Alaska’s Hyperactive Tourist

Since I moved to California to avoid the cold of eastern Canada, I’d assume it’s surprising to hear that I wanted to travel to Alaska during the first possible chance. It’s hard to find the time when Darren, my husband, doesn’t really have vacation at his still-somewhat-new position in OC so after checking out the flight prices, we decided to hop on a plane and head to the Last Frontier for the weekend. I researched the top touristy things to do in Anchorage and we managed to book a full day of adventure and sight seeing; the great thing about summer in Alaska is the 20 hours of daylight allow for expansive ground coverage. By exploring the Anchorage Market & Festival in the morning, participating in the Ridgeline Aviation Helicopter, Glacier & Dog Sledding Tour in the afternoon, and finishing the evening by viewing the splendor of Turnagain Arm by Alyeska’s Aerial Tram, we managed to cover more ground in one Saturday than most people experience in a week.

Every summer Saturday and Sunday, more than 300 vendors take over 7 acres of downtown Anchorage selling Alaskan-made goods and food from all over the world. With more booths and tables than the eye can see, I quickly realized the sheer volume of things that I could buy. I wasn’t exactly in the market for a “fur” or warm, Alaskan clothing since I was returning to OC the next day, but a painting or photograph or some handmade jewelry was definitively on my radar.

We found a nice mix of mid-priced items as well as inexpensive keepsakes. While it’s always good to compare prices, I settled on the first set of pearls that I saw and a framed photo of the Northern Lights over the Anchorage sky.

The music and dancing performances kept the market lively and the mini stage performances were funny and creative. The festive atmosphere, free entertainment and downtown setting make the Market a must-do if you’re visiting Anchorage.

With a helicopter tour in our sights and dog sledding on our minds, we set out for Knik River Lodge, near Palmer, to meet with Steve from Ridgeline Aviation.

Knik River Lodge is an hour drive from Anchorage.  Picture yourself driving along the Glenn Highway in Alaska pondering the serenity of the wilderness, watching for their resident moose, and smelling the scent of wildflowers in the clean, fresh mountain air. It was during this drive that we experienced the vast, majestic and awe-inspiring place that is considered America’s “last frontier”.

Knik River Lodge is remote enough to be true wilderness. It is perfectly situated for exploring South-central Alaska, and when we stepped out of our rented car, we became part of the magical world of snow, glaciers, and massive, majestic mountains.

Traveling by helicopter allowed us to cover spectacular scenery and amazing, unique opportunities in one event, and the deep blue pools and white ice are a memory I’ll never forget! Pristine beauty, majestic mountains, and ancient glaciers were seemingly within arm’s reach as we approached our destination.

Our visit to a dog camp tucked up in the Colony glacier was a new adventure for both Darren and myself. On the glacier, we waited to share an essential part of Alaskan culture… Alaskan dog mushing. Our hour on the glacier included harnessing the dogs, mushing around the base of a natural amphitheater nestled at the base of Mount Gannett, and taking in the stillness and beauty that was all-consuming. The thrill of standing on the runners of a dog sled with a team of huskies loping across the ancient snowfield grounds created the ultimate Alaskan adventure.

Our journey with Ridgeline Aviation took us 50 miles north of Anchorage; our next stop, The Alyeska Resort Aerial Tramway, was 45 miles south of Anchorage so we had a long trek ahead after an already adventure packed day.

Spectacular mountains rise both on the far side of Turnagain Arm and on the east side of the highway, and the road parallels the tracks of the Alaska Railroad most of the way making the 2 hour drive from north to south seem more like 20 minutes.

The Alyeska Aerial Tram is a seven-minute scenic ride from The Hotel Alyeska to 2,300 ft in elevation and the top of Mt. Alyeska. We picked up our discounted tickets, $10 each, since it was an evening tour and found our way to the base of the tram.

From the Tram, we could see miles in all directions – including views of the Turnagain Arm, seven “hanging” glaciers, and endless peaks deep into the Chugach Mountain range.

At the Upper Tram Terminal, we enjoyed the observation deck that provided even more breath-taking panoramic views of majestic mountains, hanging glaciers, sparkling streams, and towering spruce – a high contrast to the southern Californian surrounding that have become part of my daily views.

The return drive to the hotel gave us time for reflection. In 14 hours, we’d experienced the real culture and people of Alaska at the Anchorage Market & Festival; we’d be dog sledding and glacier touring with locals through Ridgeline Aviation; and we rode to what can only be described as the top of the world on the  Alyeska Resort Aerial Tramway.  Even for hyperactive tourist like ourselves, we felt accomplished. I had the adventure I was searching for in Alaska!

 

***Check out other great articles by adventurous bucket list seekers at Bucket List Publications.***

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115 thoughts on “Alaska’s Hyperactive Tourist

    • When I lived in northern Manitoba, I had the opportunity to try dog sledding but it certainly is a unique adventure. Alaska is filled with great opportunities. I’d like to return someday with my daughter, and my husband, in toe.

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  1. Super cool !! We lived 5 years in Montreal, Canada, and last August we moved to San Diego, CA, and same for us, even if we really enjoy the Californian winter, we want to go to Alaska so much !!!! This article kind of inspired us to go… soon… =)

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    • it was surprisingly inexpensive to fly there and doable during a long weekend. We really covered a lot of territory in one day and it didn’t cost us an arm and a leg to do it. Alaska Airlines have seat sales all the time! You should check it out 🙂

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      • We went in the summer. It was nice enough in some places for a t-shirt but in the mountains or on the glacier definitely needed warmer clothes.

