500 miles to the north of the contiguous 48 states, Alaska's remoteness can add a pretty penny to your vacation's price tag. But that doesn't mean that an affordable trip isn't possible. Our suggestion? Base yourself in Anchorage, the Great Land's largest and most accessible city, which hugs the Cook Inlet and is surrounded by the Chugach Mountains. All in all, the city offers plenty of ways to escape into the wild with little effort.
Where to Stay in Anchorage
No doubt, accommodations often take up a large chunk of the budget, but, fortunately, Anchorage offers an array of affordable lodging options. The Lakefront Anchorage has comfortable and clean accommodations that start at 350 square feet. Alternatively, spring on a room at the centrally located Hotel Captain Cook, where Barack Obama stayed when he visited the state.
Also, home rentals offer even more great lodging options -- and they often with more space and a glimpse into the local way of life. In town, you'll find plenty of Airbnb rentals for as low as $70 per night, depending on the season.
What to Do in Anchorage
You don't have to spend much more than $50 for a full day of activities in town. First, get the lay of the land with an hour-long Anchorage Trolley excursion that takes you along the city's boundaries -- and through its history, from early European settlers to record-setting earthquakes that have shaped the history and landscape of the city. Expect to see seaplanes, landmarks, and even some moose. The ride costs $25 per adult.
Continue your education at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, comprised of indigenous dwellings around the lake in which visitors can learn about the resources, traditions, and lives of Alaska's nine native populations. You can catch live song and dance events indoors, along with dog sledding during the summer. Admission is free during the winter and $29 during the summer.
The next day, embark on a biking adventure along the 11-mile Tony Knowles Coastal Trail to Kincaid Park right from downtown. There are several locations for bike rentals, and a full day of use will only set you back about $40. The trail winds its way along the coastline, passing wetlands and forested areas that reveal a myriad of wildlife. You're highly likely to cross paths with more moose, and there are several great spots for bird-viewing. Black bears are even known to come down from the surrounding mountains and hang alongside the trail, and sometimes beluga whales can be seen traveling in the water.
If there's one smart splurge to make, it's to go 90 minutes east of Anchorage to take the 26 Glacier Cruise from May through September. The name of the five-hour cruise is actually a bit of a misnomer, as you actually see closer to 40 glaciers -- in addition to a variety of sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and porpoises. You could argue that the photo ops are worth the $179 fee alone, but in case that's not enough, a warm meal and beverages are included. Also fun: drinking with glacier ice that the crew fishes out.
Curious about what else Alaska has to offer? Check out these seven most iconic Alaska experiences.
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