This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.
Alaska is one of the most adventurous destination in the United States, known for its vast wilderness, craggy mountain ranges, glaciers, rich cultural heritage and wildlife encounters.
If you’re looking for things to do in Alaska, then you’re spoiled for choice. It’s a destination that offers plenty for any type of traveler; whether you prefer to sit back and relax, immerse yourself in cultural activities, or venture into the unknown and explore numerous hiking trails and discover the most breathtaking landscapes.
In this guide, we’ve shared some of our top attractions in Alaska and places to add to your bucket list, so you can have the best experience possible.
If you’re ever unsure about what to do in Alaska, be sure to save this guide and add these experiences to your list.
- Things To Do In Alaska
- 1. Witness Majestic Glaciers
- 2. Immerse in Native Culture
- 3. Go Wildlife Spotting
- 4. Experience the Northern Lights
- 5. Go dog sledding
- 6. Try Your Hand at Salmon Fishing
- 7. Hit the Hiking Trails
- 8. Take a Whale Watching Tour
- 9. Cruise the Inside Passage
- 10. Try the Local Cuisine
- 11. Visit the Aurora Ice Museum
- 12. Drive the Seward Highway
- 13. Check out The Museum of the North, Fairbanks
- 14. Ride the Talkeetna Air Taxi
- 15. Visit the Gold Rush Historical District, Skagway
- 16. Take the Kids to Santa Claus House, North Pole
- 17. Ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad
- 18. Check out the National Parks
- 19. Witness the Bore Tide
- Best Time to Visit Alaska
- Final Thoughts
- Save it on Pinterest
Things To Do In Alaska
Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the culture, encounter the state’s majestic animals, or you’re charging your camera batteries for snaps of the most incredible vistas, be sure to add the following to your Alaska bucket list.
1. Witness Majestic Glaciers
Alaska is renowned for its breathtaking glaciers, so a visit to Alaska wouldn’t be complete without going to visit some!
Exit Glacier, located in Kenai Fjords National Park, is a relatively accessible glacier experience.
You can hike along well-maintained trails that offer impressive views of the glacier’s massive ice formations. What makes Exit Glacier unique is its proximity to Seward, making it easily accessible for those exploring the Kenai Peninsula.
Witnessing the powerful forces of nature at work as chunks of ice break off into the glacier-fed streams is a truly unforgettable sight.
Another well known glacier in Alaska is Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau. Its magnificent blue ice and intricate network of ice caves make it an enchanting site to witness.
Hike along the West Glacier Trail to witness the glacier up close, and see Nugget Falls, a stunning waterfall that cascades down the mountainside, adding to the glacier’s allure.
Don’t miss these glacier tours in Alaska:
2. Immerse in Native Culture
When visiting Alaska, taking the time to learn about Native Alaskan culture is not only important but also enriching. The state boasts a rich heritage shaped by diverse indigenous communities, and understanding their culture enhances the overall experience.
One of the best places to immerse yourself in Alaska Native culture is the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. Here, you can participate in interactive exhibits, watch traditional performances, and engage with Native artisans, gaining insights into their customs and traditions.
Be sure to pay a visit to Sitka, a historic city in southeast Alaska, which offers various cultural experiences. The Sitka National Historical Park showcases the vibrant Tlingit culture, with its iconic totem poles standing tall amid lush forests. Exploring this park provides an opportunity to learn about the significance of totem poles and their role in storytelling.
Ketchikan, known as the “Totem Pole Capital of the World,” is another must-visit destination in Alaska for those wanting to learn about Alaskan heritage. The Totem Bight State Historical Park in Ketchikan is home to a stunning collection of intricately carved totem poles.
These totem poles serve as powerful symbols representing Native Alaskan clans and their stories.
3. Go Wildlife Spotting
When visiting Alaska, embarking on a wildlife spotting adventure is one of the top things to do. The vast wilderness of the state is teeming with incredible creatures that you won’t find anywhere else.
Start your journey by setting sail on the turquoise waters of the Turnagain Arm, where you can witness the majestic humpback whales breach and frolic in their natural habitat.
