Alaska Cities and Regions
Alaska’s capital and third largest city, this Alaskan gateway is marked by its picturesque Victorian downtown and the blue-tinged Mendenhall Glacier next door. Here, politicians hobnob alongside fishermen, and the omnipresent great outdoors infuses the city with an adventurous vibe. Tourist-clogged South Franklin Street connects downtown to the waterfront docks, and is lined by shops, galleries, and eateries.
Glacier Bay National ParkThis 3.3-million acre preserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases a mélange of marine and terrestrial habitats, as well as mammoth glaciers that flow into the sea from the surrounding mountains. Access is by plane or boat, with the exception of a few trailheads; the nearby town of Gustavus provides a good base.
AnchorageIn the state's only true metropolis, that’s home to nearly half of its population, food, nightlife, shopping, and culture options abound. Most visitors use Anchorage merely as a transit hub, but the city warrants a few days’ exploration. Alaska’s commercial and financial center is hardly disconnected from the surrounding wilderness; don’t be surprised to spy moose loitering on city streets or anglers hauling 40-pound salmon from Ship Creek, right in the middle of downtown.
Kenai Fjords National ParkThis spectacular coastal parkland on the Kenai Peninsula offers encounters with tidewater glaciers, fjords, mountain peaks, and a rich population of marine wildlife and seabirds. The prevalent way to tour the park is by boat (although flight tours can also be arranged). The photogenic fishing town of Seward, at the head of magnificent Resurrection Bay, serves as a good base.
Denali National Park and PreserveAlaska’s foremost – and one of its more remote – attractions is this wondrous wilderness, capped off by North America’s tallest mountain peak, Mount McKinley (known as Denali, or “The High One,” to native peoples). The enormous reserve is marked by tundra, mountains, glaciers, and prolific wildlife – grizzlies, moose, caribous, wolves, and Dall sheep among them.
TalkeetnaMidway between Denali National Park and Anchorage lies this gold rush-era town known for residents that are lighthearted, artsy, and have a great sense of humor (the town hosts an annual Moose Dropping Festival). The tiny settlement of log cabins and clapboard buildings (population about 800) is said to have been the inspiration for the TV series Northern Exposure and is the primary base for Mount McKinley climbers.
FairbanksThis city on the Arctic’s edge serves as the hub of the state’s interior from its position about 360 miles north of Anchorage. Its unique urban spirit is one part frontier town; one part youthful energy, thanks to the presence of the University of Alaska; and one part Anytown USA, evidenced by the presence of big-name franchises and car-oriented drags.
Kodiak IslandThis second largest island in the United States (only Hawaii’s Big Island is larger) boasts untrammeled landscapes of verdant mountains, salmon-rich streams, and gravel beaches, providing the ultimate dominion for Alaska’s famous brown bears, which can measure over 10 feet tall when standing on their hind legs, and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. Part of a rain-prone 16-island archipelago, this largely un-touristed “emerald isle” is one of the premier destinations in the world for bear viewing.
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