Are you planning a trip to Alaska and want to put together an amazing Alaska itinerary that includes some of the best places to visit in Alaska? Look no further!
On our first visit to Alaska, we drove from Wisconsin. Yes, you read that right, and we spent a ton of time exploring interior Alaska. On our most recent trip to Alaska, we spent on the water. We were on a Holland America Alaska cruise visiting some of the best places in Alaska that are much easier to visit via boat.
There are so many amazing things to do in Alaska and places to visit it is hard to narrow it down, but here are our personal favorite places to visit in Alaska.
Located on the edge of the Kenai Peninsula, Homer is an eclectic community that has attracted fishers, farmers, artists, and handicrafters for the last few decades. Spend time hopping between the different Cape Cod-style homes and shops, or get outdoors by exploring the many beaches and hiking trails along the way.
One of the town’s main attractions is the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile piece of land that jets out into the middle of Kachemak Bay. Surrounded by the Kenai mountains and glacial waters, the views from the Spit are nothing short of spectacular.
There are a ton of things to do in Homer. We highly suggest spending three nights or more here. This was one of our favorite hidden gems on our Alaska road trip. If you have time, make sure to get out on a boat and try your hand at halibut fishing in Homer, reeling in one of these giants is a task!
With just under 1,000 residents, Talkeetna’s funky town is the epitome of a small Alaskan town. As you walk through town, you’ll feel as if Talkeetna is somewhat stuck in time, with many of the buildings retaining their original designs from the gold-rush era.
Although the town itself offers relatively little in terms of city life and tourism, the neighboring landscape is a world just waiting to be explored. Take a riverboat tour down the Talkeetna Canyon, go horseback riding along the Tokositna River, or spend a few days climbing the iconic Denali mountain.
One of our favorite things to do in Talkeetna was the scenic flight with a glacier landing. Some of the best views are from above! If you’ve ever taken a scenic flight or helicopter tour before you know they aren’t the cheapest activity; the Talkeetna scenic flight is super affordable and worth EVERY PENNY! We flew with Talkeetna Air and highly recommend them.
3. Hatcher Pass
The 60-mile-long Hatcher Pass winds through the heart of the Talkeetna Mountains between Willow Creek and Fishhook Creek. The road was once used by miners in the early 1900s, who found gold in the nearby Willow Creek area. Starting in Anchorage, this scenic drive can quickly be completed in under three hours. However, it’s worth taking the time to make detours along the way.
Parts of the pass are closed in the winter months, but it’s still possible to go skiing or hiking during the day. In the summer, you’ll be able to go wildlife spotting (marmots, falcons, and eagles are common in the area), blueberry picking, or hiking and climbing. If you ask us, it is not only one of the best places to visit in Alaska but one of Alaska’s hidden gems.
Alaska’s capital city is one of the largest municipalities in the United States. An ideal mix of wilderness and metropolitan city, Juneau is an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the best sites and attractions that Alaska has to offer.
Explore the cascading waterfall glaciers at Nugget Falls, spot nesting bald eagles at Eagle Beach, or unwind with a cold pint of hand-brewed IPA at the Alaskan Brewery and Bottling Company. Sightseers can also head up the Gold Belt Mount Roberts Tramway, which boasts dramatic views over the Gastineau Channel and Douglas Island. Read our complete article on things to do in Juneau here.
Located in south-central Alaska, Anchorage is considered to be the cultural capital of Alaska. There’s always something happening in this bustling city – from shopping at 5th Avenue Mall to visiting the handful of museums dotted around the area. Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center, and Oscar Anderson House Museum are just a couple of must-see cultural activities.
Anchorage is also an outdoor lover’s dream. You’re just a short drive away from the fjords of Prince William Sound, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, and the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Kincaid Park is an urban wilderness escape right in the heart of the city, home to dozens of hiking trails and wildlife mammals.
If you are hungry and looking for the best restaurant in Anchorage, head to Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria. There might be a line, but it moves pretty fast, and it’ll be worth the wait. If you’re on an Alaska road trip, get a large pizza, so you have leftovers for the next day!
6. Denali National Park
Covering an astounding six million acres of pristine wilderness, Denali National Park is one of Alaska’s top tourist attractions. The landscape is a diverse mix of glaciers, tundras, and forests, which offers visitors a chance to embark on different outdoor activities.
Dog sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are some of the best things to do in Denali National Park. During your visit, make sure to say hello the Denali, North America’s highest mountain. This iconic landmark clocks in at over 20,000 feet and can be seen everywhere inside the park.
The charming port city of Seward is ideally situated between the Gulf of Alaska and Mount Marathon. The icy glaciers and sparkling rivers are juxtaposed against the snow-capped mountains, making Seward one of the most breathtaking cities for tourists to visit.
Glacier cruises and wildlife watching are two of the most popular activities in Seward. Resurrection Bay is home to a variety of native creatures, like puffins, sea lions, and even whales. The best views of the town can be enjoyed from overhead. Flightseeing and helicopter tours offer tourists a birds-eye view and a memorable experience of this picturesque city.
8. North Pole
At the North Pole in Alaska, you can relive the Christmas spirit every month of the year! Located near Fairbanks, the North Pole is actually 1,700 miles south of the real North Pole, although it’s still a popular and worthwhile place to visit.
As you walk through the town, you’ll notice that many of the homes are decorated in festive Christmas decor. The houses on Santa Claus Lane are strung with lights, while the lamp posts along Kris Kringle Drive are covered in candy cane motifs. Even the shops and businesses are decorated in the same holiday fashion! You can even visit Santa Claus’ house, a small gift shop with its own herd of real live reindeer living in the garden.
