The Can't-Miss Alaska Travel Experiences

Image: Ketchikan, Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)
Image: Ketchikan, Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)
by Jessica Kelly
Last updated: 9:00 PM ET, Mon March 27, 2023

Alaska is full of wildlife, adventure, incredible seafood, and beautiful landscapes. On any given day, you can see the northern lights fill up the night sky, watch bears fishing for salmon before hibernation, see how king crabs are caught, and hike to a bright blue glacier.


Ketchikan is often referred to as "Alaska's First City" thanks to its location at the southernmost end of the inside passage. Once you fly into Ketchikan, board the ferry to take a short ride over to the mainland.

Checking into The Landing Hotel

3434 Tongass Ave. Ketchikan, AK 99901

For basic accommodations in Ketchikan, no real frills, but a comfortable bed and spacious rooms, spend the evening at the Landing Hotel right near the ferry entrance. Not far from town, the hotel offers a pillow menu where you can select the firmness you desire for stomach sleepers or side sleepers, in addition to hypoallergenic options and memory foam pillows. The Landing is connected to a diner, The Landing Restaurant, with delicious comfort food where guests get $10 off.


Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour

Berth 3 Tender Dock, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Board the Aleutian Ballad fishing boat with crew members famously featured on Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch. They guide you through the king crab fishing process, showing you gear, crew halls, and telling stories of their long stretches on the vessel. Along the way, they catch prawns, crabs, and octopus in addition to viewing eagles and salmon jumping along the water in the summer. Guests can even purchase king crab legs on board for a snack.

Totem Bight State Park

9883 N Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Hike through Totem Bight State Park to discover some of the restored totem poles, each telling its own story. You can even go inside the Clan House to see what it was like to live as an Alaska native many years ago.

Mountain Point Snorkeling Adventure with Snorkel Alaska

4031 S Tongass Hwy, Ketchikan, AK 99901

If you're looking for a unique adventure, you can actually go snorkeling in Alaska. It might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but Ketchikan has a wide assortment of marine wildlife to explore and some very thick wetsuits to keep you warm while snorkeling.

Rainforest Sanctuary

The Rainforest Sanctuary is a great way to spot black bears from a safe distance, allowing them to eat and explore at their leisure. The bears are in no way kept here and can come and go as they please, but they often come into the sanctuary to catch salmon.

Rainforest Sanctuary in Alaska, black bear alaska
Rainforest Sanctuary. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

The high boardwalk gives photographers and visitors a great view of the bears from a safe distance, although they can come up on the boardwalk and sometimes do. The guides keep you safe and protected and are always on the lookout.

Local Shops, Markets, and Trails

Check out some of the shops in town like Salmon Market Deli, where you can stock up on locally canned tin fish to bring home filled with high-quality sockeye salmon, gooey duck, and octopus. The Creek Street Historic District has a rich history with an interesting past, now developed with boutique, local small shops to buy souvenirs, art, reindeer sausage, gifts, and handcrafted items.

After shopping, take a short hike to Lunch Creek Waterfall, picking huckleberries along the way, before stopping at Local Grounds Coffee for an afternoon latte. The Tongass National Forest wraps around the city of Ketchikan. The temperate rainforest is full of bucolic views, hiking, and wildlife. The forest covers a huge chunk of southeast Alaska and is home to bears, fish, and other animals.


Annabelle's Famous Keg & Chowder House

326 Front St. Ketchikan, AK 99901

Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House is the perfect place to indulge in a king crab platter dunked in melted butter. They have other delicious options, as well, like their crab wontons or their famous smoked salmon chowder.

Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House in Ketchikan, Alaska
Annabelle's Famous Keg and Chowder House in Ketchikan, Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Sweet Mermaids

340 Front Street, Ketchikan, AK 9990

Sweet Mermaids is a great place to pop in for a pastry and a latte in the morning. They have fantastic coffee in the bakery, which is filled with smells of fresh baked goods.

