As a born-and-raised Alaskan, I’m here to help you find the best places to visit in Alaska for your trip!
No matter your travel style, there is an Alaskan destination on this list for you. Mountains, glaciers, wildlife, and more await you on your Alaska adventure. Alaska’s cities and towns offer plenty of great attractions, too. Fascinating museums, trendy breweries and cafes, and friendly locals abound in Alaska.
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Visit in Alaska
- Denali National Park and Preserve
- Kenai Fjords National Park
- Alyeska Resort
- The Matanuska Glacier
- Lake Clark National Park
- Glacier Bay National Park
- The Kenai Peninsula
- Prince William Sound
- Kodiak Island
- Katmai National Park
- Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
- Kennecott Mines National Historical Landmark
- Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
- Chena Hot Springs
- Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow)
- The Alaska Highway
- The Inside Passage
- Mendenhall Glacier
- FAQs About Where to Go in Alaska
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Best Places to Visit in Alaska
Alaska’s largest city is the perfect hub for exploring the state!
More than likely your first stop in Alaska will be Anchorage. The Anchorage airport is a great place to rent a car for further exploration of the state. An array of mounted wildlife displays greet arrivals at the airport. This includes 9’5”-long halibut, the world record!
Anchorage is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for museums. Learn more about Alaska at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. After the museums, hike or bike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.
Downtown Anchorage has plenty of great coffee shops and breweries. Some of the finest hotels in Alaska are here, offering stunning views from their rooms. The Alaska Zoo offers one of the best stops for a family vacation in Anchorage.
For more, check out my guide to what to do in Anchorage.
Denali National Park and Preserve
North America’s highest peak towers over the Alaskan tundra.
Denali National Park is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for getting a taste of Alaska’s majestic natural beauty. Mount Denali (once called Mount McKinley) towers into the sky, visible from many miles away. Besides Denali, there are several other majestic peaks here, too.
The tundra surrounding the mountains teems with Alaskan flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for mountain goats scaling the sheerest mountainsides! Summer is, by far, the most pleasant time to visit. If you’re willing to brave a little chillier weather, though, the fall colors here are spectacular.
There are several ways to get here. You can drive or even fly, but one of the most memorable ways is to book a ticket on the Alaska Railroad.
Kenai Fjords National Park
Get an up-close look at glaciers, whales, and wildlife.
The Kenai Fjords National Park offers one of the best glimpses of the beauty of coastal Alaska. Massive glaciers wind their way down the ocean. All manner of wildlife calls the area of the park home, from bald eagles to sea otters to several species of whales.
To get a close-up look at all these spectacular sights, book one of these popular boat tours.
The town of Seward serves as a jumping-off point for exploring Kenai Fjords National Park. The Alaska Railroad, the Old Seward Highway, and a local airport connect Seward with the rest of the state. The only part of Kenai Fjords National Park accessible by road is the Exit Glacier.
See sea creatures at Alaska’s premier aquarium.
Seward has several noteworthy attractions of its own. The cozy seaside town features a dozen fascinating murals depicting aspects of the town and life in Alaska. Seward’s Waterfront Park offers camping spaces and a great place to unwind by the sea.
The Alaska Sealife Center offers visitors a unique glance into the lives of Alaska’s diverse marine wildlife. Exhibits include seabirds, fish, invertebrates, and several species of seals and sea lions. The Alaska Sealife Center is a must-see for family visits to Alaska.
The number one place to see the northern lights in Alaska.
Hands down, Fairbanks is one of the best places to visit in Alaska if you want to see the northern lights! The further north you are, the better your chances of seeing this natural phenomenon. In the summer months, the days are extra long, so you can stay out and about well into the evening (incidentally, this makes summer the best season to visit Alaska too).
Alaska’s second-largest city has a rich frontier history, being a boom town for both gold and oil. Downtown Fairbanks boasts the charming Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum. There’s also an array of restaurants and bars in downtown Fairbanks.
Another noteworthy attraction is the University of Alaska Museum of the North. The museum houses over one million artifacts. These include Native Alaskan artifacts, dinosaurs, and whale skeletons!
Ski, snowboard, hike, and bike Alaska’s premier resort.
