Stunning wildlife, unusual attractions, stomach flipping plane rides and giant vegetables. Interest piqued? Well, dig around in our Alaska facts intel file and you’ll find even more reasons to visit this epic US state. It’s equal parts eye-melting scenery and bizarre spots on the map you just have to add to your itinerary. And, if you think some of the picks on this list are eccentric, just wait until you touchdown in the Alaskan bush. The museum devoted entirely to hammers didn’t make it on our list, but gives you an idea of the kind of thing you can expect.
There’s a ski resort with no ski lifts
Ok, so that sounds more tiring on the glutes and hammies than it actually is. Moose Mountain Ski Resort has a vintage solution that’s kept its 750 acres free of ski-lifts. They’ve tinkered with a fleet of iconic American yellow school buses to turn them into mountain-blitzing workhorses that ferry boarders and skiers up the mountain in style. Much like everything else in the state, skiing in Alaska is just a bit different. Just how we like it.
It’s home to the world’s largest concentration of bears
Alaska’s wildlife is pretty full on. There are river spots where thousands of bald eagles gather to hunt salmon, hundreds of thousands of caribou migrate across the wilderness and there are bears in big numbers. A spot that’s practically teeming with brown bears? The Katmai National Park. Over 2,000 bears in the park make it one of the best places in the world to spot bears enjoying their largely untouched habitat. If you want to have a high chance of seeing the bears, follow the food. Gen up on the bear’s preferred berries. Or, hang out on the Brooks River in salmon season.
They grow some seriously massive veggies
Regardless of your approach to getting your 5 a day in, you’ll be interested in Alaska’s outsize vegetables. Yes, the massive cantaloupe s are tasty, but it’s the reason they get so big that’s something to get excited about. It’s all down to Alaska’s extended summer sunlight hours. In Anchorage, for example, a June day starts at 4:25am and the sunsets at 11:35pm. Perfect for boosting veggie growth, ideal for maxing out on Alaskan experiences – whichever ones you choose.
In Alaska, you don’t sightsee …
What happens when you can’t access the capital city by road? In this state, you flightsee. Hopping into a plane roughly the size of a 4×4 might be a tad unnerving, but if you want to get around – and see some of Alaska’s mountains and glaciers, you’ll need to get comfortable with it. Sea planes, ski planes, helicopters and regular prop planes get you across the state and into some otherwise inaccessible spots. Land right on the beaches where the walrus hang out, try out a glacier landing, see bears from the air or just casually touchdown in a fjord. Just remember to boost your usual holiday budget a little for this one.
You can drive right up to a glacier’s toe
This kind of flies in the face of the previous entry on our Alaska facts list. Yes, there’s a shortage of roads in the state, but there’s one that takes you right to the edge of a glacier. Well … at least, to the car park. Scoot along the Glacier Park Road, and after a brief walk you’ll be at the glacier toe. Now, normally we’re all for a bit of spontaneous exploration, but the crevasses and ever–changing ice flow of the Matanuska Glacier are not to be dallied with. Experts can be booked to help you explore, climb and walk on the glacier with all the right kit. Have a chat with Mica Guides – they’ve been roaming this icy realm since 1999.
Your favourite reality shows are filmed here
Is there any greater joy than slinking into your sofa to indulge in a binge-watch of the Bering Sea’s crab fisherman ride the waves on Deadliest Catch? Maybe you’re more into the peril faced by Alaska’s Ice Road Truckers. Of course, there’s Gold Rush, Building Alaska, Alaskan Bush People and so many more to get through too. For TV fans, the chance to drop into some familiar locations will be just too tempting. Wander around a Bering Sea crab boat in Anchorage. Check out the Dalton Highway and swing into a truck stop or just get remote to experience the Alaskan bush.
The Northern Lights are visible on over 240 days a year
Across the world, the Aurora Borealis are elusive, but ethereal, beauties that are on most people’s travel must sees. If you’ve tried to spot them in Iceland, peered fruitlessly at the skies in Finland, you’ll almost certainly see the Northern Lights in Alaska. More specifically, get yourself to Fairbanks where they dance across the sky on at least 240 nights a year. Hop on an aurora tour, or just try to get away from light pollution if you want a really good show.
Orbzii tip: Worried you might miss an epic Northern Lights appearance in the middle of the night. Many Alaskan hotels have an Aurora wake up service. Just let them know you’re in town for the lights, and they’ll call your room.
You can follow the gold rush trail … right to the gold
Alaska’s history comes fully loaded with tales from the gold rush. Nothing gets imaginations running riot like the thought of panning – or digging, your way to riches. Especially when you discover miners are still pulling nuggets from the Koyukuk River and mining district. If the idea of panning your way through river silt doesn’t appeal, there’s a more refined way to take a peek into the past. Climb aboard the train on the White Pass and Yukon Route – it’ll take you on the very same rails that were laid to bring the miners to the state way back in 1897.
There’s a theme park made out of junk
Just how appealing this is entirely depends on how many Sunday afternoons you spent watching Scrapheap Challenge in your youth. Mukluk Land in Tok is one couple’s homage to their junkyard. Quirky doesn’t quite do this place justice. Neither does rustic. Best filed under eccentric, it’s a way to play whack-a-mole alongside some Alaskan locals. Pan for gold, try your luck with the mini-golf and marvel at the world’s largest Mukluk. Which is, of course, an animal hide boot usually worn by indigenous Alaskans. Best approach, just go with it and expect a fair amount of rust.