Top Attractions in Alaska
Katmai National Park
When people come to Alaska they want to see bears. Yet most visitors never get a glimpse (bears prefer their privacy). However, at Katmai National Park, which boasts the world's largest brown bear population, you're almost guaranteed a photograph of bears doing bear things. Just remember, their teeth and claws are mighty sharp.
Alaska Native Heritage Center
There are more than 200 Native tribal entities in Alaska. At the Heritage Center, experience the lifestyles and traditions of these Native cultures through art and artifact displays and activities like blanket tossing, parka sewing, and drumming.
There are a dozen places between Anchorage and Fairbanks that boast the best viewing of Mt. McKinley (which most Alaskans refer to by its original name, Denali). At 20,320 feet, McKinley is the highest peak in North America, and most places within 100 mi can be good viewing areas. It is so large it creates its own weather patterns, and when the skies are otherwise clear, the mountain may be completely obscured. Try not to get too disappointed if you don't see it; just know you've been in the company of greatness.
Denali National Park
Denali National Park is one of the most popular destinations in the state. It is a spectacular region that can be experienced by saddle safari, bus trip, hike, raft, or flightseeing tour. The first 15 mi of the park road are paved, but after that visitors must ride on a bus or get off and see Denali on foot. No matter which adventure you choose, Denali is truly a wonderful experience.
The Aurora Borealis
The most popular attraction in the wintertime doesn't charge admission or have set viewing times. The northern lights seem to appear without rhyme or reason. There is a science to it, but explanations are still hotly debated by meteorologists, astronomers, and pretty-color enthusiasts. Seeing the northern lights requires that there be no nearby city light, very little moonlight, the cold fall and winter months, and a lot of luck. Hot springs outside Fairbanks keep the hopeful warm while they watch the skies.
Alaska's capital, Juneau, is surrounded by ice and water and can be reached only by boat or plane. The best way to understand this is to fly over the ice fields just outside the city and visit the Mendenhall Glacier. Only 13 mi from downtown Juneau, this gargantuan glacier is right outside the city in plain view. It's 12 mi long—nearly the same distance as between it and downtown Juneau.
The Inside Passage
If you don't arrive in Alaska by cruise ship, make a point of taking a ferry trip along the longest, deepest fjord in North America. Depending on which ferry you take, the trip from Juneau to Skagway can be two or six hours long. In summer the tall peaks surrounding the boats release hundreds of waterfalls from snow and glacial melt. You might see pods of orcas, humpbacks, and dolphins.
Mt. Marathon Race
On July 4 the scenic small town of Seward hosts the Mt. Marathon Race. This race is 1½ mi straight up and 1½ mi straight down the mountain. It began with a bet between two sourdoughs in 1915, and now the celebration turns a town of 2,000 into a city of 40,000 overnight. It's a great way to participate in Alaskan life, and you don't even have to race.
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