Alaska Favorite Tips by PA2AKgirl Top 5 Page for this destination
Alaska Favorites: 241 reviews and 254 photos
Black Rapids roadhouse (new lodge in background)
Favorite thing: If you're driving along some of the Alaska highways, you'll probably see signs for Roadhouses. Few of these are the originals but the concept is the same. They are places for travelers (both who had traveled the Yukon in the past to people arriving by road in other areas today) to get food, drinks and lodging. There's a lot of them accessible by road, some are just ruins, some have been rebuilt from original materials, some popped up in the middle of the 1900s and some are completely new. They aren't like travel centers or truck stops, they're lodges with saloons and known for good food.
Rika's Roadhouse has been restored. It's a state historical park where you can get some food and tour the building. The virtual tour is online...click here
Black Rapids roadhouse is being restored as well.
You can find Roadhouses in quite a few locations--the one in Talkeetna is pretty popular, there is one at Meiers Lake, Sourdough, Petersville and so on.
Fondest memory: I just find these little pieces of history fascinating. Probably because they were meant for travelers of the past. I wonder what stories were told here and what trouble people may have gotten into;-)
Favorite thing: I found this to be quite helpful and it's really doesn't need much explanation. If you're going to be traveling up here and want to find out how active the displays for the aurora will be, there are 2 sites you can check out.
The first is the forecast site based in Fairbanks: Geophysical Institute and then the Space Environment Center page which shows you the current extent of activity. I love having this information--it doesn't just confine the activity and probability of seeing it to Alaska, either. About 2 weeks ago, I was looking and it said "displays will be visible as far south as Chicago, Illinois" It tells you whether you should be looking overhead or low on the horizon as well.
Of course, look at the weather right beside it because the aurora activity report always starts out with "Weather permitting..." and here in Anchorage, that usually means "sorry, but it will be cloudy and you won't see it";-)
late september storm
Favorite thing: I get a lot of people asking me when they should visit Alaska. Well, it depends what you're looking for. Personally, I would visiting from late May until mid September. This is because everything will still be open (some places close after the first weekend in September) and you can get around easier. National Parks have staff to give tours, boats and cruises run more frequently and (especially in the spring) animal sightings are more frequent.
Both times that I have lived in Alaska, late September until the end of October have been stormy. Not your quick passing showers or thunderstorms but real storms that come from the sea and last a few days. Currently, we're under a wind warning of 100mph (160km) gusts along the water. Cruises offer discounts in early September but you have to ask yourself why that is. It's because you're more likely to get tossed around on that ship and some typical highlights of a cruise to Alaska aren't available.
Fondest memory: Our winters are cold. In some places, very snowy. However, roads (like the Alaska highway) remain open so you can still drive them, in theory. But if you're anything like me and being on a road with layers of ice is enough to give you a heart attack, you might want to wait until it's warmer out. A lot of people don't experience Alaska in the winter but there are things going on everywhere throughout the months with shorter days.
The sun stays up 24hrs in the northern part of the state in the summer. A little farther south, it technically sets but you still have visible light. So your chances of seeing the northern lights are shot. However, in the southeast, you do get a couple hours of darkness and when my father was visiting in August down in that area, we saw the aurora. But overall, the winters are better for that.
So you see, it depends on what you want to do. Fishing (unless it's ice fishing), hiking, boating, rafting, seeing the Parks and Preserves, finding services--all much better in the warmer months (June-August).
Skiing, mushing, seeing the northern lights, finding an emptier and quieter atmosphere--all better when it's colder and there's less daylight.
Anchorage westward. red lines are roads on the map
Favorite thing: The Bush refers to most of Alaska. These are places that are beyond “backcountry”—towns, villages, parks and other sites not accessible by road or anywhere close to a road. The way to get into these is either by boat or plane, sometimes a combination of both. There are “bush hubs” like Kotzebue and Bethel and then even more isolated “bush villages” As we get the opportunity to see some of these places, I’ll write tips on each individually. Since we weren’t here for the summer, we didn’t get the chance but cannot wait to do so. Traveling here is a challenge but will also be well worth the time and money it costs. This is the true Alaska and the reason the state is called “The Last Frontier.”
sorry folks, park's closed!