        The best part about Alaska in the summer is that you have so many hours of daylight that you can cover a vast territory in one day.

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      • Jet Blue out of Long Beach (LGB) has some great fares for the summer. We were in Alaska last weekend and the winter is gorgeous but your tourist-type options are severely limited. During the winter the Anchorage/Kenai area is warmer than the interior areas.

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    • My visit was an amazingly beautiful experience, but after growing up in the cold weather of Nova Scotia and spending a few years in northern Canada, I’m happy to call southern California my home.

      I hope you make it back someday soon.

      🙂

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  2. Wow you guys got to see a lot in a short amount of time and did a great job with your photos to help tell the story. It’s been some years now, but I remember what a target rich environment Alaska is for photographers. I recall a summer, above the Arctic Circle, shooting photos with natural light at 2 a.m. and in the winter with only about 2 hours of daylight, capturing the Aurora Borealis in the late afternoon. Thanks for sharing your ‘last frontier’ adventure!

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  3. “…we decided to hop on a plane and head to the Last Frontier for the WEEKEND”. What? Kind of boggles the mind. Sure a 20-hour day will afford you a lot of site-seeing, but you guys don’t do that—you get right into things—but a weekend. WOW!

    Lovely photos. Great sharing your experience. Thanks for sharing.

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    • After a couple of hours of research, I knew that so much was possible in one day. The flights were a great price and we had both always wanted to go so it seemed like a simple choice.

      Since meeting my husband, I’ve learned that I can do anything. He has given me the courage to try everything and to never set limits. I am truly blessed to have such an adventurous, willing spirit in my life.

      🙂

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  4. What a fantastic trip!! You got to do some fun activities and really see the beauty that is Alaska. I lived there for 4 years and I’m itching for my annual trip back to visit my folks. Can I admit to a pang of jealous that you got to dog sled? So cool! Iditarod is around the corner, my mom is going to one of the checkpoints to watch. Love the post, great photos, awesome writing!

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  5. That’s pretty inspiring! Alaska always seems like one of those far-away places that requires time and intensive planning. You guys showed that it’s possible to get a really good impression of the cultural and natural landscapes, even in one day. Good for you!

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  6. We lived in Alaska for 3 years and there is not one single place I’ve lived more beautiful. Of course, we love the outdoors. Anyone who is remotely close to this state (ie – you live in North America or Russia) needs to visit. I would especially recommend taking a private flight out to the Bush. There is nowhere less unplugged and quiet.

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  7. I honeymooned in Alaska. We cruised down the inside passage via Glacier Bay and visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairwater and then we travelled out by land to Mount Denali. It was magical. I pray we are able to go back one day. I would love to take my little boy there.

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  8. Great Read. Having flown solo up the inside passage, over the Juneau Ice Field, The Harding Glacier, etc, I have to say the best trip I had was on a Cruise Ship. A 400mm lens got me up close and personal with more wildlife than I ever dreamed of seeing. Alaska is wild and beautiful. A must see for anyone.

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  9. I envy you . Again looks like a great adventure. I wish I were a little younger so I to could do some of these things. The bad economy has sucked a great amount of my extra funds dry. Keep writing. Dalr

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  10. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this adventure of yours in Alaska. My husband and I went there for our 25th anniversary almost 28 years ago! I’d love to go again. In fact, we now have a nephew living in Anchorage. I’m thinking it’s time to go visit him! I wonder if he’s done all the fun adventures you did on your weekend! I think I’ll suggest he read this post!

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  11. I redid my bucket list last night, which I’m sure goes against rules but I did it anyway. Alaska was one of the few things that maintained its position on my list. It’s one of those places that looks like it would grab you and not let you go. Looks beautiful, clear and fresh! Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I lived in Anchorage for 3 years and believe that anyone who has an inkling of a desire to visit Alaska MUST go! You don’t have to move there like I did but if you did, it was an amazing experience! Thanks for reminding me what an incredible place it is.

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  13. I am an editor of the online newspaper The Washington DC Free Press, and I recently discovered your blog. I think our newspaper’s readers would enjoy your writing, and I am wondering if you would consider submitting an article to our newspaper. All of our articles have a “Related Links” section, and you would be more than welcome to include links back to your blog and your related blog posts. In addtion, your article’s byline can link to a profile that you can create on our site. Your profile can include a photo and your bio.

    Please let me know if this opportunity interests you!

    Best Regards,

    Jerry Nelson
    The Washington DC Free Press
    http://www.washingtondcfreepress.com

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  14. You must spend time in SE Alaska! You could spend a month is each “zone” and still not see Alaska. Glad you made the trip… I hope you’ll visit again soon… whale watching is a must and the longest zip line is in Hoonah, AK… you can do both in the same place.

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  15. I went to that street market in Anchorage, as well. It was pretty cool. I’d heard about some things you mention (such as the Alyeska Resort, which seems extremely popular) when doing research for my trip there last summer. Oh, and the guided glacier hike I did was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Cool story, and nice photos.

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  16. your post made me miss Alaska. I almost gave up on seeing a moose after the first few days, and then all of the sudden we saw so many on our drive out of Denali. There was even a baby moose…too cute! I want to go back and see the Northern Lights sometime.

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