Burger Queen

518 Water St. Ketchikan, AK 99501

Burger Queen is a food truck near the north end of the tunnel. Guests can grab a delicious burger, but the food truck has chicken and seafood options, as well.

Jeremiah's Pub

3434 Tongass Avenue, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Jeremiah's Pub is a great option if you're looking to get room service at The Landing Hotel. It's attached to the hotel, on the second floor, serving plenty of seafood, pasta dishes, and pub food.

Ketchikan Crab & Grille

5 Salmon Landing, Ketchikan, AK 99901

Ketchikan Crab & Grille has both indoor and outdoor seating and is a good spot for jumbo king crab legs and plenty of seafood.


Anchorage needs to be on your list when visiting Alaska. The city has a reputation for being the perfect mix of city life and wilderness, coining the phrase "where wildlife meets urban living." You can head to the harbor to see belugas, orcas, seals, and other wildlife. Take a hike up to bright blue glaciers and drive along Turnagain Arm, or take advantage of the city's culture, art, and beer scene.

Checking into the Hampton Inn Anchorage

4301 Credit Union Dr, Anchorage, AK 99503

When in Anchorage, check into the Hampton Inn Anchorage for a comfortable place to stay within a short drive from all the action. They offer a free airport shuttle among other amenities like swimming pools, free daily breakfast, and strong Wi-Fi.


Bear Viewing Trip with Rusts

Book the experience of a lifetime, bear viewing with Rusts. Rusts will fly you via a shuttle plane, weather permitting, to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Once in Lake Clark, guests can enjoy a day of up-close brown bear viewing in a pontoon boat as you watch them fish for salmon. The day includes lunch and the 70-minute flight along the way is an incredible sightseeing opportunity.

Byron Glacier in Alaska
Byron Glacier in Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Byron Glacier

Rain or shine, the hike to Byron Glacier is worth it. If you go on a sunny day, you can enjoy prime hiking weather. If you go on a bit of a cloudy day, even a little rainy, the glaciers just look that much bluer and your pictures will be stunning. Just make sure you dress appropriately for the 1.5-mile hike to the glacier. In the summer, search for fireweed and plant life along the way.

Stop at Wild Scoop after For some of their homemade ice cream where they forage for ingredients, using plants like fireweed, birch maple, spruce, and more to create their flavors.

Turnagain Arm

Spend the day heading south, driving along Turnagain Arm to view mountains, glaciers, and waterfront views along the Seward Highway. If you're really lucky, you might even see some beluga whales in the water. Head to Cook Inlet or Beluga Point and keep a lookout through Turnagain Arm for belugas and orcas.

Exploring Turnagain Arm for the day is an incredibly picturesque drive that's worth exploring. Stop along the way home for some barbecue at Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ for tender, saucy ribs, mac & cheese, and crispy fried pickles to snack on while you wait for your entree.

Explore the Local Landscapes

Near Anchorage is the Boreal Rainforest which is full of wildlife and plant life to explore. Keep your eyes peeled for red foxes, black bears, and lynxes as you pass by birch trees and white spruce. Stop by Portage Lake, a glacial lake within the Chugach National Forest. The lake radiates a blue hue, especially on a cloudier day.

Street art in Anchorage, Alaska
Street art in Anchorage, Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Check Out Local Street Art

While exploring the city of Anchorage, be sure to be on the lookout for local street art. There are beautiful, large murals covering local buildings with art reflecting Alaska's culture and wildlife, like moose and belugas.

Alaska ATV Adventures

Bird Valley Trailhead, Konikson Road, Bird Creek, AK 99540

Alaska ATV Adventures is not your normal ATV excursion. You're not going to be just kicking up a little dust for 30 minutes on a paved path. You're going deep into the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest where you'll trudge through high waters, splash through mud, and floor it over large boulders and rocks.

At various times, you'll park the four-wheelers and hike a bit, exploring local waterfalls and beautiful scenery. Expect a 3-4 hour excursion, so bring a backpack with water and snacks if you need them. Be sure to dress appropriately and throw a change of clothes and shoes in the car.

