How You Can Help Puerto Rico and the USVI After Hurricane Maria

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    Donate Cash to Relief Funds

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    Francis Joseph Dean/Deanpictures/Getty Images

    Monetary donations can go a long way to support relief and rebuilding efforts. In addition to offering a tax deduction in certain situations, many legitimate non-profit organizations accept donations via credit card or PayPal — allowing you to earn travel points and miles with credit cards while helping others who are in dire need.

    United for Puerto Rico, set up by the first lady of the territory, is one of many groups organizing relief for those living in the nation. Other charities collecting for disaster relief include the American Red Cross, Save the Children, and UNICEF.

    Before making any donation, be sure to do due diligence to ensure your money is going to aid your selected cause. Charity Navigator provides resources and ratings of charities, granting clarity before making a monetary donation 

  • 02 of 05

    Donate Supplies to Relief Organizations

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    While cash can help with immediate needs, physical supplies are also in great demand as residents put the pieces of their lives back together. United for Puerto Rico has put together a list of items desperately needed on the island. The most demanded supplies include bottled water, diapers, canned foods, garbage bags, towels, pet food, and over-the-counter medicine.

    As supplies shipped by individuals to the islands may be delayed, the easiest way to contribute is through local and national organizations. Groups like The Salvation Army not only accept the donations of physical goods, but also have the infrastructure to distribute items to those in need. Again, before making a donation, be sure to clear potential partners with the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator, to ensure your donations will go to their intended recipients. 

  • 03 of 05

    Donate Frequent Flyer Miles to Support Charity Work

    How You Can Help Puerto Rico and the USVI After Hurricane Maria

    Eric Salard/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    While cash and goods are the preferred donations of relief organizations, frequent flyer miles can help transport skilled workers and volunteers for the rebuilding process. All four major American carriers — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines — all allow frequent flyers to donate their miles direct to non-profit organizations in increments of 1,000 miles.

    Those who have extra frequent flyer miles to spare can use them to bring needed help to the affected areas at no monetary cost. However, it is important to note that frequent flyer mile donations do not count as tax deductible, nor do they provide other incentives for the donor — including the ability to earn cash back, points, or miles from travel rewards credit cards. In this context, travelers may be better off offering of cash or goods instead. 

  • 04 of 05

    Take a Voluntourism Trip

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    As the residents bring their lives back to order, skilled workers and volunteers will be needed to aid reconstruction efforts now and into the immediate future. One of the best ways to get meaning out of a trip is to combine volunteer experience alongside your next vacation. Thus, “voluntourists” — or travelers who want to visit somewhere new while helping the local population — will be in demand as the islands slowly stabilize.

    There are many organizations that provide volunteer opportunities for those who wish to see new places and leave their destination in better condition. The Puerto Rico chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is actively recruiting volunteers, and will contact individuals who have skills that match their demands as they arise. Much like any donation, be sure to understand the obligation required before volunteering for a trip, as well as how the organization is organizing trips. In certain situations, “voluntourism” trips can do more harm than good. 

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    Visit the Islands After Rebuilding

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    If donating money, goods, or volunteering to help is not enough, tourism can also provide a much needed boost after the islands have rebuilt. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel adds $2.7 billion into the economy every year, while directly supporting over 20,000 jobs.

    Before planning a trip, be sure to understand when travelers will be welcome as tourists to the islands. Making a trip too soon as a sightseer may not be helpful or warranted, getting in the way of actual relief efforts and making individuals a potential target for crime. 

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The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

  • 01 of 05

    Take a Polo Lesson

    The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

    Apes Hill Polo Club

    Polo is a big deal in Barbados and there are many opportunities throughout the island to catch a match or two. But have you ever thought about learning the sport yourself? If so, Apes Hill Polo Club is a world-class facility on the island’s west coast offering lessons for every skill level (even complete beginners). While you might be skeptical about the potential of hitting the ball while atop a moving horse, immersive instruction is such that even the least coordinated among us have a good shot at making contact during a first lesson. Upon arrival you’ll meet the horses, get a safety briefing, learn the basics of holding the mallet and hitting the ball before getting on a horse. Detailed instructions are provided and everyone can go at their own pace. 

  • 02 of 05

    Sail the West Coast on a Catamaran

    The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

    Seaduced Luxury Charters

    One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Barbados’ west coast is to see it from the water, something you can do courtesy of a relaxing catamaran ride. Seaduced Luxury Charters offers both private and semi-private daytime and sunset cruises which sail up the west coast and depart at either 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. depending on your preferred time of travel. A sunset cruise gives you the best of both worlds—a sun-kissed view of the scenery to start, and then an epic sunset, making it the preferred option for many. Catamarans come complete with snorkel equipment and a stand-up paddle board for anyone who wants to get a bit more active, as well as a swim platform for easy access in and out of the water.  

  • 03 of 05

    Dine at Daphne’s

    The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

    Daphne's Barbados

    The island counterpart to acclaimed sister location in London, Daphne’s is an award-winning restaurant on the west coast and well worth including on your Barbados itinerary. Part of the island’s acclaimed Elegant Hotels Group, the restaurant is a popular choice with celebrities visiting the island (including Rihanna), but the vibe leans much more toward low-key than exclusive. Chef Michele Blasi creates Italian-leaning dishes with an subtle island twist using fresh-caught seafood and local produce. Daphne’s is also known for their creative list of cocktails, including a watermelon martini.

  • 04 of 05

    Hit the Beach

    The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

    Getty Images/Michele Falzone

    Barbados is home to more than 80 pristine beaches, so you know there’s a stretch of sand waiting for you no matter where you are on the island. But if its calm water conducive to swimming, snorkeling and watersports you’re after, choose a beach on the west coast. The tranquil water of Payne’s Bay makes this an especially prime spot for just about any water sport, including paddleboarding, snorkeling, windsurfing, and kayaking. Payne’s Bay Beach is located between Holetown and Bridgetown in St. James Parish. The beach is lined with luxury hotels, but there are public access points to the beach from the main coastal highway.

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  • 05 of 05

    Hang out in Holetown

    The 5 Best Things to Do Along the West Coast of Barbados

    Getty Images/Frank Fell

    Historic Holetown is Barbados’ oldest settlement, and if you’re on the west coast, the quaint town has several attractions of interest. If you’re in the mood to do some snorkeling, Folkestone Marine Park can be found about a half-mile north of Holetown, and there you’ll find equipment rental, marine life information center and museum, picnic tables, and a protected area for snorkeling the calm, protected water.

    Shoppers will want to head to Limegrove Lifestyle Centre, a small but stylish mall filled with upscale brands as well as a movie theater complete with food and drink service right to your seat. For a more locally inspired shopping experience, stop by colorful Chattel Village. The small outdoor shopping complex has been built to reflect the traditional Barbadian wooden homes, known as Chattel Houses and small shops sell local fashion, accessories, handicrafts, and souvenirs. 

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Juneau, Alaska – Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

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      Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska

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      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Juneau Is Capital of Alaska and Popular Cruise Ship Port of Call

      Juneau is the only state capital in the USA that is inaccessible by car. The city of about 30,000 residents is perched on the southeast coast of Alaska on the Inside Passage, and you need a ship or a plane to get to Juneau.

      With the Mendenhall Glacier, Douglas Island, and many spectacular mountains and waterways nearby, Juneau offers many excursion opportunities for Alaska cruises. Active visitors can go hiking, zip-lining, fishing, or sea kayaking. They can also go on helicopter or float plane sightseeing tours or ride a tram to the top of Mount Roberts. If the weather is rainy, the town has many excellent shops, or you can tour the Alaskan Brewing Company and sample the beers made from crystal clear Alaska waters.

      Most ships on Alaska cruises from Seattle, Vancouver or Anchorage ports visit the city each day during the busy summer cruise season, and a few small ships either embark or disembark in this capital city of Alaska.

      Riding the tram up 1800 feet above sea level to the side of Mount Roberts is a terrific activity in Juneau on a clear day.

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      Hang Glider Parachutist over Juneau

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Watching hang gliders from one of the Mount Roberts’ trails is a fun thing to do on a sunny day in Juneau.

