Top 9 Coolest Things to Do in Alaska

Make the most of your Alaskan adventure with these best-of experiences.
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Alaska’s rugged glaciers, huge mountains and scenic landscapes offer so many opportunities for adventure, you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do. While you can’t go wrong with pretty much any Alaskan shore excursion, we’ve rounded up a few favorites that highlight the best of the state’s natural beauty, unique wildlife and culture. Use this guide to plan your trip, and no matter which you choose – prepare for your jaw to drop.

 

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  1. Hunt for Halibut

What: Learn to fish in the protected waters of Ketchikan, home to the region’s largest concentration of Pacific halibut. You might catch halibut weighing more than 100 pounds, though the smaller, 15 to 30 pounders tend to be even tastier.

Cool factor: Good eats! The boat captain can arrange to have your catch shipped home. For instant gratification, grab halibut and chips at the Creek Street Grill, and you may even see a sea lion dinner show on the creek where the restaurant gets its name.

Find it in: Ketchikan

 

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  1. Meet the Mushers

What: Travel in an 1898 vintage railcar along the famous White Pass & Yukon Railroad, then meet a musher and dogsled team who are training for the 2017 Iditarod competition.

Cool factor: Live racing demos with the sledding dogs. Your visit helps fund the team’s training.

Find it in: Skagway

 

  1. A Whale of a Time

What: Join an intimate group of fellow travelers on a whale-watching adventure. You might see one or more of the eight species of whales that live in Alaskan waters (Beluga, Humpback, Grey, Orca, Bowhead, Blue, Right and Minke) or native sea lions, porpoises and harbor seals.

Cool factor: Try your hand at species monitoring, plankton sampling and humpback whale identification the same way wildlife experts do it – using the unique pattern visible on the underside of the whale’s tale, known as the fluke.

Find it in: Juneau

 

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  1. Kayak to Islands

What: Paddle a double kayak through the waters around the Tatoosh Islands, looking for bald eagles, sea lions, otters, sea stars, and sea cucumbers.

Cool factor: 17 million acres. The islands are situated inside the Tongass National Forest, the largest national forest in the United States – an area that’s bigger than the entire state of West Virginia!

Find it in: Ketchikan

 

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  1. Ride the Rails

What: Travel back in time to the Gold Rush, when the White Pass Scenic Railway, a now-107-mile-long railroad, was built to help reach the Yukon gold fields. You’ll travel 20 miles to the summit of the White Pass, checking out mountains, gorges, and waterfalls along the way.

Cool factor: Your ride. You’ll get there in a vintage rail car, some of which date back to 1881.

Find it in: Skagway

 

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  1. Zip To It

What: Travel by bus and rugged, all-wheel drive Unimog to arrive at an exhilarating course featuring 11 zip lines and four suspension bridges. You’ll fly through the treetops of the Alaskan rainforest — try “The Pipeline,” a zipline longer than two football fields combined.

Cool factor: This course is the top outdoor activity in Skagway, as ranked by TripAdvisor.

Find it in: Skagway

 

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  1. Higher Straits

What: Ride an all-terrain vehicle on the rugged trails of Chichagof Island and get an interactive lesson in indigenous culture in Icy Strait Point. This town, owned by the Hoonah Totem company, is an innovative collaboration between cruise lines and the local population to preserve the island’s heritage and introduce visitors to contemporary Tlingit life, while also developing Alaskan-owned businesses. USA Today named the village one of the 10 reasons to visit Alaska.

Cool factor: Experience one of the world’s longest zip lines: 90 seconds of zipping with a 1,320 vertical drop and speeds topping 60 miles per hour.

Find it in: Icy Strait Point

 

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  1. Animal Adventures

What: Follow a naturalist through the dense Herring Cove rainforest sanctuary, the natural habitat of Alaska’s black bears, and try to spy on a bear’s fishing expedition in the salmon-rich streams. (Don’t worry, the private viewing platform will let you watch from a safe distance.)

Cool factor: The coastal rainforest. The icy adventure of Jack London may have you thinking that Alaska is all snow and ice, but in fact the southeast region of the state includes a very rare habitat that exists in only six other places outside Alaska.

Find it in: Ketchikan

 

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  1. Drift and Dine

What: Explore the Alaska Sea Life Center, a renowned aquarium and marine mammal rehab facility. You’ll spot sea lions, walruses and sea otters, and have the chance for some special one-on-one encounters with animals as varied as octopus and puffin. Then you’ll board a sightseeing vessel for your five-hour cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park, observing glaciers and marine life as a National Park Ranger points out highlights.

Cool factor: An all-you-can-eat Alaskan salmon and prime rib lunch buffet onboard. Save room to sample some of the local brews available at the Seward Brewing Company or Seward Ale House. (Alaska is number four on the list of states ranked by breweries per capita.)

Find it in: Seward

 

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