The Best Things to do in Alaska

The 25 Best Things to do in Alaska

Aptly nicknamed “The Last Frontier,” Alaska is an incredible destination filled with jaw-dropping scenery that includes snow-capped mountains, icy glaciers, and beautiful fjords. Its scenic beauty extends to its abundant wildlife, offering travelers the chance to observe grizzly bears, whales, bald eagles, and moose in their natural habitat. 

You’re spoiled for choice with outdoor adventures in Alaska, from hiking, paddling, and wildlife watching in its iconic national parks or taking a scenic drive past its alpine lakes and towering mountains. Flightseeing adventures give you a bird’s-eye view of the state’s majestic natural wonders, while glacier cruises offer a glimpse of Alaska’s dramatic coastal landscapes and tidewater glaciers. 

Guided tours give access to some of the state’s remote wilderness, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the otherworldly Northern Lights. You can also immerse yourself in Alaska’s rich history and unique cultures by exploring indigenous traditions through art and demonstrations at top-rated cultural centers.

Discover the best things to see and do in Alaska with our guide that highlights the state’s top attractions. This comprehensive Alaska bucket list features the best of the best, including the best places for wildlife watching, glacier viewing, and outdoor adventuring! We’ll help you narrow down your itinerary in the largest state in America, making it easy to plan an unforgettable adventure in Alaska. 

25 cool and unique things to do in Alaska

1. Hunt for the Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Best Things to do in Alaska: Northern Lights in Fairbanks

Alaska is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the United States, and Fairbanks is a popular location for viewing them. You can try to see the phenomenon yourself by driving to a nearby vantage point, but the easiest way to catch a glimpse during Aurora Season is by joining a guided tour with Salmon Berry

Fairbanks is such a popular destination for Northern Lights viewing because it’s under the “Auroral Oval,” a ring-shaped zone where activity is concentrated. For the best chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis, visit between August 21 to April 21.

During this time, you can look up and marvel as the swirling skies light up in hues of greens, teals, and whites – and sometimes purples! On the Salmon Berry guided, small-group tour, you’ll be taken to a private aurora viewing Ski Patrol Hut located at the farthest north chairlift in North America. 

Along the way, your Alaskan guide will share the fascinating science behind the lights and their significance within Alaskan Native cultures. Best of all, you’ll have access to a warm facility and hot drinks as you tick this experience off your Alaska bucket list. 

Take a Northern Lights Tour


2. Ride the Scenic Alaska Railroad

Fun Things to do in Alaska: Alaska Railroad

Stretching 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, riding the Alaska Railroad is a leisurely way to take in some of Alaska’s incredible scenery. This gorgeous trail route chugs its way through some of the state’s rugged landscapes and is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the true Alaska wilderness. 

You’ll have plenty of options to choose from, as the Alaska Railroad operates various trains. Its flagship route is the Denali Star, which travels from Anchorage to Fairbanks and passes the Alaska Range and Denali National Park in the shadow of the state’s famed mountain peak. You’ll also get to experience river crossings, including the 918-foot-long Hurricane Gulch Bridge. 

Another option is the Coastal Classic route, which is a four-hour train service from Anchorage to Seward. This journey hugs the coastline of the Turnagain Arm and chugs its way through the Church National Forest. You can enjoy Dall sheep grazing in the cliffside, glacier views, and admire the bright blue Kenai Lake. 

Lastly, you can opt for the train service from Anchorage to Whittier – called the Glacier Discovery route. Ideal for travelers departing Whittier on an Alaskan cruise to Vancouver or exploring Prince William Sound on a day cruise, this popular day trip continues to Spencer Glacier and Grandview. 


3. Go Dog Sledding in Fairbanks

What to do in Alaska: Dog Sledding in Fairbanks

Dog sledding is a celebrated Alaskan tradition and an exciting experience you can have while exploring The Last Frontier. One of the top things to do in Alaska, you can experience the thrill of dog sledding first-hand as you speed through the forest while sitting on a sled being pulled by these powerful dogs! 

One of the best places to go dog sledding is in Fairbanks, with most tours allowing you to tour its kennels and meet the champion dogs. You’ll often see how they train the dogs and hear first-hand accounts of what it’s like to travel with them through Alaska’s harsh terrain.