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      Cruise Ship Sailing Down the Gastineau Channel in Juneau

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Snow on Mount Roberts in Juneau in Early September

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Father Brown’s Cross Overlooks Juneau from Mount Roberts

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      After taking the tram up to Mt. Roberts, many Juneau visitors hike the trail to Father Brown’s Cross. It’s about a half mile from the Alpine Loop Trail.

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      Mount Juneau in Alaska

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Hiking is a popular activity in and around Juneau, Alaska. The trail to the top of Mount Juneau is only for the very fit.

      The Mount Juneau Trail is very challenging. It begins about 1 mile into the Perseverance trail and then rises more than 3,500 feet in about 2 miles.

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      Bald Eagle in Juneau, Alaska

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Although the raptor rehabilitators were able to save this injured eagle’s life, he could not be returned to the wild, so lives at the Juneau Raptor Center.

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      Hiking the Rainforest Trail on Douglas Island near Juneau, Alaska

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      The Rainforest Trail is a loop trail of about 1 mile long that passes through amazing rainforest and down to the beach of Douglas Island near Juneau.

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      Beach Section of Rainforest Trail on Douglas Island

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Beach on Rainforest Trail

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Fungus on Tree on Rainforest Trail

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      The large fungi growing on this tree almost looks like a turtle.

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      Skunk Cabbage on Rainforest Trail

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Skunk cabbage loves boggy areas like this one on the Rainforest Trail near Juneau.

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      Mushrooms on Rainforest Trail

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      The very wet rainforest trail is lined with mushrooms (fungi) of all types. Many are beautiful like this one.

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      Alaskan Brewing Co. Headquarters

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Alaskan Brewing Company Storage Vats

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      These huge stainless steel vats are used to store beer at the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau.

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      Alaskan Brewing Company – Nine Beers to Taste!

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Samples of nine different beers are available for tasting at the Alaskan Brewing Company brewery and headquarters in Juneau.

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      Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Mountains Overlooking Mendenhall Glacier

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Some First-Timers Start on the Bunny Hill with Alaska Zipline Adventures

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Preparing to Zip with Alaska Zipline Adventures

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Proper Zipline Form with Alaska Zipline Adventures

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Keeping the knees up at the end of the zip is very important to prevent hitting your legs.

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      Ziplining with Alaska Zipline Adventures near Juneau

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Walking Across the Swinging Bridge at Alaska Zipline Adventures

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      The kids in our group (and some of the adults) loved crossing this swinging bridge, making it sway back and forth and go up and down.

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      Ready for Kayaking!

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      Julie and Linda are all suited up and ready to kayak in Auke Bay on Alaska Travel Adventures’ Glacier View Sea Kayaking excursion

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      Kayaking in Auke Bay

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      The views of the Mendenhall Glacier and the Juneau ice fields are fantastic from a sea kayak.

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      Group of Sea Kayaks in Auke Bay

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

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      Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau

      :0 - Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau (c) Linda Garrison

      View of the Mendenhall Glacier in the late afternoon sun from Douglas Island.

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      Downtown Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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      Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      How many state capitals have float planes parked right downtown?

      The three small cruise ships at the dock are the Cruise West Spirit of Yorktown, Cruise West Spirit of Discovery, and the National Geographic Sea Lion (Lindblad).

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      Float Plane Takes Off in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      While sitting on the balcony of our Regent Seven Seas Mariner cabin, we enjoyed watching the float planes taking off and landing right in front of our view!

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      Seven Seas Mariner at the Dock in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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      State Capital Building in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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      Alaska Governor’s Mansion in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      We were in Alaska when Governor Sarah Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. We weren’t the only tourists checking out the mansion.

      The Alaska Governor’s Mansion was completed in 1913 at a cost of $40,000. It is located about 2 blocks from the State Capital and sits high on a hill overlooking Juneau. The Governor’s Mansion has a very small lot, and we were able to walk right up to the home and take a photo. Security may have tightened now.

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      Totem Pole at the Alaska Governor’s Mansion in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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      Backyard of the Alaska Governor’s Mansion in Juneau

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      The backyard of the Alaska Governor’s mansion was filled with toys for Governor Sarah Palin’s children.

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      Stairs Connecting Streets in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Juneau sits between the Gastineau Channel and the Coast Mountains. The town is very hilly, and stairs are sometimes used to connect the streets.

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      Goldbelt Hotel in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      The Goldbelt Hotel is located across the street from the harbor and within easy walking distance of downtown. It is clean and has great views of the mountains and the harbor. Cruise West uses the Gold Belt, as do other cruise lines, for pre- and post-cruise extensions.

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      Goldbelt Hotel Room in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The rooms at the Goldbelt Hotel in Juneau are spacious, with cable TV and an Internet connection. Cruise West has an information desk in the lobby.

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      View from Room at Goldbelt Hotel in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      We had a gorgeous mountain view from our room at the Goldbelt Hotel in Juneau.

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      Patsy Ann Statue in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      A statue of a stray dog named Patsy Ann greets cruise ship passengers to Juneau. The “real” Patsy Ann was a fixture on the docks in the 1930s.

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      Alaska State Capital in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The State Capital in Juneau has free guided tours during the day on Monday through Friday. It’s interesting to see where our largest state is governed.

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      Downtown Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Cruise ships can dock right downtown in Juneau, Alaska. Much of the historic city can be seen on foot.

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      Mount Roberts Tramway in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Taking the tram to the top of Mount Roberts is exciting, and the view at the top is beautiful on a clear day. Numerous hiking trails criss-cross the summit.

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      Flowers Along the Cruise Ship Dock in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The cooler summer days lead to magnificent flowers in Alaska, like these that adorn the cruise ship pier in Juneau.

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      Gastineau Channel and Douglas Island at Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Some of the first gold mines near Juneau were on nearby Douglas Island. The Treadwell mine produced $66 million in gold in its 35 years of operation.

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      Floatplane Landing in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The first few floatplanes we watched landing on the bays and channels of Alaska were amazing. After watching a few dozen, they seemed almost commonplace.

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      Juneau Icefields in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      We stopped for this gorgeous view of the Juneau icefields on our short drive to the Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau. A visit to the Mendenhall Glacier is one of the highlights of a trip to Juneau. The glacier is very busy during the day, so we visited late in the evening after all the cruise ships had sailed. The days are very long in Juneau in the summer, so you can still get a great look at the Mendenhall Glacier after the cruise ships sail if you are spending the night in Juneau.

      Another reason to go to the Mendenhall after the crowds leave is to see the bearswho come out to do a little fishing.

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      Black Bear at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Black bears gather near the Mendenhall Glacier to enjoy the salmon run. It’s an easy meal for them!

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      Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier and Walkway

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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      Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

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      View of Auke Lake from the Chapel by the Lake

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The views of the Juneau Icefield from the log Chapel by the Lake at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau are spectacular.

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      Log Chapel by the Lake at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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      Ronnie Garrison Fishing in the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      My husband Ronnie is an outdoor writer and tries to fish every day. He bought a fishing license online and managed a few casts in Alaska whenever possible.

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      Ronnie Garrison and Salmon at Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Ronnie loves to fish whenever he can.

      Ronnie caught this salmon in the bay near our hotel in Juneau. Its distinctive hook nose and color changes demonstrate that the fish was on its way to spawn (or had already spawned and was waiting to die). Salmon don’t normally feed after they undergo this drastic transformation. This one probably hit the lure instinctively.

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      Sorting the Day’s Catch in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      Commercial fishing boats unload their day’s catch next to the cruise ship pier. It’s fun to see them sort the different species of fish.

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      Spirit of Yorktown at the Dock in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

      The Cruise West Spirit of Yorktown docked immediately across the street from the Goldbelt Hotel where we stayed the night before our cruise.

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      Boat Harbor at Douglas Island Near Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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      Cruise Ships at the Dock in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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      Cruise Ships in the Harbor at Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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      Cruise Ships Line the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Alaska

      Juneau, Alaska - Southeast Alaska Inside Passage Cruise

      Juneau, Alaska (c) Linda Garrison

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Petersburg – Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

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      Petersburg Mountain on Kupreanof Island Overlooks the Petersburg Marina

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

      Inside Passage Port of Call in Southeast Alaska

      Petersburg is at the northern end of the Wrangell Narrows, a small channel near Frederick Sound in Alaska’s Inside Passage in southeast Alaska. Petersburg was founded by a Norwegian homesteader, and the small town still retains a Norwegian flair. Tourism and fishing are the two main draws to Petersburg. The town has one of Alaska’s largest fishing fleets, several processing plants, and is one of the richest small communities in the state.

