18 Things to Do in Alaska

By Janet Benoir – December 21, 2023

Alaska’s untamed beauty and adventurous spirit beckon as a dream destination for many. Stretching over half a million square miles as the largest state in the United States, it offers a bounty of natural wonders. With its expansive territory boasting a coastline that represents half of the nation’s total, Alaska presents a unique blend of scenic grandeur, from rugged mountains to tranquil fjords, waiting for you to explore.

As you prepare for a journey like no other, remember that much of Alaska’s majesty lies beyond the reach of conventional travel, accessible only by the skies or seas. Embrace the opportunity to discover the top attractions and experiences that await in the Great Land. Let the allure of Alaska’s pristine wilderness captivate you and create memories that will stay with you long after your adventure ends.

The Northern Lights

Alaska’s night sky transforms into a spectacular display with the aurora borealis, particularly between August and April—known as the prime aurora viewing season. Fairbanks stands out as a prime location for witnessing this magnificent light show, thanks to its strategic position, ease of access, and various amenities ranging from comfortable accommodations to dining and sightseeing options.

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A range of guided excursions caters to observers, from single night aurora pursuits to multi-day experiences that incorporate winter expeditions like dog-sledding. Moreover, those seeking an extraordinary adventure can take flights into locales beyond the Arctic Circle, finding solace in Coldfoot or Wiseman for extended viewing.

Denali National Park and Preserve

Spanning over a vast 6 million acres, Denali National Park and Preserve presents a refuge of unspoiled nature and the towering Mount Denali, the tallest in North America. Access to the park is available throughout the year, with the most convenient visitation period and full-range services occurring during summer months.

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Upon arrival at Denali’s gateway, the park welcomes you with the Riley Creek Campground, the Murie Science and Learning Center, and the expansive Denali Visitor Center. Inside the 14,000-square-foot facility, you’ll find immersive exhibits and a film providing insights into the park’s vast landscapes and wildlife. Denali is teeming with life, boasting approximately 37 mammal species and 130 species of birds.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

Encompassing over 3.3 million acres of natural splendor, Glacier Bay National Park is a crown jewel in Alaska’s tapestry of wild landscapes. This untouched haven is embedded within a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site, making it one of Earth’s most extensive conservation territories. The park’s terrain is a mosaic of jagged shorelines, deep-cut fjords, towering, snow-laden peaks, shimmering glaciers, and lush temperate rainforest, which coexist within this vast expanse.

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Nearly a fifth of the park consists of aquatic environments, safeguarding a rich marine ecosystem. Your encounter may include the contemplative silence punctuated by the distant sounds of wildlife or the awe-inspiring phenomena of ice calving from millennia-old glaciers.

Alaskan Cruise

Embarking on an Alaskan cruise places awe-inspiring scenery and unique activities at your fingertips. You’ll have the opportunity to visit secluded spots such as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve without juggling travel arrangements. Imagine yourself on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway, absorbing the breathtaking landscapes, or ascending the icy terrains via helicopter for a dog-sledding adventure.


With a range of vessels from major cruise lines to the smaller, more intimate ships provided by operators such as Lindblad Expeditions and UnCruise Adventures—options are abundant. Enhance your journey with cruisetours, offered by companies including Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, combining land excursions with your sea voyage. 


In the vast terrains of Alaska, aerial tours offer an unrivaled perspective of both the most secluded national parks and the well-trafficked ones. Only by air or water can you access these pristine wildlands. Opting for an aerial tour allows you to soar over glaciers, scope out wildlife from high above, chart the path of the legendary Iditarod race, or touch down at secluded landmarks like the Kennecott Mines within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. 


Airborne expeditions generally accommodate small groups, with bush planes seating two to eight adventurers, and helicopters limited to four. Providers such as Talkeetna Air Taxi and K2 Aviation offer fixed-wing aircraft tours, while Temsco Helicopters and Alpine Air Alaska deliver exhilarating helicopter safaris. Other notable operators include Wings Airways and Smokey Bay Air, ensuring a broad selection of options for your skyward exploration.

Kenai Peninsula

The Kenai Peninsula offers a vast range of outdoor activities. It stretches 150 miles southwest and is bordered by Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound, boasting 14 communities including Homer, Kenai, and Seward. You can access this region conveniently by the Alaska Railroad or the Seward Highway. Engage in dynamic adventures like river rafting, hiking, and camping amidst the region’s scenic beauty.

