Not far from the town of Seward, there are nearly 40 glaciers making up an icefield that spans more than 300 square miles, all contained within Kenai Fjords National Park. The largest of these is Bear Glacier.
It's not far from Seward to Exit Glacier, the most easily accessible glacier in the park, but it's also possible to reach Bear Glacier from Seward – if you head out on the water. You can go on cruises that visit the many fjords in the park, and you can even go sea kayaking through the fjords.
Sea kayaking up to Bear Glacier gives you a chance to see the glacier and its iceberg-filled lagoon up close. You can also choose an overnight adventure, camping near the glacier. Even if you opt for a day cruise, you'll be treated to incomparable glacier views, plus the chance to see puffins, whales, and sea otters.
For those interested in learning about Interior and Arctic Alaska as well as Native culture, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center is a must-have experience when visiting Fairbanks. The mission of the attraction is to celebrate the people and culture of Interior Alaska while also promoting the local economy and acting as a community gathering place to exchange cultural ideas, and they do this in a number of ways.
First, the center showcases a number of free exhibits on Interior Alaska and its people, providing insight to the heritage of the area. For example, their main exhibit, “How We Live: The People and the Land”, features life-sized dioramas depicting the seasons of Interior Alaska. You can also shop for Native Alaskan artwork in their Alaska Geographic store; dress up in traditional Athabaskan attire for a photo; see a traditional performance of music, art and storytelling; create your own traditional Athabascan moose skin bags or sun catcher.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center serves as a welcome wagon for all visitors to Alaska’s rich and diverse history. Here you’ll be able to experience and interact with Native people and their traditions first-hand. Native storytelling, artist demonstrations, Native dance and game performances allow visitors to feel as if they’re living an authentic experience. This is not just a museum - audience participation is encouraged!
In “The Hall of Cultures” you can contemplate over artifacts, manuscripts and images of frontier days in Alaska. You’ll learn what rugged mountains and wildlife helped to make the Yukon great, and what traditional people did to stave off the cold winters and feast in the bright summers. You’ll see how earthen buildings were constructed to be structurally sound and thermally efficient, as well as have the opportunity to buy a traditional Native artifact for a loved one.
In pioneering days every red-blooded gold-rush town had a red-light district, and during Ketchikan’s frontier past it was Creek Street.
This historic bordello hub was built over Ketchikan Creek, hence the neighborhood’s name. In Ketchikan’s gold-mining heyday, more than two dozen houses of ill repute lined the boardwalk. Prostitution wasn’t outlawed here until 1954, and was legal as long as business wasn’t transacted on dry land. This explains why Creek Street isn’t a street at all, but an elevated boardwalk built on wooden pilings. Things are a lot more tame these days, and the red-trimmed Dolly’s House museum is Creek Street’s most colorful remnant. The boardwalk stretches over the creek, and gaily painted wooden buildings line the waterfront here.
Welcome to what is most likely heaven on Earth for Nordic fauna fanatics! The Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary is a 40-acre rainforest consisting of immense spruce, hemlock and cedar trees with a forest floor covered with several different kinds of moss, wild flowers and berries. A living postcard of the Alaskan wildlife, the sanctuary is located just a few miles outside the picturesque and tranquil fishing community of Herring Cove.
The sanctuary is not just about breathtaking sights but also memorable and varied experiences led by naturalists, that truly reflect what life is like in this harsh but fascinating and pristine climate. Here, visitors can interact with a herd of Alaskan Reindeer, marvel at Eagle Creek (Alaska’s richest salmon spawning stream), step back in time while visiting a historic Alaska sawmill, learn more about the local fauna at the Alaska Wildlife Foundation Center and even watch a Native master totem-pole carver at work.
Alaska is known for its wildlife, and at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center you can see an array of native species in one place. You’ll learn the individual stories of each animal and their species in general from knowledgeable staff members. The animals you’ll probably see—and get surprisingly close to—include bears, moose, eagles, reindeer, elk, musk oxen, wood bison, lynx, caribou, Sitka black-tailed deer and porcupine. The center works to rehabilitate the animals and reintroduce them into the wild. In fact, the center is currently working toward reintroducing the once-extinct wood bison through a breeding program.
Make sure to ask staff for a schedule of events, as there are a number of visitor programs and activities such as taking a stroll with Hershey the reindeer, seeing the moose and ox calves get bottle fed and learning about porcupines with Snickers, the center’s resident porcupine.
An hours’ drive from Fairbanks, Alaska’s Chena Hot Springs Resort includes an indoor chlorinated pool for families and a natural-rock outdoor lake filled with pure hot spring mineral water for adults.
The site was first discovered by gold miners in 1905 and sits at the center of a 40-square-mile geothermal area. The spring waters have to be cooled before bathing; otherwise you’d be dipping into scolding 156° F waters. In winter, Chena is known for its Aurora Borealis displays, and the resort is also home to the Aurora Ice Museum and Ice Bar. The resort has 80 rooms for guests, a restaurant, lounge bar and an onsite cafe. In summer, the site is also a popular base for mountain bikers, hikers and horseback riding, and it’s also possible to go grayling fishing in the local streams.
Looking up in Prince William Sound, you’re staring at the densest concentration of tidewater glaciers in the world. Many of them drop steeply as cliffs of ice from the mountains that tower above the coast. Coasting through the calm waters of the sound, it is not uncommon to see cascading waterfalls, as well as a variety of wildlife, including eagles, deer, bears, sea otters, and even whales. The sound is surrounded by the greenery and trees of the Chugach National Forest, which is the second largest in the United States.
Explorer James Cook first discovered the sound in 1778, promptly naming it Sandwich Sound after the Earl of Sandwich. His map’s editors, however, later changed the name to honor Prince William Henry of England. Today it remains one of Alaska’s most scenic places, and the coastline’s dramatic fjords must be seen from the water. Keep an eye out also for its many islands as you cruise along the waterways.
Juneau’s cruise port is right by the historic downtown area of the city, perfectly located for shore excursions, dinner, shopping and entertainment while you’re cruising Alaskan waters.
Founded during the gold-rush days, Juneau is a terrific port to get a sense of the pioneer days and frontier history. Wild West-themed restaurants and pubs are rustic and fun, and menus highlight the region’s snapping-fresh king crab and other seafood.
Shore excursions take you to Mendenhall Glacier for alpine hiking, rafting trips and Alaskan wildlife. Flying there by helicopter is surely the way to go!
Don’t miss the chance to ride the Mt. Roberts Tramway for iconic alpine and Juneau views, theater and museum exhibits, and terrific dining at the terrace grill. The tramway departs right from the cruise port.
While you’re in port, take the opportunity to shop for Alaskan souvenirs, handicrafts and gold nugget jewelry.