If you love skiing, snowboarding, or just staying cozy indoors, the Alyeska Resort south of Anchorage is one of the best places to visit in Alaska. The aerial tram takes visitors to the top of Mt. Alyeska, offering stunning views along the way. After a great day on the slopes, unwind at the resort’s Nordic Spa.
It’s still worth a visit in the summer months. The snow disappears but exposes many great hiking trails. If you prefer something more high-adrenaline, mountain biking is a great summer substitute for skiing.
The Matanuska Glacier
Visit Alaska’s most accessible glacier is easy to reach from Anchorage.
One of the best day trips from Anchorage is a visit to the Matanuska Glacier, located 2 hours north of the city. You can walk around the edges of the glacier or book a professionally-guided tour to venture further onto the icefield. Glaciers can be very dangerous to walk on, so always exercise caution.
One unique aspect of a glacier trek is the possibility of filling your water bottle with frigid, pure glacial water. Definitely a refreshing draft on a summer day, but watch out for brain freezes!
The ease of access makes the Matanuska Glacier one of the best places to visit Alaska if glaciers pique your interest.
A great hub for a visit to Denali National Park.
The tiny town of Talkeetna is jam-packed with rustic Alaskan charm. Local restaurants serve hearty grub and local shops offer artisan crafts and souvenirs. There are also a ton of outdoor activities awaiting visitors in both summer and winter. In summer, the lakes and rivers offer a variety of aquatic activities. There’s also a zip-line course near Talkeetna for thrill seekers.
Winter gives way to activities such as cross-country skiing and dog sledding. Whatever the time of year, Talkeetna is a great place to use as a hub for visiting Denali National Park.
Lake Clark National Park
A pristine wilderness at the junction between southwest and southcentral Alaska.
Black bears, brown bears, and caribou, along with many other species, call Lake Clark National Park home. The mountains and forests here offer endless opportunities for hiking, camping, and rafting. If you’d rather not rough it, several wilderness lodges offer more modern accommodations.
This park is one of the best places to visit in Alaska if you want a less crowded look at the 49th state’s natural beauty. Although located just 100 miles away from Anchorage, the park can only be reached by boat or by plane.
👉 Pro Tip: Although much smaller than grizzlies or brown bears, black bears tend to be more aggressive. Stay safe with this bear safety guide from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Glacier Bay National Park
A gigantic park boasting glaciers, forests, and narrow fjords.
Glacier Bay National Park spans 3.3 million acres of glaciers, forests, and fjords. Many cruise lines, both mainline and small-ship, visit this park. One can also go sailing or kayaking on the waters of Glacier Bay National Park. Some tours here last for a week, and, given how huge the park is, just scratch the surface.
The Kenai Peninsula
Great fishing and sleepy small towns abound.
Besides the famous Kenai Fjords National Park, there’s plenty to do and see on the Kenai Peninsula. One can take a mini Alaskan road trip to the town of Homer, stopping at various cozy small towns along the way. The glacial-blue waters of the Kenai River offer excellent salmon fishing.
The summer also sees fireweed blossom, punctuating the rolling green hills with vivid magenta flowers. Moose inhabit the peninsula and, as with many places in Alaska, it pays to keep an eye out for them while driving. The massive mammals will put more than a dent in your fender. They are also often aggressive, so always maintain a respectful distance.
Prince William Sound
One of the best places to visit in Alaska for glaciers.
Prince William Sound has more tidewater glaciers than anywhere else in Alaska. It’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska to catch a glimpse of a glacier “calving” into the sea. Calving is when chunks of ice break off from the glacier, becoming icebergs.
One can still see a wide variety of wildlife here, such as humpback whales, orcas, and puffins. The towns of Valdez and Whitter, Alaska serve as the best hubs for exploring this area. Whittier also has a reputation for its unique residential configuration. The locals all live in one large apartment building!
Visit this cozy, quirky small town on the Kenai Peninsula.
This scenic small town is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for salt-water fishing. If you’re looking to snag halibut or other deep-sea denizens, this is the place to go. You can also take an airboat tour of the majestic Kachemak Bay
One of the best places to visit is the Homer Spit, a long, narrow strip of land jutting out into the bay. Here you can find artsy gift shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars a plenty. Homer’s ferry terminal sits at the end of the strip, connecting Homer with other towns in the area.