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Exploration thrives in areas like Exit Glacier and the Kenai Fjords near Seward, where hiking trails promise awe-inspiring landscapes. The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward opens doors to marine life conservation and education, allowing you to observe sea creatures such as puffins and seals up close. For those keen on sport fishing, Anchor Point offers beach launches for catching halibut and salmon in Cook’s Inlet.

Husky Homestead

Just on the outskirts of Denali National Park, an experience awaits that deepens your understanding of Alaskan culture and the iconic dog sledding tradition. Jeff King, heralded as a legendary figure in mushing circles, extends a warm welcome at his Husky Homestead.

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Over the years, King has accumulated a staggering number of miles—more than a winter’s worth of snow—on his sled, led by teams of powerful dogs. His accolades include not only a quartet of Iditarod wins but numerous titles across the snowy expanses of Alaska and North America. His contributions were so significant that in 1999, they earned him a place of honor in the prestigious Iditarod Hall of Fame.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Spanning 200 acres in Girdwood, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary for a variety of species such as black and brown bears, moose, caribou, and wolves. It focuses on sheltering animals that are injured or orphaned, alongside spearheading significant research and educational outreach. A collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has led to a pivotal environmental initiative: reintroducing wood bison to central Alaska.

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You have the opportunity to engage with this remarkable refuge through a 90-minute guided “Walk on the Wild Side Tour,” which operates throughout the year and is tailored for groups of no more than 10 people for an intimate experience. During the summer, special encounters with bears and moose are offered, allowing for an extraordinary close-up interaction.


Fairbanks, referred to as the vibrant heart of Alaska, is an exceptional location for observing the mesmerizing aurora borealis. Positioned in the middle of Alaska’s interior, it serves as an ideal hub for venturing into the Arctic Circle or heading south to the majestic Denali National Park, which lies just over 100 miles away. Transportation options to Denali from Fairbanks are plentiful, including driving, shuttle vans, or the scenic Denali Star Train by the Alaska Railroad.

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During the mid-April to mid-August period, often called the midnight sun season, Fairbanks experiences virtually uninterrupted daylight, encouraging endless outdoor pursuits like hiking, running, and even golf at any time of day. For those interested in the rich regional history, panning for gold in the Tanana Valley at Gold Dredge 8 offers a glimpse into the city’s golden past.

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Nestled roughly 60 miles northeast of Fairbanks, the Chena Hot Springs Resort is celebrated for its therapeutic natural springs and an outdoor rock pool. You can immerse yourself in the relaxing waters and admire the beauty of the native landscape. The resort, operating on sustainable geothermal energy, stands as the most readily reachable and highly established hot springs destination in the heart of Alaska.

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The resort provides a multitude of packages and recreational activities suitable for both day excursions and longer stays. Your visit can include a tour of the Chena kennel, home to over 50 enthusiastic huskies, or a thrilling aurora-viewing experience. Season-dependent activities range from horseback riding to dog-training and guided tours on snowmobiles or ATVs. For a unique overnight experience, you have the option to rest in a comfortable yurt amidst the Alaskan wilderness.

Aurora Ice Museum

Nestled within the Chena Hot Springs Resort, the Aurora Ice Museum stands as a monumental structure built from over 1,000 tons of ice and snow harvested on-site. In operation throughout the year, the museum’s interior remains steadfastly cold at 25 degrees Fahrenheit, irrespective of the season, maintained by an innovative absorption refrigeration system.

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Embark on a 45-minute guided exploration, clad in a provided parka, to discover the history of this frosty gallery and the artistic narratives captured in its ice sculptures. You also receive an opportunity to take memorable photos and indulge in a unique experience: enjoying a chilled appletini served in a sculpted ice glass at the museum’s own ice bar. Visitors often express amusement and appreciation for the creativity and craftsmanship of the displayed ice art.


This picturesque locale beckons travelers with its stunning waterfront and ranks as a prime stopping point for cruise ships in Alaska’s milder seasons. Fishing vessels and floatplanes are common along the docks, setting a lively scene. The city center, hugged by the imposing Mount Roberts and Mount Juneau, unfolds a tapestry of architectural diversity, echoing its gold rush heritage on South Franklin Street with establishments from the early 20th century. 

