What to see & do in Alaska!

Teri picking up snow in alaska

If you are planning a trip to Alaska and not taking a cruise, this is the only itinerary you will need!

Our family of 6 was there for 7 days and 7 nights and we covered a lot, and I mean a lot of the state. Here is a complete list of where to stay, what to do, where to eat and what to pack for a trip to Alaska!

Firstly, you will need to know what to pack if you are travelling to the largest state in the USA. Its mass is 1/5 the size of the lower 48 states, so there is a lot of travelling by car or via rail but you won’t mind the drives or train rides because the scenery is spectacular.

What to pack for Alaska in the summertime.

  • Hiking boots, low rubber boots, walking/running shoes and a comfortable pair of “fashion sneakers” to head out for dinner. We were there in July and there was no need for flip flops or open toe shoes.
  • Bring warm socks, long sleeve layering shirts, t-shirts, a couple tank tops, jeans, casual lounge sets, leggings, sweat pants, one pair of shorts, sweatshirts, cargo pants, hiking gear, and for sure a good rain jacket and shell rain pants to pull over jeans, sweat pants or leggings. I wore leggings and jeans most of the trip with a t-shirt, sweatshirt or light flannel jacket most days. Everywhere is pretty casual so leave your dressy clothes at home. Bring a messenger bag and a backpack, you can leave your swimsuit behind unless you plan to swim in your hotel pool. In the summer months, the lowest temperature we experienced was 44 degrees but it did get up to 73 degrees a few days. Bring a few ball caps, summer hat and I did bring a winter hat for the fishing trip and the glacier trip because of the wind and snow. Bring a sleeping mask for sure because there is 24 hour day light in Alaska for 3 months in the summer and if you hotel doesn’t have black out blinds, you may have trouble sleeping.

Fly into Anchorage and rent a car for 4 days but book your return flight home from Fairbanks so you don’t have to back track. That is what we did and is worked out really well! Don’t forget to pack one change of clothes, your toiletries and medication in your carry on in case your luggage is delayed or misplaced for a day.

Book a car or small SUV at the Anchorage airport, it was supper easy and the cars are located in the airport.

Day 1 – arrival day

Depending on what time you land, check into your hotel (I recommend Hotel Captain Cook, the Sheraton or the Aloft and head for lunch or dinner at 49th State Brewing Co. and ask to sit on the 2nd or 3rd floor outdoor patios. For other dining options I would recommend Club Paris for dinner, Rustic Goat for lunch and Midway Café for organically sourced fresh healthy breakfast.  There isn’t much to see around downtown Anchorage but you could always walk the Coastal Trail if you need some movement and fresh air after a long travel day.

Day 2- Hiking in Achorage & road trip to Seward

Drive about 20 minutes to go hiking around the Flat Top Mountain trail in Chugach State Park. Experience beautiful views from this high peak! You can see the ocean, the city and all the beautiful mountain ranges from this area. There are so many hiking trails from easy to advanced and you can spend one hour or 4 hours hiking.

Drive to Seward in the afternoon, it is about a 2.5 hour scenic drive! Take your time, pull over, take photos and enjoy! You can spend one evening in Seward and I would highly recommend bringing your appetite. The best dining/cuisine of the trip for sure. We kept our hotel rooms in Anchorage (because we had 6 people and too much luggage and we only needed travel clothes and whatever you wanted to wear fishing the next day in an overnight bag without having to pack up all your belongings) as day 4 will be spent in Anchorage. In Seward, dine at the Cookery (the BEST fresh seafood ever, so make reservations for sure) or The Flamingo (you have to see the interior of the Flamingo, trust me, so head over there for their amazing cocktails if you don’t dine there!)

As for hotels, try to book anything you can. There are not many options and it is only for one night but the best we came across was Seward Gateway or the Harbor 360 Hotel. (BTW, they don’t mention it but you need to bring your own waters, drinks, sandwiches, snacks and cooler on the boat for the day, there is one grocery store in town, Safeway, open until midnight so you can buy a cooler, ice, etc. and leave it packed in your car overnight so you are all set for the 6:20am check in time for fishing licenses etc.)

Day 3 – Fishing in Seward

Fishing, yes book a full day! You will not be disappointed! We caught 12 Halibut, (limit 2 per person so we had to catch and release a bunch), about 10 salmon and over 14 Rock Fish. It was incredible but the boat ride out into the ocean on our picture- perfect sunny day was extraordinary. The glass like ocean, the snowcapped mountains, the mini-islands and land masses, I couldn’t stop taking photos. We booked our trip with Aurora Fishing Charters (the BESTEST!!!)  but really there were so many to select from and I can’t recommend any others as we only fished one day. They also clean, filet, vacuum seal and ship your catch home.

