Mendenhall Glacier Viewpoint with Fireweed in bloom in Juneau, Alaska
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Five incredible places to visit in Alaska

Bri Bleiwas

Contributing writer

Alaska is a beautiful state with plenty to offer. With several national parks, historic cities, and a rich Native culture, there’s something to see in all corners of this gigantic U.S. state. If you’ve never been here before, get ready to make memories you’ll cherish for years to come.

These are the best places to visit in Alaska. Each destination has different things to see and do, so once you visit one city, you’ll still have reasons to come back. If you’ve never visited Alaska before, it’s time to add one (or more) of these spots to your travel bucket list.

Since Alaska is so big, plan to only visit one destination per visit. These destinations are far away from each other, so if you’re interested in seeing more than one, consider planning multiple trips.

Downtown Anchorage, Alaska reflecting into Cook Inlet.

1. Anchorage

Anchorage is known for its wildlife, trails, and art. In fact, this city is home to the most artists and musicians in Alaska. When you’re not searching for moose, whales, or glaciers, you can immerse yourself in Anchorage’s many cultural attractions and sample some of the local food.

There’s no sales tax in Anchorage, making souvenir shopping a breeze. Even if you don’t plan on making a purchase, it’s still fun to browse the shops. To see authentic Native works for sale, visit Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers Co-Op. After you’re done shopping, consider visiting Anchorage’s museums. The Anchorage Museum, for example, is dedicated to Alaska’s art, history, and people. Also worth visiting is the Alaska Native Heritage Center, complete with an art gallery you can shop at. There’s plenty to do in Anchorage, so make sure your visit lasts at least a couple of days.

The aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska, during winter

2. Fairbanks

Fairbanks sits at 65 degrees N latitude, making it the perfect place to see the Northern Lights. You can also catch the “midnight sun” here due to how far north it is. Even though it’s the coldest city in interior Alaska, you’ll still want to spend lots of  time outside.

Some activities in Fairbanks are weather dependent, and other attractions are open year-round. No matter when you visit, you can take a dog sledding excursion while if you visit Fairbanks in the winter, consider soaking in a nearby hot spring and visiting the Ice Museum on a tour to Chena Hot Springs Resort. To view the Northern Lights, check out Aurora Pointe, where you’ll be treated to snacks and information about this fascinating natural occurrence. Summer visitors should hop aboard the Riverboat Discovery for a riverboat tour with native Alaskans. Whether you prefer endless days or nights, you’re bound to enjoy yourself in Fairbanks.

Wildflowers blooming along banks of waterway in Mendenhall Glacier Park in Juneau, Alaska on sunny day.

3. Juneau

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and the second largest city in the country by area. With both mountains and a coast, the city is not connected to mainland Alaska by a road. Enjoy this remote wonderland and all it has to offer on a trip to one of the country’s best destinations.

You can’t visit Juneau without seeing its glaciers. Combine visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center with whale watching for a spectacular day out. Other natural sites worth visiting include the Tracy Arm Fjord and Nugget Falls. If you’d rather spend your time indoors, head to the Alaska State Museum or Juneau City Museum. Alaska’s history includes the Gold Rush, and you can visit a replica Gold Rush-era saloon in Juneau. Red Dog Saloon is considered the oldest tourist attraction in the city (not including its natural sites), and it’s definitely worth checking out if you have time. Between downtown Juneau, the glaciers, and indoor attractions, Juneau just may be the most beautiful capital city in the United States.

A pair of caribous surrounded by autumn foliage in Denali National Park, Alaska

4. Denali National Park

Alaska is home to Denali National Park, located about four hours away from Anchorage. Many travelers have this park on their bucket list for a good reason - you can see lynx, golden eagles, the tallest peak in North America. Whether you’re looking to backpack, mountaineer, or just explore, Denali is a great spot for outdoor activities.

Like most national parks in the United States, Denali has ranger programs for visitors. For example, you can take a guided nature hike with a park ranger in the spring and summer. You can also hike at Denali on your own. Some of the most popular trails at the park include the Mount Healy Overlook Trail and the Horseshoe Lake Trail. If you’d rather get a birds-eye view of the park, consider taking a flightseeing tour that gets you close to the mountains. No matter how you see Denali, it’s an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime.

A tidewater glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, Alaska.

5. Kenai Fjords National Park

This 600,000-acre park is 60% covered by snow and ice. With plenty of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder Kenai Fjords is one of the most popular national parks in Alaska. The park also has cabins, so you can plan a multi-day trip to this gorgeous preserve.

Start your trip to Kenai Fjords National Park at the Exit Glacier Visitor Center, which is close to a couple of trails. One of these trails is the 8.2-mile-long Harding Icefield Trail, a strenuous hike offering spectacular views. The Exit Glacier area also has a campground, which requires no reservations or fees to use. The campground is available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so make sure you get there early to secure your space. For a more relaxing visit, you can take a wildlife cruise to see puffins, sea lions, and whales. The tour will get you close to the glaciers, so don’t forget to bring a camera.

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Bri Bleiwas

Author - Bri Bleiwas

Bri is a New Yorker living in Oregon who loves dogs and writing. She also enjoys traveling and has been to Austin, Finland, Orange County, and many other places. In her spare time, she bowls and makes crafts with her Cricut.

Last Updated 17 November 2022

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