For a dog mushing tour through the snow, take a tour with Black Spruce Dog Sledding from November through April and join a trail ride with 16 dogs hitched up to an ATV. Paws for Adventure is one of Alaska’s longest-running dog tour companies, where you can go for a ride or sign up for a multi-day adventure. 

At Rod’s Alaskan Guide Service Dog Sledding, you’ll have the chance to glide over the snow on a sled pulled by a team of dogs that have run renowned races. Year-round tours are offered at Trail Breaker Kennel, the home of an iconic musher, where you can tour a kennel, cuddle puppies, and go for a memorable ride. 

Book a Dog Sledding Adventure

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4. Soak in Soothing Chena Hot Springs

Relax and unwind in the natural Chena Hot Springs, a popular day trip from Fairbanks where you can enjoy the healing waters and have a soak. While Chena’s recorded history dates back to the early 1900s with weary gold miners, there is evidence that indigenous people used the water to re-charge as well. 

You can purchase daily hot spring passes, which include entrance to the hot springs lake, indoor heated pool, and both the outdoor and indoor hot tubs. If that’s not enough relaxation for you, you can also book a pampering Swedish, deep-tissue, or hot stone massage to go with your hot springs soak!

Chena Hot Springs Resort also boasts the unique Aurora Ice Museum, the largest year-round ice museum with an ice bar. Away from the city lights, it’s also one of the best spots in Alaska to see the Northern Lights in the winter while soaking in the outdoor tubs.

You’ll also find plenty of opportunities for adventure, with dog mushing, skiing, snowmobiling, ATV rides, fishing, and hiking, all popular excursions. You’ll find the resort and campground located at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, just 56 miles east of Fairbanks. 

Book a Chena Hot Springs Day Tour from Fairbanks


5. Go Wildlife Watching in Denali National Park

Best Things to do in Alaska: Denali National Park

One of the world’s best destinations for wildlife watching, Denali National Park is home to caribou, grizzly and black bears, moose, and Dall’s sheep. With its vast expanse of wild land, the park’s single road also leads to North America’s tallest peak at over 20,000 feet. 

This is the third-largest park in the United States. The area features a diverse landscape of high alpine ranges, glacier-topped mountains, and wide river valleys. Among its undeveloped wilderness, some of the more frequently seen small mammals in this Alaska bucket list destination include arctic ground squirrels, red squirrels, foxes, and marmots. 

Bird watchers will also find an impressive collection of winged creatures within the park, as golden eagles and bald eagles have been spotted. Some of the most common birds include ravens, mew gulls, gray jays, and ptarmigan. 

Your best chance of seeing wildlife in Denali National Park is while taking a bus ride on Denali Park Road. You can see above the roadside bush and relax while taking in the scenery as the driver navigates the windy road. 

The most likely place to see a grizzly bear is the stretch from Toklat River to Eielson Visitor Center at Mile 66, in addition to foxes, coyotes, and wolves. Alternately, the area from Eielson Visitor Center to Wonder Lake at Mile 85 frequently sees moose roaming around. 


6. Learn About Alaska’s History at the Alaska Native Heritage Center

Fun Things to do in Alaska: Alaska Native Heritage Center

For a deep dive into Alaska’s diverse cultures, head to the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. At this fascinating attraction, you can learn about the 11 major cultures while experiencing their history first-hand through captivating stories, traditional songs and dances, as well as festivals and educational programs. 

It’s a unique experience that will appeal to visitors of all ages, offering a chance to explore the traditional ways of Alaska’s Indigenous cultures. Standing proud as the largest cultural institution in Alaska, you’ll be taken on a journey through 10,000 years of Alaska Native history and culture through exhibits, art, demonstrations, and films. 

The museum’s Gathering Place offers a center stage for Alaska Native dancing, storytelling, and Native Games demonstrations, while the Hall of Cultures features exhibits showcasing each of the five major culture groups of Alaska. Kids will love the Alaska Native craft activities here, while you’ll also have a chance to take home a piece of traditional Alaska Native-made art.

Head to the Theatre to see movies highlighting the different cultures of Alaska Native people. Afterward, you can stroll through six authentic life-size Native dwellings in the Village Sites wooded area around Lake Tiulana. Make sure to stop by the whale bones at the Iñupiaq site for a photogenic souvenir.