      During the summer fishing season, Petersburg’s canneries are filled with hundreds of workers from around the world. Our Petersburg guide told us that workers from over 20 countries were there, living in dormitories and large tents. The pay is good, and some workers migrate back and forth between their home countries and Petersburg each year.

      Tourists like Petersburg because of its proximity to Frederick Sound, the summer feeding ground of hundreds of humpback whales. Scenic LeConte Glacier, the southernmost saltwater terminating glacier in North America, is only 30 miles away. In addition, the hiking around the town and on nearby Kupreanof Island is excellent.

      The Petersburg Mountain Trail is 7 miles roundtrip and leads from the Kupreanof State Dock to the mountain’s summit.

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      Petersburg, Alaska Marina

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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      Stellar Sea Lion in Petersburg Marina

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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      Hiking in the Rain Forest near Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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      Rain Forest Hiking in Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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      Petersburg Creek Trail on Kuprenof Island

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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      Inlet on Petersburg Creek Hike

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

      After passing through a rain forest and muskeg, the Petersburg Creek Trail on Kurpreanof Island reaches this inlet leading to the Wrangell Narrows.

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      Muskeg on the Petersburg Creek Trail in Southeast Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 09 of 22

      Hiking Across the Muskeg in Southeast Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 10 of 22

      Fisherman’s Memorial Park in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 11 of 22

      5 Fingers Lighthouse in Frederick Sound Near Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      The 5 Fingers Lighthouse sits in a pretty setting in Frederick Sound near Petersburg, Alaska.

      The 5 Fingers Lighthouse was originally built in 1902 and rebuilt in 1935 after a fire in 1933. The lighthouse was automated in 1984.

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    • 12 of 22

      Petersburg Harbor Buoy – Wrangell Narrows in Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 13 of 22

      Steller Sea Lions on the Petersburg Harbor Buoy in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Sea lions in the southern hemisphere like to hang out on red buoys, too. This photo of Galapagos sea lions looks very much like this one!

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    • 14 of 22

      Stellar Sea Lions in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Sea lions have articulated flippers that allow them to climb up on buoys for a quick snooze.

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    • 15 of 22

      View of Petersburg, Alaska from the Wrangell Narrows

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Petersburg is a pretty town, laid out by its first Norwegian settlers.

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    • 16 of 22

      Island House near Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Our guide told us that the local dentist lives in this island house in the Wrangell Narrows. He commutes via boat each day to his office in Petersburg.

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    • 17 of 22

      Boat Harbor in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 18 of 22

      Fog Rolls Across Wrangell Narrows in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 19 of 22

      Petersburg Fish Processing Plant

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      The Viking ship logo of this fish processing plant reminded me of the one for Viking River Cruises. Don’t they look similar?

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    • 20 of 22

      Commercial Fishing Boat in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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    • 21 of 22

      Cannery on the Docks at Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Most fish “canneries” do more than just can fish–they flash freeze them for shipment to fish markets in the US and abroad.

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    • 22 of 22

      Boat Harbor in Petersburg, Alaska

      Petersburg - Alaska Gateway to Frederick Sound

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

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Best Things to Do on Alaska Cruise

02of 11

Ride the White Pass Railway

Best Things to Do on Alaska Cruise

White Pass Railway (c) Linda Garrison

If your cruise ship stops over in Skagway, you’ll find an old gold rush boomtown community, complete with shops, bars, restaurants, and wonderful old historical buildings. Although you can easily spend the day exploring Skagway, a ride on the White Pass Railway travels up into the mountains and provides magnificent scenic views and a look at the route the gold miners took on their way to the gold fields in the Yukon. Some White Pass combination rail and bus excursions include a stop at the Yukon Suspension Bridge for a great photo opportunity.

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Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

    • 01 of 10

      Tony Knowles Coastal Trail

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

      Proof that a trip to Alaska doesn’t have to break the bank .

      For many people, visiting Alaska sounds like the vacation of a lifetime, in part because traveling there is incredibly expensive. If you’re willing to ditch cruising and get creative, though, it is possible to plan a trip that is just as fun but nowhere near as pricey. Anchorage, the state’s largest city, is the perfect place to plan a fantastic budget getaway, as there is an unending list of free things to do that will satisfy nature and culture lovers alike. Check out some of the best ones here!

      Get an overview of Anchorage without shelling out for a pricey tour by strolling the length of this 11-mile trail, which winds through three of the city’s best-loved parks and offers great views of the Pacific Ocean and the Alaska Range mountains. You’ll also pass by parts of the Anchorage Lightspeed Planet Walk, a scale model of the solar system laid out all over the city, so don’t be surprised if you find Jupiter or Mars blocking your path! While the flat, paved trail is perfect for walking, you can also take a page from the locals and jog or ride a rented bike.

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    • 02 of 10

      Alaska Heritage Museum

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Wells Fargo

       When you arrive at this museum, you might think you made a mistake, as it is located inside a Wells Fargo Bank branch. Don’t be fooled by the unusual location, though, as tucked between ATM machines and teller windows is the largest private collection of Alaska Native artifacts in the state. You’ll be able to get up close and personal with costumes, weapons, scrimshaw, and hundreds of other items that provide a window into a culture unique to Alaska. The building’s walls are also covered in murals created by Alaskan painters, including Sydney Laurence, who is often considered the state’s most famous artist.

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    • 03 of 10

      Earthquake Park

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

      At this park, history and nature collide to create a place like none you’ve ever seen. On March 27, 1964, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake, the second strongest ever recorded, caused massive damage to Anchorage and the surrounding area. Signs posted all over the park explain the event in detail, but you’ll only truly understand the devastation when you look into a canyon filled with trees that fell over 20 feet in a matter of seconds when the ground collapsed from the tectonic movements. While you’re there, make sure you don’t miss the lookout point that provides great views of Mt. Denali, the highest peak in North America, and downtown Anchorage, which looks tiny beneath a wall of towering mountains.

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    • 04 of 10

      Alaska Public Lands Information Center

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

      This place can best be described as a tourism office on steroids. Sure, it has your standard display of brochures and maps covering all of Alaska, but the real gem is the National Park Rangers who work there, as they are more than happy to advise you one-on-one on the best places for camping, rafting, or whatever else your heart desires. The center also contains interesting exhibits that cover the state’s environment and the people who have lived in it, and plays excellent videos on everything from gold rushes to the 1964 earthquake every few hours.

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    • 05 of 10

      Anchorage Market and Festival

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Wayde Carroll / Visit Anchorage

      The hardest part of a vacation is often finding souvenirs that are authentic and unique. You won’t have this problem in Anchorage, though, as each weekend a downtown parking lot plays host to the Anchorage Market and Festival, where more than 300 vendors hawk a range of distinctively Alaskan goods, from jade jewelry to birch tree syrup. Reluctant shopping companions will not be disappointed either, as there is a food section filled with vendors selling Alaskan specialties, from salmon tortillas to Russian tea. If you need any more reason to go, live music plays throughout the day.

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    • 06 of 10

      Flattop Mountain

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

       After a few minutes on this mountain, you’ll understand why it is the most-climbed in Alaska. Gorgeous and exotic wilderness and wildlife surround you as you make your way along the 3-mile round-trip hike. While most of the ascent is fairly easy, you’ll get a taste of more extreme mountaineering when you have to scramble on your hands and knees to reach the summit. Once you eventually make it there, you’ll be well rewarded with incredible 360-degree views of Anchorage, the surrounding Chugach State Park, and even Mt. Denali.

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    • 07 of 10

      Lake Hood

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Roy Neese / Visit Anchorage

       If you need another reminder of why Alaska is not like the rest of the United States, look no further than this lake, which is the busiest floatplane runway in the world. Barely a minute goes by without a tiny aircraft effortlessly taking off or landing on the water right in front of your eyes. You can also check out the mooring slips where people dock their planes, which are sometimes made homey with chairs and even little sheds. To reach the lake, you get to drive on a runway where regular bushplanes take off and land—just make sure you pay attention to the signs that say “yield to aircraft!”