These gentle giants put on a captivating show, their massive tails plunging into the water, creating a spectacle you won’t soon forget.
As you venture further along the coast, keep an eye out for playful otters and seals, gracefully gliding through the icy waters. Brown bears, a symbol of Alaska’s untamed beauty, can be spotted fishing for salmon along the rivers and streams.
The sight of these magnificent creatures in their element is truly awe-inspiring.
Be sure to look above your head, where bald eagles soar freely, their piercing eyes scanning the terrain for their next meal. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the elusive wolves, their haunting howls carrying through the pristine wilderness.
For a more interactive experience, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where you can observe rescued animals up close, including sea lions, recovering marine mammals, and orphaned brown bears.
This center plays a crucial role in preserving Alaska’s diverse wildlife and offers a unique educational opportunity for visitors.
4. Experience the Northern Lights
One of the best things to do in Alaska at night is witnessing the awe-inspiring Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis.
The Northern Lights are a breathtaking display of dancing lights in the night sky, painting the darkness with vibrant hues of green, pink, and purple. It’s a sight that will leave you spellbound.
Fairbanks is hailed as one of the best places in Alaska to view the Northern Lights. Its prime location, far away from light pollution, combined with long hours of darkness during winter, increases the chances of witnessing this natural spectacle.
The best time to see the Northern Lights in Alaska is between September and April when the nights are longer and darker.
Planning your visit during these months maximizes your chances of catching this extraordinary phenomenon.
5. Go dog sledding
When visiting Alaska, an exhilarating and unforgettable experience awaits you: dog sledding. Dog sledding has been a vital mode of transportation for centuries in Alaska, particularly in remote areas inaccessible by roads.
Embracing this tradition allows you to connect with the rich history and culture of the region.
These incredible animals, bred for their endurance and strength, will forge a bond with you as they pull you through the snow-covered landscapes.
Feel the crisp Arctic air against your face as you glide across vast stretches of untouched wilderness. Dog sledding offers a unique perspective, allowing you to appreciate the beauty of Alaska’s landscapes in a way that few other experiences can match.
6. Try Your Hand at Salmon Fishing
Another unmissable thing to do in Alaska is to partake in the thrilling experience of salmon fishing.
Alaska is home to numerous species of wild salmon, including the humpy, sockeye, and chinook. The state’s pristine waters boast some of the largest salmon populations, offering anglers ample chances to reel in their catch.
Salmon fishing is deeply ingrained in Alaskan culture, with generations of fishermen passing down their skills and knowledge. Engaging in this activity allows you to immerse yourself in the state’s heritage and be part of a time-honored tradition.
7. Hit the Hiking Trails
One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery is to hike. Alaska is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, and hiking offers an up-close and personal encounter with its majestic landscapes.
Chugach State Park is one of the best places to go hiking since it boasts an extensive network of trails suitable for all skill levels. Whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a challenging ascent, you’ll find a trail that matches your preferences and abilities
From towering mountains to pristine lakes, Chugach State Park showcases the best of Alaska’s wilderness. Alaska is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including bears, moose, eagles, and more.
Hiking in Chugach State Park provides an opportunity to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, creating unforgettable moments.
8. Take a Whale Watching Tour
Whale watching in Juneau is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss. Juneau is renowned as one of the best locations in Alaska for whale watching.
Witnessing the majestic sight of humpback whales breaching, tail-slapping, and feeding in their natural habitat is a truly awe-inspiring experience.
Taking part in a whale watching tour not only means you can see whales up close but allows you to learn about these magnificent creatures and their vital role in marine ecosystems.
Don’t miss these glacier tours in Alaska:
9. Cruise the Inside Passage
One of the most popular ways to see Alaska is on a cruise ship. Embarking on a cruise through the Inside Passage is an extraordinary way to experience the state’s natural wonders.
The Inside Passage is renowned for its awe-inspiring landscapes, featuring towering glaciers, lush forests, and pristine fjords. Cruising through this passage allows you to witness the grandeur of Alaska’s wilderness up close and personal.
