America’s last great frontier is both majestic and vast. Denali National Park, for instance, encompasses about 9,500 square miles now designated as “Wilderness.” In short, Alaska is totally awesome!
Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley) – America’s tallest peak
Unfortunately, most leisure travelers venturing north to Alaska experience only a sampling of what America’s 49th and largest state offers visitors. Between mid-May and mid-September nearly a million Alaska visitors arrive via cruise ships sailing round-trip from Vancouver or Seattle through the Inside Passage. Other vacationers will cruise north or southbound between Vancouver and Seward, and a few opt for “Cruisetours” that combine a cruise with a three-to-seven-day land tour. (I recommend land tour first then cruise south to Vancouver.) Each option provides an excellent experience for most leisure travelers.
Yet, there is so much more to explore and experience in Alaska. Here are only four suggestions:
Alaskan owned and operated tour companies provide custom adventures for family-only or adult-only small group land tours; independent adventure travel tours; and self-drive packages. They also can arrange off-shore and inland guided fishing trips. Setting out in a camper with provisions for a week and a good map (there aren’t that many roads in Alaska) is a great way to see Alaska up close.
Explore the serenity of backcountry Alaska by rail with several itinerary options provided by Alaska Railroad, including the Aurora Winter Train operating from mid-September to mid-May between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Experience the pioneering spirit and Alaskan traditions celebrated during winter festivals and carnivals in Homer, Fairbanks and Anchorage. Since 1935, Anchorage’s Rondy festival has featured a variety of activities, special events and traditional sports during 10 days beginning in late February. Be sure to dress warmly.
As America’s most mountainous state, Alaska offers outstanding skiing, heli-skiing and snowboarding opportunities and a ski season that extends into early summer in some areas. Alyeska – the state’s largest ski resort – is located 40 miles south of Anchorage and annually averages 650 inches of the powdery white stuff.
You’ve merely scratched the surface, if you have only cruised to Alaska.
Bob has traveled in 74 countries on six continents and taken more than 50 cruises on rivers and oceans around the world. His favorite destinations: "you can't beat Italy (especially Toscana), Southern France, Vienna, Barcelona, Brazil and New Zealand (not to mention London, Paris and Rome). "