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    • 08 of 10

      Seward Highway

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

       The word “highway” doesn’t usually bring to mind anything but traffic, long commutes, and squabbling kids. The Seward Highway, though, is much more than a way to get from point A to point B. Stretching 127 miles from Anchorage to Seward, it passes by mountains and glaciers that rise from the sparkling blue water, forests, clear streams, and plenty of Dall sheep and moose. While it provides access to many great towns, you don’t need a destination to take a drive, as within ten minutes of leaving Anchorage you will get a preview of all it has to offer.

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    • 09 of 10

      Girdwood

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Alaska.org

      This cozy mountain hamlet is a favorite vacation spot for locals, and for good reason. Although it is only a 45 minute drive from Anchorage on the Seward Highway, Girdwood feels like a world away, as it is entirely ringed by glaciers sandwiched between towering mountains. Although you can walk through it in about three minutes, it’s worth exploring the quaint downtown. The main attraction, though, is Lower Winner Creek Trail, a manageable 6-mile round-trip hike that ends at a massive gorge, which you cross by wheeling yourself in a hand tram (yes, it is safe). Dangling over raging rapids in a tiny metal cart is an experience you won’t soon forget!

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    • 10 of 10

      Whittier

      Ten Free Things to Do In and Around Anchorage

      Photo Credit: Getty Images

       If you ever made a list of the most interesting towns you ever visited, Whitter would surely take first place. Chosen as a top-secret base during World War II because of its isolated location, it still feels completely detached from the rest of the world, in part because the only way to get there is though a tunnel blasted out of an entire mountain. (As much as you feel like you’re in a different universe, though, it’s only an hour drive from Anchorage). The best way to experience this very walkable town is to stroll along the waterfront, where colorful boats bob in the Caribbean-blue waters of the Prince William Sound in the shadow of unbelievably high snowy peaks. Afterwards, take one of the many underground tunnels to Begich Towers, the apartment complex where nearly the entire population resides. After wandering around some of the floors open to visitors, you’ll be grateful that you’re not neighbors with everyone you know!

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Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

    • 01 of 07

      Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Erin Kirkland

       Nome is most famous for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race and various reality television shows, but it’s also the gateway to one of the most beautiful and intriguing preserves in America. Theories abound about whether humans crossed a “land bridge” between Asia and North America centuries ago, and you too can stand on the same ground. Take time to visit Serpentine Hot Springs and soak in this traditional Inupiat pool that was also popular with gold miners in the early 1900s.

      Reach the preserve and sites via Alaska Airlines from Anchorage or Fairbanks, then by small plane, foot, or snow machine in the winter.

    • 02 of 07

      Glacier Bay National Park

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Erin Kirkland

      The national park most cruise visitors talk about, Glacier Bay is located in Southeast Alaska. Made up of 3.3 million acres of rugged coastline, deep fjords, and namesake glaciers, the park is also Alaska’s only World Heritage Site, with 25 million acres designated for perpetual protection.

      Glacier Bay consists of one facility, a headquarters located in Bartlett Cove near the town of Gustavus, where small cruise ships, kayakers, and other recreational boaters can tie up and explore the area. Larger cruise ships must rely upon rangers who arrive on board via small launches to spend the day giving passengers an up-close experience to Glacier Bay’s wildlife, geology, and environmental science.

    • 03 of 07

      Aleutian World War II National Historic Area

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Erin Kirkland

      Alaska was immersed in one of the fiercest battles of World War II, but many people are unaware of it even today. The Aleutian Island Chain is one of the state’s most remote coastal areas, with violent weather and only a sea or air-based mode of transportation to get there.

      Historically the home of the Aleut (Unangax) People for nearly 10,000 years, the Aleutians were a hotspot of wartime strategy in the early 1940’s. Japanese forces were seen advancing upon the Kiska and Attu areas, and a raid on Dutch Harbor kicked it all into gear in June of 1942, with soldiers invading Kiska and Attu shortly thereafter. Also of note was the subsequent evacuation and internment of thousands of Native families to wet, rainy Southeast Alaska, causing many hardships and a decline in health.

      Today’s visitor can wander the landscape pockmarked with bomb craters, bunkers, and old Quonset huts. Don’t miss Fort Schwatka and the Museum of the Aleutians in downtown Dutch Harbor, or the World War II Museum located near the main airport.

    • 04 of 07

      Kenai Fjords National Park

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Praveen P.N/Getty Images

       Accessible, scenic, and offering diverse recreational options, Kenai Fjords National Park is an easy two hours from Anchorage, near the small town of Seward. Acting as a doorway to 40 glaciers flowing from the Harding Icefield, the park is unique in that visitors can drive, hike, float, or fly to its different landscapes.

      Exit Glacier is the most-often visited, and President Obama made a trip there in 2015 to assess and address the potential ​effects of climate change. Indeed, one can trace the reduction of Exit Glacier from the main road, and on up the trail to its face. Stop by the visitor center, take a guided hike, or camp in the tent-only sites nearby.

      The best way to explore the park, however, is on the water, looking for whales, sea lions, puffins, otters, and bald eagles. Tidewater glaciers soar at the end of narrow fjords, and the occasional bear or mountain goat can be spotted navigating the steep cliffs dotted with brushy trees and grass.

      Continue to 5 of 7 below.

    • 05 of 07

      Lake Clark National Park

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Westend61/Getty Images

      Does the thought of a week spent fishing the icy-cold rivers and lakes of Alaska sound appealing? How about observing the daily life of a brown bear, or visiting the home of one of Alaska’s most revered homesteaders?

      Lake Clark National Park is reached via a one-hour small-plane flight from Anchorage and offers visitors the chance to truly come face to face with nearly every bucket list item of outdoor recreation.

      Port Alsworth is home to the main visitor center and access to much of the park’s activities. Stay at the General Lodge, or hop another plane, pick a trail and camp near Twin Lakes where homesteader Richard “Dick” Proenneke built his own cabin that now is on the National Historic Register.

      Kayaking and canoeing are also stellar at Lake Clark, with outfitters and many lodges offering single or multi-day trips. Don’t forget your fishing pole!

    • 06 of 07

      Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Erin Kirkland

      The largest national park in the entire system, Wrangell-St. Elias is known for its volcanic field spanning 2,000 square miles and towering mountains that dwarf the valleys below.

      Massive by area, the park is mecca for rafting, climbing, backpacking, and hiking enthusiasts for its remote location. But many visitors find Wrangell-St. Elias accessible via the Edgerton Highway, a 60-mile dirt road leading to the tiny hamlet of McCarthy and Kennecott National Historical Landmark. 

      Formerly a copper mine, Kennecott was shuttered in the 1930’s after a successful operation and is now undergoing extensive restoration by the National Park Service. It alone is worth the visit to Wrangell-St. Elias and visitors enjoy exploring the townsite and mines, hiking the trails, and climbing on ice at Root Glacier.

    • 07 of 07

      Kobuk Valley National Park

      Celebrate National Park Week With These Amazing Alaska Destinations

      Haley Johnston/EyeEm/Getty Images

       Caribou. Ancient sand dunes. 9,000 years of human history. This is Kobuk Valley National Park, located in northwest Alaska, entirely above the Arctic Circle.

      The only way to reach Kobuk Valley is through the city of Kotzebue, and by airplane since the park is very remote and no roads or trails lead directly to it. Once there, though, almost 2 million acres of backcountry await the experienced visitor, with access to backpacking, packrafting, fishing, and wildlife photography.

      Every year, more than 500,000 caribou migrate through the Kobuk Valley, following the ancient tracks of their descendants. Grayling populate the Kobuk River, and Alaska Native People spend summers living a subsistence lifestyle along the sandy banks.

      Kobuk is also the only place in Alaska with true sand dunes, a desert of sorts created centuries ago by two glaciations that led to sediment being blown into one enormous, 200,000-acre span of sand dunes. The Great Kobuk Sand Dunes are the largest active dune field in Arctic North America.

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John Hall’s Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

    • 01 of 08

      Day 1 – Travel Day

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      I took a land tour of Anchorage, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Fairbanks, Denali Nationals Park and Preserve and Talkeetna with John Hall’s Alaska. Here is my trip diary.

      Traveling from the eastern US to Alaska takes the better part of a day. I woke up at 4:00 a. m. and was at the airport before 5:30 a. m. I have never been so glad to have TSA PreCheck in my life. The security screening line was extremely long, but the PreCheck line had fewer than 10 people in it – lucky me! I had plenty of time to get to my gate.