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7. Hike to Slaughter Gulch via Juneau Trail in Chugach National Forest

What to do in Alaska: Slaughter Gulch via Juneau Trail in Chugach National Forest

Hiking lovers looking for a challenge should add a visit to Slaughter Gulch to their Alaska itinerary. The challenging five-mile journey is a rewarding trail for hikers of all experience levels and offers some of the most stunning mountain, lake, and valley views in North America.

Located in the Chugach National Forest, which spans nearly seven million acres in southcentral Alaska, this trail starts near Cooper Landing. Be prepared for a trek, as you’ll be climbing uphill for about an hour! 

Your efforts will be rewarded, though, as the climax of the hike treats you to panoramic views of the valley. Among the incredible landscapes, you can take in the million-dollar views of Kenai Lake, snow-capped mountains, and lush forests. 

If you have time to add more hikes to your vacation, the Ptarmigan Lake Trail is another favorite in Chugach National Forest. The 6.8-mile trail starts near Kenai Lake and follows the serene Ptarmigan Creek, leading to the gorgeous Ptarmigan Lake. 

If you visit in the summer, the Carter Lake Trail offers a chance to see the colorful wildflowers blooming. It peaks at the beautiful Carter Lake, while many hikers have spotted Dall’s sheep and brown bears along this route. 


8. Photograph Humpback Whales in Prince William Sound

Best Things to do in Alaska: Prince William Sound
Images courtesy of Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises

Spotting whales in Prince William Sound is a top thing to do in Alaska. While humpbacks can often be seen during the summer months (commonly in May, June, and July), orcas reside here year-round. 

It’s possible to spot these gentle giants from the shore, but getting out on the water offers an incredible experience of seeing the creatures up close. Tours around Prince William Sound can take you to some of the best spots, as the whales prefer deep, clear waters filled with krill. 

Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises offer all-day cruises through Prince William Sound, from Valdez to Meares Glacier. Not only will you have an opportunity to see orca whales, but also harbor seals, sea lions, and more. 

Phillips Cruises is another favorite, cruising Alaska’s waters since 1958. Departing from Whittier, their Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise takes you to iconic sites such as College Fjord and Blackstone Bay as you spot marine wildlife, including humpback and orca whales. 

Lazy Otter Charters operates custom tours of the sound from March through October in their 30-passenger catamaran. Departing out of Whittier, each of their trips includes a beach walk and lunch, as well as a heated cabin with large windows and a viewing deck. 


9. Go Skiing in Girdwood

Fun Things to do in Alaska: Skiing in Girdwood

Alaska is home to some of the best ski resorts and areas in the country, which comes as no surprise given its wide-open spaces and dramatic terrain. With nearly 700 inches of annual snowfall, both extreme heli-skiers and beginners alike will find a slope to suit their needs. In the winter, you might even add a viewing of the Northern Lights to the mix! 

One of the best places to go skiing in Alaska is Girdwood. This cozy mountain town makes a great home base for accessing the slopes, with opportunities for a long list of winter sports activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, heli-skiing, and snowmobiling. 

In Girdwood, you’ll find Alyeska Resort, one of the state’s premier ski resorts that features over 1,600 skiable acres and over 75 trails. It’s famous around the world for its world-class winter activities and boasts some of the snowiest slopes in North America.

While it caters to all skill levels, advanced skiers will love tackling North America’s longest continuous double black run at Alyeska Resort. After a few runs on the slopes, you can also go for a dogsled ride with an Iditarod veteran or rent snowshoes and go exploring with a guide. Alternately, opt for a snowmobile excursion through the Chugach Mountains. 

Book a Stay at Alyeska Resort

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10. Drive the Stunning Seward Highway

Must do things in Alaska: Seward Highway

Pack your snacks and supplies for a drive on one of Alaska’s most scenic roads, the Seward Highway. This popular Alaskan road trip starts in Anchorage and includes 125 miles of worthwhile stops as you reach the seaside community of Seward. 

The route begins with a view of the picturesque shoreline of Turnagain Arm and dramatic peaks of the Church Mountains, then continues through the Menai Peninsula, passing tiny towns and beautiful alpine lakes along the way. 

While it’s possible to make this trek in one long, full day, it is recommended to stretch it out and stop to enjoy the state’s natural beauty. Girdwood is one of the most popular detours on the Seward Highway, as the laid-back, artsy ski resort town features skiing, mountain biking, and art galleries.

