Here’s the thing about Alaska …
It’s even BETTER than we ever imagined it would be!
Stunning mountains, beautiful glaciers, and wildlife we had never even seen before.
It really did exceed expectations and road tripping Alaska ranks as one of the best experiences from our half a year spent exploring North America in our camper.
It's no surprise that destinations and attractions in the state nicknamed the “Great Land” seem limitless.
So that’s why we've put together this guide on the absolute best things to do in Alaska.
To help make planning your own trip that little bit easier.
Let’s get started…
Being such a large state, there are many ways to get to Alaska depending on where exactly you're coming from. Here are some of your options:
The most common way people get to Alaska is by plane. With Anchorage being the largest city, more than 100 flights land daily in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. However, the cities of Fairbanks and Juneau have large airports that can be convenient to fly into depending on where you're flying from.
Direct flights are regular from major cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Houston, Los Angeles and many others. Do make sure to check availability on SkyScanner beforehand as many flights are seasonal.
Alaska has the largest coastline of all the states in the US so getting to Alaska by boat is very possible and quite popular!
There are several cruise options that will take you to and all around Alaska where you’ll be able to visit some scenic port towns which include many excursions.
If you're planning to do one of these then why not check out our in-depth cruise packing list?
Another option is getting the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry system which departs from Bellingham (Washington) and has many stops along the way. You can do this as a person or with a vehicle.
Driving from Canada to Alaska is high up on a lot of peoples bucket lists and for good reason!
If a road trip from Canada down through Alaska in a camper van is your plan of action then the Alaskan Highway will be your best option. The Alaska Highway starts in Canada’s British Columbia and ends in Delta Junction.
Alternatively, if you're road tripping from Seattle, the Cassiar Highway has some phenomenal views and tends to have less traffic than the more popular Alaskan Highway.
While getting to Alaska by car is possible all year round, you’ll need to pre-plan your route and take some extra precautions between the winter months of October to March as the roads are very treacherous.
A lot of points of interest in Alaska are not accessible by car so flying is necessary to get around the state. Luckily flying in Alaska is a whole experience in itself!
Bush planes are tiny planes perfect for visiting some of the native villages and are a great way to experience some of the wilderness that Alaska has to offer.
Flightseeing is a popular trip for tourists, and is where a small plane or helicopter will take you to several locations including to the top of mountains and glaciers.
An Alaskan road trip is like no other and an extremely popular method of transport. While it takes a lot of planning, especially out of season, the beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife makes driving in Alaska an experience in itself.
For the best hire deals, you'll want to look at Rental Cars!
If driving isn’t your thing or you’re looking for a more relaxing method, motor coach tours will allow you to sit back, relax, and just take in the views.
To note: Driving around Alaska means entering Canada so don’t forget your passport.
This is even better than a car as it saves you money on your accommodation each night!
Plus you get to stay in epic places each night. For more information, check out our guide on the best RV rentals in Alaska.
Exploring the glaciers and aquatic wildlife by cruise is one of the most popular ways to get around Alaska.
The Inside Passage is a popular route along the south east coast which departs from either Vancouver, Canada or Seattle.
There are several different packages available from luxury all-inclusive to private smaller boats with a more personalized itinerary.
The Alaska Railroad spans 470 miles and is a great option for taking in some of the main sites in Alaska.
Famous for its impressive sites and modern rail cars, there are several different packages available for the Alaskan Railroad.
Being such a huge state, there are endless options of places to stay in Alaska. However, the three cities below are the best places to base your trip from as you’ll be able to access almost everything that you want to do.
To do everything on this list, you’ll need some mode of transport, and it would be good to stay in multiple towns/cities around the country.
While Juneau is the state capital, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and is the perfect base for your stay. Anchorage is an amazing city in itself but it's also where a lot of the tours and excursions leave from, making it super easy to see the rest of what Alaska has to offer.
This vibrant city is a popular pick with tourists, especially in winter. Known for having some of the best views of the northern lights, Fairbanks is the perfect option for where to stay in Alaska for a winter vacation.
Juneau is Alaska's capital city and is the only capital city in the world that's not accessible by car, only by boat or plane. Therefore, this city is not your best option if you're planning on getting around Alaska by road. This city is still extremely popular with tourists so do not let the limited accessibility put you off.
Valdez is a stunning city with tons of things to do! Whether it’s kayaking on Valdez glacier lake or whale watching on a cruise of the Prince William Sound, you won’t be short of activities.
