throughout Alaska, so be sure to look for one that fits into your itinerary.

Glacier Day Cruise brytta / Getty Images

07 Nome

Nome, Alaska, is at the tip of the Seward Peninsula and overlooks the Bering Sea. It is a great place to visit if you want to experience a remote part of the state without losing all the modern conveniences. This small town is a popular destination as it marks the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which happens every March. What is interesting about Nome is that it lies in the rolling tundra. There are no trees here so you can see for miles, taking in clear rivers and pristine beaches. Try to spot some wildlife, or you can even join modern prospectors in panning for gold.

Nome Mushroom Fields William Krumpelman / Getty Images

08 Anchorage

The most visited city in Alaska is probably Anchorage, one of the biggest urban hotspots in the state that is surrounded by gorgeous natural views. There are opportunities here to do just about anything. Stay at a luxury hotel, dine in a five-star restaurant, or take in a show. Then, head out for a drive to the mountains to spot moose, take a sightseeing flight, or hike to a glacier. Staying in Anchorage is a convenient way to take in all the outdoor beauty that Alaska has to offer while experiencing all the amenities of a busy urban hub.

Anchorage City Fireworks Chilkoot / Getty Images

09 Juneau

Juneau is likely the most remote state capital in the United States. In fact, it is so remote that there is no road linking it to the outside world and it is only accessible by plane or boat. That said, Juneau is a popular cruise destination and a good place to start exploring the southeast part of the state that sits along the western border of British Columbia. Like a lot of towns in Alaska, Juneau sprung up because of a gold rush in the late 1800s. Nearby places to visit include Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts, the Mendenhall Glacier, and the Alaska State Museum.

Juneau Watefalls Mountains urbanglimpses / Getty Images

10 Dog sled ride

Dog sledding is one of the most unique ways to see Alaska. There are a lot of options available across the southeast, including Anchorage, Juneau, Denali, Girdwood, and Fairbanks. There are different types of experiences available, depending on the time of year. In the summer, visitors typically take a ride in wheeled carts pulled by dogs on the ground to experience how they are trained. Some of these summer experiences also include a sightseeing tour via helicopter or airplane. If you want to experience dog mushing, you have to visit between November and March with the snow conditions are agreeable.

Dog Sled Ride Jenhung Huang / Getty Images

11 Ride the Alyeska Tramway

View from Mt.Alyeska Tram at Girdwood in Alaska,United States,North America

Elevate your Anchorage experience with a ride on the Alyeska Tramway. This aerial tramway takes you on a breathtaking journey up Mount Alyeska, offering panoramic views of the surrounding glaciers, lush forests, and the sparkling waters of Turnagain Arm. At the summit, visitors can indulge in dining with a view or embark on mountain hikes. Whether you're seeking adventure or just a peaceful moment to soak in Alaska's natural beauty, the Alyeska Tramway is a memorable addition to any Anchorage itinerary.

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12 Chugach State Park

Aerial View of Lake Eklutna in Chugach State Park

Escape to the wilds of Chugach State Park, a sprawling natural wonderland that's just a stone's throw from Anchorage. Covering about half a million acres, the park is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering hiking, skiing, and wildlife viewing. With its stunning mountain landscapes, crystal-clear lakes, and diverse flora and fauna, Chugach State Park is a testament to Alaska's unspoiled beauty and the perfect destination for those looking to connect with nature.

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13 Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage is not just about its urban charm; it's also a gateway to breathtaking natural beauty. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is a perfect example, offering an 11-mile journey that winds along the stunning Cook Inlet. Ideal for biking, walking, or even rollerblading, this trail provides a serene escape with views of distant mountains and the chance to spot local wildlife. Whether you're seeking a leisurely stroll or an invigorating ride, the trail's easy accessibility from downtown makes it a must-visit for any nature enthusiast.

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14 Alaska Botanical Garden

Nestled within the lush greenery of Anchorage lies the Alaska Botanical Garden, a serene oasis showcasing the diverse plant life of the region. This garden is a living gallery of native and exotic plants, including vibrant wildflowers and hardy perennials that thrive in Alaska's unique climate. Stroll through the beautifully landscaped paths, discover the herb garden, and immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere. The Alaska Botanical Garden is not just a feast for the eyes; it's a place of learning and conservation, highlighting the importance of plant life in Alaska's ecosystems.

15 Watch the bore tide

Alaska Bore Tide with Golden Water

Experience the natural spectacle of the bore tide in Turnagain Arm, a unique and thrilling phenomenon near Anchorage. This natural occurrence features a wave that can reach up to six feet tall, traveling along the inlet with remarkable speed and power. It's a surfer's and kayaker's delight, offering a rare opportunity to ride the long, continuous wave. For those who prefer to stay on land, there are several vantage points along the Seward Highway where you can watch this impressive tidal event. Observing the bore tide is not just about the wave itself; it's a chance to appreciate the raw, dynamic forces of nature that shape the Alaskan landscape.

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