Portage is another worthy stop on this road trip, as it’s home to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Next, Whittier offers access to glacier-viewing boat tours and a 2.5-mile-long one-way highway toll, the longest in North America. Finally, arrive in Seward and explore the city’s highlights. 


11. Explore the Best of Seward

Best Things to do in Alaska: Best of Seward

Seward is one of the top destinations in Alaska, offering a long list of exciting indoor and outdoor attractions and a scenic coastline. It’s just three hours from Anchorage to this small coastal community, where you’ll find a wide range of activities for families and adventure seekers alike. 

The Alaska SeaLife Center is one of the city’s most popular attractions, especially if you’re traveling with kids, as the public aquarium and marine research center is an ideal spot to learn about the state’s rich ecosystems. Check out the educational exhibits and get up close to sea lions, puffins, octopuses, and ice seals! 

Scenic day cruises into the Kenai Fjords National Park are also popular while hiking to the top of Mount Marathon for sweeping views of the city is a favorite activity with active travelers. If you prefer to take it easy, spend a leisurely afternoon downtown and stroll Seward Waterfront Park, watch the boats bob in the water, and observe resident sea otters. 

Just 10 minutes away from Seward is the famous Exit Glacier, one of Alaska’s most accessible roadside glaciers, where you can join guided ice-hiking excursions. You can also get out on the water with a fishing or whale-watching tour, then head to Lowell Point to enjoy beachcombing around its tide pools. 

Book a cruise through the Kenai Fjords


12. Explore the Inside Passage

Alaska Bucket List: Inside Passage

Many travelers visiting Alaska consider an exploration of the Inside Passage to be a rite of passage. With some of the most incredible natural scenery of southeast Alaska on full display, it’s easy to see why! While most opt for a cruise of this area, self-guided tours are also an option. 

Hopping aboard a small cruise ship is popular because they do the work for you. The area is an archipelago, after all, with towns situated on islands that aren’t connected to one another by roads. However, if you want to do a DIY trip, it is possible. 

To see the highlights of the Inside Passage, your journey will start in Juneau. See Mendenhall Glacier, go bear viewing, or sign up for a whale-watching cruise. Then, take a short 40-minute flight to Skagway and stroll its quaint downtown area. 

Take a train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Route or go for a guided glacier hike, then make your way to Haines via the picturesque 45-minute ferry. From here, you can take an air taxi flight to Gustavus, where you can access Glacier Bay National Park. It’s here that you’ll wrap up your Inside Passage journey, marveling at its massive tidewater glaciers and local wildlife. 

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13. Enjoy a Family Day Outdoors at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Things to do: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

One of the top things to do in Alaska if you’re traveling with the kids, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving local wildlife. The 200-acre center allows you to observe Alaskan wildlife like coyotes, bald eagles, and wood bison display their natural behavior in a gorgeous setting. 

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is set on the shores of Turnagain Arm, surrounded by picture-perfect mountain and glacier landscapes. The animals are located in different areas of the center, with each habitat featuring informational signs explaining the habits and behaviors of the animals.

Offered June 1 to September 15, Bear Encounter tours get you up-close with resident brown bears, and you can participate in their daily feeding. Moose Encounters are also offered in these months, with a chance to say hello and feed the resident moose. 

If you come in the winter, you can get a different view of the center’s wildlife. At this time, you can expect to see wood bison, reindeer, wolves, deer, muskox, and foxes. Daily keeper chats are available year-round, as well as the popular Walk on the Wild Side Tour that includes a personal guide and a chance to feed an animal. 


14. Observe Brown Bears in Katmai National Park

Best Things to do in Alaska: Brown Bears in Katmai National Park

Katmai National Park is at the top of most traveler’s Alaska bucket list for a reason. It’s beloved as one of the best spots for bear viewing in the state. It offers a true wilderness adventure just 260 miles southwest of Anchorage, where you can observe brown bears drawn to the salmon-filled waters in Katmai.

Brooks Camp is the park’s summer base on the shores of Naknek Lake and the hub of activity, where you’ll find a lodge, restaurant, campground, kayak rentals, and ranger-led tours. After a short bear safety orientation, you can follow a floating bridge to the park’s famed bear-viewing platforms overlooking the Brooks River. 