      My flight connected through Denver, which is a nice airport with plenty of dining options and lots of places to charge electronic devices.  John Hall’s Alaska’s travel documents mentioned the limited space for carry-on bags on the tour bus, so my Eagle Creek zip-top tote bag seemed like a good carry-on bag option for this trip. Most of the people on my flight had wheeled suitcases or duffel bags and the overhead bin space filled very quickly. My carry-on fit under the seat in front of me. I chose a window seat so I could take photos as we flew over British Columbia and Alaska, and it was nice to be able to reach my book, e-reader and other items without disturbing the other passengers in my row.

      When I arrived at the airport in Anchorage, it was easy to find Tara, the John Hall’s Alaska representative assigned to greet incoming flights. My bag arrived quickly, and Tara and I headed off to find the other tour participants who would be riding to the hotel with us. It took only a few minutes to locate them and head out to the curb, where the Crowne Plaza Midtown shuttle picked us up and whisked us to the hotel.

      The Crowne Plaza Midtown is on the main road between the airport and downtown Anchorage. John Hall’s Alaska arranged for a shuttle driver to be available at specific times so that any arriving tour participants who wanted to go downtown could do so. I was tired from all of my travels – I was not yet over jet lag from my trip the previous week to the West Coast – so I decided to unpack and deal with some work-related emails rather than go into Anchorage.

      John Hall’s Alaska gave all the tour participants vouchers for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We could order any meal on the menu, from a sandwich to rib eye steak. My salmon was tasty and I had more than enough to eat.

      After dinner, I headed back to my room to relax and get a good night’s sleep.

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    • 02 of 08

      Day 2 – Alaska Railroad, Meares Glacier, Prince William Sound, Valdez

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      Today was a fun but long day. We had breakfast at 7:00 at the hotel. Offerings included scrambled eggs, omelets cooked to order, bacon, sausage, fruit, pastries, yogurt, oatmeal, potatoes and salmon.  We traveled to the Alaska Railroad train depot by motorcoach.  The depot was jammed because people were waiting to board special trains that were running from Anchorage to the state fair. Our train, the Glacier Express, ran from Anchorage south to Whittier. After the state fair train left the station, our train arrived and we boarded.

      Our two-hour train ride took us through some very beautiful areas, particularly the Turnagain Arm.  The Seward Highway runs parallel to the train route, and we could see many RVs, trailers and campers on the highway as we traveled. We saw glaciers and amazingly beautiful mountains. Although this trip took place in late August, some of the trees had already turned yellow.

      When we arrived at the train station in Whittier, we walked across the street to the Inn, where we had a nice lunch. I had salmon with asparagus and lemon sorbet for dessert. Sadly, after lunch, one of the ladies I ate with fell and fractured her pelvis. John Hall’s Alaska sent a driver to take her to the hospital in Anchorage. One of her friends stayed with her for a couple of days, and then rejoined the tour.

      After lunch we took a seven-hour boat trip from Whittier to Valdez via the Meares Glacier. It was a beautiful trip, with the highlight being the 20 minutes or so we spent at the glacier. Glaciers make sounds! They crack and pop even when ice falls aren’t happening. We saw a couple of large ice falls (talk about noise!) and a couple of smaller ones. Our boat got about ¼ mile from the glacier – way closer than my Holland America Line cruise ship could do in Glacier Bay five years ago. Even with the wind and engine noise, it was easy to hear the glacier’s sounds.

      We saw sea otters, kittiwakes, two types of puffins, harbor seals, sea lions, and one humpback whale that wanted very little to do with us. I enjoyed watching an otter clutch a giant salmon while seagulls flew toward this tasty meal. The otter would watch the proceedings, then suddenly dive underwater to trick the gulls.

      We had dinner on the boat – halibut, steamed vegetables, rice, a roll and oreos.

      We arrived in Valdez about 9:00 and were told that we had to have our suitcases outside our room doors and be downstairs at 6:00 a. m. the next morning. After a long day of travel, this was not welcome news. Best Western Valdez Harbor Inn is clean and comfortable, but it does not have air conditioning or elevators.

      Continue to 3 of 8 below.

    • 03 of 08

      Day 3 – Valdez to Fairbanks

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      We all made it downstairs by 6:00 a. m., and Tour Director Bill led us across the street to The Fat Mermaid, a restaurant and bar that looked like something straight out of Northern Exposure. Breakfast included scrambled eggs, eggs and omelets made to order, bacon, sausage, fruit, French toast pecan casserole, toast, English muffins and juice. We watched the sun create a glow behind the mountains as we boarded the coach and headed out of Valdez.

      Our drive today was very long; we arrived in Fairbanks at about 6:30 p. m. We had several adventures along the way. We stopped twice in Keystone Canyon to photograph waterfalls. I really enjoyed the scenery in the Thompson Pass.  At the Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center, we discovered that a rock had struck our coach’s radiator and caused a leak. Tour Director Bill called John Hall’s Alaska’s office right away, and together they came up with a plan to get us safely to Fairbanks.  While at the Visitor Center, I walked the half-mile loop trail, which is advertised as wheelchair-accessible. It’s definitely flat, but there are tree roots and forest debris in the way, so it would be good to have someone else along if you plan to explore this trail via wheelchair.

      After our 45-minute stop, we hit the road. At the first gas station we saw, Bill bought a large quantity of Stop Leak and poured it into the radiator. He checked fluid levels a couple of times along the Richardson Highway, but the Stop Leak did its job and we had no further issues. John Hall’s Alaska sent another motorcoach to Fairbanks for our group to use.

      We ate lunch at Gakona Lodge’s Carriage House Restaurant. Gakona Lodge was built in the early 1900s and is currently Alaska’s oldest operating roadhouse.  The Carriage House used to be a carriage repair shop, back in the days when people used horses and buggies to get from place to place in Alaska. Its log walls, quirky antiques and tasty food made our lunch experience feel very Alaskan. It was fun to see my traveling companions run around taking photos like a bunch of travel writers.

      After we resumed our day-long drive to Fairbanks, we stopped a couple of times to view the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which appears to be an engineering marvel that has been built to withstand huge earthquakes. I say “appears” because the pipeline’s innovations are relatively untested. Our group was immensely interested in the pipeline and nearly everyone got off the bus to take photos at each of our pipeline stops.

      We stopped at Delta Junction to stretch our legs and take photos of the mile marker at the end of the Alaska (Alcan) Highway. By this time it was later in the afternoon and all of us were quite tired of being on the coach, but we still had two hours to go. Bill did his best to tell us about life in Fairbanks, his childhood, Fairbanks winters and anything else he could think of to pass the time, but in the end it was still an 11.5 hour day on a motorcoach.

      The Bear Lodge in Fairbanks is very nice and is home to a wonderful museum filled with pristine vintage cars and equally well-preserved ladies’ and childrens’ clothing from the late 1890s through the 1940s. The collection is immaculately preserved and contains many rare vehicles. It’s well worth a stop or even a detour through Fairbanks. We ate dinner at our hotel. Portions were huge, service was beyond friendly and I felt inspired to go on as many hikes as possible in order to burn off some calories.

      We were able to request a Northern Lights wake-up call – apparently this is a normal hotel service in Alaska.

      Continue to 4 of 8 below.

    • 04 of 08

      Day 4 – Fairbanks

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      I got the Northern Lights call at 2:45 a. m., threw on some clothes and walked outside as quickly as I could. I knew the lights would be less than spectacular. Our Tour Director had told us about a website that predicts the intensity of the Northern Lights in Alaska, and last night’s prediction was for intensity level 2, with 10 being maximum intensity. Still, I saw them! They were hard to see because of all the lights around the Bear Lodge, so I could not take photos, but I will try again tonight.

      It took me a while to fall asleep after viewing the Lights, so I was a bit groggy when my alarm went off. Still, I had plenty of time to get dressed and have breakfast. It was served buffet-style in the hotel restaurant and included eggs, French toast, potatoes, bacon, sausage, fruit, pastries. Next, we took a steamboat tour of the Chena River on the sternwheeler Discovery III. Along the way, we watched a float plane take off and land and saw a sled dog musher take her team for a training run. We also watched a Native Alaskan fish camp demonstration. The river cruise narrator interviewed the pilot, dog musher and fish preparer, using television cameras and microphones, so we could see and hear each demonstration clearly wherever we were on the boat.