Big Swig Tours

Big Swig Tours is a great activity no matter what, but especially to keep in your back pocket for a rainy day. The beer tour will lead you to some local hotspots like King Street Brewing Company, Midnight Sun Brewing Company, and Cynosure Brewing Company.

At these breweries, you'll have the opportunity to indulge in some snacks and try some different flavors and unique pores like the Cyno Tater-Ater IPA made with potatoes or King Street's sour Squeeze. They even do blends, mixing their Squeeze with their IPA.


South Restaurant

11124 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99515

South Restaurant is easily one of the best places to stop for breakfast. It's a casual spot to enjoy a latte and some local cuisine like reindeer sausage to pair with your pancakes and eggs.

South Restaurant, Alaska, breakfast
South Restaurant. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ

27957 Seward Hwy, Indian, AK 99540

Turnagain Arm BBQ is the perfect spot to stop for food after glacier hiking and a long day of ATVing in the mud and the cold. It's the perfect comfort food, filling your plate with pulled pork sandwiches or tangy, deliciously tender ribs smothered in sauce with a side of mac & cheese and perfectly crisp fried pickles.

Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse

610 W 6th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501

If you're craving some huge crab legs with melted butter, pub food, seafood dishes, and a good beer list, head to Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse. They're known for their seafood selection and a really sizable beer selection, in addition to events like trivia and live music.

Wild Scoops

530 E Benson Blvd #7, Anchorage, AK 99503

Even if it's not a hot day, stopping at Wild Scoops is an absolute must. The micro-creamery forages for ingredients for their ice cream, creating some really unique flavors like fireweed. They use local foraged finds like blueberries, birch, fireweed, and more to create seasonal flavors.


Far north in Fairbanks, at 65° north, is the perfect place to search for the northern lights when visiting Alaska. Especially as the winter months get colder and darker, your chances get even better at seeing the aurora borealis.


Borealis Basecamp

2640 Himalaya Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99701

At Borealis Basecamp they have a variety of ways to enjoy the property for guests. Visit the reindeer right on-site at the Reindeer Walking Experience where you can learn about the reindeer on the property, feed them, pet them, and enjoy the animals. Meet the Alaska sled dogs on the property for a special experience.

Even during the warmer months before the snow, the team has ways to train for dog sledding. Go for a ride to see the dogs in action. They also have UTV experiences for guests to explore the mountains and the Alaska Pipeline nearby, stopping for chili and coffee halfway through while enjoying the view. In the summer, look for fresh blueberries along the way.

Each evening you can roast s'mores and hang out by the fire, waiting for the northern lights to come out, or you can lay in bed and watch from there. They have alarms to wake you up if the northern lights appear.

Borealis Basecamp, Fairbanks, Alaska
Borealis Basecamp. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

A Taste of Alaska Lodge

551 Eberhardt Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99712

Another incredible accommodation is A Taste Of Alaska Lodge. They have spacious, cozy cabins available, with multiple beds, full kitchens, a living room, a porch, Wi-Fi, and breakfast offered at the Lodge. Their Aurora Viewing Experience is affordable and definitely something worth tacking on to at least one night during your stay, if not more. At a separate building down the road, Aurora Pointe, there are bathrooms, plenty of space indoors to warm up, freshly baked cookies, wine, water, hot drinks like hot chocolate and coffee, bonfire pits outside, and more.

The guides teach you about the aurora and what to look for during a quick intro, then you're free to just explore and relax, waiting for them to come out. If the Aurora does come out, there's a photographer on staff to take photos of you with the aurora borealis. This is an incredible benefit since it's often hard to photograph.


Chena Hot Springs

On the way out to Chena Hot Springs, enjoy the drive and keep your eyes peeled for moose along the way. I was able to see one enjoying the water in a small pond. Chena Hot Springs has a beautiful outdoor open-air hot spring, with some indoor heated pools and a hot tub, as well.

