I really can’t think of any way to start this blog besides saying Alaska is way more enormous and wild than you could even imagine. The 49th state has so much to offer, but is so vast and spread out its impossible to see everything in one trip. For this vacation, we decided to conquer The Interior (Alaska’s website has really great itineraries, including driving, train and cruise information to help plan your trip.) The Interior passage allows for beautiful coastline views, ample wildlife viewing opportunities, and UhMaYyZiNg food.
Before you plan your trip to the Last Frontier, here are a few tips I picked up to help you avoid my mistakes:
- Don’t try to look cute. Alaska, especially the interior trip, is pretty rugged, with lots of outdoor activities, long drives and rugged, judgemental fishermen and hippies. I brought 3 suitcases and ended up wearing three variations of legging/tshirt outfits. The weather in the summer can change hourly, so I suggest layers including pullovers, a rain jacket, hiking shoes and short rain boots.
- Don’t forget the essentials for road tripping. If you’re cruising one of Alaska’s never ending highways, the places to stop and refill will be few and far between. Bring snacks, water, refillable water bottles, download good music for playlists, and invest in a portable charger.
- Prepare for the wilderness. Bug spray is a must as the mosquitos can be terrible in the summer, even after just going for a quick walk. Also, there are bears, lots of them, so buy or rent some bear spray if you’re out walking. Even though the weather seems chilly, it’s usually sunny most of the time so apply sunscreen often. Most importantly, exercise common sense when it comes to animal encounters, they will kill/eat you if you act like an idiot.
- Research and prep well in advance. Alaska is super popular in the summer, drawing in millions of people from all over the world. Book lodging (I highly suggest Air BnB, the cabins we stayed in on our trip were awesome!) early, especially in popular parts like Denali. If you want to do kayaking, boat tours or bus rides, it’s worth it to at least look into the process of getting tickets so you know how to plan your travels.
- Spend a reasonable amount of time in each area. We tend to be marathon sprint travelers, and we always end up rushing or overtiring ourselves because we don’t take an extra day to just relax. Like I said, Alaska is freaking enormous, so if you’re going to take your time exploring a place, do it here.
After a harrowing delayed layover at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, we finally arrived in Anchorage. If you ever get stuck in an airport, pray it isn’t Dallas Fort Worth. It was around 11:30 when we got there and still super bright out. Alaska’s midnight sun is kind of weird, kind of cool, but I can totally see why people drink and do too many drugs there.we went immediately to Moose Tooth Pub, where they brew their own beer and make delicious pizzas, and I got to color.
We had planned on exploring but were too exhausted (see tip 5) so we just checked into the air BnB and watched planet earth 2.
The next morning before we started our drive, we had amazing breakfast at The Red Chair Cafe— I am seriously impressed with the food I ate in Alaska, including this gourmet biscuit with gravy.
We then went to Earthquake Park, where an enormous earthquake hit Alaska and sent an entire neighborhood into the ocean. Apparently lots of earthquakes hit Alaska, and the park showed how much damage was really done. There are also nice trails you can bike or walk along that connect for miles
Day 2: Seward Highway
Seward Highway is a gorgeous two lane road along the Kenai Peninsula that eventually leads to the fishing town of Homer. It’s only a two hour drive from Anchorage to another cute fishing town of Seward, but you’ll want to allow most of the day. There are beautiful stops to look out and see whales (Beluga Point)
, Dall sheep (Windy Point)
and salmon spawning grounds (Bird Creek).There are also millions of tourists who just rented an RV and have no idea how to drive, so early morning or late evening might be a safer option.
We hiked a little off the highway at Windy Point to get up close to the Dall sheep, and then realized how completely unprepared we were for the wilderness when we saw a black bear next to us on the path. Craig immediately left me to be killed, and we hovered over the edge of the cliff next to the highway waiting for rescue. Eventually this got tiring so I stormed through the woods clapping and singing “Hey bear, hey bear, go away bear!!!” I’m alive today, so it worked obviously.
A great nature walk is at Girdwood Falls, in Alyeska (which to me sounds like someone from Staten Island trying to say “Alaska”.) There is a ski resort with lodging and restaurants here that I would be interested in trying if I went back again, and the waterfall has a pretty log bridge right out of fairy tales.
We stopped at the Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center where they rehabilitate sick and hurt animals, and got to see moose, wolves, bears, bison and a bald eagle who someone tried to shoot. It costs about $10 and was really cool to see the animals up close and learn about the facility.
After checking into our cabin in paradise, we headed to Chinook’s, a seafood place on the water where we could watch the fishermen unload our dinner in front of us. I don’t fish (as was made apparent when I stupidly involved myself in a Fox News Facebook firestorm about a shark), but Seward would be the place to try.
Day 3: Kenai Fjords National Park
We had a kayaking/hiking trip planned through Adventure 60 North to be able to see Kenai Fjords from Resurrection Bay. If physical activity isn’t your thing (and this was pretty physical), there are also boat tours that go around the bays and have dinner on an island. But if you fall in the water you only have twenty minutes to live, so dress warm.
Our guide Tim was awesome, and the only other people on our tour were an adventurous father son duo from SoCal, so the five mile kayak trip was chill and serene. We saw salmon jumping, otters, seals and porpoises, and I kept praying for a whale to jump over me like Moana. We docked on a beach and took a three mile (uphill) hike to an old World War II barrack overlooking the bay to have lunch (A60N provides sandwiches, drinks and snacks). Apparently Alaska was a hot spot of attack during WWII, like who knew earthquakes and military attacks were additional dangers to worry about??
