Following up on part one of our Alaska in September post, we’ve decided to post the summary of our itinerary for anyone who might be thinking of going. The first thing we did differently than most was flying directly into Anchorage vs. taking a cruise ship. Cheril planned this entire trip and wanted to see as much as possible in two weeks, but not so much that it felt jam packed with no time to just be. That was a large part of this trip, after all, to be (mostly) free of distraction and enjoy this little corner of the world in all of its natural beauty.
We wrote off the first day of our arrival to just sleep and get acclimated to the new time zone. We’d already learned from our European blitz last fall that it was better to do it that way then to try jump right into a bunch of activities. The fact that we arrived in Anchorage at 1 am made it easy to just go to sleep until morning.
We took it easy, picking up our rental car and just driving around downtown Anchorage. We checked out the Alaska Heritage Museum, which seemed oddly placed inside a Wells Fargo building (with no big sign outside to tell you that it’s in there). The attendant inside was really friendly, however, and the place was filled with artifacts despite its size.
Later that evening we headed over to Marx Bros Cafe for Monica’s birthday dinner. The food was excellent and the service was great. The only ding would be that it’s really small. We had an entire room for ourselves for a while, but when another party came in that kind of killed the atmosphere for us. It’s still a great restaurant, however, just not a lot of space.
The next day is when the fun of sightseeing began! We drove from Anchorage to Whittier for a Glacier Cruise.
This would be the part of the trip that was cold for obvious reasons! lol
The rain didn’t help much either. We both had on at least two layers of everything. Fortunately for us, the ship that we were on made it easy to go on and off the deck to view. Lunch and unlimited hot tea was also provided for the duration. It was a half-day cruise and we highly recommend it. The glaciers aren’t as big as they once were but they are still awe-inspiring once you get up close to them. It was on this cruise that we spotted the first bald eagle perched in a tree. Other cruisers said they saw a mountain goat too, but we couldn’t spot it.
We headed to Alyeska resort after this trip, which was the best place we stayed during our entire vacation. We liked it so much that we canceled another booking we had elsewhere to return for another night!
The location, the staff, the rooms, the wildlife…everything. We loved this place. It’s here that took a tram ride to the side of a mountain and then hiked even further up so Monica could meditate in magnitude and solitude. It’s here that we saw people paragliding and made that another thing that we want to learn to try. It’s here that Cheril took another step in being less afraid of heights. What a big jump for her!
From Alyeska, we hopped back on the scenic Seward Highway (one of America’s most scenic roads) toward Seward for a day. It’s less glamorous but has its own selling points. We will admit though, it was hard going from Alyeska to Best Western, which was the best lodging option we could find in Seward. But to be fair, the staff was very friendly and some of the best food we had on this trip was at a restaurant recommended by the front desk of the Best Western. Points for that!
Seward was a part of the trip just build in for exploring and not overdoing it with an itinerary. We did spring for a wilderness dog sled ride, which was a lot of fun. Not only did we get a ride, we got to learn more about the dogs, the competitions and how they survive, and we also get to interact with some puppies.
After Seward, we headed back to Alyeska for that extra night to break up the drive to Denali. We stopped at the Wildlife Conservation Center on the way, which is a safe place to get great photos of wildlife. We saw bears, reindeer, bison, elk and so much more! This guy, however, was ready for his close up!
This is a great spot for a leisurely look at wildlife.
Anyway, we took our time heading up to Denali National Park for a few days. We can’t say anything about this “park” that hasn’t been said already. In one word, it is “majestic.” You must go. We saw bears in their own habitat, dall sheep, eagles, moose and more. Denali felt like the answer to the question, “what did the earth look like before it was developed by man?” Incredible.
Denali was also the place in the trip where the weather was the most fickle. We took a tour to the mountain top and it was snowing up there!
After a few days there, we headed to Fairbanks, our last stop before going home. It took longer than estimated because we just kept pulling over to take in all the beauty. We suggest budgeting in an extra hour or so for just appreciating the views. Alaska will make you fall in love with driving again if you’ve forgotten how enjoyable it can be (due to living or working in big cities).
We saw even saw a moose along the way.
It was just hanging out on the side of the road. We also stopped at Thunderbird Falls on the way to Fairbanks (after getting a tip from someone we met at Alyeska).
This was a gorgeous waterfall that we pretty much had to ourselves. Since we had on waterproof shoes, we actually went in it. Not to get too new agey or tree huggerish, but it felt good to be one with nature. lolFinally, we arrived in Fairbanks where we stayed at the Westmark Hotel. This part of the trip was too short. We would have liked an extra day to explore the area but just didn’t have it to spare. While in Fairbanks we found a little ice museum that was pretty cool. We got to see ice carving demonstrations, to look at sculptures and to be big kids again and go down an ice slide. This is a small museum but pretty decent for a random add-on activity to your trip.
What we wanted to do but didn’t get a chance to, was visit the Chenna Hot Springs. Maybe next time. Before we knew it, it was time to leave this beautiful state.
There are few places that we like enough to visit more than once. We have to say that Alaska has made that short list. We will definitely be back, next time in the summer. We want to experience the midnight sun and spend more time doing different kinds of activities. Alaska, for us, was really rejuvenating. It was just what we needed when we needed it. We highly recommend it if you need a break from the hustle and bustle that has become the norm for way too many of us.
This blog is already really long so we’ll wrap it up here. As always, thanks for reading.
Until Next Time,
Cheril and Monica
PS: Let us know what you think of your trip or if you want to go to Alaska. We’d love to hear your experience.