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Alaska is one of the most adventurous destinations in the United States, known for its vast wilderness areas, rocky mountain ranges, glaciers, rich cultural heritage, and wildlife encounters.
If you’re looking for things to do in Alaska, you’re spoiled for choice. It’s a destination that offers plenty for any type of traveler; Whether you prefer to sit back and relax, indulge in cultural activities, or venture into the unknown and explore the many hiking trails and discover the most stunning landscapes.
In this guide, we’ve shared some of our top Alaska attractions and places to add to your bucket list, so you can have the best experience possible.
If you’re not sure what to do in Alaska, be sure to save this guide and add these experiences to your list.
Things to do in Alaska
Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture, encounter the state’s majestic animals, or you’re charging your camera batteries to capture stunning vistas, be sure to add the following to your Alaska bucket list.
1. See the majestic glaciers
Alaska is known for its stunning glaciers, so your visit to Alaska wouldn’t be complete without visiting some of them!
Exit Glacier, located in Kenai Fjords National Park, is a relatively accessible glacier experience.
You can hike along well-maintained trails that offer stunning views of the glacier’s massive ice formations. What makes Exit Glacier unique is its proximity to Seward, making it easily accessible for those exploring the Kenai Peninsula.
Watching the mighty forces of nature at work as chunks of ice break off in glacier-fed streams is a truly unforgettable sight.
Another famous glacier in Alaska is Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau. Its brilliant blue ice and intricate network of ice caves make it an enchanting viewing site.
You can hike along the West Glacier Trail to see the glacier up close, and see Nugget Falls, a stunning waterfall cascading down the mountainside, adding to the glacier’s allure.
Don’t miss these Alaska glacier tours:
2. Immerse yourself in the local culture
When visiting Alaska, spending time learning about Alaska Native culture is not only important, but enriching. The state boasts a rich heritage shaped by diverse indigenous communities, and understanding their culture enhances the overall experience.
One of the best places to immerse yourself in Alaska Native culture is the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. Here, you can participate in interactive exhibitions, watch traditional performances, interact with indigenous artisans, and gain insight into their customs and traditions.
Be sure to visit the historic city of Sitka, located in southeastern Alaska, which offers diverse cultural experiences. Sitka National Historical Park showcases vibrant Tlingit culture, with famous totem poles standing tall amid lush forests. Exploring this park provides an opportunity to learn about the importance of totem poles and their role in storytelling.
Ketchikan, known as the “Pole Totem Capital of the World,” is another must-visit destination in Alaska for those who want to learn about Alaska’s heritage. Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan is home to a stunning collection of intricately carved totem poles.
These totem poles serve as powerful symbols representing Alaska Native clans and their stories.
3. Go wildlife spotting
When visiting Alaska, embarking on a wildlife spotting adventure is one of the best things you can do. The state’s vast wildlife is teeming with amazing creatures you won’t find anywhere else.
Start your journey by sailing on the turquoise waters of the Turnagain Arm, where you can watch majestic humpback whales frolic and frolic in their natural habitat.
These gentle giants put on a captivating show, as their massive tails dip into the water, creating a sight you won’t soon forget.
As you venture along the coast, keep an eye out for playful otters and seals, gracefully gliding through the icy waters. Brown bears, a symbol of Alaska’s untamed beauty, can be seen catching salmon along the rivers and streams.
The sight of these magnificent creatures in their element is truly amazing.
Be sure to look above your head, where bald eagles soar freely, their keen eyes scanning the terrain in search of their next meal. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the elusive wolves, carrying their haunting howls across the pristine wilderness.
For a more interactive experience, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where you can observe rescued animals up close, including sea lions, recovering marine mammals, and orphaned brown bears.
This center plays a critical role in the conservation of Alaska’s diverse wildlife and provides a unique educational opportunity for visitors.
4. Experience the Northern Lights
One of the best things to do in Alaska at night is to see the stunning northern lights, also known as the Northern Lights.
The northern lights are a stunning display of lights dancing in the night sky, painting the darkness in vibrant hues of green, pink and purple. It’s a sight that will leave you spellbound.
Fairbanks has been hailed as one of the best places in Alaska to view the Northern Lights. Its privileged location, away from light pollution, as well as long hours of darkness during the winter, increases the chances of viewing this natural spectacle.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is between September and April when the nights are longer and darker.
Planning your visit during these months increases your chances of spotting this unusual phenomenon.
5. Go dog sledding
when Visit AlaskaAn exhilarating and unforgettable experience awaits you: dog sledding. Dog sleds have been a vital means of transportation for centuries in Alaska, especially in remote areas inaccessible by roads.
Embracing this tradition allows you to connect with the rich history and culture of the region.
Bred for their endurance and strength, these amazing animals will form a bond with you as they pull you through the snow-covered landscape.
