Take Your Pick
Anchorage, AK
The Day Alaska Shook
Earthquake Park - On Good Friday, March 27, 1964 a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, the largest in the USA and second largest in the world behind Chile's 1960 9.5 magnitude earthquake, shook Alaska for nearly 5 whole minutes. 131 people died as a result of the quake, the majority of the victims by the ensuing tsunami which killed people as far away as Oregon and California. The height of the tsunami reached 67 meters near Valdez. Earthquake Park commemorates those who were lost and is located in an area where a large chunk of land and nearly 75 houses slid into the ocean.
Anchorage, AK
Has Anyone Seen My Belly?
Alaska Native Heritage Center - The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a living history museum with several Native villages that surround a small lake. Each village represents a different culture native to Alaska. Hear stories, learn native dances, listen to songs, watch totem pole carvings and see films related to the original Alaskan people. The museum houses Artist Studios, Cultural Galleries, and Statehood Exhibits. If you're staying in downtown Anchorage, go to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art which has a nice collection, and then take the shuttle to and from the Heritage Center.
Anchorage, AK
Train that Built the Panama Canal
Anchorage City Trolley Tour - A great way to see the largest city in Alaska with its population of around 300,000 is to take the Anchorage City Trolley Tour. This fully narrated one hour tour loops around the city and provides visitor information and the history of Anchorage. Along the way you'll see Earthquake Park - the site of the 1964 earthquake, The Alaska Railroad Depot - with a railroad that was used to create the Panama Canal, Lake Hood - the busiest float plane lake in the world, Cook Inlet - where Captain Cook landed, Downtown Anchorage's shops and restaurants, and possibly a moose or two.
Coldfoot, AK
On Top of the World
Arctic Circle - Roughly 200 miles north of Fairbanks, on a fairly treacherous stretch of muddy road (decorated with crosses to remind you to be careful) is the Arctic Circle. Since the Arctic Circle loops around the entire Earth, this one road isn't the only way to get there, but it is about the only way in the USA. This artificial line is at 66 degrees and 33 feet north latitude, and during the summer solstice, the sun shines for 24 hours and during the winter solstice,the sun hides for 24 hours. There is a small picnic area, viewing area and restrooms at the location. Plus it's only 375 more miles to Deadhorse.
Denali Park, AK
Highest Peak in North America
Denali National Park - Denali National Park (formerly Mt McKinley National Park) is an expansive 6 million acres, the size of Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined (but only half the size of the largest National Park, Wrangell-St Elias to the south). The entire area is a gorgeous wilderness area of unspoiled natural beauty filled with an abundance of wildlife. Denali, which means the "High One", a name given by the native Athabascan people, refers to Mt McKinley, the highest peak in North America at 20,320 feet. On a clear day when the illuminated white peak dominates your entire field of vision, you will only be able to utter one syllable words like "WOW".
Everywhere, AK
Wildlife - Certainly one of the greatest things about visiting Alaska is seeing the diversity of Wildlife. There are caribou with antlers 3 feet above their heads, black and brown bears roaming the streets, and my personal favorite, those Bubbas of the Wild, the moose. I say Bubbas because they are big and a little stupid, but really fun to watch. There are also bald eagles, fox, Dall sheep, and if you are very lucky you may catch a glimpse of a wolf. Those are just the land animals; the ocean contains a variety of whales, porpoise, dolphins and fish for viewing too.
Fairbanks, AK
Pioneer Park is That-a-Way
Pioneer Park - Historic buildings from all over Alaska are brought together in one location at Pioneer Park. The restored buildings which resemble a Gold Rush Town are now filled with charming shops and restaurants. There are also several museums on the grounds: the Pioneer Museum, the Pioneer Air Museum, the Alaska Native Museum and the Riverboat Nenana. One of the great things about the park is that it's free!!! While here, fill up on some world famous salmon at the Salmon Bake and then head over to the Palace Theater for a fancy song and dance.
Fairbanks, AK
Cruising the Chena River
Riverboat Discovery - For a relaxing and informational ride down the Chena and Tanana Rivers, book a three hour cruise on the Riverboat Discovery. See the home and kennels of Susan Butcher (1954-2006), the four-time Iditarod winner and author of "Granite", (a children's book about her favorite lead dog). Other highlights include a visit to a Chena Indian Village and an Athabascan Fish Camp as well as a take-off and landing of a bush float-plane.
