10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Alaska

Writing about Alaska might often feel old-fashioned. This state is truly so extraordinary. It is a place where natural scenery and wildlife, weather, and seasonal changes are greater and sometimes more extreme than anywhere else in the United States. Mainly roadless, remote, and still very wild, Alaska’s nickname ‘The Last Frontier’ is indeed very fitting.

Denali, United States | Photo by Hari Nandakumar on Unsplash


Where else can you find a state capital (Juneau) without any road access? Or a town, Barrow (the northernmost city), where the sun doesn’t rise for 67 days in winter but doesn’t set for over 80 days in summer? Even Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, retains the charm of a small town, and it’s a place where deer often roam the city streets.

Alaska is home to North America’s highest peak, Denali, standing at 20,320 feet, and the country’s four largest national parks. Thus, it serves as a vast outdoor playground. Hiking, boating, fishing, and whale watching are some ways to enjoy this wild nature’s riches. Other daily adventures include bear watching, exploring rainforests, and cruising through the Inside Passage.

Alaska’s cities and towns offer unique cultural attractions. These expedition base camps feature museums and other tourist attractions. In places like Anchorage, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, they provide insights into the communities that have called Alaska home for thousands of years.


On This Page:

  1. Talkeetna
  2. Tracy Arm Fjord
  3. Alaska Highway
  4. Dalton Highway
  5. Inside Passage
  6. Kenai Fjords National Park
  7. Denali National Park
  8. Alaska Railroad
  9. University of Alaska Museum of the North
  10. Anchorage


1. Talkeetna

Talkeetna |Photo by Chris Boese on Unsplash


Talkeetna is a charming, quaint little town that offers some of the best views of Mount Denali. It’s definitely worth a visit while driving or taking the train between Anchorage and Denali National Park.

If you want to meet the mayor of Talkeetna, you need to go to Nagley’s General Store and look for Aurora. She can be a bit moody at times, but she’s always open to the lure of food. Just don’t bring a dog with you—she once chased off this writer’s Chihuahua from her territory. In case you’re confused about the plot at this point, let me clarify: Aurora is a cat.

Talkeetna doesn’t have a human mayor; instead, it’s on its third feline leader. The town’s original and most famous cat mayor was Stubbs, who ruled with a firm paw from 1997 until his death in 2017.

Rumor has it that Talkeetna was the inspiration for the 90s TV show, Northern Exposure, although the series was filmed in Washington. It is primarily a seasonless destination with dozens of restaurants and shops that remain open from mid-May to mid-September.

Talkeetna is a popular spot for booking flight-seeing tours. These tours are conducted in small planes that fly you around or over the summit of Denali, weather permitting. Some tours even land on a glacier. To arrange a trip, check out K2 Aviation Talkeetna or Talkeetna Air Taxi located in the town of Talkeetna.


2. Tracy Arm Fjord

Tracy Arm Fjord |Photo by Gerda on Unsplash


Tracy Arm is a fjord surrounded by glaciers, located south of Juneau. Its steep walls feature sharp cliffs that drop into the water, forming small icebergs from the glaciers. It’s a popular destination for cruises and boat tours.

The fjord lies within the Tongass National Forest’s Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness. At the head of the fjord is the Sawyer Glacier. Wildlife sightings are common during tours, whether it’s brown bears or moose on land, or harbor seals and birds nesting on the ice.

Tracy Arm is just a small part of Alaska’s glacier-viewing offerings. Other popular tourist destinations include Glacier Bay National Park to the northwest of Juneau, and Prince William Sound near Anchorage. Several guiding companies, such as Adventure Bound Alaska, offer day trips at reasonable prices and provide unobstructed views of stunning scenery.


3. Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway| Photo by Alexis Mette on Unsplash


The Alaska-Canada Highway, or Alcan Highway, is a route that stretches from Dawson Creek, British Columbia (Canada), to Delta Junction near Fairbanks, Alaska. It was hastily constructed in just eight months during World War II in 1942 for military purposes.

Since the end of the war, this route has played a crucial role in connecting South Alaska and the Yukon Territory. It’s a popular highway for recreational travelers, passing through diverse landscapes. The highway crosses the international border at Delta Junction, using the Whitehorse cut-off in Canada to reach Alaska.

Services such as motels, shops, and gas stations are available at intervals of 30 to 50 miles along the route. The Alcan Highway is generally well-maintained for travel, though travelers should pack essentials as much of the route passes through remote and unpopulated wilderness.


4. Dalton Highway

Dalton Highway| Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash


The Dalton Highway spans over 400 miles in Alaska’s Far North region, ending at the Prudhoe Bay outpost. It can be accessed from Fairbanks and Anchorage, running parallel to and constructed alongside the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. This road is extremely remote, rugged, and primarily used by oil field workers.

However, for well-prepared visitors, traversing this isolated highway offers rewards, as it runs alongside the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

On the northern end of the route, the Dalton Highway crosses into the Arctic Circle, where there is 24-hour daylight during the summer solstice and 24-hour darkness during the winter. Driving a private vehicle is not the only way to experience the Arctic Circle; bus and plane tours frequently depart from Fairbanks and Anchorage.

One popular reason for visiting these northern latitudes is to witness the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, which can be seen on many nights from September to mid-April. Joining an aurora tour can help keep visitors warm during this cold season.


5. Inside Passage

Inside Passage| Photo by Grace Simoneau on Unsplash


The Inside Passage is a collection of sheltered channels and waterways located in southeastern Alaska. For visitors, the most popular way to explore the fjords is via large cruise ships, charter boats, and private yachts. Another option is to stop at Haines, Skagway, or Hyder from the highway.