Feel the refreshing Arctic air on your face as you glide across vast expanses of pristine wilderness. Dog sledding provides a unique perspective, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of the Alaskan landscape in a way that few other experiences can match.
6. Try salmon fishing
Another unmissable thing in Alaska is participating in an exciting salmon fishing experience.
Alaska is home to many species of wild salmon, including hump, sockeye, and chinook salmon. The state’s pristine waters feature some of the largest salmon populations, providing anglers with great opportunities to land their catch.
Salmon fishing is deeply rooted in Alaskan culture, with generations of anglers passing down their skills and knowledge. Engaging in this activity allows you to immerse yourself in the state’s heritage and be a part of time-honored traditions.
7. Hit the hiking trails
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the stunning landscape is hiking. Alaska is known for its stunning natural beauty, and hiking provides an up-close and personal encounter with its majestic landscape.
Chugach State Park is one of the best places to hike because it has an extensive network of trails suitable for all skill levels. Whether you prefer a leisurely hike or a challenging climb, you’ll find a route to suit your preferences and abilities
From towering mountains to pristine lakes, Chugach State Park showcases the best of Alaska’s wildlife. Alaska is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bears, moose, eagles, and more.
Hiking in Chugach State Park provides the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, creating unforgettable moments.
8. Take a whale watching tour
Whale watching in Juneau is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. Juneau is known as one of the best spots in Alaska for whale watching.
Watching the majestic sight of humpback whales breaking into their natural habitat, slapping their tails and feeding is a truly amazing experience.
Participating in a whale watching tour not only means you can see whales up close but it allows you to learn about these fascinating creatures and their vital role in marine ecosystems.
Don’t miss these Alaska glacier tours:
9. Journey through the inner passage
One of the most popular ways to see Alaska is on a cruise ship. Embarking on an Inside Passage cruise is an extraordinary way to experience the state’s natural wonders.
The Inside Passage is known for its stunning landscape, featuring towering glaciers, lush forests and pristine fjords. Cruising through this pass allows you to see the majesty of the Alaskan wilderness up close and personal.
The waters of the Inside Passage are also teeming with marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic whales, playful seals, soaring eagles, and curious otters. It’s a wildlife lover’s dream come true.
You might like this Alaska cruise With our favorite tour group operator, Globus. It’s a 17-day tour from Anchorage to Vancouver that includes Denali, the Kenai Fjords, and Glacier Bay National Park. Don’t forget to use the discount below when booking!
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10. Try the local cuisine
When exploring the wonders of Alaska, be sure to indulge in the local cuisine. Trying local cuisine provides an opportunity to connect with Alaska’s rich cultural heritage.
Taste dishes that have been passed down through generations and discover the flavors that characterize this wonderful region.
Alaska’s pristine wilderness offers an abundance of fresh, sustainable ingredients. From delicious seafood like salmon and halibut to game meats like reindeer, local cuisine showcases ingredients unique to this part of the world.
Anchorage in particular is known for its reindeer sausage. This delicious dessert puts a delicious twist on the traditional dish, blending wild flavors with modern cooking techniques.
11. Visit the Aurora Ice Museum
The Aurora Ice Museum displays stunning ice sculptures created by skilled artists. From delicate sculptures to complex installations, the museum is a testament to the beauty and creativity that can be achieved with frozen water.
Stepping into the Aurora Ice Museum feels like entering a magical world. Ethereal lighting and sparkling ice create an enchanting atmosphere that transports visitors to a completely different world.
Unlike many ice sculptures that melt in the warmer months, the Aurora Ice Museum maintains its frozen splendor year-round. This makes it a rare opportunity to view and appreciate the art of ice regardless of the season.
Located within the Chena Hot Springs Resort, a visit to the Aurora Ice Museum allows you to combine your icy adventure with natural hot spring relaxation, providing the perfect balance of hot and cold experiences.
12. Drive on the Seward Highway
Embarking on a scenic drive along the Seward Highway is an Alaska must-do.
The Seward Highway offers unparalleled views, with towering mountains, sparkling waterways, and stunning glaciers. Every twist and turn of the road reveals a stunning new view that will amaze you.
The highway is a prime place for wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic eagles soaring above, playful otters frolicking in the water, and even the possibility of catching a glimpse of whales in the distance.
The Seward Highway provides access to many outdoor activities. From hiking in the Chugach National Forest to fishing on the Kenai River, there are endless opportunities to connect with Alaska’s natural beauty.
13. Visit the Museum of the North, Fairbanks
Be sure to include a visit to the Nordic Museum in your itinerary. The Museum of the North provides a captivating exploration of Alaska’s rich cultural heritage.