Favorite thing: Tok is major stopping point for those traveling into, out of, or through Alaska. The Tok Cutoff, the Taylor and Alaska Highways all meet here and the town is far enough away from other towns that you don’t have much of an option if you want to stop. But even if you think you can get someplace else, it’s worth stopping by and seeing the town. There’s plenty of gift shops, a couple gas stations and coffee joints (don’t get coffee from the Chevron there, it tastes very chemical), places to stay, Mukluk Land which is a park near the town, lakes, a wildlife refuge and even a pancake toss where you’re able to join in for this local competition. Everyone we talked to in Tok was very friendly and it seems like a close community.
Favorite thing: Bobby loves getting a picture of himself at the welcome signs to each state, province, territory, etc. He has quite a collection but the Alaska one is not easy to get. Each time we’ve come into Alaska, we’ve arrived by air so the airport might have something generic but not the border “Welcome to Alaska” sign. These are located on the 2 highways that cross into the Yukon Territory and they are definitely picture worthy. You can see Alaska for weeks and never come across this sign if you’re not driving.
Favorite thing: Again, not my favorite thing...just fits under the general category
I am not entirely sure how I feel about the pipeline but that doesn’t matter. It still is something worth seeing, based on its engineering alone. Building the pipeline was not easy and certain measures had to be taken for the permafrost and harsh climate that make it impressive. Coming up toward Fairbanks, you get a good view of it crossing the Tanana River at mile 275 of the Richardson Highway. Here, there are interpretive signs (along with a questionable business that sells risqué fur bikinis and stuff) and a view of just how massive this project must have been. And now, how difficult it is to maintain the pipeline. There are of course other places to see it—following the Dalton Highway (more about that highway later), down at its terminus in Valdez and a few other places. We stopped at the one in Big Delta (at mile 275), so I can tell you about this one in the best detail. The way it’s set up across the river here, it looks more like the Golden Gate in San Francisco or Verrazano/GW bridges in NYC. You’re able to get out of your car, walk to the shore and see it up close, read the interpretive signs and also the large sign that tells you the FBI investigates any tampering or defacing of the pipeline.
Favorite thing: North Pole is not how you think it would be. I recall National Geographic featuring this town as one of their zip codes and just went back to read it. Before visiting and before rereading, I just assumed this would go under my “tourist trap” tips but it’s not.
The town was started and named to lure toymakers there who could legitimately put “Made in North Pole” on their toys but it didn’t work out. So, while some of the streets have the names associated with Christmas and Santa, they are also the homes to chain restaurants like McDonalds and Wendy’s. Also, the town does receive tons of letters at Christmas and responses are sent out. The big attraction, which is indeed a tourist trap, is the Santa Claus house but it’s worth a visit. We didn’t buy anything, but there are a pair of reindeer here who are so cute! Although the toy thing didn’t pan out, it is a bedroom community for military bases and nearby Fairbanks, so all economy is not lost.
One more thing: North Pole is 1700 miles (or 2720 km) south of the geographic North Pole.
bobby engrossed with the Milepost (kind of)
Favorite thing: The Milepost calls itself the “Bible of North Country Travel” and it is! DO NOT drive here without this book, it’s terrific. The publication is put out each year and updated accordingly. The editors seem to travel the roads frequently and put new notes in where they apply. Basically, it’s a guide that lives by its title. It breaks down each road or highway, each town and each mile (down to the tenths) if there’s something to see or do. You’ll see a lake or a building and all you have to do is refer to the milepost along the road, open up your Milepost to the right page and cross reference. You’ll find out what exactly that lake or building is and anything noteworthy. A lot of wonderful sites/attractions or things to do are not listed on signs on these roads. The Milepost tells you what’s ahead, where the next place to get gas is and whether things are open all year. Even down to where you’ll get cell phone reception. It provides numbers, websites and schedules. Advertisers get a chance to sell their place too, but not in a “this is too much” sort of way (like magazines that are mostly full page advertisements) but incorporated into the correct section and the correct mile. Of course, when it covers Canada (and it completely does along the Alaska Highway and routes connecting) it has kilometer reference points.
It’s not expensive and can be found online or in bookstores. Definitely the most comprehensive, useful and accurate publication for Alaska.
this man came prepared:)
Favorite thing: Do not go anywhere without your camera. I live here and always bring it because even if you’re just taking a routine trip to a store or out to eat, you may see something picture worthy. A moose, a wonderful sunset, a rainbow, mountains peeking out from the clouds or anything, really. The whole state is picturesque and it’s difficult to take a bad photo here so always keep the camera within reach!
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