Fairbanks, AK
The Underbelly of the Alaska Pipeline
Alaska Pipeline - Stretching 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska to Valdez on the Prince William Sound, is the Alaska Pipeline. Also called the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, this modern marvel has pumped billions of barrels of oil and supplies roughly 20 percent of the nation's oil supply. The 48 inch pipeline zigzags through the state, sometimes above ground and sometimes below, passing through 12 pump stations. It crosses 3 mountain ranges and over 800 rivers and streams. It is also one of the most watched national security items. Within minutes of stopping to take a picture of the pipeline, this monkey was questioned by the authorities. They soon realized I was a harmless sock monkey.
Fairbanks, AK
Resting at the Ice Museum
Ice Sculptures - The World Ice Art Championship, which attracts ice sculptors from all over the world, is held annually in Fairbanks' Ice Park. Tens of thousands of people gather as enormous blocks of ice are chain-sawed, chiseled, ironed, and melted into gorgeous works of art. The month long event runs from late February to late March and coincides with the best time to see the Northern Lights. The Ice Museum, which houses dozens of ice sculptures including several in a walk-in freezer, is open all year round. The museum also features a 25 minute film and an ice sculpting demonstration.
Healy, AK
In the Footsteps of Alexander Supertramp
Christopher McCandless - On the northeast edge of Denali National Park is a 1930s mining road called the Stampede Trail. The trail has become a pilgrimage site since the release of Jon Krakauer's 1992 book "Into the Wild", which tells the story of Christopher "Alexander Supertramp" McCandless (1968-1992). McCandless, seeking to live off the land, headed down the Stampede Trail and eventually settled in what he termed "the magic bus." The magic bus or Bus 142 was left behind when the trail was created to aid hunters and hikers. He survived for 113 days in the wilds of Alaska, but eventually died of what is believed to be starvation. To see the bus and pay your respects to McCandless, drive 8 miles down Stampede Road and hike roughly 26 more down the trail.
Homer, AK
Seafarer's Memorial in Homer
Homer Spit - Heading south on the Sterling Highway from Anchorage to Homer, you will see hundreds of motor-homes driving somewhere. That somewhere is the Homer Spit, a narrow piece of land that juts over 4 miles out into the ocean and is one enormous campground. Homer is known as the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World" where you can fish for your own meal or enjoy this tasty white fish at any of the many restaurants. Seashell hunting is a favorite past-time on the miles of beach around the Spit. If seashell hunting gets you a little parched, head over to the Salty Dawg Saloon. The world famous Salty Dawg is the bar with the lighthouse on the outside and thousands of dollar bills on the inside. Just follow the crowd.
Juneau, AK
Gastineau Channel Cruise Port
Cruising the Inside Passage - The Inside Passage is generally considered to be the 300 miles of southeast Alaska from Ketchikan to Skagway. It is filled with nearly 1,000 islands, stunning glaciers, several species of whales, dolphins and porpoise, sheer cliffs, blue-hued icebergs, and native cultures. It is where half of the tourists go when visiting the state of Alaska. The most popular way to get around, since there aren't roads connecting the islands, is by cruise ship. See the totem poles of Sitka and Ketchikan, the ice of Glacier Bay National Park, and some of the country's most pristine land and water.
Juneau, AK
State Capitol and Post Office
State Capitol Building - Completed in 1931 and originally called the Federal and Territorial Building, this six story building became the State Capitol Building in 1959 when Alaska achieved statehood. It houses the state legislature and the governor's office inside its Art-Deco walls, which were once home to the Post Office and State Museum. Unlike most capitol buildings, there is no dome or rotunda, but there are historic photos and newspapers from the day Alaska became a state. The four columns in front of the capitol are made from Alaskan marble as well as some of the interior floors and walls.
Juneau, AK
Gold Cart at the Alaska State Museum
Alaska State Museum - The relatively small Alaska State Museum packs a lot of punch for its size and is well worth a visit. The museum was originally founded in 1900 and has a large collection of artifacts relating to the state's history. The Alaska Natives exhibit features nine indigenous cultures with a colorful collection of totem poles, clothing, dolls, tools and jewelry. Head to the second floor past the Eagle Nesting Tree exhibit to the displays on Mining and Minerals, Alaska's Maritime History, and the ever popular Children's Room. At the time of this monkey's visit, there were some of the most impressive photographs I've seen in my travels in the temporary exhibit area.