The waters of the Inside Passage are also teeming with marine life. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic whales, playful seals, soaring eagles, and curious otters. It’s a wildlife enthusiast’s dream come true.
You may like this Alaska cruise with our preferred tour group operator, Globus. It’s a 17 Day Tour from Anchorage to Vancouver includes Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Glacier Bay National Park. Don’t forget to use the discount below when booking!
GLOBUS DISCOUNT JUST FOR YOU!
We’ve secured an exclusive yTravel discount: Save $100 per person on select 2023 and 2024 Globus and Avalon Waterway Vacations. Use the code: YTRAVEL when booking online at the Globus, Cosmos, and Avalon Waterways websites, by calling Globus and Avalon Waterways directly, or booking with a preferred Travel Advisor. Terms & Conditions.
10. Try the Local Cuisine
When exploring the wonders of Alaska, be sure to immerse yourself in the local cuisine. Trying the local cuisine provides an opportunity to connect with the rich cultural heritage of Alaska.
Sample dishes that have been passed down for generations, discovering the flavors that define this remarkable region.
Alaska’s pristine wilderness offers a bounty of fresh and sustainable ingredients. From succulent seafood like salmon and halibut to game meats such as reindeer, the local cuisine showcases ingredients that are unique to this part of the world.
Anchorage, in particular, is known for reindeer sausage. This savory treat puts a delicious twist on a traditional dish, blending the flavors of the wild with modern culinary techniques.
11. Visit the Aurora Ice Museum
The Aurora Ice Museum showcases breathtaking ice sculptures created by skilled artists. From delicate carvings to intricate installations, the museum is a testament to the beauty and creativity that can be achieved with frozen water.
Stepping into the Aurora Ice Museum feels like entering a magical realm. The ethereal lighting and shimmering ice create an enchanting ambiance that transports visitors to a different world altogether.
Unlike many ice sculptures that melt away in warmer months, the Aurora Ice Museum maintains its frozen splendor all year round. This makes it a rare opportunity to witness and appreciate the artistry of ice regardless of the season.
Located within the Chena Hot Springs Resort, visiting the Aurora Ice Museum allows you to combine your icy adventure with a relaxing soak in natural hot springs, providing a perfect balance of hot and cold experiences.
12. Drive the Seward Highway
Embarking on a scenic drive along the Seward Highway is an absolute must thing to do in Alaska.
The Seward Highway offers unparalleled vistas, with towering mountains, sparkling waterways, and stunning glaciers. Every twist and turn of the road reveals a new breathtaking view that will leave you spellbound.
The highway is a prime spot for wildlife sightings. Keep your eyes peeled for majestic eagles soaring above, playful otters frolicking in the water, and even the possibility of catching a glimpse of whales in the distance.
The Seward Highway provides access to numerous outdoor activities. From hiking in the Chugach National Forest to fishing in the Kenai River, there are endless opportunities to connect with Alaska’s natural beauty.
13. Check out The Museum of the North, Fairbanks
Make sure to include a visit to The Museum of the North in your itinerary. The Museum of the North provides a captivating exploration of Alaska’s rich cultural heritage.
From Alaska Native cultures to the state’s diverse communities, the exhibits offer insights into the traditions, art, and history that shape Alaska’s identity.
The museum also hosts an impressive collection of Arctic dinosaur fossils and artifacts that date back thousands of years. It’s an opportunity to delve into the ancient past of Alaska and marvel at the remnants of prehistoric life.
14. Ride the Talkeetna Air Taxi
Talkeetna Air Taxi offers breathtaking flightseeing tours, providing you with awe-inspiring views of the majestic Alaska Range.
Soar above snow-capped peaks, turquoise glaciers, and stunning meltwater pools, immersing yourself in the wild beauty of the landscape.
One of the unique highlights of Talkeetna Air Taxi is their ability to land on glaciers, allowing you to get up close and personal with these icy wonders.
Step out onto the vast expanse of a glacier and feel the sheer magnitude of Alaska’s frozen landscapes.