Walk around the docks and have dinner in Seward before your drive back to Anchorage. Don’t worry about it getting dark, you will have the same scenic drive back. There is an amazing conservation Wildlife Sanctuary to check out. I would highly suggest it for the ride to Seward or your return drive but take note that is closes at 7pm and the last entry is 630pm so plan accordingly.

Day 4- Day excursion close to Anchorage

Drive one hour and take the mid-morning Helicopter Glacier Tour for thrill seeking adventure around every corner with Alaska Helicopter Tours. By far my favorite day of the trip (fishing being the second!).  I can’t even put into words the breathtaking glaciers, the ice blue water pools, the waterfalls through the glaciers, the amazing dog sledding ride with professional mushers that train these incredible animals for the world re-known Iditarod marathon. Check out the photos on this blog or my highlight reel on Instagram to see how incredible this magical trip was!! After you dog-sled and playing with the dogs, you land on the glacier and walk or hike around…one word.. AMAZING! Total epic experience. Our pilots were top-notch and the mushers were extremely professional and super fun! Have a delicious meal at their lodge following your helicopter landing. Head back to your hotel for a relaxing evening or late dinner. Return your rental car this evening, taxi back to your hotel.

Day 5 – train to Denali National Park

Pack up and take the 9:15am train on the famous Alaskan Railroad, the 8 hour Denali Princess Cruise Railroad train to Denali National Park. Yep, just do it!  Book the dome club car for the best views and access to two meals, breakfast & lunch in their premier dining car. The train bridges, the wildlife spotting and the scenery is beautiful, a gorgeous trip!

There are around 60 hotels in Denali but the most centrally located one the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge. They offer easy transfers to your hotel from the train, and you can walk across the street for dinner if you don’t want to dine at the 4 restaurants on property. There is the cutest burger and chili truck, Denali DogHouse. or Prospectors Pizza for a 1lb king crab pizza.

Day 5 & 6 – Hiking, Zip Lining and White Water Rafting, train to Fairbanks

Our family is not for getting a huge tour bus with a lot of people for an 8 hour tour so we booked two ½ day trips and some hikes in Denali. There are a plethora of hiking trails so I would advise checking with the visitor’s centre or your hotel concierge to determine the ability level of your group and your time frame to hike in the early morning – 1.5-3 hours hikes.

Explore Denali National Park. It is beautiful and you can’t go to Alaska without heading to this 6 million, yes million acre park!  We booked an afternoon ATV/Zip lining excursion one afternoon with a 2 hour morning hike prior and on day 6 we took an 11 mile white water rafting trip with New Wave Adventures up the river with class 3 and 4 waters before our 4 four train ride to Fairbanks. I highly recommend both, it is a bit chilly and it is often rainy but so worth it and if you are up for adventure instead of sitting in a 8 hour tour bus I would highly recommend it before catching the 4pm train from Denali to Fairbanks. The train is about 3.5 hours and book the Gold Coast experience on the passenger train. It is not as luxurious as the Princess train from Anchorage to Denali but it is just as scenic and easier than travelling back to Anchorage. Upon arrival at the train station, every hotel has a shuttle service for easy transfer to your hotel We were all exhausted after Denali so we just chilled out, went for walk along the water and had dinner at our hotel in Fairbanks, Pike Waterfront Lodge. We did however rent a car at the airport, your hotel will shuttle you to the airport with easy pick up and return service so you have a way to get around Fairbanks on Day 7.

Day 7- full day in Fairbanks

We booked a charming hotel on the water and did a couple of tours as our flight didn’t depart until 10pm. These two tours were more for the history of Alaska but were fun and we added a few more experiences for the kids and learned a lot along the way. There is a Gold Dredge tour that you can actually pan for gold. It is a world renown tour; you grab a poke filled with dirt right out of the sluice box and pan for gold at the National Historical Site where 3.5 million ounces of gold were recovered in Alaska. After that we grabbed a quick lunch at a Thai joint (you wouldn’t know it but Fairbanks is home to over a dozen authentic Thai restaurants, yummy!) After lunch we cruised the great river of Alaska on board the Sternwheeler Riverboat Discovery. It was way more than just a steamboat cruise, it was full of history, and you will be immersed in frontier living with a tour of an Athabascan Indian Village and a view a bush pilot in action, see some wildlife and experience Alaskan culture. It was unique and a great way to wrap up our 7-day family vacation in Alaska!

If you have any questions, need more information or want to send an email visit my Instagram @stellargirlofficial.

Stellargirl