5/6 Days in Alaska….

Over this 4th of July, we made a super short (from Alaska Standards) trip to Alaska and spent ~6 Days/ 5 Nights there. One can drive herself crazy researching on options in Alaska so here are a few tips/pointers for those who are looking to visit Alaska. Note that reference point for all trips below is Anchorage and all recommendations are based on my personal experience-

  1. Alaska is the largest US State — If you were to cover 1 Sq Mile every day, it will take well over a year to complete all of Alaska. It’s abundance natural beauty and truly ‘wild’. Take some time to learn about Alaksa here — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaska . Here is a detailed online map — http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/alaskachannel/map/
  2. Plan a trip on Alaska Rail Road. If I were to pick one itinerary, I’d do ‘Anchorage to Seward’. The whole journey is breathtaking with beautiful sceneries including rivers, glaciers, wild life, mountains and everything else that mother nature has to offer :). Plan on taking whole package from Alaska Railroad to save some booking trouble. Train offers Adventure or Gold Class options..I suggest trying both (Go by one and return on another). Also, ARR still runs ‘flag train’ meaning you can wave your hand to stop a train for you. Pretty cool..huh.

3. (From Anchorage) Take a drive South or East — We took train to Seaward and drove on Glenn Highway to Matanuska Glacier then hiked the Glacier. If time permits, go all the way to Valdez. I didn’t get a chance to go there but heard that you come across the most amazing views on the way.

4. Visit a small town / Talkeetna— Beautiful little town with strong flavor of Alaskan Culture. Book a cabin if you want to experience something different than a regular hotel. Among things to do — I’d not do more than 2 Hours on Mahay’s River Boat (as it gets pretty boring) just to experience Talkeetna river and to learn about folks who like to live ‘off-grid’. If you want to do flighseeing, Talkeetna will be cheaper than Anchorage with lot more flight options but check weather before you go to ensure that your flight would take off.

5. Checkout a Fish Hatchery if you can find one near you.

And here are some more general ones-

  1. Pack for cold/rainy weather — Even in peak summer, weather in Alaska can get very cold so pack in layers. Don’t rely on advance weather forecast as weather can vary dramatically.
  2. It’s tourist season in Summer so book you flights/rental early. We didn’t have any issue finding hotel in large cities such as Anchorage but had to pay hefty prices in Talkeetna due to late booking.
  3. Contrary to my assumption, Alaskan fish is significantly expensive in restaurants. I think lower 48 offer equally fresh yet cheaper options. Something unique was “Wild Salmon Fish and Chips” though.
  4. To my surprise, Costco in Anchorage offers a ton more unique liquor options so if you have time before flying out of Anchorage, pick a few unique bottles :).
  5. Last (but could be significant to some), Alaska is a US state so one doesn’t need passport/Visa to visit Alaska unless you are on a cruise and going to a Canadian port. Flying to an Alaskan airport is like going to any other domestic airport within US.

So here is a summary of our trip-

Day 1 — Landed in Anchorage at noon (Direct flight from Chicago on Alaska Airline), walked around town, took ‘Anchorage Trolley’ Tour” (Highly Recommended).

Day 2 /3“Seward Getaway” Package on Alaska RailRoad. Rental Pick-up at Anchorage Airport on Day 3.

Day 4 — Drive to Talkeetna. Walk around Town.

Day 5- Mahaya’s Jet Boat 5 Hour+ Tour to Devil’s Canyon; Suggest taking a shorter version on River. There are MANY other better options. We also tried for “Fly2K” flighseeing but cloudy weather didn’t allow flights to take off. Back to Anchorage that evening.

Day 6- Glenn Hwy Drive to Matanuska Glacier and back. Rested in town that evening and then took a red-eye back home from Anchorage airport.

Hopefully, this was one of the MANY trips to Alaska as it will take some more visits before I can say — “I have visited Alaska”.

Finally, here is a bonus picture..Can someone guess, what time it was in Alaska (Talkeetna) when this picture was taken?