      The Discovery III tied up at the Chena Indian Village, where we spent an agreeable hour touring three different sites with college-age Native Alaskans who told us about Athabascan life before and after Anglo explorers and trappers arrived in Alaska. We had free time to walk around and ask questions. Laura Allaway, the dog musher we had watched earlier, was also there with some of her dogs.

      At the conclusion of our trip, we went by motorcoach to Trail Breaker Kennel, where Laura Allaway gave us a tour and told us how she came to Alaska and competed in the 2015 Iditarod. We learned about the dogs’ training program and about the Alaskan Husky dogs. After a buffet lunch, we were allowed to hold Trail Breaker Kennel’ newest pups, Phelps, Ledecky, Simone, Farah, Bolt and Felix. The puppies were adorable, of course!

      After our Tour Director tore us away from the pups, he took us on a quick drive through downtown Fairbanks so we could see the downtown area. We had the option to spend a couple of hours there before dinner, but we were all so tired that we chose to go back to the hotel. I spent some time packing for our Denali stop. John Hall’s Alaska gave all of us tour participants a small red duffel bag at the start of the trip for use at the Denali Backcountry Lodge. I needed to make sure everything I really and truly needed would fit, and it did.

      We regrouped at 5:00 and headed to the Alaskan Salmon Bake at Pioneer Park. This meal is an all-you-can-eat affair featuring salmon, prime rib, beer battered cod and “crab clusters,” which are Alaskan king crab legs. Sides included green, pasta and potato salads, baked beans, rolls and butter. Four kinds of cake were served for dessert. Needless to say, no one left hungry! Although many tourists come to the Salmon Bake, there were several local families waiting to pay for their meals as we left the restaurant.

      We walked to the Palace Saloon and Theater in Pioneer Park to see the early performance of the Golden Heart Review, a lighthearted look at Fairbanks’ history through the eyes of its early pioneers. We were back at the Bear Lodge by 8:00.

      Continue to 5 of 8 below.

    • 05 of 08

      Day 5 – Fairbanks to Kantishna and Denali National Park

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      We left Bear Lodge at 7:30 a. m. after a breakfast that was identical to yesterday’s buffet. We drove south to the entrance of Denali National Park and had some free time at the Visitor Center before and after lunch. We ate lunch at the Morino Grill; we ordered off the regular menu, which included burgers, sandwiches, soups, panini and salads.

      After lunch, we boarded the Denali Backcountry Lodge bus, carrying our red duffel bags and our purses, camera bags and other small carry-on items. The bus strongly resembled a school bus. It had no air conditioning, but the windows worked and there was a bit more seat room than a typical school bus. Our trip to the Denali Backcountry Lodge in Kantishna took about six and a half hours, much of it at 20 miles per hour on a packed gravel road. The scenery was beautiful, and we had a clear weather day – this is somewhat unusual, apparently – which gave us spectacular views of Denali. We also saw five grizzly bears, one caribou, four swans and a couple of Dall sheep along the way. Our driver told us about the park’s history and wildlife during the drive and pulled over each time we saw an animal so we could take photographs. He also made four scheduled stops for snacks, restroom breaks and photography. Although the drive was very long and the road was a bit scary at times (there are no guardrails), our driver and Tour Director did their best to help pass the time and teach us about Denali National Park.

      The mountain (in Denali National Park, there is only one mountain worth mentioning) was beyond amazing. 20,320 feet high, covered in ice and snow, Denali looms above all the other peaks in the Alaska Range. We knew we were fortunate to have such perfect weather for our drive, and we took plenty of photos, just in case the weather on our return drive turned out to be less than stellar.

      Upon arrival at the Denali Backcountry Lodge, we received our room assignments. My room, which smelled delightfully of cedar and redwood,  had a small table and two chairs by the window, which looked out on the river. The room also had a futon. The heater worked well, I discovered. We ate dinner in the main lodge; we had a choice of ribs (this turned out to be one large pork rib per person), baked cod or stuffed Portobello mushrooms, served with mashed potatoes, rolls and butter, kale Caesar salad and a mélange of broccoli, carrots and golden beets. We had bread pudding, served cold with rhubarb sauce, for dessert.

      We spent some time choosing hikes and other activities for tomorrow and plotting yet another expedition to view the Northern Lights. Then it was time for sleep; 1:15 a. m. (peak Northern Lights time) was just around the corner.

      Continue to 6 of 8 below.

    • 06 of 08

      Day 6 – “Free Day” at Denali Backcountry Lodge

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      The 1:15 a. m. Northern Lights viewing was a bust, but we did have spectacular views of the Milky Way and constellations. Apparently the Northern Lights did not appear until about 2:30 a. m., according to the lodge staff.

      Breakfast was served buffet style in the Main Lodge. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, oatmeal, fruit, coffee and orange juice were on the menu. After breakfast I went on a guided hike to Blueberry Hill. This hike was rated “casual” and it was a fairly easy hike on an improved trail. Our guide did a great job telling us about native plants and their medicinal and nutritional uses. Once again we had sunny weather, which meant Denali and the Alaska Range appeared in practically every photo I took. We saw a caribou grazing on the hillside, and the caribou not only was not afraid of us, he started approaching our group. Park rules required us to move away from the caribou so he could graze in peace, but we really enjoyed viewing him as he munched on lichens. We picked wild blueberries on Blueberry Hill and took plenty of photos of Wonder Lake and Denali.

      We made it back to the lodge as lunch service began. Lunch consisted of two soups, chicken and wild rice and vegetarian lentil, as well as sandwiches, turkey wraps, salad and two dessert choices. The food was plentiful and tasty.

      After lunch, we had a gold panning session with our Tour Director. Bill made swishing the dirt and water around in the pan look easy, but it was clear early on that gold panning is an acquired skill. Everyone had fun, though, and the lodge staff laminated the gold flakes our “prospectors” found onto little souvenir cards to take home, which was a nice touch.

      At 2:30 a group of us met our guide for the afternoon historical walk. Our destination was Fannie Quigley’s cabin. Fannie Quigley was legendary in Kantishna, a mining town in what is now Denali National Park, even during her lifetime. She was married to a miner, and when he left her, she stayed on, hunting her own food, looking after herself and providing hospitality to any folks who wandered through the former boomtown. Today the National Park Service and two of the lodges in Denali National Park offer tours to Fannie’s cabin, which stands as a symbol not only of Kantishna’s gold rush days but also as a memorial to a self-reliant woman.

      We had some free time after our hike. I used it read a book next to the river. The Lodge offered a social hour at 5:00; the staff put out an appetizer tray in the bar area for guests, and we could sit inside or out on the deck to enjoy some treats and socialize. Dinner was served at 6:00. We had a choice of either Cornish game hens or beef tips; both were served with a spring mix salad, tiny potatoes and mixed vegetables. Our chocolate mousse dessert was a sweet treat.

      The Lodge offers evening programs; tonight’s was on mammals of Denali National Park. Our tour group planned to cap the evening with a hot chocolate social, but with a 6:00 a. m. departure looming, I opted to go back to my room, pack and turn in early.

      Continue to 7 of 8 below.

    • 07 of 08

      Day 7 – Talkeetna

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photography

      We were up before dawn, ready to take the bus back through the park to the Alaska Railroad’s Denali station, which is a short walk from the Park’s Visitor Center. The drive was very enjoyable, if dusty, because we stopped to take photos of Denali at sunrise from Wonder Lake and a couple of other vantage points. You know it’s a great shot when your bus driver takes a photo, too.

      Our four-hour train trip from Denali to Talkeetna was great fun. We had Goldstar Service tickets, which included lunch and two beverages. It was fun to eat in the dining car. A very well-spoken young lady narrated our tour, pointing out historic sites and telling us about life in the Alaska backcountry. We found out that she is a high school student who works for the Alaska Railroad during the summer. Many students compete for the Alaska Railroad jobs, and it’s easy to see why. It would be fun to talk about your home state and see such gorgeous scenery every day.

