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Help planning a trip to Alaska

Help planning a trip to Alaska

Old Jun 26, 11, 2:17 pm
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Help planning a trip to Alaska

I am travelling to Alaska for July 4th weekend. I arrive on the 1st at 6pm in ANC and depart from ANC at 6am on the 4th. I realize that this is not nearly enough time to see Alaska, but I would like your help on picking what the priorities should be.

I am thinking about renting car and driving up to Fairbanks and back (I looked into the train, but it is much more expensive, so I saw no reason for it). Is that a good idea? If so, what side trips should I make?

I don't truly care if I spend a lot of time driving, neither which town(s) I sleep in - I have no hotel reservations at this point.

Thanks!
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Old Jun 26, 11, 2:43 pm
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Mods, this might best be moved to the Alaska forum.

Basically, you have the 2nd and the 3rd to explore our largest state. Driving to Fairbanks is about 6+ hours (approx 360 miles). I wouldn't try to make a round trip on the same day. Up to Denali and back is doable for a one day outing, however. Leave early (7 AM or so), be at Denali before noon, spend four or so hours touring and looking at wildlife, then back to Anchorage. If you want to pack more in, you can see the old mining town of Talkeetna, or go by Sarah Palin's house in Wasilla.

A second day trip worth experiencing is to go south to the Kenai Peninsula. This takes you around the Turnagain arm of Cook Inlet, past the ski slope at Aleyeska, and you can take the short road to Seward or, alternately, the longer trip all the way to Homer. Either is enjoyable.

Plenty to see and do in the Anchorage area, also.
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Old Jun 26, 11, 2:45 pm
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rent a car & go either north or south....homer isn't too far & you could probably fish on the 3rd & take some home....or go to see the mountain and enjoy the park....good luck...
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Old Jun 26, 11, 3:12 pm
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Homer and Stewart has my vote, who need to head north toward Palin's town, Wasilla...

Much better view in the Kenai..
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Old Jun 26, 11, 4:13 pm
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North to Fairbanks is a long and mostly boring drive. And to see Denali you really need a full day on site, since the interior of the park (where the views are) is only accessed by shuttle bus, and takes most of a day just to get in and back to the visitor center. Counting the drive both ways, it would really consume most of the time you have available, and there's no guarantee that the mountain will be visible on the days you're there. And, with short notice like this, it's doubtful if you'll be able to find accommodations near the park anyway.

Going south is the preferred route. If it was me (and not knowing how far you're coming on arrival day, or from what time zone) I'd book someplace in Seward for the night of the 1st, and just drive directly there from the airport (around 2 1/4 hours.) Don't worry about driving after dark - it's not possible in early July. If you can't find something in Seward, or else are worried about being too tired, look for accommodations in Girdwood, around 40 min. south of the city on the Seward Highway.

Then on the 2nd, take a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park. It's sort of "instant Alaska" - spectacular scenery, wildlife, etc. And spend that night in Seward.

Leave Seward on the 3rd, because that night the town will be inundated with runners planning to do the Mount Marathon run/scramble/attempted suicide race on the 4th. Again, you might have difficulty getting accommodation in Seward due to runners and especially due to boat people getting ready to leave Seward on cruises the next day. If Seward is plugged, look for space in Cooper Landing or Moose Pass, 20-30 min. up the road from Seward.

On the 3rd and 4th, return to Anchorage and explore the city - walk or bike on the coastal trail, or, if your wallet is up to it - take a never-to-be-forgotten flightseeing tour on a floatplane from Lake Hood. You simply can't get a feel for Alaska from the ground - get up in the air. Don't miss the Native Heritage Center, maybe hit the museum. Have a burger at the Arctic Roadrunner. Hike up to Flat Top.

Starboard window arriving, port departing.
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Old Jun 26, 11, 8:33 pm
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Originally Posted by davidbr55 View Post
I am travelling to Alaska for July 4th weekend. I arrive on the 1st at 6pm in ANC and depart from ANC at 6am on the 4th. I realize that this is not nearly enough time to see Alaska, but I would like your help on picking what the priorities should be.

I am thinking about renting car and driving up to Fairbanks and back (I looked into the train, but it is much more expensive, so I saw no reason for it). Is that a good idea? If so, what side trips should I make?

I don't truly care if I spend a lot of time driving, neither which town(s) I sleep in - I have no hotel reservations at this point.

