For many who visit Alaska for the first time, it is a bucket list trip. There are two great ways to explore Alaska and take in the beautiful scenery and incredible wildlife that it has to offer: by cruise or by land.

While cruises are a great way to explore Alaska, you are a bit more limited on what you can do and see unless you add on a pre or post-cruise package. However, for those who choose to explore Alaska by land, there are plenty of options available.

So, for your first visit to Alaska, consider this itinerary.


Planning a trip to Alaska can be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors. The state is so large and there are so many wonderful things to do and see. However, with careful planning with your travel advisor, visiting the Last Frontier can be easier than you think. So, here are 10 things you should consider seeing or doing when visiting Alaska for the first time.  Here are 10 activites to experience on your first trip to Alaska

1. Glacier and Wildlife Tour

When most people think of Alaska, they think of the majestic glaciers and beautiful wildlife. There is certainly no shortage of these to see. One of the more popular areas to see glaciers and wildlife will be aboard a Kenai Fjord National Park Glacier and Wildlife Cruise. These half-day cruises will give you the opportunity to experience glaciers up-close while also being on the lookout for otters, whales, sea puffins, and more.

2. Ride the GoldStar Dome

A good way to take in the breathtaking views of Alaska is while riding the rails, specifically the GoldStar Dome train so you can get full 360-degree views while you sit back, relax and just be in awe of such beautiful scenery. The GoldStar Dome service runs between Anchorage and Seward as well as Anchorage and Fairbanks.

3. Take a flightseeing tour

From helicopters and seaplanes, a flightseeing tour is one of the best ways to experience parts of Alaska that you would not be able to access otherwise. There are plenty of options that depart from Anchorage year-round. A word of caution though, flightseeing tours are very dependent upon the weather. So, if it’s a very windy or foggy day, then the tour will not be able to take off. Therefore, have a backup plan for the day just in case.

4. Check out the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

One of the most mystical sights in the world is the Northern Lights, and Fairbanks, Alaska, is one of the best places for viewing. While the northern lights occur throughout the year, the best time to see them will be between the months of August and April when less daylight leads to darker evening skies.

5. Take a dog sledding tour

Have you wanted to experience the thrill of dog sledding through the Alaskan forest? Well, you can with various outings from Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks, Girdwood and Juneau. In addition to going for a ride, you can visit the kennels to see how the dogs are trained and even get to cuddle up with one of the cute puppies. Just remember when you fall in love with these little puppies, you can’t take them home with you!

6. Visit Denali

Upon your first visit to Denali, you’ll quickly realize why it stands proudly among America’s public lands. Within its six million acres you’ll find abundant wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, not to mention Denali, the tallest mountain in North America. Remember, the best way to get there is aboard the Alaska Railroad, where passengers routinely spot eagles, moose and bears. Be sure to book your reservations for one of the lodges in the park early!

7. Go wildlife viewing

Alaska is known for its wildlife. Whether you want to go specifically bear viewing, caribou viewing, eagle viewing, moose viewing, polar bear viewing, salmon viewing, or visit a wildlife park, there are plenty of options.

8. Visit a museum and learn about the culture

Yes, Alaska is known for its wildlife and landscape, but there is so much history and culture in this wonderful state. Alaska has 160 museums, so knowing which one to visit can be a bit of a challenge. Whether it’s about art, aviation, fishing, heritage, mining, and much more, be sure to let your travel advisor know what you are interested in so he/she can recommend a couple of museums for you to choose from.

9. Enjoy some time fishing

Do you fancy saltwater or freshwater fishing? Well, you are picking the right state. Alaska is known for its salmon and trout fishing in addition to saltwater fishing out in the ocean or taking a fishing expedition out in the remote parts of the state. The summer months are the best time to visit if fishing is on your todo list. Don’t worry about the fishing license as you can easily purchase these once you get to Alaska.

