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Whether you’re looking for adventure, a trip back into time or simply want to enjoy the best that nature has to offer, Alaska has it all. From glistening glaciers and gold mines to bear sightings and midnight suns, just one day in The Last Frontier won’t be nearly enough! Get ready to take notes, because we’re sharing 22 of the best places to visit in Alaska.
A trip to Alaska isn’t complete without tourist attractions and adventurous activities such as bear watching, dog sledding or exploring the backcountry. However, Alaska also packs some incredible history, from indigenous tribes to Gold Rush migrations. With more than 10,000 years of art, culture and tradition, there’s always something new to learn and discover.
So whether you visit alone, with family, or as a couple, there’s plenty to leave you with unforgettable memories when you visit Alaska. Here are 22 of the best places to visit in Alaska, from A to Z:
There are tons of things to do in Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage. And if you’re a wildlife lover, you’ll be happy to know that there is plenty of wildlife to see. Anchorage has moose, bald eagles, bears, Dall sheep, beavers, King salmon, silver salmon and lynx.
But wildlife isn’t the only great thing about Anchorage. There are also the sparkling glaciers, national parks, hiking trails and the Anchorage Museum. If you’re into being active outdoors, there are plenty of day trips for hiking, biking, kayaking and other activities. And if you’re up for a thrilling excursion, you can choose between a trip on the Alaska Railroad, seaplanes, floatplanes or a thrilling helicopter and glacier dogsled tour.
Visitors coming to Anchorage from late August to April can also check the dazzling Northern Lights off of their to-do list.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Located in Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great visit for both adults and children. For history buffs and visitors wanting a look into the history and culture of indigenous Alaskans, this needs to have a place on your itinerary.
This isn’t a place that you’d want to call a museum, but yet an educational “experience.” Through a variety of interactive and engaging demonstrations, exhibits, arts, dance, games and film, you’ll learn about Alaska’s 10,000 year native history.
Chugach State Park
Although the Chugach Mountains can be seen from Anchorage, there’s nothing quite like seeing the real thing in the Chugach State Park and National Forest.
With 9,000 miles of coastline, 280 miles of hiking trails, massive glaciers and lakes, you could easily spend a day or two taking in all of its beautiful nature. Some activities to help pass the day include hiking, rafting, biking, kayaking and fishing. Or, you can discover frozen waterfalls and learn about the area’s flora and fauna during a guided winter walking tour. And the best part is, the best trails and access points are just 20 minutes from downtown!
Denali National Park
Home to North America’s tallest highest mountain peak, Denali National Park is a massive park and preserve with more than 6 million acres of Alaskan wilderness and natural beauty. In addition to its beautiful mountains, you’ll also find stunning glaciers and glacial valleys.
If visiting during the summer, you can explore the park via a guided tour, hiking, biking, rafting, flightseeing or on a wilderness ATV tour. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot grizzly bears, caribou or moose. During the winter, Denali National Park is also a popular destination for dog sledding as well as cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
The only downside about the park is that it is hundreds of miles from the closest major city (Anchorage or Fairbanks). That means a trip to the park (whether you go via the Alaska Railroad or by car) would likely take a full day.
If viewing Alaska’s Northern Lights (a/k/a the aurora borealis) is on your bucket list, Fairbanks is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for doing so. Due to its location, auroral activity and hours of darkness in the winter, it has become renowned not just for its Northern Lights, but also its midnight sun, sunsets and sunrises.
As one of Alaska’s best year-round destinations, Fairbanks packs plenty of fun things to do and see including a number of museums, cultural attractions, state parks, training tours, hiking trails, theaters and wildlife watching. If you’re visiting for at least a day, take a day trip from Fairbanks to tour the Arctic Circle before admiring the colorful northern lights. There are also many delicious restaurants serving up the best Alaskan seafood and international cuisine. Summers are often action packed with up to 70 straight days of daylight!
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Located in Haines, Glacier Bay National Park is part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site and no doubt one of the best places to visit in Alaska. With 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, rainforest, coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, it is one of the highlights of Alaska’s famed Inside Passage, especially if you’re looking for adventure.
Since the park is largely water, there are lots of water related activities such as kayaking, rafting, boating and sportfishing. Hikers and backpackers can set up tents for camping or bivouac in a snow cave. Birdwatching is also another popular activity for those looking to spot unique species in their natural habitat.
A small city on Kachemak Bay (located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula), Homer is known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. Split into eight specific neighborhoods, Homer has tons to do for wildlife lovers.
One of the highlights of Homer is the Homer Spit. There you’ll find a long strip of shops, art galleries, restaurants, beaches and a fishing dock. There are also galleries and museums showcasing local art and artifacts, wildlife exhibits and a pioneer cabin.