Thanks!
Ya gotta see Denali if possible. You have to have reservations to get on the long bus ride, (4.5-11 hrs.!) So worth it, though.
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Old Jun 28, 11, 12:15 pm
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Exclamation

Mods, this should probably be moved as suggested, but you might have missed seeing it.

I have had coworkers go to Alaska for work and they have all commented that while all the roads are good, they are not what they were expecting - most are two lane paved roads through desolate area. Just heads up to keep it in perspective when picking a rental car.
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Old Jun 28, 11, 12:39 pm
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We spent two weeks there in a motor home. I would suggest Denali national park and Kenai Peninsula and Homer if you have time. You can fly from Homer to Seldovia and see the bears "fishing".
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Old Jun 28, 11, 1:01 pm
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The shortest 8 hour school bus ride of my life was in Denali. Totally worth it.
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Old Jun 28, 11, 1:07 pm
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I did a trip to ANC last year that was only a few days long.
First day I went to Whittier and did a glacier cruise from there. Second day I drove down to Seward and went glacier hiking around there. Third day I went hiking around Anchorage. There's a van that goes up to a mountain east of ANC and there are some very nice views from there. There's also a trail that starts in downtown Anchorage and goes to the airport and further south. It's also bikeable.

I would love to go back and spend a week or two up there some day soon

Also, remember that at night the sun doesn't go down completely, so there's enough light to do things. While human (and to some extent animal) life shuts down, you can still explore nature. Use that to your advantage.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 8:07 am
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Talking Final update

This is well overdue, but wanted to thank everyone for their inputs and also wanted to share what I actually did:

Got into Alaska very late on Friday (cancelled flights, etc). It was a very long day, but thankfully I got upgraded on all of my segments Anyway, decided not to do anything then.

Woke up very early on Saturday and went to Seward - drove down and took the Kenai Fjords cruise to the NW Fjord (which is their longest and best one). Cruise was just awesome - the glacier was really cool, plus got to see a lot of wildlife. After that I drove to another glacier nearby ("exit glacier" if I am not mistaken). That one was really cool because I actually got to walk up to (and climb) the actual glacier. Finally, had dinner at resurrection roadhouse (which was delicious) and drove back to Anchorage.

On Sunday I spent my morning and early afternoon in Anchorage, just walking around downtown and doing some shopping/sightseeing. There is a trail right by the airport which is fun, and lake hood is just awesome to see (busiest float plane lake in the world, I believe). Afterwards I drove down to Girdwood and took the Alyeska Tram. The views were unbelievable (especially after a steep, but worthwhile, hike further up the mountain. Had dinner at the "Seven Glaciers" restaurants right at the end of the tram line and that was just phenomenal. The food was excellent, and so was the service, but the views are just really hard to beat - make sure to make a reservation as the prime seats are hard to get during the summer.

Flew back on Monday.

There are plenty of other things that I still want to do in Alaska (Denali, plane tour, bears and moose), but this turned out to be a great trip thanks to all your help.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 1:34 pm
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Although your trip is over, your experiences and the member's suggestions can help others and I'm going to move this to the Travel->Alaska forum, so those looking to benefit from this can find it more easily. Ocn Vw 1K, Moderator, TravelBuzz.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 4:26 pm
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Glad you had a great trip. That NW Fjord tour is great. That was when I saw my first whale breaching multiple times.

https://picasaweb.google.com/johnn.p...72624497250818

Denali is great too. Lots of chances to see wildlife, some quite close (though every trip is different).

Originally Posted by Ocn Vw 1K View Post
Although your trip is over, your experiences and the member's suggestions can help others and I'm going to move this to the Travel->Alaska forum, so those looking to benefit from this can find it more easily. Ocn Vw 1K, Moderator, TravelBuzz.
I wondered why I never saw this thread before. Now I know. It was in Travel Buzz.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Starboard window arriving, port departing.
For others reading this thread, this is a purely personal and subjective decision. I have done just the opposite numerous times and had spectacular views. Once on port side to Alaska from Seattle and I had incredible views of Glacier Bay for example. A lot depends on the route your flight takes, and you have no control over that.

My decision on which side to sit on is made based more on the aircraft and available seats/exit row/etc. It is a long flight from many cities in the lower 48.
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Old Aug 16, 11, 1:20 am
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My favorite parts of Alaska are (in no particular order): Homer, Seward, cruising into Valdez (yes Valdez), Juneau, and of course Denali. One of my favorite states. Have had the opportunity to go there several times and have loved it each time. Will definitely return some day.
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