Alaska lands on so many travelers' bucket lists because even though it's part of the United States, it feels like a world apart. Indeed, the 49th state still has a lot of seemingly untouched frontier to explore. Whether you visit Alaska as part of a cruise, or rent an RV to take on the ultimate road trip, there are many experiences here that you just can't find anywhere else. The Native Alaskan communities that still live here add vivid culture to the landscape, while wildlife - the "big five" of bears, wolves, Dall sheep, caribou and moose - thrive in Denali National Park, as well as all over the state - you can even see the occasional moose loping down the street in Alaska's biggest city, Anchorage.
Things Not to Miss in Alaska
Read our travel guide to chart your own course to Alaska's most popular destinations, including:
• A "flightseeing" tour over Denali National Park
• A glacier cruise in Prince William Sound or the Kenai Fjords
• Anchorage, home to Alaska's best art and native culture museums
• Quirky small towns such as Homer or Talkeetna
• A drive along scenic Turnagain Arm
• A bear-viewing tour in the summer, to see them fishing for salmon in streams
• The wonders of the night sky - either the Midnight Sun in summer, or the auroras of winter
When to Go to Alaska
Most people travel to Alaska during the summer, when the days are long (as in, you might not see the sunset) and the temperatures are warm. The prime Alaska travel season runs from June through mid-August; the prices are highest then, too.
If you want to cut your costs (sometimes as much as by 25 percent) visit Alaska during the shoulder seasons: mid-May to Mid-June, and mid-August through mid-September. Keep in mind that some tours will start closing up after Labor Day. Late summer and early fall means good blueberry picking and turning leaves, but also the risk of rain.
In winter, you'll typically have plenty of snow for winter sports, especially in Girdwood, south of Anchorage. You'll also see the northern lights. The most popular spot for aurora-viewing is up around Fairbanks. Late February and early March is the prime time to visit Alaska for two big events: Fur Rondy, the winter festival in Anchorage, and the famed Iditarod race, which starts in Anchorage and ends in Nome.