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Venturing away from the downtown heart, you’re invited to witness the marine majesty of humpback whales on a whale-watching tour—sightings are so common that they’re often guaranteed, and you might also see orcas, sea lions, and other wildlife. For those who seek to immerse themselves in the landscape, hiking trails abound, leading to glacier vistas, forested expanses, and the pinnacle of the Mount Roberts Tramway, where you can savor a meal with panoramic views at Timberline Bar & Grill.

Alaska Native Heritage Center

Anchorage is home to a distinctive institution known as the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can immerse yourself in the Indigenous culture of Alaska. This unique center proudly showcases the heritage of several native groups, including the Iñupiaq, Yupik from St. Lawrence Island, Athabascan, Eyak, Haida, and Tsimshian, alongside the Tlingit, Unangax̂, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, and Cup’ik communities.

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Your journey through the center offers a multi-sensory education on the 10,000-year-old narrative of Alaska Native history, captured through various forms like art and dance. Engage with captivating performances, craft demonstrations, curated exhibits, films, and storytelling sessions. Frequent visitors highly recommend attending a live performance or presentation to enhance your understanding of the profound cultural depths of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples.


Located amidst the imposing Chugach Mountains and the expansive Cook Inlet, Anchorage is not only the most populous city in Alaska but also a hub of urban sophistication surrounded by natural splendor. Your outdoor recreational desires are well catered to here, with opportunities for both road and mountain biking, hiking, and numerous water sports.

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The city is peppered with over 200 parks and more than 120 miles of scenic paved pathways. At Kincaid Park’s vast 1,400 acres of forest, on days graced with clarity, you can marvel at the awe-inspiring Mount Susitina across the inlet, complemented by the breathtaking sunsets.

Anchorage Museum

The Anchorage Museum captures the essence of Alaska through expansive exhibits and a wealth of artifacts highlighting the history, art, and diverse culture of the area. Highlights of the museum include the extensive array of over 600 indigenous artifacts shared by the Smithsonian, allowing for a deep cultural immersion.

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Moreover, you can expect a rotation of traveling exhibitions and a lineup of engaging activities ranging from live musical and dance performances to educational workshops. The museum is a testament to careful curation, as visitors often spend up to five hours exploring the richness contained within its four stories. With such depth, consider dedicating a significant portion of your day to the experience.

Arctic Circle

Your adventure to Alaska’s remote northern regions will not only test your driving skills but also promises an array of unique experiences beyond the Arctic Circle. Should you decide to navigate the rugged Dalton Highway, make sure you’re an adept driver. The terrain can be unforgiving, with a challenging mix of gravel and dirt paths, especially during winter months.

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Vehicles must be well-equipped for such conditions, and note that typical rental cars are prohibited on this route. Consider specialized rental services like Arctic Outfitters or Alaska 4×4 Rentals who provide vehicles designed for these environments. Remember, the Dalton Highway offers limited amenities, no cellular service, and sparse vehicle support, emphasizing the importance of planning and self-reliance.

Alaskan Bus Tours

Exploring the heart of Alaska becomes effortless with professionally conducted coach tours. As you journey through vast tracts of wilderness, trust in the seasoned drivers who deftly handle the routes, liberating you from the chore of driving. The convenience extends to organized stays, ventures, and dining options, all smoothly arranged for you.


Boldly merging coach and train services, some packages present a comprehensive travel experience. Unique paths become accessible through this fusion, broadening your horizons past conventional roads. Renowned providers such as Alaska Tour & Travel, John Hall’s Alaska, and Gray Line Alaska present diverse package options. Those who have traversed Alaska with Alaska Tour & Travel recount an uninterrupted and delightful escapade, rich in experiences and free from any travel hassle.

Alaska Railroad

Traversing nearly 500 miles of South-Central and Interior Alaska, your journey on the Alaska Railroad is a showcase of breathtaking landscapes and unique experiences. During summer, the train’s schedule aligns perfectly with a variety of Alaskan adventures. You might embark on a round-trip from Anchorage to indulge in a coastal glacier and wildlife cruise departing from Seward.

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For a more luxurious experience aboard the train, select services offer GoldStar-level perks. Opt for this to enjoy panoramic views through glass-domed ceilings, dine in full-service elegance, unwind in a private bar, or step onto the outdoor viewing platform to capture the majestic surroundings.