On the property, you can also find the Aurora Ice Museum. Take a 45-minute tour of all the ice sculptures and the four ice hotel rooms before ordering a bright green appletini at the ice bar. The martini glass is made of solid ice, and after you finish the drink you can make a wish and shatter the ice glass outside of the bar. If you're feeling hungry, the restaurant on the property has flavorful, light summer rolls in addition to other food to order.

Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska
Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

Santa Claus House

101 St Nicholas Dr, North Pole, AK 99705

While at the North Pole, make sure you stop at Santa Claus House to explore some of the cool art on the outside of the building and the giant Santa statue. Head inside for some Christmas candies, decor, and souvenirs, and to inquire about the Original Letter from Santa.

Gold Daughters

1671 Steese Hwy, Fairbanks, AK 99712

Gold Daughters is the perfect place to learn how to pan for gold. They have a few options, depending on how you'd like to approach your gold panning experience. They have bags with little pieces inside that you can pan through to find the gold if you're just curious about the process, ranging from a few small pieces to large nuggets.

You can also be a little more official about it, spending hours going through dirt piles for just $29 and panning for your own gold. People have found huge nuggets and pieces, and you get to keep whatever you find. They even have a boneyard museum on site, highlighting bones they found on the property when they purchased it.

Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Center

101 Dunkel St, Fairbanks, AK 99701

Stop into The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center to learn about Alaska and the way Alaskans live. The center is a way to educate travelers and locals about the state's history and culture.

Running Reindeer Ranch

1470 Ivans Alley, Fairbanks, AK 99709

Running Reindeer Ranch is such an incredible experience. The reindeer roam with the guests during a hike, sticking together, so you actually feel like part of the pack. The day starts with information and introductions of each reindeer before heading out. You'll learn about how the owner, Jane, got started with the business while enjoying some cookies and watching it down with freshly made lemonade.

Ursa Major Distillery

2922 Parks Hwy, Fairbanks, AK 99709

Stop at Ursa Major Distillery to sample some of their spirits. The small, family-run business makes a variety of spirits like vodka, gin, and rum.


Latitude 65

2640 Himalaya Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99712

Latitude 65 right on the site of Borealis Basecamp is a real treat. Chef Easter finds ways to incorporate as many local ingredients as he possibly can. For him, it's important to find the freshest, high-quality ingredients he possibly can from locally sourced farmers and fishermen. He creates dishes using these seasonal ingredients like garden salads with blueberry balsamic dressing and halibut stew.

Latitude 65, Alaska
Latitude 65. (photo by Jessica Kelly)

The creamy asparagus soup and pork belly with arugula and honey-fermented garlic are truly delicious dishes. On occasion, there's tender, sweet king crab, perfectly silky scallops with fresh salmon roe he caviar himself, seared wagyu, and more. The dishes have so much thought and care behind them, and you can taste it in every bite.

The Crepery

523 2nd Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701

The Crepery is a great pitstop for a cup of coffee and of course, a crêpe. They have sweet and savory crêpe options on the menu, depending on what you're in the mood for.

The Pump House Restaurant Fairbanks

796 Chena Pump Rd, Fairbanks, AK 99709

Pump House Restaurant in Fairbanks is always packed and for good reason. They have some delicious lamb chops, reindeer medallions, elk meatloaf, and a selection of beers to choose from. Definitely make sure you try their famous seafood chowder and save room for the Alaskan fish and chips. It's perfectly crisp on the outside, with fresh Alaskan halibut that melts in your mouth.

Lavelle's Bistro

575 1st Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701

Lavelle's Bistro has incredible food right in the heart of Fairbanks on 1st Avenue. Their rack of lamb is perfectly cooked and served with a sweet kiwi lime marmalade to pair with the savory rack of lamb. They have incredible specials and dishes on the menu like seafood pasta loaded with shrimp and scallops and definitely save room for their banana bread pudding.

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