Alaska’s Emerald Isle abounds with hiking trails and Alaskan wildlife.
This island in southern Alaska is a real gem. The island is famous for its Kodiak brown bears, which are the largest species of bears. Another popular activity in Kodiak is seeing the Jabba-the-Hutt-like sea lions lounging about at the Near Island docks.
Visit the Kodiak Historical Museum to learn about the Native, Russian, and Scandinavian heritage of the town. Fort Abercrombie State Park offers extensive hiking trails in a tranquil forest setting. You can also see remnants of World War II bunkers and look-out stations along the cliffs here.
Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on the southern end of Kodiak Island preserves the habitat of the island’s famous bears. The easiest way to reach the park is by charter plane or boat.
👉 What’s in a name? Grizzlies and brown bears are the same species. “Grizzly” denotes the bears living inland. Rich food is more plentiful in the coastal areas. This helps the Kodiak brown bears to bulk up more than their landlocked cousins.
Katmai National Park
The Mount St. Helens of Alaska is great for wildlife viewing.
Katmai National Park sits across the sea to the northwest of Kodiak Island. The area gained notoriety in 1912 from the largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century (according to the US Geological Survey).
Katmai National Park is also one of the best places to visit in Alaska if you want to get a close-up (but not too close!) look at brown bears. Brooks Camp is one of the best hubs for exploring Katmai National Park.
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
America’s largest national park boasts 9 of America’s 16 tallest peaks and an abandoned mine.
At 13.2 million acres, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest of America’s national parks. Three mountain ranges converge here. Between the mountains, vast valleys lie covered in evergreen forests, punctuated by lakes and rivers.
This is one of the best places to visit in Alaska for wilderness trekking. A drive from Anchorage takes about 5 hours. This makes it much more accessible than some of Alaska’s other wildernesses.
Kennecott Mines National Historical Landmark
Visit Alaska’s most famous ghost town.
The Wrangell-St. Elias National Park also has a man-made attraction–the Kennecott Mines. A mining town sprung up here after the discovery of copper in 1900. The copper boom lasted until 1938 when the copper veins finally ran out. A few of the buildings act as a museum, preserving the history of this lonely mining outpost.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
“Epic” is an understatement in this remote national park.
Due to its remote location and austere climate, this park is the least visited of America’s national parks. Spanning 7.5 million acres, it’s also the second-largest national park in America. It’s one of the best places to visit in Alaska if you want to feel the absolute grandeur of Alaska’s northern nature.
The park lies well above the Arctic Circle. As such, it starts seeing sub-zero temperatures as early as mid-August. The National Park Service recommends midsummer as the best time to visit the park. Temperatures warm up in May, but this is the “break-up” season and the rivers are impassable because of ice flows.
Chena Hot Springs
Take a dip in these natural hot springs outside Fairbanks.
The best months to see the northern lights come in the winter when it’s quite cold outside. A great way to beat the chill or pass the daylight hours is to take a dip in the waters of the Chena Hot Springs.
If, on the flip side, you’d like to chill a little in the summer, the grounds of the resort have a year-round ice museum. Other hot springs lie scattered throughout the rest of the state, but Chena Hot Springs is the easiest hot springs to access in Alaska.
Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow)
America’s northernmost town offers the longest days and nights in the country.
One of the common myths about Alaska is that it stays dark “all the time” in winter. That doesn’t apply to most of the state, but, up here on the shores of the arctic, it has a ring of truth. The longest night lasts from late November to late January here.
On the flip side, midsummer sees a full 24 hours of daylight. This makes Utqiavigvik one of the best places to visit in Alaska for the legendary long nights and days.
You may even see polar bears wandering around the outskirts (or streets!) of the town. The Inupiat Heritage Center preserves the heritage of the local Inupiat people who braved this remote land for centuries.
The Alaska Highway
Take an epic road trip to or from the Lower 48 on this highway.