From here, you can photograph the spectacular sight of 900-pound creatures at the top of the waterfall catching salmon. For the best chance of seeing the action, plan your visit between mid and late summer. While grizzly bear-viewing is the biggest draw, you can also see wolves, caribou, beavers, and marten. 

In addition to brown bear viewing, this park offers opportunities to enjoy rafting, hiking, camping, and kayaking. Paddling in Katmai’s rivers and lakes is perfect for adventure-seekers, while fly fishing is also popular, although some are catch and release only. 


15. Hike Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Must do things in Alaska: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is America’s largest park and certainly one of its most impressive. Its vast 13.2 million acres of landscapes are as wide as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland combined, offering peaks upon peaks and endless glaciers. 

This UNESCO-listed park boasts spectacular hiking trails, with glacier viewing along the 4.4-mile Root Glacier Trail one of the most popular options. Alternately, Caribou Creek Trail, Skookum Volcano Trail, and Bonanza Mine Trail are more strenuous options. For a quick immersion of the park’s tremendous landscapes, take a guided flight over the peaks, glaciers, and wide-open expanses.

The park’s sheer size means you’ll find plenty to see and do, with a variety of exciting adventures on offer. Enjoy sport fishing in the lakes and streams, try your hand at snowmobiling, or stay overnight in one of the park’s backcountry cabins. 

Make sure to add a visit to Hubbard Glacier while exploring Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, as this notable natural attraction is North America’s largest tidewater glacier. An incredible 76 miles long and seven miles wide, it can be seen by boat or air from Yucatat, Alaska. 

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16. Visit the Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

What to do in Alaska: Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, the Harding Icefield is an epic day hike leaving from the Exit Glacier Area. Stretching for 700 square miles through cottonwood and alder forests, this top hike in the Kenai Peninsula is worth the effort to enjoy its spectacular views. 

This icefield is actually a large area of interconnected glaciers, with over 38 glaciers flowing from the Harding Icefield. Getting to this natural wonder takes patience, as the strenuous four-mile Harding Icefield trailhead parallels the glacier’s north edge, gaining 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. 

It might be tough, but you’ll be rewarded along the way with unbeatable views of the glacier and surrounding mountains. In the end, you can savor the sweeping views of the Harding Icefield that includes Exit Glacier and the tidewater glaciers on the Kenai Fjords outer coast. 

Start your journey early, as this 8.2-mile round-trip hike is an all-day adventure. It’s best seen in the summer, between June and October. The trail is well-maintained, with plenty of incredible overlooks and impressive views along the way if you don’t want to make the entire journey. 


17. Go Sea Kayaking in Glacier Bay National Park

Fun Things to do in Alaska: Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay National Park is home to some of the best natural scenery in the United States, covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, glaciers, rainforest, fjords, and wild coastlines. It’s a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and one of the largest international protected areas in the world. 

While you’re spoiled for choice with outdoor adventures in this renowned park, sea kayaking is one of the most popular ways to travel into Glacier Bay’s wilderness. Kayaks can be brought to the park by ferry, rented locally, or offered on guided kayak trips. 

Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks is one of the top options for both independent kayakers and guided trips in Glacier Bay’s Bartlett Cove. If you’re short on time, opt for a one-day kayak adventure for a chance to paddle along the shores of Lester Island and Point Gustavus and spot a variety of land mammals, marine, and birdlife.  

After a day of kayaking, you can choose from any one of the other wilderness adventures in Glacier Bay. Advanced hikers can go backpacking, while rafting on glacial rivers and mountaineering are other adrenaline-filled excursions. 


18. Follow Chilkoot Trail in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Alaska Bucket List: Chilkoot Trail in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is an incredible destination for history buffs and nature lovers alike. In addition to its captivating gold rush-era history, it’s home to glacially carved valleys and over 13,000 acres that encompass a six-block historical district in Skagway and the famous Chilkoot Trail. 

One of the most popular hikes in Alaska, the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail is nicknamed “the world’s longest outdoor museum.” It’s here that you can re-trace the journey of Klondike gold seekers, which connects coastal Alaska to the shores of Lake Bennett in Canada. If you don’t want to trek into Canada, turn around at the summit of the Chilkoot Pass. 