This was actually the final main stop on our drive around Alaska, and I’m so glad we saved it 'til last.
It represented everything I thought Alaska would be! Namely because of our cruise (more on that below).
First up, the hiking trails are one of the main draws to Valdez. These beautiful trails take you past waterfalls, forests, and mountains, and are for all abilities.
If you're lucky enough to visit in winter, Valdez is the perfect place for some outdoor sports such as skiing, snowboarding, ski flights, and even heli-skiing! A highlight for a lot of people is taking a snowmobile to some of the famous glaciers near to Valdez.
But based on our experience, the best thing to do in Valdez is to embark on a Columbia Glacier Cruise with Stan Stephens!
Here, you spend 6 hours wildlife spotting floating along the shoreline of Prince William Sound taking witness to the stunning Columbia Glacier and Chugach Mountains.
You might see bald eagles nesting in trees, otters floating on their backs with their pups, and seals slipping on and off bergs.
It really was an incredible experience and a once-in-a-lifetime day.
If you've got the time I'd also recommend taking a cruise in Kenai Fjords National Park which can be accessed via the city of Seward!
Denali National Park and preserve is an absolute must-do for any trip to Alaska.
Spanning over 160 miles, there are endless things to do within the park itself from fishing, hiking, and wildlife spotting. If animals are your thing then Denali National Park is the perfect place to try spot Alaska’s big five; Moose, Caribou, Wolf, Dall sheep and Brown bear.
Denali National Park is the ideal location to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in nature.
A highlight for a lot of visitors is a visit to the sled dog kennels which are home to a group of huskies and the trainers show demonstrations, often in high season.
The Denali Visitor Center is a great starting point, here you can learn the history of the park before embarking on your adventures. From here, you can get the park's free shuttle to the trailhead where you can start one of the eight designated hiking trails.
Due to the vast size of the park and the fact that the majority of it isn't open to private vehicles, we would definitely recommend pre-booking a Denali tour to be sure you don’t miss any of the highlights.
If you're a fan of North America's national parks then make sure you head to the Canadian province of Alberta. Here, you'll get to explore Banff, Yoho, Jasper, and Waterton Lakes.
Taking a husky tour is arguably one of the most fun things to do in Alaska. Not only is it a great way to spend a day, it's also an Alaskan tradition!
You can do a husky tour from several places around Alaska including Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Denali. These tours are available all year round but will be slightly different depending on the weather.
The summer tours will consist of visiting the kennels, meeting the huskies and pups and then riding on a wheeled sled which they use to practice on when there’s no snow. Alternatively if you're visiting in summer you can purchase a tour that contains transfers to a snowy region to have a go on the snow.
For the winter tours, you'll get to meet the huskies just like in summer but you will have the opportunity to ride or even drive the sled through the snow.
Book your Summer Tour here!
Book your Winter Tour here!
If you're planning a road trip around Alaska, the town of Chicken is a great little stop off. Located between Fairbanks and Yukon, this is one of the last remaining gold rush towns.
Plus it’s the first place you will get a phone signal when coming from across Dawson City in Canada … which is always nice!
With a population of only around 17 people all year round, this small town’s tourism season peaks in summer and walking tours are on offer everyday between June and August.
This small walking tour takes you all around the historic town including the opportunity to meet Tisha, the town's oldest inhabitant who came to teach the local children in the 1920’s.
Chicken is also the ideal place to give gold panning a go. In 1886 miners used to use shovels and picks to find gold in the famous Chicken Creek. The town of Chicken provides pans for free so you can test your skills at gold panning in this creek.
The town of Chicken has its own accommodation options so we would really recommend spending a night in one of the cabins or parking up at one of the RV sites for a few nights to experience everything this quaint town has to offer.
There are plenty of things to do in Chicken so don't miss out on this little place!
If you have limited time in Alaska, one of the best things you can do is book a Portage Glacier Cruise. Departing from Anchorage, the Portage Glacier cruise only takes up an hour of your day yet you will be able to see the face of the famous Portage Glacier.
Luckily this boat has a warm heated cabin inside but with an open deck so you can view the icebergs open to the elements to get the real experience. As this boat is not too large, you're able to get within 300 feet of the giant glacier; very up close and personal!
This is one of the state's most famous attractions and is by far the best thing to do in Alaska in May through to September. During these months, the cruise departs five times a day, so be sure to book your ticket online at least five days in advance as these daily cruises do get booked up fast.
