Sometimes even the best itineraries end up with some extra time. Maybe it’s just an hour to spare, or perhaps an entire afternoon. Either way, don’t waste a second of your Alaska vacation! Turn your downtime into an adventure with these fun, last-minute ideas.
Walk it out
The best way to experience Alaska is often on foot. What other mode of transportation allows you to take your time and truly experience the views? Alaska may be mountainous, which can make for some pretty serious hikes, but there’s plenty of flat land for a casual stroll.
In Anchorage, check out the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. It offers views of both Cook Inlet and the city. Follow it far enough and you’ll end up at Kincaid Park, which boasts more than 80 miles of multi-use trails. You could spend a few minutes or the entire day exploring the park.
If you want to stay right in midtown Anchorage, hit the Chester Creek Trail. The tall trees will make you forget you’re in the middle of Alaska’s largest city, but you’ll never be far from your next destination. Anchorage also boasts some beautiful parks like Delaney Park at the edge of downtown, Point Woronzof and so many more.
In Juneau, a short hike can mean glacier views and wildlife viewing opportunities. Right next to the airport, the paved Mendenhall Wetlands Refuge Trail makes it easy for bikes and strollers, and if you like birds, you’re in luck! You can also hit the Salmon Creek Trail for a view of the reservoir and prime berry picking on the way.
If you’re farther north in Fairbanks, rollerblade along the Chena Riverwalk for a view of historic downtown Fairbanks or hit the Granite Tors Trail for views of tors, unusual rock formations that formed 70-90 million years ago. For year-round activities in the Golden Heart City, try the Chena River State Recreation Area. Depending on the time of year, you could experience dog sledding, rock climbing, berry picking or hiking.
Step into another place
If your itinerary is packed full of outdoor adventures already, you may want to spend your extra time indoors. Alaska if full of history and art and there are many museums and galleries that simply shouldn’t be missed.
Beginning in Anchorage, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great place to learn more about the cultures that have shaped Alaska. Anchorage is also home to many museums that feature all of the things that influenced life today in the 49th state, from the Anchorage Museum to the Alaska Veterans Museum to the Alaska Aviation Museum. Each offers its own special perspective on the state’s history.
If you have more than a few hours of free time, head down to Girdwood and visit Crow Creek Historic Gold Mine or the Roundhouse at the top of Mount Alyeska at Alyeska Resort (you can hike up there, but the tram is a lot faster). Small towns like Girdwood really landed on the map when miners struck gold, and these two sites share both the historical and current mining culture of the area.
Farther north in Fairbanks, the University of Alaska Museum of the North offers a window into Alaska Native cultures, Alaska wildlife and stunning natural wonders of the state. Even the grounds of the museum are an exhibit filled with historical artifacts, carvings and towering sculptures. The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center is another great stop for Alaska Native art, music and culture.
If you ever wondered how Alaska’s state capital ended up all the way on the panhandle of the state, head to The Alaska State Museum and Last Chance Mining Museum in Juneau. A visit to these museums will answer that question and more!
When you’ve explored and learned all you can, it’s time to fuel up! Alaska residents move to the state from all over the world and everyone who has ended up here bring their own flavor – literally. With local access to some of the best flavors and ingredients in the world, traditional dishes often get an Alaska twist. Walk into any restaurant and you’re sure to find at least a few specialty items. You can check Yelp or TripAdvisor for suggestions, but sometimes it’s more fun to take a walk down the street and stroll into a local joint for dinner.
For a truly local taste of Alaska, stop by the nearest farmer’s market during the summer months. Alaska grows some of the biggest vegetables in the world due to the abundance of daylight in the summertime. Pick up some healthy snacks or gather local ingredients to create your own dish.
If you’re still looking for something to do, stop just about anyone on the street. Alaskans love to talk about all the incredible things the state has to offer and they’re sure to have unique suggestions to help you fill your day.