Along this coastal passage lies the Tongass National Forest, spanning 17 million acres and encompassing archipelagos, mountain ranges, glaciers, ice fields, fjords, and waterfalls. This forest also includes Prince of Wales Island, one of the largest islands in the United States. The area is home to the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian communities.

Key towns along the route include Skagway, home to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; Sitka, once the main town of Russian America; and Ketchikan, where visitors can see standing totems at the Totem Bight State Historical Park and the Totem Heritage Center.


6. Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords National Park| Photo by Ella Deane on Unsplash


Kenai Fjords National Park protects much of the upland coastline of Alaska, one of the state’s premier scenic destinations. The park’s expansive natural landscapes encompass 700 square miles of Harding Icefield’s numerous glaciers and a remote upland coastline. Additionally, the park is home to a large population of brown bears, thriving on a diet rich in salmon. Surrounding the park are several tourist options, including Homer, located at the end of the 1 Highway. Popular entry points to the park are the Alaska Railroad and the Seward Highway, both ending near Seward at the park’s northern boundary. The park’s only accessible region by car is Exit Glacier, where several trails offer closer views of Harding Icefield.

Key Features of Kenai Fjords National Park for Visitors:

  1. Glacier Viewing:

   The park boasts numerous glaciers within Harding Icefield’s 700 square miles, a primary attraction. Exit Glacier provides an accessible location for visitors to reach by car and offers several hiking trails that lead closer to the ice

  1. Wildlife Observation:

   The park is a habitat for a substantial brown bear population, which thrive on a summer diet of salmon. Other wildlife, such as seals, sea otters, and various bird species, are frequently spotted.

  1. Natural Scenery:

   The park features abundant fjords, mountains, and waterfalls, providing visitors with a captivating natural experience.

  1. Visitor Access:

   Access to the park is popular via the Alaska Railroad and the Seward Highway, both terminating near the city of Seward at the park’s northern boundary.

  1. Marine Exploration:

   Exploring Kenai Fjords by boat or kayak is a common way for tourists to get closer views of glaciers and wildlife.

The park offers exceptional opportunities for hiking, boating, and wildlife viewing, making it a prime destination for experiencing the natural beauty of Alaska.


7. Denali National Park

Denali National Park| Photo by Bryson Beaver on Unsplash


Denali National Park is an extraordinary wilderness located between Anchorage and Fairbanks, featuring vast expanses of mountains, open tundra, and large mammals like grizzly bears and moose. If you enjoy escaping notifications from your mobile phone and getting lost in nature for a while, it’s definitely a perfect park for rejuvenation.

Drive along Savage River, where the paved road for park visitors ends after 15 miles, offering access for vehicles into Denali National Park. If you wish to go further beyond Savage River, you’ll need to leave your own feet and attempt the park shuttle bus with excitement.

As America’s third-largest national park, situated somewhat centrally between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Denali is often a roadless wilderness. Upon entry, the park provides well-marked trails for hiking and experiencing the Denali environment alongside other students.


8. Alaska Railroad

Alaska Railroad| Photo by Craig Vodnik on Unsplash


The Alaska Railroad, considered a significant part of Alaska’s history as the “deadline of the ancient frontier,” stretches from Seward to Fairbanks. This railroad has facilitated the development of Anchorage from a tent city to its present state and played a crucial role as a logistics lifeline during World War II.

Today, the Alaska Railroad is state-owned and serves approximately 500,000 passengers annually. It traverses various popular destinations such as the Chugach National Forest, Anchorage, and Denali National Park and Preserve. Managed by the Alaska Railroad Corporation, it offers benefits like diverse routes, services, and special event ride packages such as backcountry ski packages and a children’s Halloween train.


9. University of Alaska Museum of the North

University of Alaska Museum of the North


Located in Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Museum of the North features a collection of over one million historical artifacts and natural history specimens. Its permanent exhibits include ethnological items crafted and used by indigenous groups, along with a significant collection of Alaskan art.

The collection spans from archaeological finds of ancient civilizations to a diverse array of bird specimens and several paleontological artifacts. The museum building itself is architecturally distinctive, designed by Joan Soranno, with a striking white structure and unique lines that pay homage to Alaska’s landscape.

The museum offers free admission to university students and faculty, while the general public can enter with paid admission. Visitors are encouraged to explore the museum at their own pace, and groups can arrange customized tours by calling ahead.


 10. Anchorage

Anchorage| Photo by Simon Hurry on Unsplash


Although Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, it feels like a small town with a population of about 300,000. Its compact downtown area is very walkable, and it seems like it hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years.

It’s a unique small place with no skyscrapers, still with mom-and-pop shops and quirky restaurants. It’s a city where moose and bear encounters, even on suburban streets, are familiar. Anchorage’s summer weather is mild and the sun almost never sets, or it gets only dim.

Most tourists arrive in Alaska through Anchorage International Airport, then can proceed to other parts of the state. However, the city itself serves exceptionally well as a base for day trips. Close by is Chugach State Park, spanning nearly half a million acres, easily accessible from the city. For further exploration, a popular option from Anchorage is the 470-mile Alaska Railroad, headquartered here, offering journeys through wild natural landscapes.

In the city center, getting around unfamiliarity is effortless. Popular attractions include the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Anchorage Museum. For outdoor enthusiasts, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail offers an impressive 11-mile scenic route, ideal for biking along the city’s shoreline. Bikes are available for rent along the trail.