A great day trip from Fairbanks is to take the easy drive to Chena Hot Springs. The 56 mile long Chena Hot Springs Road has two main hikes along the way, Granite Tors and Angel Rocks which make perfect stop offs to see some more of Alaska's forests and wildlife.
The road then finishes at Chena Hot Springs which is the perfect place to relax after a day of exploring. Chena is world famous for its huge outdoor lake, large indoor pool and hot tubs, which are constantly replenished with 73 degrees Celsius spring water that naturally rises from the earth.
If you would like to stay later on into the evening, Chena Hot Springs has its own restaurant which serves traditional gold rush dishes and if you visit in winter, it's likely you'll be able to witness the stunning northern lights.
Chena Hot Spring resort has so much more to offer than just the springs, so you may want to stay a bit longer and book a few nights in the lodges. Chena has some amazing couples escape packages available on their website that look like the perfect romantic getaway.
This is one of the top things to do in Alaska so don't leave it off your itinerary!
If you're looking for some romantic things to do in Alaska, head straight to the Aurora Ice Museum. Based in Fairbanks, Aurora Ice Museum is the largest all year round ice environment in the world and is an awesome way to spend an evening.
The museum harvested thousands of tonnes of ice and snow, and it uses a unique cooling system to keep the museum at minus seven degrees Celsius all year round but don’t worry, free parkas are included in the tour price!
While the structure of the museum is a spectacle on its own, it's also filled with stunning ice sculptures, ice rooms, an ice bar and sparkling lights designed to replicate the beauty of the northern lights.
While this museum is situated within the Chena Hot Springs resort, you don't need to be a guest to book a tour to the ice museum, although we do recommend visiting the hot springs too!
The City of Whittier is home to many of Alaska’s hidden gems! This tiny area was used by the US army as a secret base because of how inaccessible it is. This is due to the surrounding high mountains and the amount of cloud coverage.
To get access to the highway, the army blasted a tunnel through the mountain which is still the only road entry point to Whittier today.
Whittier is now a popular tourist destination so there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Glacier cruises and fishing charters run daily in high season to get you out in the Gulf of Alaska.
If water sports is your thing then Whittier is the place to be. Jet skis and kayaks are available to rent all around and allow you to explore the beauty of Prince William Sound.
Whittier is known to be one of the best places in Alaska to scuba dive in March through to June. Charter boats can provide transport to several famous diving spots, including the Dutch Group Islands where you can experience some of Alaska's marine life such as eels, octopuses, and giant grabs.
Make the most out of your Whittier trip by booking a Glacier Tour!
Situated in Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Museum of the North is a popular day out for tourists. This museum is the perfect place to learn all about Alaskans native people, wildlife, and art.
With over 1 million historical artifacts, the Museum of the North has something to meet everyone's interests. The modern building that hosts this museum is a spectacle in itself and can be viewed from the wide range of outdoor exhibits.
This museum is fun for all the family with interactive exhibits, a huge mummified bison, an indoor cinema, and tonnes of dinosaur fossils!
While the museum itself is $16 for an adult ticket, this includes a free downloadable audio guide which you can access via your smartphone, allowing you to take in the museum at your own pace.
Students and faculty of the university can enter for free and Alaskan locals can get a discounted entry ticket.
“Where it's Christmas everyday!” Santa Claus House is a fun activity in Alaska for the whole family! This adorable building is not only a perfect photo opportunity but also has a famous gift shop perfect to buy some unique keepsakes and amazing Christmas decorations.
Santa is in his house and available for visits between Wednesday and Sunday all year round so make sure you plan your trip wisely so you don’t miss him! Luckily even if he’s busy that day, you can still meet his reindeers, sit in his sleigh and post your friends and family a postcard with the North Pole stamp!
A highlight of Santa Claus House has to be their huge sweet shop where you can try some home made fudge and treat yourself to a hot coco to warm up from the cold weather.
Fairbanks is a vibrant city known for its welcoming spirit and generous people. If you aren’t choosing to base yourself in Fairbanks (like a lot of people do) it's definitely worth a few days of exploring.
Not only is it home to the famous Aurora Ice Museum and Chena Hot Springs, but it's also where the University of Alaska Museum of the North is located.
Fairbanks has visitors coming from all over the world to witness the beautiful aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.
The best way to see this would be to book an overnight stay in a special viewing cabin. Just be sure to check the aurora trackers to make sure you're booking at the right time as you don't want to miss them!
If you're feeling crafty, Fairbanks offers unique classes at The Folk School where you can learn some real hands-on skills such as woodworking, survival classes, and traditional Alaskan crafts.