As one of Alaska’s largest cities, Fairbanks is not to be missed during your Alaska trip. The extreme weather temperatures might scare away some tourists, but its central location near the Arctic Circle makes it ideal for seeing the midnight sun and the northern lights.
Outdoor enthusiasts can go snowmobiling or skiing in the tundra, while vacation-seekers can unwind in the nearby bubbling hot springs. There’s also plenty to see in the city itself, including gourmet restaurants, craft breweries, and boutique shops.
Attracting more than one million tourists each year, the small town of Skagway is a worthwhile stop on your Alaska itinerary. The main historic district is the biggest draw of the town, with over 100 different buildings from the Klondike Gold Rush era. You can also learn more about the town’s influence at the nearby Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Museum.
If you have time, the scenic train from Skagway to White Pass, Alaska is a gorgeous ride.
The colorful fishing town of Ketchikan is unlike many other cities in Alaska. Its strong cultural ties to the indigenous Haida and Tlingit people can be seen by the numerous totem poles located within the town. The Totem Heritage Center, Saxman Village, and Totem Bright State Park are excellent places for getting up close and personal with these carefully crafted pieces.
Take a stroll down Creek Street to see historic stilted houses propped up over the water. You’re just 20 miles away from the Misty Fjords National Monument – a 2.3 million acre park that can only be reached by plane or boat.
12. Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords National Park sits in the heart of southern Alaska and is home to the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the country. Covered in massive glaciers and fjord valleys, Kenai Fjords National Park is an unspoiled paradise of remote natural beauty, attracting millions of visitors each year.
Besides hiking, kayaking, and cross-country skiing, Kenai Fjords National Park is known for its abundance of wildlife. Sea lions, porpoises, and orcas are just a few creatures that can be spotted splashing off the coast.
Only accessible by boat or plane, Sitka is a medium-sized town that is a blend of both indigenous Tlingit and Russian cultures. It was originally founded by Russian Americans in 1799, but sold to the United States in 1867.
The city itself has both native and Russian influences, with 22 buildings and sites appearing in the National Registry of Historic Places. Due to the town’s location on the outer coast of the Alaska Inside Passage, there are also plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied during your visit.
Whittier is possibly the most unique place to visit in Alaska. Located 60 miles south of Anchorage, this remote town is only home to about 200 people – most of who live in the same condo building. Besides housing the town’s residents, the Cold War-style Begich Towers also has a police station, church, school, and grocery store. If you’re looking to experience the “city under one roof” for yourself, you can rent a room within the building for a few nights.
Getting to Whittier proves even more difficult than finding a place to live. All visitors must travel by boat or through a 2.5-mile one-way tunnel, but trust us, it’s worth the trip. There are so many amazing things to do in Whittier.
The industrial oil and shipping industries in Valdez aren’t the main reasons people visit this historic city. Located near Port Valdez and the Prince William Sound, Valdez is an ideal jumping-off point for exploring Alaska’s natural wonders.
Columbia Glacier is only 25 miles away, while Mineral Creek Trail and Shoup Bay Trail give visitors an easy way to reach the mountains and fjords. Boat cruises, white-water rafting, and heli-skiing are also popular activities offered throughout the year.
Haines is more than just a detour city for RV travelers and road-trippers making their way to Canada. This small town sits on the edge of the inner passage and has several museums, shops, art galleries, and bed and breakfasts. With a thriving artistic community, Haines has a unique vibe, unlike any other city in Alaska.
Haines is also home to the largest concentration of bald eagles in the world. Between October and February, you’ll be able to find them flying around the Chilkat Bald Eager Preserve.
17. Prince William Sound
The Prince William Sound spans almost 100 miles along the eastern side of the Kenai Peninsula in Southern Alaska. Home to waterways, fjords, and more than 150 different glaciers, the Prince William Sound is known for its sea and marine life. There are over 220 species of birds, including bald eagles and black-legged kittiwakes. On land, it’s common to find moose, brown bears, and mountain goats roaming the beaches or peaks.
At 3,670 square miles, Kodiak is Alaska’s largest island. Starting at the downtown waterfront area, you’ll find fishermen and industrial boats throwing out their nets for the daily catch. The coastal shores are dotted with beaches, while the island’s interior has everything from forests and grasslands to mountains and meadows.
Don’t forget to stop by the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, which covers approximately two-thirds of the island. You can book a guided excursion to see some of the 3,500 bears living inside the park. History buffs can visit the Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park to learn more about Kodiak’s role in World War II.
19. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve showcases the diverse landscapes of Alaska rolled into one spectacular park. Located 100 miles south of Anchorage, Lake Clark has alpine tundras, glacier lakes, flowing rivers, and even two volcanoes within its boundaries. The 10,000-foot Mount Redoubt is still active; its last eruption was just in 1989. Mount Iliamna is just as tall as Redoubt, although the icy glaciers have significantly impacted the volcano’s activity.
Like other remote areas of Alaska, Lake Clark is only accessible by air or water. From May to September, you can take a scenic bear flight to see native brown bears fishing for salmon in the lakes. Although visiting the park can be difficult, visitors who make the journey will be treated to an untouched slice of the beauty that Alaska is famous for.
20. Gates of the Arctic National Park
As one of the most remote parks in Alaska, the Gates of the Arctic National Park has remained virtually the same for thousands of years. Spanning over eight million acres in the middle of the Arctic Circle, the park is considered the second-largest park in the country.
There are no roads, trails, or facilities in the park, making it the least visited national park in the US. With nothing but miles of uninhabited mountains and rivers to explore, hiking, hunting, and camping are the most popular activities for tourists. Backpackers can easily get lost in the picturesque vistas and views of the tundra fields and flowering meadows.