The Alaska Highway has a fascinating history. Built during World War II to speed up shipping and transportation to the Soviet Union. Today, travelers can retrace this epic feat of engineering. Tiny towns lie scattered along the road offering gas, refreshments, and lodgings.
Chances are good that you will see several species of Alaskan wildlife on your drive down the “Al-Can.” In my journeys up and down the Alaska Highway, I’ve seen black bears, moose, porcupines, coyotes, mountain goats, and much more! Also be aware that in the summer months, if you see nothing else, you will see mosquitos, so come prepared.
👉 Pro Tip: Gas stations are few and far between on the Alaska Highway, so it never hurts to fill up when you reach one. Warning signs announce the longest stretches with no services.
Step back in time to the height of Alaska’s gold rush days.
This small town in southeast Alaska is one of the best places to visit in Alaska to learn about the state’s gold rush days. The historic district has more than 100 buildings dating to that era.
The Skagway Museum preserves a motherlode of information on Alaska’s frontier days. You can also walk along the Chilkoot Trail, retracing the steps that thousands of prospectors took in search of gold.
The Inside Passage
One of the best places to see southern Alaska’s natural beauty.
For many people, this is one of the best places to visit in Alaska hands-down. Hundreds of densely wooded islands rise out of the sheltered waters. Whales, bald eagles, and all manner of wildlife abound. The climate is mild most of the year, too.
Whatever your travel style, the Inside Passage has plenty to see. You can take it all in from the deck of a luxurious cruise ship. You could book a smaller, more intimate small cruise-ship too for a quieter, up-close look. If adventure travel is your thing, you can also kayak between the islands and go backcountry camping.
Discover “the Paris of the Pacific”.
Sitka is one of the best places to visit in Alaska if you want to learn more about Alaskan history. The town served as the capital of the Russian colonies in America before the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia. Sitka celebrates October 18, the day of the sale, with a special gusto. Historical re-enactments, parades, a period costume ball, and much more mark the festive day.
Situated in southeastern Alaska, the climate here stays mild year-round. At the Alaska Raptor Center, you can learn all about Alaska’s birds of prey. Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear provides a similar experience with Alaska’s brown bears. The controlled environment makes this one of the best places to visit in Alaska for a safe and easy bear-viewing experience.
Stroll the streets of Alaska’s state capitol, or take a tramway to view them from above.
Juneau is a hub for exploring southeastern Alaska. As Alaska’s third largest city, it has plenty of shopping, dining, and lodging options. If you want to get a great view of the city, take the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of Mount Roberts. If you’re looking for hiking trails, the Juneau area has over 60 to choose from!
Visit the Tracy Arm Fjord to see a fine example of the drastic natural beauty of the region. If you’re keen on learning about Juenau’s gold rush days, visit the AJ Mill and Gastineau Mine. Juneau also serves as a great jumping-off point for exploring the Mendenhall Glacier.
Get planning with our guide to the best things to do in Juneau.
Explore ice caverns in southeast Alaska’s most famous glacier.
Mendenhall Glacier lies 12 miles north of Juneau, and is one of the most popular attractions in Alaska. The gargantuan glacier gets its vivid blue color from how light refracts off of the unique structure of its ice crystals.
The visitor center offers a wealth of scientific information about the glacier as well as several viewing platforms.
Get a more up-close look at the Mendenhall Glacier by booking one of these popular tours.
Visit the Salmon Capital of the World.
Ketchikan is one of the best places to visit in Alaska to see and learn about totem poles. Ketchikan’s Totem Heritage Center and the Totem Bight State Historical Park offer a wealth of information on the totems and the people who built them.
If you’re itching for fishing, Ketchikan offers several charter-fishing opportunities. The historic Creek Street area in downtown Ketchikan teems with gift shops and restaurants. Other highlights of the area include the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary and the Misty Fjords National Monument.
FAQs About Where to Go in Alaska
What are the best places to visit in Alaska?
Where should I fly to for an Alaska vacation?
Anchorage is the best place to fly to for an Alaskan vacation. It receives the most flights and its central location makes it an ideal hub for exploring the rest of the state.
I hope you have gotten some valuable insights into these fantastic Alaska destinations. Keep in mind that this list of the best places to visit in Alaska is just the tip of the iceberg!
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