We are finally in the month of May and the end of school activities are in full swing around here. The kids have finished up the standardized testing and are now preparing for final exams and finishing up the end of the year projects. We have 2 soccer games left in the season, the last band concert, 2 big field trips, 5th and 8th grade graduation, a school dance, and a 5th grade celebration to go! I hope I can make it and keep everything straight! The reward at the end of it all is our yearly family vacation, a time to get away, relax, and have fun together.
Like many of you, we have a "must see" list of destinations that we would like to visit. I decided it might be a good time to highlight some of these places in my newsletters this summer. Do you have a destination that you would love to know more about? Send me an email and let me know about it! I would enjoy researching and featuring it as an article for the week.
One of the places on my list is the beautiful state of Alaska. I have completed many hours of research for my clients, and have experienced it through the many stories and photographs that they have shared with me. I have several clients traveling to Alaska this summer and fall, so I decided it would be a great time to highlight this spectacular destination.
Alaska is the largest U.S. state and boasts the highest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley. Alaska has more than 6,600 miles of coastline, more than all the other states combined. There are hundreds of picturesque islands sprinkled throughout the coastline among many scenic waterways. History and culture are a major part of the charm of Alaska, along with the large unspoiled environment. There is so much to see and learn about wildlife, nature, and cultures that are very different from our own.
When is the best time to visit?
Anytime from mid-May to mid-September, you will have long days, nice weather, and all of nature will be alive and in full bloom. The peak season, with the least chance of rain and the most daylight will be from mid-June through mid-August. Daytime temperatures range from 60-80's during this time of year. Nighttime lows are in the 40-50's, keeping in mind that where you are in Alaska will vary the temperatures some too. When visiting during this time of year, it is a good idea to bring a variety of clothing and wear layers during the day. That way, you can remove outer layers as the temps rise, or add layers as it cools down, especially when visiting glaciers.
What is the best way to see Alaska?
Cruises are one of the most popular and best ways to see Alaska. You will see many coastal mountains, fascinating glaciers, marine wildlife, and towns. Many of the coastal towns in Alaska are not connected by roads. The only way to get from one to another is by air or sea. Cruising is also a good choice if time is a factor. While at port, there are almost unlimited opportunities for photography, sport fishing, kayaking, river rafting, dog sledding, viewing nature, and learning about the culture through excursions.
To explore beyond the shores of this beautiful state, and see the heart of Alaska in Denali National Park, including the majestic Mt. McKinley, I highly recommend a Cruise tour or a land tour. You can visit off the beaten path destinations, stay at cozy mountain lodges, and even travel by railroad to get up close an personal with raw, untouched nature.
What are the most popular places to see?
Juneau is Alaska's capital and home to the Mendenhall Glacier. This glacier is 12 miles long and 1 1/2 mile wide. Ice in this glacier can be 400-800 feet deep. Visitors can see the glacier from the road, the air, or a hiking trip right on the glacier's surface. You can look for humpback whales here, or fish for salmon or halibut. The Mt. Roberts Tramway is an attraction that will take you 2,000 feet above the city, offering a spectacular panoramic view of Juneau and surrounding areas. Another famous landmark in Juneau is the famous Red Dog Saloon. There is also an abundance of shopping in the downtown area.
Ketchikan is one of the larger cities in Alaska, on the border between Alaska and Canada. It is known as the salmon capital of the world. The wooden boardwalk in the center of town, near where the cruise ships dock, is one of the most photogenic spots in Alaska. You will see famous totem poles and other art here made by the native Tlingits. Excursions that are popular here include a float plane ride, ziplining through the rainforest, or strolling through the wondrous Tongass Forest.
Skagway, the Gateway to the Klondike, feels like an old-time Western frontier town. One of the most popular tours here is the ride on the White Pass Scenic Railway. It is a beautiful route with numerous photo opportunities. Riding in vintage parlor cars, you will learn about the gold rush and the hardships of the early gold seekers. Other fun things to do here are panning for gold, rock climbing and rappelling, or just wandering the streets and shopping.
Denali National Park is home to abundant wildlife and some of Alaska's most famous sights, including close to 650 species of flowering plants. 80-90% of visitors will see grizzly bears, sheep, and caribou. You may also see wolves and moose wandering during your visit. See the continent's highest peak, Mt. McKinley. The park is described as a "vast, unspoiled wilderness of braided glacial rivers, massive peaks, and tundra." A popular way to see Denali is by train via the Alaska Railroad.
The most well known features are the glaciers of Alaska. Glacier Bay, Icy Point Strait, the Inside Passage, Sawyer Glacier, and Hubbard Glacier are all beautiful to see. Be sure to bring your binoculars to enjoy every moment of the experience. Not only will you see these massive wonders in their icy waters, but you will hear the thundering echos as they crack and calve into sea. It is not unusual to also see killer whales, dolphins or eagles as the ships sail through these waters.
This is just the "tip of the iceburg" when it comes to information on this amazing state. Thanks to Norwegian Cruise Line and Alaska.org for help with my research. You may visit Alaska.org for more information, planning tips, or contact me to book one of these exciting vacations.