Alaska joined the United States in 1959. Since that time, the largest state in the U.S. has captured the hearts and minds of adventurers big and small. Alaska is wild and vast, with 14 mountain ranges, glaciers, a rainforest (the only temperate rainforest in the U.S.), river valleys, and tundra. It’s a place of imagination and a dream destination for many families.
Many people think cruising is the best way to visit Alaska, but there are different options available for every type of traveler. Alaska is enormous, measuring 663,267 square miles (bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined). So unless you love to wing it, creating a plan for your visit is essential. (Do you want to compare Alaska to your state? Click here to see this fun map.)
Alaska is made up of five regions, all unique and worth visiting. The regions include:
- Inside Passage is a popular spot for cruise ships.
- SouthCentral for a visit to Anchorage.
- Southwest for fishing and wildlife.
- Interior, home to Denali National Park.
- Arctic a unique ecosystem and a chance to see the northern lights.
How to Get Around
Drive on your own to see the magnificent landscape and experience the rhythm of life in Alaska. The roads are good, and there are countless places to stop and marvel at the wonder of it all. Remember, the state is gigantic, so plan ahead, especially in the more remote areas where gas and supplies are limited. If you drive from the lower 48 states, don’t forget your passport for your trip through Canada.
Traveling by plane allows you to experience different locations across the state in a shorter amount of time, Arrange for the services of a tour company on the other side of your flight to make the most of your time on the ground.
Two legendary railways, White Pass and Yukon Rail, cut through the gorgeous landscape and provide a stress-free way to visit.
Cruising is by far the most popular way for tourists to see the Inside Passage or the Gulf of Alaska. The cruise season runs from April through September, and, during a normal year, there are cruises available for every type of traveler, activity level, and age. Due to a travel ban by the Canadian government, only ships with 100 or fewer passengers are allowed to sail in 2021. Currently, the U.S Congress is working to find a way for cruise ships to sail to Alaska this summer.
Each season offers something special for visitors, but weather plays an important roll in planning a visit, so here a few things you should know:
- Summer runs from May until September and is peak season with long days and warmer temperatures. It’s an excellent time for outdoor adventures, but it’s also the busiest time of the year and cruise season.
- September is considered the fall and harvest time. It’s the shoulder season, and you might find special rates for tours and cruises.
- Visit between October and May for winter fun, including snowmobiling, skiing, dog mushing, and the northern lights.
- Spring is migration time and the beginning of the cruise season. Some tour companies and cruises offer early-season discounts.
Alaska is home to 333 million acres of national parks. With so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to visit. Here are a few ideas.
- Denali National Park is a popular choice for first-time visitors. With 6 million acres of untouched beauty it’s a popular spot for cruise passengers
- Gates of the Arctic National Park is fun for adventurous folks who want to visit the far north. The park is perfect for anyone who loves outdoor adventures, including hiking and canoeing.
- The Misty Fjords National Monument is a hidden gem located along the Inside Passage. Experience the beauty of Alaskan fjords and waterways while watching for bears and whales.
- Lake Clark National Park celebrates the history of Alaska’s indigenous people among an otherworldly landscape of volcanos, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and seemingly endless peaks and valleys.
- Klondike Gold Rush National History Park lets visitors experience the Yukon gold rush through artifacts and personal histories.
The Northern Lights are most visible in the Interior and Arctic regions of Alaska between August and April. While seeing this natural phenomenon is never guaranteed, many hotels offer a northern lights wake up call to get you out of bed and outside when the lights appear.
Many people visit Alaska for the chance to see wildlife, including brown bears, moose, wolfs. Dall sheep, and Caribou. Include some time on the water during your trip and you might spot orca, stellar sea lions, sea otters, gray whales, and humpback whales.
Alaska is great for families with older kids, with activities that appeal to young and old alike. Whether you like hiking, fishing, rock climbing, snowmobiling, kayaking, or dog mushing, you’ll be sure to find something to suit your tastes and level of adventure.
Whether you want to travel on a small, luxurious ship or go on epic backcountry fishing trip, Alaska is the perfect choice for your next family vacation. Contact me here to start planning your Alaskan adventure.