      We traveled to Talkeetna, a town on the other side of the Alaska Range. Because it was on the “easy” climbing side of Denali and had a train station, Talkeetna became the home base for people who want to summit Denali. Today, anyone who wishes to climb the mountain must pre-register and, if approved go to an orientation session at the ranger station in Talkeetna before beginning an expedition to Denali.

      Talkeetna is packed with souvenir shops, restaurants and adventure outfitters. Whether you want to take a flightseeing expedition to Denali or rent a kayak, Talkeetna is an excellent place to begin your journey. Our hotel, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, offered spectacular views of Denali and the Alaska Range. The Lodge, with its enormous windows, patio that was perfect for mountain viewing, and large dining room, reminded me of some of the Alpine hotels I have stayed in. I found myself constantly looking at Denali, no matter where I was in the Lodge.

      We ate dinner in the hotel’s Foraker Restaurant. I ordered the pan-seared halibut, which came with potatoes and braised leeks. It was delicious. Others in our group tried some of the appetizers and salads. The beet salad and KFC (Korean fried cauliflower – spicy!) got rave reviews.

      After dinner, I watched the sun set behind the mountains. It was so beautiful I could hardly bear to go inside. Eventually I did, and spent some time packing for my flight home the next day. Of course, I asked for a Northern Lights wake-up call.

      Continue to 8 of 8 below.

    • 08 of 08

      Day 8 – Anchorage

      John Halls Alaska Grand Slam Land Tour Trip Diary

      Old Line Photoography

      I saw the Northern Lights again, and, as before, they were too dim to photograph. My bucket list is very short, but seeing the Northern Lights was the first item on the list, so I was very happy to see the Lights again.

      My last breakfast in Alaska included scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes. Several other items were available, including fruit, oatmeal and pastries. We had some difficulty tracking down our waiter, but he explained that in Alaska, late August is the end of the tourist season and staff rosters begin to shrink, leaving fewer waiters to take care of guests.

      After breakfast, we drove to downtown Anchorage. Tour Director Bill drove us around the downtown area so we could get our bearings, as we would be spending the morning on our own. We parked near the Anchorage Museum, which was a great place to begin our exploration of the city. This museum tells the story of Anchorage through art, cultural artifacts, stories and hands-on science. The highlight of my visit was visiting the Alaska Native Cultures exhibit, which contains not only hundreds of artifacts from Alaska Native cultures but also recordings of oral histories. Viewing the artifacts while listening to these stories helped me learn about Alaska Native life.

      I left the museum and walked around Anchorage on my own. I spotted a couple of murals, and realized that Anchorage’s murals are worth seeking out. I found an Iditarod mural, a moose mural, a whale mural and a public art project created by local youth under the direction of the Anchorage Artists Co-op. Bill later told me that there are other murals in Anchorage; next time I visit, I will look for them. Anchorage has plenty of souvenir shops, and I bought a couple of small items to bring home.

      We had lunch at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill. This restaurant specializes in steak and seafood. We ordered off a limited menu that included sandwiches, salads and fish and chips. Portions were quite large, and my open-faced crab sandwich was excellent.

      After lunch, I said goodbye to my fellow travelers. They were continuing to Seward for the cruise portion of their John Hall’s Alaska Grand Slam Tour, but my journey ended in Anchorage. I’m sure they had a fantastic time. John Hall’s Alaska’s Cruise Manager was waiting to greet them and look after the group for the next seven days. Tara, who greeted me on my first day, took me to the airport. My flight was delayed, which forced me to change my connecting flight, but I got home with little difficulty. Of course, I left a part of my heart in Alaska.

      John Hall’s Alaska’s impressive attention to detail made this trip as close to perfect as a tour can be. Bill was an excellent Alaska ambassador, tour director, bus driver and problem solver. Our hotels and meals exceeded my expectations, and each day brought a new adventure and expanded my horizons. My fellow travelers also enjoyed their Alaska adventure and were quick to sing the praises of John Hall’s Alaska to anyone who asked about our name tags, John Hall’s Alaska windbreakers or anything else. There’s no higher recommendation than praise from a happy traveler.

      As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tour for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.

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Alaska Cruise Pictures

    • 01 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Juneau is a popular port of call on many cruises of the Inside Passage of Alaska. This city is the only state capital in the USA that is accessible only by water or air; it can’t be reached in a car! Juneau has many fun activities including hiking or kayaking near the Mendenhall Glacier, a tram/cable car, ziplining, and even a brewery.

    • 02 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Don’t let Ketchikan’s nickname scare you! Although the historic city gets over 162 inches of rain each year, it’s a fun place to visit on an Alaska cruise. Ketchikan has terrific fishing opportunities, along with hiking, ziplining, kayaking, or exploring the downtown historic area.

    • 03 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Many miners seeking their fortune in gold flocked to Skagway in the late 1800’s, and the town grew to over 20,000 residents. Today the population is much less, but 14 buildings are on the National Historic Register, and it’s great fun to walk around Skagway and picture the way it was during the gold rush days.  Many cruise travelers take a ride on the scenic White Pass & Yukon Railway, which follows the trail the gold-seekers took into the mountains.

    • 04 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Many people choose to visit the interior of Alaska before or after their Alaska cruise. These cruise extensions often fly into or out of Anchorage, which is Alaska’s largest city with about 300,000 residents. Over 40 percent of those who live in Alaska reside in Anchorage, and the city has many places to stay, eat, and explore.

      Continue to 5 of 19 below.

    • 05 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Sitka Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Sitka is a small historic town on the outside edge of Alaska’s Inside Passage. It is celebrated as the site of Alaska’s discovery in 1741 and still has buildings that reflect the time it was Russian. After the USA purchased Alaska from Russia, Sitka was the first capital.

    • 06 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Petersburg, Alaska Photo (c) Linda Garrison

       Petersburg, Alaska was founded by a Norwegian homesteader, and the small town still has many residents with a Norwegian heritage. However, Petersburg is a big fish canning town, so workers from many foreign countries pack the small town in the summer. It’s a fun place to explore, hike, or do whale watching in nearby Frederick Sound.

    • 07 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Metlakatla Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      The Metlakatla Indian Community is the only Native American reservation in Alaska. The Tsimshian Indians who prefer reservation life reside in the community. Metlakatla is a good place to visit to buy superb handicrafts, learn about life on a reservation, and learn about the Tsimshian Indian culture and dances.

    • 08 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Alaska Glacier Helicopter Tour Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      If the weather cooperates, Alaska is a great place to ride on a helicopter. The scenery is magnificent, and the views of mountains and glaciers are breathtaking. I did a helicopter ride from Juneau to visit a summer camp for sled dogs training for the famous Iditarod race.

      Continue to 9 of 19 below.

    • 09 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      One of the best (and most expensive) shore excursions I’ve ever done anywhere was a helicopter ride from the airport in Juneau up to a sled dog summer training camp on the Mendenhall icefields. Dogs training for the Iditarod or other races can practice all summer on the icy snow, and visitors are welcome to see the dogs, learn about their training and take a ride on a sled. Of course, the helicopter ride up to the training camp is exhilarating and provides spectacular views.

    • 10 of 19

      png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAAEAAAABCAQAAAC1HAwCAAAAC0lEQVR42mM88x8AAp0BzdNtlUkAAAAASUVORK5CYII= - Alaska Cruise Pictures

       Almost everyone who visits Alaska sees whales, especially if they are on a small ship or do a whale-watching expedition from a large cruise ship. I’ve been lucky and have seen dozens of whales and have seen them breach, show their fluke, and even bubble feed, as is shown in this photo.

    • 11 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Like most of the national parks in the United States, Glacier Bay National Park is a memorable place to visit. However, it can best be visited by ship, so a cruise ship is a perfect way to see some of the park’s highlights like glaciers, mountains, and wildlife.

    • 12 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

       Hubbard Glacier is Alaska’s largest tidewater glacier and one of over 100,000 glaciers in the 49th state of the USA. Ships sailing between Seward and Vancouver, Victoria, or Seattle often spend part of a day near this spectacular glacier.

      Continue to 13 of 19 below.

    • 13 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Misty Fjords (c) Linda Garrison

      The Misty Fjords are near Ketchikan and are only accessible via boat or small plane. In the summer, visitors won’t see glaciers or ice and snow, but they will get impressive views of giant fjords. The fjords have been a US National Monument since the late 1970s, and the dramatically carved granite cliffs demonstrate the strength of the glaciers that formed the fjords.

