I’ve been daydreaming about Alaska for some time now. Seven years to be exact. I got obsessed with a small town called Barrow (Utqiagvik) and wanted to visit Alaska ever since. Barrow is one of the northernmost cities in the world and the northernmost in the United States! It’s located in a very remote part of Alaska (accessible only by air and in summer, by sea), so for my first trip to ‘The Last Frontier’ I decided to explore Southcentral Alaska. This includes the Anchorage area, Mat-Su Valley, Prince William Sound, and Kenai Peninsula. I always knew I would love Alaska once I visited, but I never expected to actually fall in love and not want to leave! To say it was absolutely beautiful is an understatement and I feel as if my pictures doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of those places you just have to see for yourself!
When To Visit & Where To Stay:
Most people who visit Alaska do so during the summer months. This is usually because the days are longer (sometimes up to 21 hours of daylight) and the temperature is pleasant, but with warmer weather comes bugs! Some Alaskans joke the mosquitoes there are their state bird. Even though longer days sound intriguing, visiting Alaska during the fall and winter is a must! Fall is a short season there, but it’s well worth it to see the leaves changing colors. You might also have a chance to catch the northern lights if you visit mid-September to April. (It’s important to note most excursions run until mid-September and then open again in the spring or summer unless it’s an excursion specifically for winter time like dog sledding or viewing the northern lights.)
We chose to visit Alaska in September so we could still do some tours, but also dodge the crowds from the busy season. The weather was also cooler which I didn’t mind at all, besides the boat excursions when it was in the 30s.
It was very beneficial for us to stay near downtown Anchorage because we were almost in the middle of everything we wanted to do, but I would suggest splitting your stay between Seward and Anchorage to eliminate the two hour drive back and forth. Even though it sounds like a lengthy drive, it’s one of the most scenic drives in the U.S. There are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the view. Especially around the Turnagain Arm where you can see beluga whales. We unfortunately didn’t see any whales on this trip, but when we got to Beluga Point we were informed someone had just died and there was a body floating in the water. It was very eerie as they were trying to retrieve the body and more people were pulling in the parking spots.
Aside from Anchorage, another popular location to stay is at Alyeska Resort. It’s about an hour south of Anchorage and a more convenient location if you plan on exploring Seward and The Kenai Peninsula.
What To Do:
Trust me when I say there are an endless amount of activities to do in Alaska as long as you enjoy the outdoors. You can get caught up in numerous hiking trails with spectacular views or simply hangout by one of the clear lakes at a park. (just make sure you have your bear spray!) We did three excursions including a guided hike with Go Hike Alaska. I highly recommend Matt! He was super informative and still took my mom and I out even though no one else signed up for a hike that day. It ended up being like a private party tour at no extra cost.
The other two excursions we did were boat tours. One was in Seward with Kenai Fjords Tours, but unfortunately our tour was cut by two hours and rerouted because the waves were 16 ft high off the Gulf of Alaska. That was the wildest boat tour I had ever been on in my life and they say many people get seasick from the choppy water! We still managed to see some sea lions and otters though.
We also did the 26 Glacier Cruise in Whittier. The calm waters of Prince William Sound attract many tourists since they guarantee no seasickness. Even if you don’t go on a boat tour in Whittier, I highly recommend visiting this town! 95% of the people who live there stay under the same roof in this huge building. You have to enter and exit through a tunnel that is 2.5 miles long and is also shared with a railroad. The tunnel has a set schedule and cars can enter on the half hour and leave on the hour in summer. There’s also a $13 fee since it’s considered a toll. While we were waiting in line to enter Whittier, we got to talking with the guy behind us and he told us he was heading back home from Anchorage. Him and his wife went into town to buy some items and groceries since it’s marked higher where they live. They were going into Whittier to catch a six hour ferry ride back home. Talk about remote livin’ !
Aside from excursions, there are several other locations worth checking out. Some places I would recommend are:
- Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
- Thunderbird Falls
- Eklutna Lake
- Eklutna Historical Park
- Potter Marsh
- Portage Lake
- Exit Glacier – Kenai Fjords
- Hatcher Pass
- Point Woronzof
- Eagle River Nature Center
- Musk Ox Farm
- Reindeer Farm
Where To Eat:
Before traveling to Alaska, I had a ‘must eat’ list. Not even joking. For example, you cannot go to Alaska without getting Alaskan king crab! Some other ‘must eats’ I had were reindeer and yak. Finding reindeer sausage on a menu in Alaska is not unlikely and seems to be eaten a lot by locals. I will definitely vouch for the fresh seafood! Southcentral Alaska did not disappoint when it came down to eating!
Some restaurants I would definitely recommend are:
- Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria
- Snow City Cafe
- Glacier Brewhouse
- 49th State Brewing
- Club Paris
- Bread and Brew
- Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant
- Tommy’s Burger Stop
- Ray’s Waterfront
- Varly’s Swiftwater Seafood Cafe
Alaska was everything I dreamed of and more! I’m already planning another trip for next year because there is so much I still want to see and do. It’s crazy to think Alaska is part of the United States still while being so far away. I think it’s safe to say Alaska is now my favorite state (sorry Cali) and I can’t wait to go back and explore more. It really is that magical!