Alaska - Anchorage area help

Old Nov 15th, 2018, 05:50 AM
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Alaska - Anchorage area help

Hello all,
Trying to design an itinerary with these basic parameters - July 2019, family of four including two teen boys. Our first foray to Alaska.

Day 1 - Flight into Anchorage - late arrival so not expecting much here. Day 8 fly out of Anchorage.
Day 2 - Day 7 - Here's the fun part - with a car rental, round trip coming back to Anchorage, where to do we go? I'm thinking a mix of Denali, Anchorage and Seward - but is that too much? Someone else suggested Homer to us...I like staying 2 nights per location...a full day Fjord boat ride to see marine wildlife out of Seward area is a must do but otherwise I'm really open to thoughts/experiences. Flightseeing tours are probably out of our budget but ATV tours, rafting, are all things we enjoy as a family. I'm in the very preliminary planning stages here so any thoughts are appreciated!
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Old Nov 15th, 2018, 07:26 AM
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From Anchorage, Denali is a minimum three-day destination, one to get there, one to visit the interior of the park, and one to get back. Seward is around 3 hours from Anchorage, but there are so many interesting places to stop en route - Turnagain Arm sightseeing, the Alyeska gondola, the Wildlife Conservation Center at Portage, maybe a side trip to Hope, an old mining village on the south bank of Turnagain Arm, Exit Glacier near Seward, and more... that counting the Kenai Fjords cruise day, Seward can also be a 3-day affair, or at least 2 1/2. So with seven days all in, that only gives you one more day, which I'd spend in Anchorage - maybe visit the Native Heritage Center, ride bikes along the coastal trail, hike up to Flat Top, whatever... Trips to Homer just won't fit into your schedule.

UNLESS you do the "unthinkable" (well, think about it) and skip Denali. Now I know this smacks as heresy to some, but let me explain.

First, half or more of all visitors never see the mountain because of clouds - Denali makes its own weather, and lots of it. Second, visiting the interior of the park entails sitting on a bus for hours and hours - 8 hours minimum to get to the Eielson visitor center and back, 12 if you want to go all the way to the Wonder Lake Mosquito Festival. Third, while you'll undoubtedly see wildlife from the bus, there's no guarantee that it won't be very far away. Might not - the bears might sit in the middle of the road, but it's also possible that the closest bear will be a speck in the willows half a mile away. Counting the drives there and back from Anchorage, your three days will include something along the lines of 24 to 30 hours (or more) inside a vehicle.

Now what if you spent those three days somewhere else?

Imagine taking the first (jetlagged - 4 hour time difference from the east coast) day and drive up to Independence Mine and Hatcher Pass, around an hour and a bit north of Anchorage. This will get you up in the spectacular mountains, where there are hikes and history galore, as well as a gorgeous ride to get there. Come back to Anchorage, stopping at the fascinating cemetery in the native village of Eklutna, 40 minutes north of Anchorage, to see the colorful "spirit houses" built over the graves near the old Russian churches.

Independence Mine -

Eklutna cemetery

The next day, head down the Seward Highway, stopping at the places I listed, and also maybe take a "26 glacier" cruise out of Whittier. This is different from the Kenai Fjords cruise in that it focuses on tidewater glaciers in College Inlet while the Fjords tours are more wildlife-centered. Anyway, then continue south to Homer and spend a couple of days in that beautiful area. Go salmon or halibut fishing, take a ferry over to Seldovia or Halibut Cove on the far side of Kachemak Bay for kayaking. Visit the cool Russian church in Ninilchik. Lots of fun things to do. Then back to Anchorage.

Kachemak Bay from Homer -

Unlike the Denali option, this plan wouldn't be as weather-sensitive, you'd spend fewer hours in the car, the scenery will knock your socks off, and there are tons of "active" tourism options that you wouldn't have otherwise.

I know it's a tough call, but if it was me I'd definitely think about it.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Nov 15th, 2018 at 07:36 AM.
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Old Nov 15th, 2018, 11:38 AM
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Gardyloo I was hoping youíd chime in - thatís exactly what I needed to hear. My gut was telling me Denali just wasnít going to make sense especially when I was looking into the bus rides into the park. I can live with the decision if I know we can do and see some other amazing things. Ok - Iím going to look at your suggestions in more detail and Iíll be back with more questions no doubt! 😀
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Old Nov 16th, 2018, 10:27 AM
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If you haven't made hotel reservations yet, consider renting an RV. Just be sure to stock up in Anchorage before you set out.
We were there with 2 boys years ago in August. Lots to do and see and having the RV meant they could eat anytime. Boys and food go together.
The MilePost trip planner was recommended for us at the time.
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Old Nov 18th, 2018, 09:10 AM
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The Milepost is a good recommendation. Also, read the local newspapers on-line for some activities that might be going on. We enjoyed Independence Mine. It's amazing people lived and worked in such a remote area. Loved Homer and the Pratt Museum. If you go to Homer, you can stop in Soldotna on the way. It's a good sized town, very suburban but with two teen boys who might need some kind of outdoor clothing, you might want to make a stop at a store that sells outdoor clothing and gear. Not an EMS type place.
Personally, my favorite souvenir is a handmade ulu knife that I use all the time with the special chopping block.
You'll also want to stop to watch some fishing. It's amazing. The Russian River should be crowded with fishermen in early July.
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