Talkeetna Air Taxi is the preferred choice for visitors seeking glacier landings in Denali National Park. Enjoy exclusive access to the park’s remote areas, witnessing its pristine beauty from a truly unparalleled perspective.
15. Visit the Gold Rush Historical District, Skagway
The Gold Rush Historical District encompasses the towns of Skagway and Dyea, which were bustling centers during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of this era and gain a deeper understanding of the hardships and triumphs experienced by the gold seekers.
Wander through the streets lined with beautifully preserved and restored buildings, reflecting the architectural styles of the late 1800s. Each structure has its own story to tell, transporting you to a bygone era.
Visit the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center, where you can delve into interactive exhibits and learn about the history and impact of the Gold Rush.
16. Take the Kids to Santa Claus House, North Pole
If you’re looking for things to do in Alaska with kids, then take a trip to the Santa Claus House in North Pole.
At the Santa Claus House, you can immerse yourself in the festive spirit of Christmas no matter the time of year. Explore the winter wonderland filled with holiday decorations, Santa’s workshop, and a giant Santa statue that will fill you with childlike wonder.
The Santa Claus House hosts a variety of events and festivities throughout the year, such as parades, fundraisers, and themed celebrations.
17. Ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad
When visiting Alaska, immersing yourself in the breathtaking landscapes and rich history is a must, and riding the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is a unique way to do just that.
The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush, making it an integral part of Alaska’s history. Experience the thrill of traversing the same tracks that gold seekers once depended on, and feel connected to the pioneering spirit of the past.
Prepare to be awestruck by the stunning panorama of mountains, glaciers, and gorges that unfold as you journey on the railroad. Marvel at the beauty of glacial rivers, waterfalls, and the untouched wilderness of Alaska, all from the comfort of vintage train cars.
18. Check out the National Parks
Exploring the national parks of Alaska is an absolute must for any nature enthusiast.
Home to North America’s tallest peak, Denali National Park offers unparalleled mountain vistas, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking hiking trails. Experience the untouched wilderness, spot grizzly bears and caribou, and capture the beauty of the vast tundra.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the stunning coastal landscapes, head to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Witness towering glaciers calving into turquoise waters, spot humpback whales and orcas, and marvel at the diverse birdlife. Take a boat tour to explore the fjords up close and be awed by the dramatic scenery.
Perhaps the most famous national park is Glacier Bay National Park, where you can discover a world of ice and wonder at Glacier Bay.
Sail through icy channels, witness massive tidewater glaciers, and hear the thunderous crack of ice carving into the sea. Keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, and even the occasional glimpse of a breaching whale.
Katmai National Park is known for its thriving population of brown bears. Observe these majestic creatures as they fish for salmon in Brooks Falls and soak in the natural hot springs.
19. Witness the Bore Tide
The bore tide in Turnagain Arm is a breathtaking display of nature’s power, with waves reaching up to 10 feet high. Witnessing this massive wall of water thundering into the arm is a truly unforgettable sight.
Watching the bore tide is not just a passive activity; it’s an active and thrilling experience. Surfers take advantage of the tidal surge, riding the wave and showcasing their skills. You can join them if you’re a professional, or simply marvel at their daring feats.
The Turnagain Arm, where the bore tide occurs, is conveniently located just south of Anchorage, making it easily accessible for visitors. It’s a short drive from the city, allowing you to witness this natural phenomenon without venturing far from urban comforts.
Best Time to Visit Alaska
The best time to visit Alaska is typically between mid-June until the end of August. Sometimes the weather is fine up until the middle of September.
During these months, the weather is warm and the days are longer, which allows you to get outside and explore for longer!
April can also be a great time to visit Alaska for wildflowers and mosquito-free days, while the shoulder months of May and September offer better value and fewer crowds.
Alaska is a place known for adventure and excitement. It’s one of the most unique places in North America and offers experiences that will be lodged in your memory for a lifetime.
We hope this guide gave you some inspiration for what to do in Alaska and gave you a few things to put on your bucket list!
Save it on Pinterest
Are you thinking of a trip to Alaska and have some other ideas for your bucket list? Let us know in the comments!