Although the rugged and formidable terrain of Alaska may intimidate some travelers, brave visitors will be rewarded with endless vistas, stunning mountain peaks and ethereal glaciers. The state's natural beauty is the foundation for many of Alaska's greatest attractions, from the famous Denali to the pristine coastline. Although Alaska's population is sparse, visitors can also find plenty do in the state's larger cities. In these cities, residents and tourists alike can attend frequent festivals, visit art museums and find other entertainment.
Beer drinkers of the world, unite! Join the five thousand that typically convene at this annual beer-tasting held in the dead of winter. Spirits are lifted by 40 breweries serving over 150 beers.
Where: Alaska in Anchorage
Dubbed the "Rondy" for short, this festival is a tradition that dates back to over 3/4 century ago. Trapper and miners used to emerge from the wilderness to compete in survival games. Today, sled dog races, a weight pull, and even outhouse races energize participants.
Where: Anchorage, Alaska in Anchorage
The "Iditarod" is known the world over. The 1,049 sled dog race traverses incredibly inhospitable terrain in places. Zero visibility and high winds do not stop the intrepid competitors. The route re-traces an old mail delivery route from Anchorage to Nome.
Where: Anchorage, Alaska (start) and Willow, Alaska (restart) in Anchorage
Denali National Park and Preserve, located in Alaska's interior, surrounds North America's tallest peak, Denali. Thanks to the national park's bus system, visitors can see many popular highlights in the park, including the peak itself. Narrated tours allow travelers to learn more about the large park and its natural inhabitants, including grizzly bears, moose and caribou.
For those who want to explore another of Alaska's national parks, the Kenjai Fjords National Park is an excellent stop. From the town of Seward, visitors can take guided cruise tours of the national park to see an abundance of marine wildlife, from whales to puffins. Glacier Bay National Park, located near Juneau, features iceberg-filled bays and more than 15 glaciers. Visitors to the isolated park, which can only be accessed by boat or plane, can enjoy camping, hiking, fishing and hunting.
In Anchorage, Alaska's most populated city, visitors can learn more about the state's history at the Anchorage Museum. The museum's permanent exhibits include a gallery of Alaskan history and artwork from locals. Detailed dioramas help guests imagine the daily life of past Alaskan residents. History buffs can also visit the Museum of the North in Fairbanks for another extensive look at Alaska's history. In the “Gallery of Alaska” exhibit, visitors can examine gold nuggets, mammoth tusks and whale bones.
For a more personal look at Alaska's mining history, visitors can take a tour of the El Dorado Gold Mine. At the end of the informative tour, guests are invited to try their luck at panning for gold.
Top destinations for this weekend
Photo credit: Accretion Disc / Ed Yourdon / ahisgett / jseattle / Cecil Sanders / Gattou - Lucie Provencher / Paxson Woelber / Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson / Dave Bezaire / goincarcrazy / Alaskan Dude / adactio / *~Dawn~* / Paxson Woelber / / Beverly & Pack / Harvey McCool / Alaskan Dude / the new world