Today’s post will focus on the most popular cities of Alaska. Your mental picture of Alaska may be craggy mountains, rushing rivers and tree filled meadows. Alaska also offers a number of cities, each with its own character, history and attractions. A look at each of these can provide a preview of what you will on your visit to Alaska, as well as the many forces that influenced the development of this unique state. Below is a brief summary of popular Alaskan cities:
Anchorage is the western terminal of the Alaska Railroad, which travels from the city to Denali National Park in south central Alaska and on to Fairbanks, the eastern terminal. Anchorage also offers the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, the entry to the scenic byway of Turnagain Arm on the Kenai Peninsula and the Chugach National Forest.
The Chena River Recreation Area just outside the city offers a wide range of outdoor activities for those who want to experience the state’s natural beauties. Fishing, hiking trails, snowmobile tours and swimming in the hot springs are just a few of the activities you can enjoy. Fairbanks is also known for its history of gold mining, and visitors can try sluicing for their own gold particles at the El Dorado Gold mine.
Juneau, the capital of Alaska, has many attractions for visitors to enjoy. Mendelhall Glacier is one of the most popular of these, with its ½-mile wide, 1800-foot deep expanse of ice. The Juneau Icefield also includes Taki, Herbert and Eagle glaciers. Outdoor activities abound in the Juneau area, with ziplines, hiking trails, biking and kayaking on nearby waterways. A boat tour of Tracy Arm Fjord will allow you to view the glaciers where they meet the water, with large ice floes and “calving” of pieces as you watch.
Potlatch Totem Park and Totem Bight State Park offers a look at the Native Alaskan artwork and local history of the Ketchikan area. Misty Fjords National Monument is an unspoiled preserve with spectacular views and geologic formations that are not to be missed.
Seward, on the eastern coast of Alaska’s famed Kenai Peninsula, provides a look at the state’s maritime past. Fishing is still an important industry in Seward, although tourism has supplanted it as its major industry. Seward is also the terminal of the southern branch of the Alaska Railroad and a number of cruise vessels leave from this port. Kenai Fjords National Park, the Alaska Sea Life Center and Holgate Glacier are popular attractions.
Sitka was once the outpost for the Russian trappers and traders that made their homes and their livelihoods in Alaska. Visitors can still see their influence in the architecture of the town as well as the remnants of many of their cultural institutions.
Skagway was the site of the gold in 1896, which is commemorated at the Klondike Gold Rush Museum. A popular stop for cruise ships, Skagway offers quaint shops, historic museums and nearby waterfalls.
Whittier, on Prince William Sound, is just an hour and one-half outside of Anchorage, yet it offers a number of glacier tours, fishing expeditions and kayaking opportunities. For an inside look at the state’s coastal beauty, Whittier offers visitors a variety of attractions.