    • 14 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Tracy Arm Photo (c) Linda Garrison

      Tracy Arm is a deep fjord that is 23 miles long near Juneau. It is home to the Sawyer Glaciers, and the cruise up the narrow glacial valley is quite spectacular.

    • 15 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      If your cruise starts or ends in Seward, you might have a chance to ride the Grandview train between Seward and Anchorage. This is one of Alaska’s most scenic train rides and is a perfect way to see some of the interior.

    • 16 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      One of the best ways to see wildlife and get an up-close view of glaciers is on a small cruise ship in Alaska. This cruise photo travel journal of a 7-night Alaska Inside Passage cruise from Ketchikan to Juneau on the small adventure ship the Wilderness Discoverer of Un-Cruise Adventures provides a good overview of a small ship cruise in Alaska.

      Continue to 17 of 19 below.

    • 17 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Anyone who loves to fish, kayak, or hike will enjoy an Alaska cruise with The Boat Company. The company has two tiny ships, and I sailed on the Mist Cove, a 24-passenger adventure ship. My husband and I loved the halibut and salmon fishing, along with the unique sightseeing opportunities the tiny ship offered. This cruise journal provides photos of some of the things we did in Alaska with The Boat Company.

    • 18 of 19

      Seven Seas Voyager – Large Ship Alaska Cruise Log

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Those who love to be pampered on board, enjoy larger cabins, and desire more dining venues can still enjoy much of what Alaska has to offer on a large or mid-sized cruise ship. This photo journal provides a look at a voyage between Seward and Vancouver on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner cruise ship.

    • 19 of 19

      Alaska Cruise Pictures

      Linda Garrison

      Although Cruise West is no longer in business, this cruise log from 2007 provides a good look at many of the places in see in Alaska and the things to do in Sitka, Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Petersburg, and Haines.

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Denali National Park and Preserve Photo Tour

    • 01 of 03

      Welcome to Denali

      Denali National Park and Preserve Photo Tour

      Old Line Photography

      Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, is the centerpiece of Denali National Park and Preserve. This immense mountain is so tall that it creates its own weather. At its summit, Denali is 20,310 feet high, which means that it can block weather systems and cause rain or snow to fall on and near the mountain. Even though it is surrounded by other peaks in the Alaska Range, Denali stands out because of its sheer size. It’s no wonder that people travel to Alaska from around the world just to get a glimpse of this magnificent, snow-covered mountain.

      How to Get to Denali

      Traveling to Denali National Park and Preserve is a serious undertaking, whether you visit with a tour group or go on your own. The park entrance is 240 miles north of Anchorage and 120 miles south of Fairbanks. Lodging options are both limited and popular, so you will have to make reservations well in advance. You will need to bring supplies with you, as there is only one store in the park. Weather conditions can change rapidly, too.

      If you prefer not to travel with a tour group, you can drive, fly or take the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park. Many visitors, however, opt to visit Denali with a tour group so that they do not have to worry about making lodging and bus reservations or driving from Anchorage or Fairbanks to the park entrance.

      If you visit Denali National Park and Preserve with a tour group, you will stay either in a hotel outside the park entrance or at one of the four privately-owned lodges that operate in the park. Should you choose to visit Denali on your own, you can book a room inside or outside the park or reserve a campsite at one of the six campgrounds in the park.

      Continue to 2 of 3 below.

    • 02 of 03

      Getting to Denali National Park and Preserve

      Denali National Park and Preserve Photo Tour

      Old Line Photography

      There is only one road inside Denali National Park and Preserve. It is 92 miles long and connects the Denali Visitor Center with Kantishna, a former mining town. Along the Park Road, you’ll find nature centers, scenic overlooks and campgrounds. You won’t find restaurants, grocery stores or gas stations, and you also won’t see privately-owned vehicles past mile post 15 during the summer months. Instead, you will see buses traveling the Park Road, taking visitors to and from campgrounds, hiking trails, historic sites and the park’s sled dog kennels.

      Once you get a glimpse of the Park Road, you may be thankful that you are not allowed to drive on it. The road is unpaved past Mile 15, and it has no guard rails. The road winds up and down through mountain passes. Park buses pass each other at the maximum speed of 20 miles per hour, kicking up clouds of dust that drift through windows and irritate throats. It takes about six hours to cover the entire Park Road.

      And it’s worth every bump and bounce.

      Things to See in Denali National Park and Preserve

      On a good day, the views of Denali – “the mountain” to locals – are spectacular. About 70 percent of the time, the views are disappointing, as the mountain is shrouded in clouds. If possible, plan to spend a night in or near the park so that you will have a better chance of seeing Denali.

      Even if you can’t get a glimpse of the mountain, spending time in Denali National Park and Preserve is an unforgettable experience. You have a very good chance of seeing grizzly bears, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, willow ptarmigans and other animals as you journey along the Park Road and explore the backcountry. You can hike up pristine mountain slopes or follow an established trail, eating delicious berries along the way. If you spend a night in or near the park in late summer or autumn, you will probably be able to view the Northern Lights.

      Denali Park Buses

      There are three types of buses that operate in the park. Tour buses follow an established route and allow for stops along the way. Tours are narrated by a certified driver/guide. Shuttle buses take you from one point in the park to another; you can get off one shuttle bus at any point on the route, stay a while and then take a different bus back to the park entrance. Camper buses ferry tent campers between the park entrance and Denali’s six campgrounds. You can buy bus tickets in advance or at the park.

      Continue to 3 of 3 below.

    • 03 of 03

      Explore Denali National Park and Preserve

      Denali National Park and Preserve Photo Tour

      Old Line Photography

      There’s something about Alaska that gets into your heart and won’t leave. Nowhere is this more true than in Denali National Park and Preserve. Much of the park is true wilderness; there are no established trails and park visitors must move away from wild animals so that the animals do not become accustomed to interacting with humans. You can hear stream waters rushing over rocks and feel the cool breeze on your face as you explore. At night, the Milky Way is so close you can practically reach up and touch it.

      If you, like many visitors to Denali, are taking a guided tour of the park, your tour operator will organize your itinerary and arrange for transportation. There are several places to stop for restroom breaks and photo opportunities along the Park Road. You won’t have to worry about buying tickets or checking bus schedules. You can just sit back and enjoy the views.

      Denali Transportation Options

      If you are traveling on your own, consider taking a shuttle bus to Wonder Lake (pictured) for a spectacular view of the mountain. You’ll need to get an early start; the last shuttle bus out of the park leaves Wonder Lake at 3:55 p. m., which means you will need to catch one of the buses that leaves at or before 8:45 a. m. in order to have enough time at Wonder Lake to take photographs and explore. The round trip price for the trip to / from Wonder Lake is $46.75 for adults, plus the $10.00 park entrance fee, which is good for seven days. Shorter shuttle bus trips are also available.

      During the summer months, the National Park Service offers three narrated tours. The Natural History Tour ($77 for adults) lasts 4.5 hours and goes to mile post 17 and Primrose Ridge. The Tundra Wilderness Tour ($130.25) takes you to the Toklat River at mile post 55 and lasts 8 hours. The 12-hour Kantishna Experience Tour ($194.00) goes all the way to the end of the Park Road. Kantishna, once a thriving gold mining town, is several miles past Wonder Lake. You can visit the cabin that once belonged to famed miner and pioneer Fannie Quigley, view mine tailings piled up next to Friday Creek and hike wherever you wish.

      If you prefer to drive your own vehicle, you will be allowed to take it to Mile 15 during the summer months and to Mile 30, road conditions permitting, during the spring and autumn months. The Park Road is narrow, unpaved and potentially hazardous, so you should carry a full-sized spare tire and fill your gas tank before you enter the park.

      You can also hike, bike and take flightseeing tours in Denali National Park and Preserve.

      Whichever sightseeing option you choose, you won’t be sorry that you came to Denali. Even if you can’t see the mountain clearly, you will have the opportunity to explore a pristine preserve, view wild animals in their natural habitat, stargaze and take photos in this unique national park.

      If You Go

      Denali National Park and Preserve

      Mile 237, Highway 3

      Denali Park, AK 99755

      (907) 683-9532

      As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary tour for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.

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