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How to Thoroughly Enjoy Alaska’s Top 5 Tourist Destinations

Insider travel tips are always the best.

If you’re headed up to Alaska this summer, take a moment to review our personal notes on the most popular attractions. Here they are:

Denali National Park

Denali National Park shuttle bus

See the bus in this photo?

Take the shuttle bus instead of the (more expensive) tour bus. Sure, you won’t get a meal or a narrative, but the shuttle drivers will stop for wildlife viewing, restroom stops and beautiful scenery.

Bonus: unlike the tour buses, shuttle buses let you to get off and tromp around the park to your heart’s desire. To get back on, all you have to do is flag down another shuttle bus.

Be aware of the wildlife that roam freely in this spectacular wildlife preserve. Some of them bite. Or worse.

Denali Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/index.htm

Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park Alaska

Like Norway, but better…

Welcome to the Kenai Fjords — where mountains, ice and ocean collide into some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth.

Most park visitors arrive via cruise boat for glacier and wildlife viewing, so the only way drive into Kenai Fjords is to take the Herman Leirer (Exit Glacier) Road. In either case, bring a good coat no matter the weather: it gets downright chilly.

Tip: Go in July or August for the best views, and be sure to book the cruise well in advance.

Kenai Fjords National Park Information: http://www.nps.gov/kefj/index.htm

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

You can actually get a selfie with a bear here

The AWCC near Girdwood is a really cool place for anyone who’s ever wanted get up close and personal with truly wild animals you’d normally stay far away from (like bears, wolverines, oversized moose).

Most of the animals here are rescues that were injured and need rehabilitation. Some of these creatures get released and some are permanent residents.

Tip: The brown bear feeding is at 4:30, when the bears are most active. Don’t miss it.

AWCC Information: https://www.alaskawildlife.org/

Alaska Sealife Center

Puffin Encounter Alaska Sea Life Center

Puffins are calling you

The Alaska Sealife Center in Seward is not only an aquarium, but also functions as a permanent rehab center for Alaska’s marine mammals.

You can choose multiple tours, but we very strongly recommend the puffin encounter. When’s the last time you came face to face with a puffin?

Alaska Sealife Center Information: http://www.alaskasealife.org/

Independence Mine State Historical Park

Independence Mine Alaska

There might be gold here

Hey, a free attraction! (if you don’t count the modest $5 parking fee, that is). Alaska used to be a gold miner mecca, and this “ghost town” in Hatcher’s Pass is an old, abandoned gold mine.

Gold Cord Lake Trail

Gold Cord Lake Trail

Tip #1: You can actually pan for gold if you have your own equipment. Just make sure to read the signs that point out the “it’s okay to mine for gold” areas.

Tip #2: Take a short hike across from the park to the hanging lake. The Gold Cord Lake Trail is only 1 mile long and well worth the climb once you reach the top and walk alongside the hanging lake.

Independence Mine Information: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/indmine.htm
Independence Mine Map: http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/units/indminemp.pdf

Image credits: myplanetexperience, amazingviews, Dianna White, Marco Allodi, nite_mike, mollyinalaska, lwt93