Book your Fairbanks Heritage and Sightseeing Tour here!
If walking on a glacier isn’t on your list of things to do in Alaska, then it definitely should be!
Matanuska Glacier is the largest car accessible glacier in the United States and you're actually able to walk on top of it, all year round. It's easy to get to from both Anchorage or Palmer which makes this walk a perfect day trip activity.
The Matanuska Glacier hike is a hugely popular activity in Alaska but it's run by the private company Glacier Tours which is where you can organize your trip.
Whilst this activity is run all year round, if you were hoping to have a self-guided hike along the glacier, this is only available in the summer months as that's when it's safest and best for hikers of all abilities.
If you're up to the challenge, the Matanuska Glacier winter tour is an amazing experience. While it's a bit trickier, the guides will take you out in small groups, provide ice climbing gear and take you to some of the most beautiful, harder to reach areas of the glacier.
Whale spotting is a bucket list activity for so many people and Alaska is the ideal place to tick it off.
Whilst whale watching is possible in several spots throughout Alaska, Juneau is one of the most popular places due to its remote location and stunning landscapes.
This activity is available all year round but April to September are the best months as it's much more likely that you’ll be able to see wildlife. If you can, book your tour at this time of year to have the best experience possible.
Boat tours usually take around 4-5 hours and depart from Juneau. It's possible to spot whales from the shore but booking a whale watching tour is the ultimate way to learn about the aquatic wildlife in Alaska and spot humpback, gray, killer, and beluga whales, as well as some dolphins!
Here's some more information on the best whale watching tours in Juneau...
Book your boat tour here!
Top Tip: Take a larger boat if you do suffer from motion sickness but if you're lucky enough not to, a smaller tour is often the best way to whale spot.
Without a doubt a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier is another must-do on any trip to Alaska. This 13 mile long river of ice is a tourist hotspot and for very good reason.
Start your visit with a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center; this stunning building hosts several interactive activities and has the best photo spot so you can make all of your Instagram followers jealous. N.B to access the photo point, it will cost $5pp.
If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can pick up a wide range of activities from the visitors center. Whether you fancy a difficult hike, floating alongside icebergs on a kayaking trip or even venture into the Mendenhall Ice Caves, you won’t be disappointed.
Adventure Tours are a highlight for a lot of visitors, especially the ranger talks on the local wildlife followed by a trip to the majestic waterfalls and salmon streams.
The construction of the Alaska Railroad started in 1903 and is an important part of Alaska’s history. It's often said that if the Alaska Railroad was never constructed, Anchorage would not be the city that we know today.
It was originally built to transport miners from Canada to Alaska but is now state owned and used to shuttle hundreds of thousands of people per day.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad is a fun activity that is very popular amongst tourists for very good reason. There are several different trip options on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, but all will take you past the most stunning scenery of waterfalls, glaciers, and mountains.
The amazing thing about this train is that the design has not changed since the Gold Rush. These vintage carriages have huge windows and viewing decks for optimal scenic viewing.
Top Tip: Make sure you have your passport on you for this trip as you’ll need it to ride the train.
You will not miss this turquoise giant! At over 75 miles long and 7 miles wide, The Hubbard Glacier is North America's largest tidewater glacier.
Based inside Wrangell-St Elias National Park, the Hubbard Glacier is a landmark you NEED to see in person to fully understand how large it actually is!
Unfortunately due to choppy waters, boats can’t actually get too close to the glacier but booking a boat tour will allow you to take some beautiful photos of the bright blue ice and fresh white snow on top.
April to November is the best time to visit this breathtaking glacier as you are much more likely to see that contrasting bright blue sky, however this is a must-do rain or shine!
Stretching 500 miles along the Pacific Ocean, south east Alaska’s Inside Passage is a sight you cannot miss! The largest national forest in the US covers 17 million acres along the Inside Passage giving some lush green scenery, - this is the Tongass National Forest.
This boat tour is the most common way to visit the Inside Passage, cruising along the fjords where you can spot ice fields, glaciers, and islands, and is an ideal way to see some of Alaska’s highlights.
Cruises depart from Seattle, LA, and Vancouver during the summer months, however it's entirely possible to do it on your own.
It's also common for people who travel Alaska by car or van to park up along the Alaska Highway and use the state ferry to visit places along the Inside Passage such as Skagway, Totem Bight State Historic Park, Sitka, Juneau and Glacier Bay National Park.