Adventure sport lovers can spend the day hiking, kite surfing, spearfishing, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding or taking an ATV tour. There are also plenty of brown bears and wildlife to spot!
Iditarod National Historic Trail
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is a major race event route for both dog sled racing as well as for skiers, runners and mountain bikers. While many visit for one of its major races, there is also quite a bit of history that comes along with the trail.
As Alaska’s sole National Historic Trail, it comprises a 1,000-mile main trail (also known as the Seward-to-Nome Trail) as well as 1,400 miles of connecting trails that link Alaskan native villages and historic sites. While formerly a major dog-team and mail supply route during Alaska’s Gold Rush, it is now key for recreation and travel.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
The Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for those looking to spot brown and black bears in their natural habitat. The park is particularly known for its brown bears who come looking for summer salmon in Brooks Falls. With lookout platforms located at the adjacent Brooks Camp, you can get some pretty close-up views, so don’t forget your camera!
In addition to brown bears, visitors also visit the park to view the Valley of 10,000 smokes, an incredible area of lava flows and ash formed by a volcanic eruption. The park also has breathtaking landscapes with tundra, forests, lakes and mountains. Kids visiting the park can earn a Junior Park Ranger badge after learning about the park nature history. It’s also a great place to visit for camping, kayaking in the Savonoski Loop and exploring coves along the coastline.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Sitting just outside of Seward, the Kenai Fjords National Park spans more than 600,000 acres. It is one of the best places to visit in Alaska if viewing glistening glaciers and breathtaking scenery is at the top of your list.
One of the most visited glaciers in the park is the popular Exit Glacier, which is the easiest to view and access. However, in addition to the nearly 40 glaciers in the Harding Icefield, the Kenai Fjords National Park is also known for its incredible wildlife and ocean adventures. Visitors can join a park ranger-led program to learn more about the park, or search for sea wildlife during a half-day wildlife cruise.
Kids joining along for the trip can show off a Junior Ranger badge after completing the program. There are also a fun number of activities to participate in such as kayaking, hiking and boat tours to see fjords.
Located at the southernmost entrance of the Inside Passage, Ketchikan is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for nature, scenery, salmon and Alaska native culture. Home to three Naitive groups (Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian), the town is packed with various cultural traditions and activities.
Ketchikan is full of historic buildings, local artists, shopping and opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. For example, you can spend a day in the rainforest ziplining over bears, hiking to the top of the mountainside, catching fish on a fishing charter or flying in a float plane. Or, take a trolley tour through a native village to view the world’s largest collection of totem poles. And if you’d rather take it easy, you can take a leisurely walk along the shore and search for humpback whales and other sea life.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
A favorite stop among cruise ship travelers, the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for those looking for a mix of history and adventure. The park commemorates the Gold Rush of 1897-88 and attracts more than 850,000 visitors annually.
However, there’s so much more to the park than its beautifully-carved valleys, streams and breathtaking views. Within the 13,000+ acre park is the historical town of Skagway as well as the ghost town of Dyea and the famous Chilkoot and White Pass Trails. In Skagway you’ll find dozens of historic stores, buildings and saloons. During the summer, Park Rangers lead Ranger Chats about various topics, providing a great educational experience for its visitors.
Known as the Emerald Isle, Kodiak is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for nature enthusiasts and lovers of all things outdoors. In addition to being the largest island in Alaska, it is also the second-largest island in the United States (with first place going to Hawaii).
Because of its rough tracks, getting to Kodiak Island is best done by four-wheel drive vehicles and ATVs. However, the best part is that many of the roads will take you to isolated stretches of beach and secluded campgrounds. There you’ll find some of the best fishing spots and breathtaking coastal scenery.
The island is also home to the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, where you’ll find 2,812 square miles of rugged mountains, alpine meadows, grassland, forest and wetlands. While fishing is popular at the refuge, the most popular thing to do is bear viewing.
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska and the second-largest city in the United States by area. In fact it is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. With a beautiful landscape and plenty of fun and affordable things to do, it is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for a family vacation.
One of the most interesting things about Juneau is that it is the only U.S. capital city reachable by only plane or boat. As such, it has a beautiful and bustling waterfront active with Alaskan cruise ships, fishing boats and floatplanes. Its downtown area is a maze of narrow streets with new and old buildings and storefronts and quaint houses from its early gold mining days.
The winters can bring up to 90 inches of snow each year, but the summers can be spent walking hiking trails, visiting the beach, visiting and fishing in the natural salmon spawning streams, getting a history lesson at one of the many historic buildings. Or, get up close and personal with nature on a guided whale-watching tour.
Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area
Just a short drive from downtown Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area is one of Alaska’s most visited sites. Sitting within the Tongass National Forest, the Mendenhall Glacier is the largest in the U.S. It stretches 12 miles from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake and is more than half a mile wide at its widest point with ice 300 to 1,800 feet deep.