Starting in the historic town of Dyea, near Skagway, the trail is dotted with beautiful alpine lakes and centuries-old Gold Rush artifacts. You’ll be walking in the footsteps of where the more than 40,000 Gold Rush seekers made their way to Canada’s Yukon goldfields. 

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is a popular cruise ship destination because of its unique combination of history and outdoor activities. Most travelers opt to browse the collection of restored stores, saloons, and public buildings in Skagway before heading to neighboring Dyea to start their hiking adventure. 

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19. Hop Aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

Alaska Things to do: White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad

White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is an epic train adventure in Alaska, nicknamed the “Scenic Railway of the World” for a reason. Built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, this narrow-gauge railroad is not just an exciting adventure but a must on your Alaska bucket list! 

Starting in Skagway and traveling into the heart of the Yukon, you’ll have several trip options to get a taste of wild Alaska. Along the way, you’ll get to experience beautiful panoramic vistas of Alaska’s most impressive mountains, gorges, waterfalls, and glaciers from the comfort of a vintage rail car. 

Sit back and relax as the 2.5-hour train ride climbs 3,000 feet and wraps around cliffhanger curves. It even passes iconic destinations like Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch as you traverse landscapes toward the famous Yukon River. 

It comes as no surprise that you’ll discover plenty of photo opportunities on this popular train excursion in Alaska. The trains feature large windows and viewing decks for taking in the incredible scenery, with the best conditions typically found in the early morning.

Book a White Pass and Yukon Route Railway Tour 


20. Gaze at Iceberg’s at Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier

Unique Things to do in Alaska: Mendenhall Glacier

One of the most iconic attractions in Alaska, Mendenhall Glacier is considered one of the most beautiful and accessible glaciers in North America. Located just 13 miles from downtown Juneau, and a few minutes from the airport, it’s one of the coolest things to do in Alaska.

Once you reach this natural beauty, you’ll understand why it’s such a popular destination, as it’s a half-mile wide, with ice up to 1,800 feet deep. For a quick visit, head to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center to learn about the natural wonder, then trek down to the lookout platform along its Photo Point Trail for unobstructed views. 

If you have extra time, spend a half-day exploring this area and get up close to the majestic glacier. There are scenic hiking trails that run along the surrounding area, including a well-marked trail to Nugget Falls. It’s the closest trail to the glacier, adding the bonus of seeing a beautiful 377-foot waterfall cascading into an iceberg lake!

Adventurous travelers can also kayak on Mendenhall Lake, with a chance to paddle near icebergs and arctic nesting cliffs. Another option is a guided charter tour with the option of whale watching in Auke Bay, while helicopter tours offer aerial views of the meltwater pools and ice caves. 


21. Admire Glacier Scenery at Juneau’s Tracy Arm Fjord

Must do things in Alaska: Tracy Arm Fjord

While Mendenhall Glacier often steals the attention of most visitors in Juneau, the 27-mile-long Tracy Arm Fjord is worthy of being at the top of your Alaska itinerary as well. Not only is this natural gem bigger, but it’s more dramatic, with narrow sections no more than half a mile wide and cliffs rising more than 3,000 on either side. 

Bring binoculars to fully take in the incredible scenery, which includes beautiful 1,000-foot waterfalls that can be seen cascading down the steep rock walls and snow-capped mountains. The Sawyer Glaciers are the crown jewel, with the sight of its sapphire blue tidewater glaciers sure to blow you away.

Wildlife is also impressive in this remote part of Alaska, with black bears often seen navigating its shores. You might even catch sight of bald eagles soaring overhead and seals and pups lounging and sunning themselves on the ice.

Adventure Bound Alaska and Allen Marine Tours are two options for boat tours through Tracy Arm Fjord. Operating from May to September, expert guides here will get you close to some of Alaska’s largest icebergs. For an adventure by air, Alaska Seaplanes will fly you over the iceberg scenery. 

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22. See Live Totem Carving at Sitka National Historical Park

Must do things in Alaska: Sitka National Historical Park
Images courtesy of Sitka National Historical Park

Sitka National Historical Park is nestled on an island dotted with spruce and hemlock trees, best known for preserving the site of a battle between Russian traders and indigenous Tlingit people. Colorful totem poles from Tlingit and Haida areas line the park’s coastal trail, while a restored Russian Bishop’s House highlights Russia’s colonial legacy in North America. 