Juneau, AK
Tram Over Juneau
Mount Roberts Tramway - Allowing over 200,000 people a year to see a fantastic view of the Gastineau Channel, the Mount Roberts Tramway is the city's most popular attraction. The two 60 passenger gondolas travel 3,100 feet with a vertical rise of 1,745 feet up the mountain. At the top is the Timberline Bar and Grill with an all-you-can-eat crab feed, the Chilkat Theater featuring a film entitled "Seeing Daylight" which introduces the Tlingit Culture, and of course the exquisite view. The tramway is conveniently located at the cruise ship dock on the south end of town, so if you are cruising it is the first thing you'll see.
Juneau, AK
Did You Know Glaciers Are Blue?
Glaciers - There are nearly 100,000 glaciers covering roughly 3-5 percent of Alaska's 570,000 square mile land mass. Glaciers are made of snow, ice and rock that have compacted over 1000s of years in the mountains and overflow into the valleys. Being made mainly of ice and snow one would expect glaciers to be white, but the light reflected back from them is a beautiful shade of blue. To walk up close to a glacier, head to Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier (the West Trail is a great hike) or Kenai's Exit Glacier. Cruises sail past Glacier Bay and if you have some rich sock monkey friends with you, take a helicopter flightseeing that lands right on one.
North Pole, AK
North Pole Alaska
Christmas - Have you ever wondered where all those Christmas wish lists addressed to Santa Claus at the North Pole ended up? Wonder no more, they end up at the North Pole, Alaska Post Office and are answered by volunteers. North Pole, Alaska is a town with the slogan, "Where the Spirit of Christmas Lives Year Round" and is decorated with candy cane light posts and Christmas decorations 365 days a year. One of the biggest attractions is the Santa Claus House with its 42 foot tall Santa outside and Christmas toys, decorations and apparel inside.
Seward, AK
Fjun Fjords and other Fjormations
Kenai Fjords National Park - Kenai Fjords National Park contains over 1,700 square miles of jagged ice-carved fjords and roughly 40 blue hued glaciers. There are many ways to enjoy the scenic beauty of the park and one of the most popular is to take a full or half-day boat tour to the tidewater glaciers. On the way keep your eyes open for whales, playful otters and a variety of native birds. For the more active, take the six hour hike to the Harding Ice Field (one of the largest ice fields in the nation) or kayak amongst the glaciers and fjords. If traveling by car, park at the Visitor Center of Exit Glacier and take the short hike (approximately 1.2 miles) to the edge of the Exit Glacier.
Skagway, AK
Working it in Skagway
Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park - In 1896 gold was discovered in Bonanza Creek, located in the Yukon Territory of Canada. News spread fast and thousands of people migrated to Seattle, WA. Dyea, AK, and Skagway, AK in route to stake their claims. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park includes a park office and encompasses the entire downtown area of Skagway. A 45 minute ranger-guided tour takes visitors for a short but interesting walk around the town's old-time saloons, driftwood clad Arctic Brotherhood building and other historic monuments.
Valdez, AK
A Cute Fishing Town
Prince Edward Sound - For a lot of us, Prince Edward Sound brings back memories of the Exxon Valdez oil spill which occurred on March 24, 1989. That day the tanker ran aground and spilled roughly 20 million gallons of oil into the water. At the time it was considered to be the greatest environmental disaster in the nation's history. After a massive clean-up effort and after two decades the Sound is nearly back to its old self. Otters play, eagles soar, and whales leap from her frigid depths once again.
Willow, AK
One Cold and Tough Race
Iditarod - Every year over 50 mushers and their dogs endure minus 100 degree temperatures and over 1,000 miles in one of the nation's toughest sporting events. On the first Saturday in March a ceremonial start kicks off the Iditarod from Anchorage and then the next day the official start or "re-start" happens in Willow. The race began in 1973 and has two routes, in even years the trail branches north at the town of Ophir and in odd years the trail heads south at the same point. The southern trail goes through the race's namesake town of Iditarod and both trails end up in Nome. The entire event takes between 8 and 12 days.