No one can appreciate the beauty of the north until they visit: It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to cruise into Seward by boat, to hike through Denali National Park, to stay up long past midnight watching the sun set, or never seeing the sun rise. Because Alaska is America’s largest state--and a huge swath of it is off the road system--you can’t see everything in just a few weeks. Start in Anchorage and explore the newly-renovated and ever-changing Anchorage Museum, then head to the secluded Kenai Fjords or magnificent Chugach National Forest, or down to Homer for one of the state’s best local food scenes. If there’s time, fly to Juneau or drive north to Fairbanks to hike atop a glacier, canoe along a misty river, or find a lodge and just relax.

Alaska, Mountains, Forest, Glacier

Photo by Supriya Kalidas


Best time to visit Alaska

While most people will suggest you visit Alaska during the summer, the best time to visit really depends on what you want to do. Summertime is great for cruises and wildlife watching, but if you want to catch the Northern Lights, a trip between September and April is better. Read the full story.

How to get around Alaska

Most flights arrive at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, while cruises tend to dock in Seward on the Kenai peninsula. The best option to get around Southcentral Alaska or the sections of Interior Alaska that are on the road system is to rent a car or RV. If Southeast Alaska is your area of choice, travel by ferry or, as most visitors to the state do, cruise ship.

Can’t miss things to do in Alaska

Your Alaskan experience will depend hugely on the time of year you visit. Summer sees cyclists touring the Kenai Peninsula as bald eagles fly overhead, and, when necessary, stopping for moose; hikers trekking Juneau’s luminous, baby-blue Mendenhall Glacier; cruise ships exploring the awe-inspiring Tracy Arm Fjord; and kayakers pushing between unspoiled mountains surrounding Prince William Sound. But Alaska in winter is a whole other story. Then, you can fly down Alyeska’s gargantuan ski slopes, cozy up in a secluded lodge, watching the heavenly northern lights flicker outside your window, or adventure into the backcountry by helicopter or skis. Whether you rough it by the campfire or book a few nights in a comfortable, warm lodge, there are accommodations for every type of traveler.

Food and drink to try in Alaska

Alaska has long been known for its seafood but the state’s food reputation is growing. But the tourism-season traditional hearty Alaskan meals are still here too: with giant pancakes and cinammon rolls the size of your head. Plenty of coffee too. At breakfast, try the state’s famous gourmet reindeer sausages seasoned with white pepper and coriander, or crab cakes doused in creamy Benedict sauce. Get every sandwich on sourdough bread, a historic staple. For dinner, indulge in fresh Pacific fish, such as pan-seared cod, smoked salmon, or fresh halibut cheeks sprinkled with lemon and cilantro.

Culture in Alaska

Any thought of Alaska should start with the Native groups that were here long before America was even an idea. To truly understand Alaska, immerse yourself in Native culture at every turn. From touring what’s on view of the the massive art collection at the Anchorage Museum or the University of Fairbanks Museum of the North to watching traditional dances at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, or shopping for crafts made by the modern-day artists keeping Native arts alive, you can see how hard people are working to not only keep their cultures alive but help them thrive. Then take a dive into ways the cultures have changed with the arrival of Russians, Americans, and other groups. But there’s also just plenty of small town America culture here, always with a distinctly Alaskan twist.

Practical Information

Alaska almost seems like two different states, split between summer and winter. Anchorage in July sees sunrise near 4:30 a.m. and sunset just before midnight, while winter daylight peeks out midday for a few hours. Up north in Fairbanks and beyond, those hours stretch with summer sun and winter dark sticking around seemingly nonstop. Winter temperatures hover around 5 degrees in Southcentral, though the inside passage around Juneau is significantly warmer at 20 degrees. Summer is warmer than most visitors believe, often in the mid-60s and quite green. Fairbanks? Even hotter.

If you plan on camping outdoors alone, basic survival skills and bear spray and canisters are crucial.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
As the sun’s cycle reaches solar maximum, the aurora borealis will be brighter than ever in 2024 and the “Land of the Midnight Sun” is among the top places to see it. Join the Alaska experts at UnCruise Adventures for a dream trip in the state filled with natural wonders and adventure.
Resources to help plan your trip
Food, fishing, and miles of hike-worthy trails make it easy to fill a week exploring South-central Alaska. Stretching from the Copper River Valley across the Mat-Su Valley, down to Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, and Homer, and then all across Prince William Sound, South-central makes up a sizable portion of the state. If you’re going to road trip around Alaska, this is where you do it (though nobody would question your decision to add a trip up to Fairbanks to your itinerary). Explore Kenai Fjords National Park, Kennecott Mines National Historic Landmark, and bear viewing in Katmai National Park.
You’ll be considering hibernation yourself when you see Alaska’s rustic lodgings. Gasp-worthy views of inlets, mountains, and glaciers are de rigueur, as are sightings of grizzly bears, bald eagles, and sea otters. Just remember to go outside—Denali National Park awaits.
When you embark on a cruise of Alaska, the wonders all around you may make it hard to leave the ship’s rail: glaciers calving, bears rambling along the shore, waterfalls crashing down hills into otherwise peaceful bays. Look up and see a bald eagle etching a circle in the sky; look down and find a sea lion lounging on a bobbing berg of ice. Mind-blowing mountains, impossibly narrow inlets, chunky ice fields stretching for miles, sunsets and dawns—it’s as though Alaska is conspiring to keep you away from your stateroom.
Alaska’s 586,000 square miles, nearly 7,000 miles of coastline, and eight National Parks offer a nearly overwhelming number of great things to do. This around-the-state list would take weeks—or even months—to complete. So put it to use to dream, to figure out an epic trip, or to plan your next several adventures around the 49th state. Whether you crave adrenaline-pumping adventure, tales from history, a road trip to beat all road trips, or the chance to take photos of creatures great and small, Alaska is ready for you. Watch grizzlies amble by from the comfort of a tour bus in Denali National Park. Listen to the snap and crash of a calving glacier while in Kenai Fjords National Park. Paddle around icebergs on Mendenhall Lake. And see art inspired by Alaska at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Museum of the North.
You’ll go for the fresh fish--namely salmon, black cod, and halibut. But you’ll want to stay forever thanks to the increasingly-excellent restaurant scene. Yes, Alaska is finally on the map when it comes to destination dining. Enjoy one of the state’s top dining spots right outside Denali National Park, stellar wine lists all around Anchorage, and plenty of smoked salmon all down the Kenai Peninsula. Pro tip: Head to the top floor of the Captain Cook Hotel on clear nights for apps and cocktails and a view of Cook Inlet that you’ll never forget.
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