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Alaska 101

Discover the native arts, glaciers, arctic wildlife, and frontier quirk of the 49th state

By Elissa Richard

May 22nd, 2008

Native arts. Calving glaciers. Arctic wildlife. Frontier quirk. Alaska teems with indelible highlights: Misty fjords, colossal glaciers, temperate rain forests, and sprawling tundra among them. And the 49th state is by no means a year-round wall of snow. While there’s certainly a lot of that (a quarter of the state stretches into the Arctic Circle), during the high tourist season from Memorial Day through Labor Day, you can pack in plenty of outdoor adventure during the long summer days, when temperatures in the interior reach 80 degrees.

But at 571,951 square miles (more than twice the size of Texas), planning an Alaska trip that doesn’t involve a cruise ship can be intimidating. Our guide takes you off the standard cruise-ship routes and breaks a visit down to a few key areas, with strategies for getting the most out of both iconic natural destinations—think Denali and Glacier Bay—and bustling urban centers. We've even recommended an unforgettable road trip to the Kenai Fjords. All of the destinations, on well-established air, land, or sea routes, are relatively easy to get to, so all you have to do is map out your optimal itinerary, leaving plenty of room for wildlife sightings and microbrew tastings (preferably not at the same time).

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