Why Alaska Should Be Your Next Summer Vacation Destination

You can find everything you want from a summer vacation in Alaska.

Alaska

People have a tendency to get a little segmented in their thinking when planning a vacation. If they want a rich cultural experience, they probably imagine themselves strolling through ruins and museums in a European city. If they want to kick their feet up and relax, they picture themselves checking into a beach-side resort. If they’re looking to experience the raw and unfiltered beauty of the natural world, they’ll probably browse far-flung national parks. 

It’s only natural to think this way, but one of the best things about travel is the way it upends this kind of worldview. And no summer destination defies categorization quite like Alaska. A few days in Anchorage are enough to realize that you don’t need to rough it to get an authentically Alaskan experience. By setting up your basecamp in Anchorage, you can check out everything that makes Alaska such a popular vacation destination, with plenty of delightful surprises in store for you too. 

Alaska

The first surprise will probably be just how much Anchorage has to offer as a city in its own right. It has one of the highest concentrations of both coffee shops and breweries per capita in the country, with restaurants serving everything from Thai and Himalayan to Mexican and more. With more than 1,600 eating establishments in the area, you’ll have no trouble finding more traditional Alaska fare, such as wild salmon and locally grown produce. 

Alaska - Food

That’s not to say that the cultural life of Anchorage solely revolves around its vibrant culinary scene. Its relationship with opera stretches back to before Alaska was even a state, and it supplements that tradition with outdoor concerts during the summer and a thriving local arts scene. The galleries might not be as glamorous—or pricey—as the ones in New York or Milan, but it’s safe to say it’s the only place where you can attend an opening just hours after standing on a glacier or viewing a black bear in the wild. 

But you probably won’t want to spend all your time in restaurants and theaters. Luckily, Anchorage has plenty of trails to explore during your stay. There are more than 135 miles of paved biking trails, 90 miles of unpaved hiking trails and tons of skiing and dog mushing trails (the dog sleds are usually on wheels during the summer). This vast network of trails means visitors can see Anchorage in a variety of ways without the risk of repeating the same route over and over again. 

Alaska Bike Trail

The variety of Anchorage’s trails is matched only by the number of languages and cultures that coalesce around the city. It’s no wonder that it is occasionally referred to as Alaska’s largest Native village. If guests want to dive into the area’s rich Indigenous culture, in addition to its natural beauty, institutions like the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage Museum and Eklutna Historical Park all give a view on one or all of these diverse cultures, languages and traditions.

For all of those reasons, you could have an incredible vacation just hanging out in Anchorage for a week. But what makes the city truly special is its role as a comfortable gateway to so many natural wonders. It can be hard for visitors to fully grasp the scope of the wilderness at your fingertips. For instance, you might notice locals smile if you ask about the location of the nearby glacier, since there are 60 within a day’s travel. And there isn’t one right way to experience those magnificent glaciers. You can view them from the air, hike up to them, climb them with ice axes, dogsled on them in the summer and even go on a glacier day cruise where you can view them while sipping a margarita made with ice from the glacier itself. Like so many other attractions in Alaska, a single glacier opens up a world of possibilities. 

Alaska - Glacier - GettyImages-128067492

Beyond the glaciers, Anchorage also provides easy access to five national parks: Denali, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias. Those parks and the city itself mean that you’ll be in close proximity to a wide variety of wildlife. It’s hardly surprising that it’s so favored among photographers, considering that you’ll be able to see moose, bears, bald eagles, Dall sheep, mountain goats and beluga whales without having to venture too deep into the wilderness. 

There’s even more variety for summertime visitors. One of the biggest treats is being able to witness thousands of spawning salmon, as well as watching migratory whale species (fin, humpback, minke, orca and others) as they pass through nearby Resurrection Bay and Prince William Sound in the summer. 

Few places burst with life the way that Alaska does in the summer. It’s a good thing that visitors will have up to 22 hours of sunlight that they can spend biking, hiking, kayaking, rafting, fishing, gold-panning and dog-sledding, not to mention enjoy all the comforts and culture that Anchorage has to offer. There are an unlimited number of ways to visit Alaska. You just need to plan an itinerary that suits you.

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