Sitka National Historical Park may be the smallest of Alaska’s national parks but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit! The best way to get the most out of your trip to Sitka is to book a guided tour.
Sitka National Historical Park is home to The Russian Bishop's House which along with your guide will help you to understand some of the park's history with Russian Colonialism dating back to the early 1900’s.
Not only this but if you haven't been lucky enough to spot a bear during your Alaska trip, Sitka National Historical Park has a natural wild bear sanctuary named Fortress of the Bear. Here you can safely enjoy an up-close experience with the bears and learn some of their backstories.
The tour will also take you around some of the famous totems located in the park - the Tlingit and the Haida before a stunning walk around the Indian river.
Bring your comfiest walking shoes for this day trip as it's a lot of walking!
If you aren’t all National Historical Park’ed out - then Klondike Gold Rush in Skagway should definitely be on your to-do list!
The Gold Rush is an integral part of Alaska’s history and this National Park is the perfect place to learn all about it.
Klondike has several different hiking trails which vary in difficulty but are all equally as stunning. The most notable is the Chilkoot trail which is 33 miles long and represents the path of the gold seekers.
Just make sure you visit the Chilkoot Trail Center before you set off to receive your mandatory trail orientation and pick up your trail pass. Watching an optional bear safety video before you set off is also advised.
If hiking isn’t your thing then luckily Klondike’s 20 gold rush boom town buildings and vast amounts of museums will keep you busy. The visitor center museum is the most popular with interactive exhibits where you can choose what route you would have taken through the gold fields and see how well you do!
The Mascot Saloon museum is a top photo opportunity in the park as you can visit a restored saloon bar that was originally shut down in 1916.
There wouldn't be a “things to do in Alaska” post without mentioning Alaska’s biggest city Anchorage. If you're flying into Alaska it's likely that you'll start or base your trip from here.
While it's a good base due to its transport links, Anchorage is a beautiful city to explore on its own.
The Anchorage museum is a great starting point to learn some history before venturing around the state. To see some wildlife, the Alaska Zoo is a great way to entertain the whole family whilst the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is where you can see how Alaska goes about protecting their local wildlife.
If a flightseeing tour is on your Alaskan bucket list then Anchorage is the place to get it ticked off as they depart from here all year round. Flightseeing will take you to those hard to reach areas of the state that can only be accessed by plane.
There are multiple different routes you can take so it's best to look through them all and decide which one takes your fancy.
However, flying is not the only way to get a view from above the city, the Alyeska Tramway takes guests above the trees, around glaciers and up to the top of mount Alyeska.
Last of all, you'll want to head to the Alaska Native Heritage Center!
You can definitely visit Alaska all year round as there are different activities in both summer and winter so it really depends on the activities you're wishing to do during your trip. That being said, June to August is the peak season for visiting Alaska.
May is the states driest month, with the chance of rainfall increasing as it goes into the summer months. However a lot of the best summer activities in Alaska do not start until June. Unfortunately the northern lights are rarely visible during the summer months as it's nearly daylight all night long between May and end of July.
The best time to view the aurora is the end of August until the end of April due to dark and cold nights. This winter period is also the best time to do some of the winter activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, dog sledding, and the glacier hike.
If you're planning on basing yourself in one or two cities and relying on taking day trips and tours, ten days is the perfect amount of time to stay in Alaska as you’ll be able to see all the state’s highlights and not feel too rushed.
However if you aren’t limited in time, you could easily road trip around Alaska for two to four weeks and see some more of what this huge state has to offer.
Some of the best ways to see Alaska in a short amount of time is to book a tour of Alaska.
One of the most popular ways to see Alaska is to take a seven day cruise starting from either Vancouver or Seattle and stopping at a lot of Alaska's ports and highlights on the way.
A flightseeing tour is a great way to see some of the harder to reach destinations and get an aerial view of the beauty that is Alaska.
According to current travel trends, you should expect to spend around $200 a day during your trip in Alaska. However, that will depend on how many activities you decide to do while staying in Alaska.
Alaska really does have such a large variety of things to do for everyone.
Being such a huge state, we're sure there are some unique things to do in Alaska that we've missed, so please do leave some recommendations in the comments!
If you're looking to travel onwards from Alaska, you can head straight up the Alaska Highway and into British Columbia.
There, you can then embark on a British Columbia road trip seeing places such as Vancouver, Okanagan Valley, and Yoho National Park.
There are so many fantastic places to visit in Canada that you'll be spoilt for choice, so here's some travel guides to give you some inspiration:
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