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Alaska see + do

Sightseeing in Alaska is all about the great outdoors. There's certainly enough of it: Alaska has more parkland than any other state has land at all. Denali National Park alone encompasses six million acres of untouched wilderness, including Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak. All of that wild country means a lot of animals. In summer, take the Alaska Railroad from one fishing ground to another, and you might just find an 80-pound salmon at the end of your line. To see what happens when teddy bears grow up, bear watch at Anan Wildlife Observatory. Want something even bigger? Keep an eye out for 40-foot humpbacks on a whale-watching excursion near Juneau or in Icy Strait.

For another angle on Alaska's unique environment, take to the water: There are countless places to kayak in Alaska, and almost as many cruise options. Most Alaska cruise itineraries include Southeast Alaska, an idyllic chain of islands connected by the still waters of the Inside Passage and anchored by the towns of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, Sitka, and Skagway. In Icy Strait, at the entrance to Glacier Bay, you can see the remains of the last ice age, and while you could—and probably should—join the rest of the tourists in Glacier Bay, don't miss out on the more intimate Tracy Arm, where the glacier drops ice like a malfunctioning snow-cone machine.

Because of Alaska's immense size, most visitors divide the state into more manageable chunks (see the Alaska Fact Sheet to get the lay of the land). You can check off Southeast's highlights during a hurried one-week cruise, but a two-week stay gives you the opportunity to explore the fishing towns and glacial landscapes at a leisurely pace. The same is true of mainland Alaska itineraries: You can rush through in a week, but a longer journey means you can really get into the wilderness and wait out the weather in Denali National Park to see the often cloud-covered peak of Mount McKinley. If you're short on time—or athleticism—flightseeing in Alaska is a good way to cover a lot of ground. No matter where you go in the state, Alaska is absolute proof your mother was right when you were a little kid: Go outside and play, and you'll be ecstatically happy.

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Wrangell

Wrangell is a small, friendly town located near the mouth of the Stikine River, the largest undammed river in North America. (John Muir, the 19th-century...more

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Whale Watching in Alaska

Ask people what animal they most want to see in Alaska, and the two most common answers are bald eagles and whales. Bald eagles are hard to miss—see that...more

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University of Alaska Museum of the North and Large Animal Research Station, Fairbanks

The best museum in Alaska is the University of Alaska's Museum of the North, located at the center of the university's Fairbanks campus. Huge mammoth tusks, a...more

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Skiing in Alaska

Alaska has a lot of mountains and a lot of snow. Oddly, that doesn't add up to a whole lot of places to ski. Alaska does, however, have the greatest heli-skiing...more

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Skagway

Skagway was born when the cry of "Gold!" went up in the Klondike in 1898. This spot at the head of the Lynn Canal was as close as you could get by ship, so for...more

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Sitka

When Sitka was the Russian capital of Alaska in the 19th century, it was known as "the Paris of the Pacific"—a reputation the town still deserves. A...more

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Ketchikan

Ketchikan, located on the edge of Revillagigedo Island, is the southernmost town in Southeast. Even by Southeast Alaska standards, it's a wet, wet place: The...more

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Kayaking in Alaska

Alaska has more coastline than the rest of the country combined, so there's no shortage of places to kayak, but there are some highlights. Southeast's calm,...more

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Juneau

Juneau is the only U.S. state capital where you can't directly drive to another city but you can drive to a glacier. On the edge of the Gastineau Channel in...more

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Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay is, rightly, one of the most famous, most visited spots in Alaska. It's also one of the youngest landscapes in the state; not much more than a...more

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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