From Alaska Native cultures to the state’s diverse communities, exhibits provide insight into the traditions, art and history that shape Alaska’s identity.
The museum also hosts an impressive collection of Arctic dinosaur fossils and artifacts dating back thousands of years. It’s an opportunity to delve into Alaska’s ancient past and marvel at the remains of prehistoric life.
14. Take a Talkeetna Air Taxi
Talkeetna Air Taxi offers scenic air tours, giving you amazing views of the majestic Alaska Mountain Range.
Soar over snow-capped peaks, turquoise glaciers, and stunning meltwater pools, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the wild landscape.
One of the unique features of the Talkeetna Air Taxi is its ability to land on glaciers, allowing you to get up close and personal with these glacial wonders.
Step out into the vast expanse of the glacier and feel the sheer scale of Alaska’s frozen landscape.
Talkeetna Air Taxi is the preferred choice for visitors looking for glacier rappelling in Denali National Park. Enjoy exclusive access to the park’s most remote areas, and witness its pristine beauty from a truly unparalleled perspective.
15. Visit the Gold Rush Historic Area, Skagway
The Gold Rush Historic District includes the cities of Skagway and Dyea, which were bustling centers during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of this era and gain a deeper understanding of the hardships and triumphs experienced by gold seekers.
Wander the streets lined with beautifully preserved and restored buildings, reflecting the architectural styles of the late 19th century. Each building has its own story to tell, transporting you to a bygone era.
Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center, where you can delve into interactive exhibits and learn about the history and influence of the Gold Rush.
16. Take the kids to Santa Claus’s house, the North Pole
If you’re looking for things to do in Alaska with kids, take a trip to Santa Claus’s house at the North Pole.
At Santa Claus’s house, you can immerse yourself in the festive Christmas spirit no matter the time of year. Explore a winter wonderland filled with holiday decorations, Santa’s workshop, and a giant Santa statue that will fill you with childlike wonder.
The House of Santa Claus hosts a variety of events and celebrations throughout the year, such as parades, fundraisers and themed celebrations.
17. Ride the White Pass and Yukon Railroad
When visiting Alaska, immersing yourself in the stunning landscape and rich history is a must, and riding the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is a unique way to do that.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, making it an integral part of Alaska’s history. Experience the thrill of crossing the same trails that gold seekers once relied on, and feel connected to the pioneering spirit of the past.
Prepare to be amazed by the stunning panoramas of mountains, glaciers and valleys that unfold during your journey on the railway. Enjoy the beauty of glaciers, waterfalls and pristine Alaskan wilderness, all from the comfort of vintage train cars.
18. Check out the national parks
Exploring Alaska’s national parks is a must for any nature enthusiast.
Home to North America’s highest peak, Denali National Park offers unparalleled mountain views, abundant wildlife, and stunning hiking trails. Experience pristine wildlife, see grizzly bears and caribou, and take in the beauty of the vast tundra.
For those looking to immerse themselves in stunning coastal scenery, head to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Watch towering glaciers cascade into turquoise waters, spot humpback whales and orcas, and marvel at the diverse birdlife. Take a boat tour to explore the fjords up close and enjoy the dramatic scenery.
Perhaps the most famous national park is Glacier Bay National Park, where you can discover a world of ice and wonders in Glacier Bay.
Sail through icy channels, see massive tidal glaciers, and listen to the thunderous cracking of ice as it carves into the sea. Keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, and even the occasional glimpse of a breaching whale.
Katmai National Park is known for its thriving population of brown bears. Watch these majestic creatures as they catch salmon at Brooks Falls and soak in the natural hot springs.
19. Watch the tides
The tides at Turnagain Arm are a stunning display of the power of nature, with waves reaching up to 10 feet high. Watching this huge wall of water cascading down the arm is a truly unforgettable sight.
Monitoring the tides is not just a passive activity; It is an active and exciting experience. Surfers take advantage of the high tides, ride the wave and display their skills. You can join them if you are a professional, or simply marvel at their daring deeds.
Turnagain Arm, where the tide occurs, is conveniently located just south of Anchorage, making it easily accessible to visitors. It’s just a short drive from the city, allowing you to view this natural phenomenon without venturing too far from urban amenities.
Best time to visit Alaska
The best time to visit Alaska is usually between mid-June to the end of August. Sometimes the weather is good until mid-September.
During these months, the weather is warmer and the days are longer, allowing you to get out and explore for longer!
April can also be a great time to visit Alaska for wildflower viewing and mosquito-free days, while May and September offer better value and smaller crowds.
Alaska is a place known for adventure and excitement. It is one of the most unique places in North America and offers experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.
We hope this guide has given you some inspiration for what to do in Alaska and given you some things to put on your bucket list!
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Are you thinking about a trip to Alaska and have some other ideas for your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!