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Creature Comforts

Alaska isn't only tundra hiking, grizzly-bear watching, and salmon fishing. It's possible to spend your vacation pampering yourself, enjoying a nice glass of wine and excellent food, and also experience outdoor adventures.

Alaska’s Capital Inn, Juneau. Luxury meets gold-rush history in this gracious hilltop bed-and-breakfast with upscale services and period furnishings from the early 1900s.

Alyeska Resort, Girdwood. An hour south of Anchorage, this luxurious hotel offers plenty of opportunities for spoiling yourself silly. The crown jewel of the resort is the Seven Glaciers Restaurant, a seven-minute tram ride up Mt. Alyeska. There you can enjoy the stunning view of the valley and the namesake glaciers.

Chena Hot Springs Resort, Chena Hot Springs. Here you can spend the day enjoying a wide range of outdoor activities, followed by a long soak in the hot springs and an exceptional dinner.

Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge, Homer. Across Kachemak Bay from Homer, and accessible by boat or floatplane, you can fill your days hiking, fishing, boating, and sightseeing, and your nights with delicious seafood dinners.

Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, Cooper Landing. Charming bungalows with fireplaces and vaulted ceilings make up this sprawling complex on a bluff overlooking the Kenai River.

Pearson's Pond Luxury Inn and Adventure Spa, Juneau. Yoga in the morning; wine and cheese in the evening; whirlpool tubs with rain showers; private balconies; and a well-stocked breakfast nook—luxurious amenities define this B&B on a small pond near Mendenhall Glacier.

Small-town Life

Alaska's entire population is barely more than 700,000 people, and almost half of that population calls Anchorage home. Scrolling down the list of Alaska cities, by the time you get to Sitka, the third-largest town, you're looking at a population of fewer than 9,000 souls. Nearly 60% of Alaskans reside in small towns.

There's a considerable variety of small-town experiences available in Alaska, such as that in Kotzebue, the regional hub for northwest Alaska and Alaska's largest Eskimo community. Perched on the shore of Kotzebue Sound, the town strikes a fine mix of Native and contemporary-American cultures. Be forewarned: landing at the one-runway airport is... interesting.

The towns of Haines and Skagway are a mere 17 miles apart as the eagle flies, but they're light-years apart in their ambience. Haines has chosen to limit cruise-ship visitation to a mere fraction of what Skagway sees. The result is a laid-back, small-town feeling in Haines, where you can enjoy fantastic views of Portage Cove, fishing, and a yearly migration of eagles visiting the late run of succulent chum salmon. Skagway has embraced its gold-rush history, with plenty of restored false-front stores and historic memorabilia.

In the towns of Kenai and Soldotna, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage, commercial fishing boats fill the harbor at the mouth of the Kenai River, and Kenai's onion-dome Russian Orthodox Church accents the old town's skyline. During the salmon dipnetting season in July, you can watch Alaskans stocking up for the coming winter.

Updated: 2014-01-23

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