Oh yeah, then Craig proposed. While I was in a rain jacket, baseball hat and waterproof pants. And also we still had to hike three miles down and kayak 5 miles back. But it was incredibly sweet and surprising and of course I said yes. The son of the duo said “I never want to get married” and then we all hiked back down as everyone talked about how they had seen whales and I hadn’t.
We drove about 5 miles to Exit Glacier, which is where you should go if you don’t believe in climate change. There are signs that show how far the ice has melted since 1815, and it’s ALOT. I also used this opportunity to show my friends the huge glacier I was bringing home.
We were starving and exhausted after, and tried to check into our Air BnB when the host kid napped us and made us listen to his Alaskan stories for two fucking hours. He then told us all the restaurants would be closed, so we had to celebrate our engagement at a McDonalds completely owned and operated by meth heads.
Day 4: Talkeetna
We woke up early to avoid Jim and anymore stories, and thought about driving to Homer until we heard there had just been ANOTHER earthquake and there was a tsunami warning. Instead we turned north and drove back through Anchorage to Talkeetna. Along the way are a few cool stops, like Thunderbird Falls and the Eklutna Historical Park with Alaskan spirit houses.
Talkeetna was my absolute favorite place on the entire trip- we actually circled back on our way to the airport to have breakfast at Roadhouse Diner and get a glimpse of Denali from the river bank.
A little hippie town about half a mile long, the Main Street has amazing restaurants, souvenir shopping and a weed store (oh yeah, weed is legal in Alaska. WHO KNEW THIS STUFF??) We ate dinner at Denali Brewing Company, and then checked into our Air BnB which happened to be on a hippie commune sustainable farm. We met a worker named Green Bean who we later saw playing the saxophone in town trying to make a buck.
Day 5: Denali National Park
After denying Mindy’s offer to bring us hippie farm fresh eggs for breakfast, we started the drive from Talkeetna to the entrance of Denali National Park in Cantwell. Here’s my tip for visiting Denali- plan an entire day because you’ll want to take the bus ride in and it takes like 11 hours. I’m not exaggerating. Going into the park is the best chance of seeing wildlife; we took the 8 hour Eielson Visitor Center tour and saw grizzly bears, moose, caribou, Dall sheep and amazing views and landscape.
However, don’t count on seeing Denali because only 30% of people do. They describe the mountain like a temperamental woman– “The mountain isn’t showing itself today”…”The mountain makes its own weather”…”The mountain might come out, but probably not.” We got to see a few good views, but those were in Talkeetna and the drive back to Anchorage (when craig looked in the rear view mirror and said “WHOA the mountain is showing her whole ass now!”). Also, call her Denali, not Mount McKinley, it’s much better.
We checked into our hotel that was masquerading as an Air BnB and the girl at the front desk, Candy Cane, judged me for my immense amount of luggage. We had dinner at the “World Famous” Salmon Bake, and contemplated going to this Aerobics night.
Day 6: Fairbanks & North Pole
In the morning, we booked a tour at the Husky Homestead, home of multi-Iditarod winner Jeff King. As soon as the shuttle arrives, they thrust a puppy in your hands to help socialize the dogs.
Then they give you informative speeches about sled dogs as they hook them up to a four wheeler because they’re so fast. All of the litters have themed names, like Joey, Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Phoebe and a Monica, and my personal favorite Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabana. They tell you all about the Iditarod and then show a music video called Idida-rock with singing huskies. Also, fun fact, Siberian huskies are totally useless for mushers, they’re known as the s Victoria Secret models of the husky world.
Since we had conquered Denali and didn’t want to get on another 12 hour tour, we decided to drive the two hours to Fairbanks, the home of the Northern Lights. Fairbanks was weird AF. Do yourself a favor and go directly to the Visitor Center and Log Cabin because they’re the prettiest things in town. We wanted to walk along the Chena River, but there were strung out and/or naked people every couple of feet, so we opted not to. We went to Soapy Smith’s because it offered a pioneer experience, but we just got a waitress who was overwhelmed by two tables and some sub par clam strips.
Since it was close by, we decided to visit North Pole, Alaska, where all the children’s letters to Santa go to die. This town was created by a mastermind, Bon Davis, who thought all the toy companies would want to move their factories there (they didn’t). DO NOT take your child here if you don’t want them to cry and hate you. At least in July, maybe winter is better?
There are some candy canes on the street poles and a giant scary Santa, so…yeah, fun?
We were ready for some normalcy when we got back to Cantwell, so we picked up the most delicious pizza I’ve ever had at Prospector’s, where the Russian hostess told me about her frequency of Midol use.
Day 7: Anchorage Again
We laughed about our adventures and I stared at my ring as we drove back to anchorage to catch the red eye home. Anchorage is actually a very cool town with a vibrant downtown scene, great restaurants and shopping.
We ate at Haute Quarter Grill for our last meal (and would have gotten oysters and champagne at The Bubbly Mermaid had we not been taking a 10 hour flight), and meandered around the town before going to the airport and watching everyone get stopped for knives. Oh yeah, if you come to Alaska you should probably get a knife too.