10. Try your hand at gold mining and panning

Relive the gold rush era of the 1800s and try your hand at panning for some gold. You will find that almost every major town in Alaska has gold mining as part of its history. While gold prospecting isn’t allowed just anywhere, you can on certain pieces of public lands. Even though you aren’t going to get rich, there are several tour options available to help you have a little fun with the experience.

Alaska Facts

Getting There

When visiting Alaska, the primary airports most travelers will want to use are in Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI), and Juneau (JNU).

Another popular way to experience Alaska is via cruise. Most major mass-market cruise lines have itineraries and ships dedicated to this area from around May to September/October. You’ll typically have the option to visit via a roundtrip itinerary from Seatle or one-way itineraries that start in Whittier or Seward and end in Vancouver or the reverse.


Alaska is an extremely large state. However, the overall climate includes a long and very cold winter with short, cool summers. You will find that the sun will not rise during some weeks in the winter and will be out for nearly 24 hours during some weeks in the summer.

Summer (June to August):  Temperatures usually range from lows around 50°F to highs in the mid-60s to mid-70s F.

Spring and Fall (April/May and September/October):  Temperatures change quickly and while the weather can be mild, it’ll mostly range from lows around freezing (32°F) to highs in the upper 40s.

Winter (November to March):  You should expect below-freezing temperatures during the short, cold days and subzero temperatures at night. So if your travel plans take you to Alaska during the winter, be sure to bundle up!

Day 1

Fly to Anchorage. Unless you live in the western part of the United States, flying to Alaska is a full day process and most travelers will get in early to late evening in the day.  Spend the night in Anchorage.

Day 2

Spend the day exploring Anchorage. A couple of options to consider are a city tour, trolley tour, or food tour. A fun option is a flightseeing tour to see glaciers and wildlife aboard Rust’s Flying Service.

Day 3

Head down to Seward early in the morning via train and arrive by lunchtime. Enjoy an afternoon dog sled tour and kennel visit to get a small taste of the famous Iditarod Race.

Day 4

Enjoy a half-day Kenai Fjord Cruise with lunch that will cover approximately 120 miles throughout the Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chiswell Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Watch for wildlife, colorful seabirds and spectacular glaciers calving.

Day 5

Enjoy a relaxing day around the lodge and around Seward before taking an evening motorcoach back to Anchorage for the night. Consider visiting the Alaska SeaLife Center, Exit Glacier or go sea kayaking.

Day 6

Get ready for a full day of fun aboard the Luxury Dome Rail up to Denali National Park. Be prepared to be in awe with the beautiful landscape as you sit back and enjoy more than seven hours aboard while the conductor will gladly point out sights and points of interest along the way.

Day 7

Today will include a tundra wilderness tour through Denali National Park that will last up to six hours. This tour will guide you along the spectacular road corridor, promising different experiences every day, as Denali’s wildlife moves at its own pace and according to the seasons.

Day 8

After several packed days of tours and traveling, this will be a good day to relax and explore Denali on your own.

Day 9

Another fun morning to take in the beauty of Denali before hopping aboard the Luxury Dome Rail this afternoon for a four-hour ride up to Fairbanks. You may choose to experience Alaska’s Arctic villages or tour the state-of-the-art Museum of the North.

Day 10

Care to try your hand at panning for some gold? This two-hour adventure begins with a ride on the replica of the Tanana Valley Railroad through the gold fields of Interior Alaska. Once the train arrives at the camp, you’ll have your chance to pan for some gold!

Next enjoy the excitement aboard the Riverboat Discovery where you will be taken to the heart of Alaska to see float planes taking off, visit the kennels of the late four-time Iditarod winner Susan Butcher, and learn about the ancient Athabascan Indian Culture. Finally, you’ll be guided by Alaskan Natives who will take you on a personalized tour of the Chena Indian Village.

Day 11

All good things must come to an end. Today your journey through The Last Frontier ends as you fly out late in the afternoon.

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