This is the state’s oldest national park and a top thing to do in Alaska for history lovers who want to immerse themselves in the area’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty. One of the best places to visit is the on-site Sitka Cultural Center, which has studios for some of the world’s top Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian artists. 

It’s here that you can watch live demonstrations as artists create masterpieces with wood carvings, beading, textiles, and engraved metals. The most popular exhibit is the live totem carving, while you can also follow the park’s Totem Trail to discover a collection of restored totem poles carved by Alaska Native carvers. 

Explore the museum in the Russian Bishop’s House to understand what it was like to live in Sitka during the Russian-American period, then stretch your legs on a scenic trail. Enjoy spectacular panoramic viewpoints along the 2.5-mile Mountain Verstovia Trail, or follow the tranquil Indian River along the 4.5-mile Indian River Trail. 


23. Count Totem Poles in Ketchikan

Best Things to do in Alaska: Ketchikan

Often called the “Gateway to Southeast Alaska,” the small town of Ketchikan deserves a spot on your Alaska bucket list. It’s the southernmost city on the Inside Passage and was once a fishing and logging community. It is now a charming waterfront town where you can fish, hike, kayak, and learn about Native American culture through its famous totem poles. 

Start your journey in Ketchikan with a stroll along Creek Street, where you can admire its picturesque wood-frame houses built on stilts along the creek. Today, the houses have been transformed into restaurants, shops, and art galleries. 

However, the top reason to come here is to see its fascinating collection of totem poles and learn more about the Tlingit culture. These beautiful works of art are displayed at Totem Bight State Park, while you can learn about the history and meaning of the totems through the exhibits at the Totem Heritage Center

Ketchikan is also a popular home base for exploring the Misty Fjords National Monument, as it’s only 20 miles away from the town center. Take a boat tour through the park to see its massive glacial cliffs, dramatic waterfalls, secluded bays, and rock walls jutting 3,000 feet straight out of the ocean. 


24. Visit the Northernmost National Park in the US

Must do things in Alaska: Northernmost National Park in the US

A true destination for adventure seekers, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve is considered one of the best wilderness areas in the world. Located entirely north of the Arctic Circle, it’s one of the coolest things to do in Alaska for nature lovers. 

Its vast landscape doesn’t even contain any roads or trails, with its terrain virtually unchanged throughout the years. It’s perfect if you’re looking for quiet solitude, where adventurers can marvel at wild rivers meandering through glacier-carved valleys, spot caribou migrating, picnic by the water, or spend the day fishing at an alpine lake. 

You’ll need to have the skills to be truly self-sufficient in this remote location, as the park offers backpackers 8.4 million acres of spectacular wilderness. Local air taxis provide flight-seeing trips, day trips, or overnight campouts, while you can also plan a trip to neighboring Kobuk Valley National Park or the Noatak Preserve. 

You can also join guided trips in the summer, with options to go rafting or hiking in the summer or cross-country skiing and dog mushing in the winter. Tour operators like Alaska Alpine Adventures offer multi-day treks through the park and include gear, safety equipment, air transportations, and lodging. 


25. Go Brewery Hopping in Anchorage

Best Things to do in Alaska: Brewery Hopping in Anchorage

Top-quality beer is easy to find in Anchorage, with many local breweries providing a comprehensive list of craft beer options to quench your thirst. Appealing to the 21 and up crowd, you can spend a day brewery hopping in Anchorage and discover some of Alaska’s best-kept secrets. 

Noted as one of the best beer cities in the United States, here’s how to dive deep into the local beer scene in Anchorage. Your first stop is Anchorage Brewing Company, a popular option for beer aficionados that is known for pairing its craft brews with a tasty upscale food menu.

You can also hang out in the loft at Midnight Sun Brewing, the oldest brewery in the state, and sample its menu of barrel-aged stouts and barley wines. Learn about their special ingredient of glacial-fed water and dine on hearty comfort food. Cynosure Brewing is another option in Anchorage, focusing on Belgian ales and lagers. 

King Street Brewing Company has seasonal rotating beers and weekly food trucks, while Resolution Brewing Company has an inviting taproom with outdoor seating. If you’re a cider fan, make sure to visit Double Shovel to experience the first micro-cidery in Alaska! 

That’s it! 25 of the best things to do in Alaska. What’s your favorite thing to do in The Last Frontier?


Planning a trip to Alaska? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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