With travel costs mounting and gas prices on the rise, traveling somewhere distant isn't in everyone's list of things to do this summer. However, this will not stop some folks from wanting to taste some adventure this summer. Take Alaska into consideration for your travel destination this summer.
Alaska is an amazing destination because of the variety of activities to engage in. If you're a city person, stay in Anchorage for your trip and experience our Big.Wild.Life. (The city's new tag line) The nightlife is fun and exciting, the cuisine is extraordinary and the hotels leave nothing to be desired. Sure, Anchorage is not nearly as forward-thinking as larger cities like San Francisco or New York, but there's plenty to keep you occupied. Every weekend, there is the Downtown Market which offers an array of booths from local vendors with fare ranging from locally grown fresh produce to handmade artisan crafts to local awareness groups. And, of course, there's the food! You have your classics like funnel cakes and corn dogs to Alaskan-only offerings like Reindeer dogs, salmon quesadillas and beer-battered halibut. The choices are limitless.
Anchorage also offers a variety of sight-seeing opportunities such as The Alaska Zoo, the Alaska Wildberry Factory (which offers the largest chocolate waterfall in North America), and flight seeing adventures through many local small plane operators. You can even go Salmon fishing without leaving the city! Ship Creek runs right through downtown Anchorage and is the site of one of the more famous Silver Salmon derbies in the world! Stand side-by-side dozens of other anglers for your chance to catch "the big one" and even an opportunity to win lots of money (provided you purchased a derby ticket, of course.)
Seeing the "real Alaska" means getting out of town, though. Using Anchorage as your home base, you can venture out on day trips that will bring you up close and personal with all that Alaska has to offer. If mountains are your thing, take a drive (or catch a train ride) up to Denali National Park. Centered around Mt, McKinley, North America's tallest peak, the park offers breathtaking views and wildlife galore. Take the trip into the park and you're almost guaranteed to see caribou, moose, fox, birds and even the elusive bear or two. Only 1/3 of visitors to the park actually get to see the mountain (it's often shrouded in clouds) so, if it's a nice day, this trip is an absolute must for tourists. There's tons of local gift shops and restaurants as well as flight seeing tours and hotels if you'd like to stay the night.
Driving in the opposite direction of Denali from Anchorage, you'll head down the Kenai Peninsula. There's several destinations along this route that are worth seeing. Head down to Seward to visit the Alaska Sealife Center and spend the day with sea otters, starfish and stellar sea lions. It's a gorgeous facility that doubles as a rehabilitation center for endangered aquatic critters. You can also take a glacier and wildlife cruise for relatively cheap out into the Prince William Sound. It's very affordable and well worth the time. You'll get to see a bunch of wildlife, get up close to the glaciers and enjoy several photo opportunities. Seward also offers some amazing seafood cuisine freshly caught out of Prince William Sound. Visit Harbor St. Creamery for delicious, locally-made ice cream for dessert.
If you take the fork off of the Seward Highway, you'll eventually end up in Homer (after passing through some fun towns like Soldotna, Kenai and Sterling). Homer is known for its amazingly fun nightlife. Local pubs, such as the world-famous Salty Dogg, boast tons of local entertainment and freshly-caught fare. The Homer Spit is the place to be for local art, music and fun. Take a halibut charter during the day to try your hand at catching Alaska's favorite fish or head up the road to Clam Gulch and spend the day filling your bucket with delicious razor clams. Many local spots will cook up your catch for you!
Just 40 minutes away from Anchorage, if you only have a short time to travel, is the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Known for it's amazing moutain vistas and fish-filled streams, the local towns of Palmer, Wasilla and Talkeetna offer an array of exciting activities. Take a chartered river boat service out to experience fishing for the mighty King Salmon or travel up the highway for an adrenaline pumped river rafting tour. The Valley offers a variety of shopping opportunities as well as a taste of locally grown produce. The majority of Alaskan-grown produce comes from the farmlands of Palmer and Wasilla and is sold almost everywhere. Visit the reindeer farm to hand-feed the adorable critters or take a tour of the musk-ox farm and get right next to the tundra beasts. If you're here at the end of August, be sure to come to Palmer for the Alaska State Fair, a jam-packed multitude of crafts, games, entertainment and food.
Whether you're here for just a few days or sticking it out for a month, Alaska has so much to offer. No matter how big or small your budget, Alaska offers many affordable, fun activities. The views are breathtaking, the people are friendly and you'll want to come back again and again just to be sure you saw it all!