A day at the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area can be spent hiking, bear watching or observing as icebergs break off of the glacier into the lake. If you’re feeling adventurous, join the Mendenhall Glacier Adventure Tour to get up close and personal with the glaciers on a canoe. The Visitor’s Center is also a great place to learn more about the area through exhibits, short films and the knowledgeable park rangers.
Located on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for kayaking, hiking, charter fishing and whale-watching. It is also popular for glacier and wildlife cruises, flightseeing tours and dog sled tours.
Some of the popular places to visit in Seward include the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Seward Museum and the popular Alaska SeaLife Center. Seward is also a gateway to the Kenai Fjords National Park for viewing wildlife and glaciers. In the Small Boat Harbor area you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, tour companies and lodging. In downtown Seward, you’ll find even more shops, restaurants and hotels. Connecting the two areas is the Seward Waterfront Trail with stunning views and opportunities for spotting eagles and sea life such as sea lions, sea otters and the occasional humpback whale.
Famous for recreational and commercial fishing, Sitka was a part of Russia up until 1867. In fact, the Sitka National Historical Park has a trail dotted with totem poles, marking the site of Russia’s defeat of the indigenious Tlingit people. Sitka is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for seafood lovers. It is the 6th largest port by value of seafood in the U.S., home to abundant freshwater and saltwater salmon, trout, halibut, rockfish, graying and lingcod.
A visit to Sitka can be spent hiking or admiring volcanoes and glaciers on a seaplane. One of the more popular activities are fishing charters and adventure tours. There are also several tours that will teach you about the many historical sites in Sitka, including a self-guided walking tour.
Home to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, Skagway is known as “the scenic Railway of the World. As one of the most popular visitor attractions along the Inside Passage, it is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for all ages.
A visit to Skagway takes you on a ride through history, transporting you back to the Gold Rush days. The historic scenery along the famous Broadway Avenue is something you won’t want to miss with vintage locomotives, false-front shops and restaurants, wooden sidewalks and locals dressed in historic costumes. The famously steep Chilkoot trail offers incredible, picturesque mountain views during its climb toward Canada. You can even learn how to mine and search for gold using a pan.
One SheBuysTravel writer visited Skagway during her family trip to Alaska and considers the railway to be one of the most treasured memories of her trip. She also enjoyed kayaking in the chilly and scenic waters.
Nestled at the base of Denali, North America’s tallest peak, Talkeetna is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for incredible panoramic views of the Alaska Range.
Although a small town, there is plenty to do in Talkeetna including scenic air tours, hiking, fishing, skiing, mountain climbing, ziplining and dog mushing. One of the can’t miss activities is a walk down the historic Main Street. There you’ll find plenty of unique gift shops and art galleries, restaurants and locally brewed beer for beer lovers. Some of the buildings date all the way back to the 1920s including the Nagley’s Store (which appears on the National Register of Historic Places), the Fairview Inn and the Talkeetna Roadhouse.
Tongass National Forest
Covering most of Southeast Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is the largest U.S. National Forest and surrounds Alaska’s Inside Passage. Spanning across 500 miles, it is home to the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, islands, glaciers, mountains, forests, fjords and bays. It is also one of the best places in Alaska to view breathtaking vistas of “wild” Alaska as well as unique chances to spot eagles, bears and spawning salmon.
Tongass covers more than 80% of Southeast and includes the state capital, Juneau. That said, there are endless things to do and see for locals and tourists including visits to the Russell Fjord Wilderness, Admiralty Island National Monument and Misty Fjords National Monument. There are also activities such as hiking the miles of maintained trails and boardwalks, kayaking, canoeing, bear viewing or going on a humpback whale-watching tour. There are also plenty of ranger-led tours as well as charter boat tours to educate and help visitors spot wildlife.
University of Alaska Museum of the North
When in Fairbanks, a visit to the University of Alaska Museum of the North is a must-do activity. In fact, it is one of the best places to visit in Alaska to learn fascinating stories about Alaska, its people, its places and its wildlife.
The museum is home to award-winning exhibit galleries displaying everything from Alaska’s wildlife to its native art. It’s here where you’ll find artifacts and specimens collected on public lands. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best places to be introduced to the state via breathtaking architecture, unforgettable views, tours and movies. There’s also a cafe and museum store on site.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Another must-see park in Alaska, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is the largest national park. It is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for viewing glaciers, with one at just about every turn. Here you’ll find some of the largest volcanoes and greatest concentration of glaciers in North America, including the incredible Hubbard Glacier.
In addition to glaciers, the park is also home to historic mining sites as well as a diverse number of animals and habitats. With opportunities to hike, ski, kayak and spot wildlife, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a great place to sit back and admire all Alaska has to offer.