Which one of us has not envisioned drinking a steaming coffee as the green waves of the Aurora Borealis crests across the starry night like a wave against the shore, flying over miles of untouched countryside, or feeling the fresh ocean breeze as a pod of whales swim in the distance? I invite you to join me on a life-changing journey, through several rich day trips just outside some of Alaska’s most popular cities.
Beware of Bears at Denali
Photo by Greg Smith
The sign reads, “Welcome to Fairbanks,” as we arrive in this snowy town. We head straight to our hotel to check in and get some rest because we are going to jam pack a lot of adventure in to the next few days. For our first day trip, we drive a couple of hours outside of Fairbanks to Denali National Park. This massive park will treat you to over 7,000 square miles of glaciers, forest and mountains. On any drivethrough the winding dirt roads, you risk a chance encounter with a grizzly bear, wolf or moose. During my trip, we came across a “Beware of Bears” sign, the metal sign slashed down the middle a couple hours before by a bear that apparently didn’t agree with its warning. Spending a day in Denali’s varied landscape and getting a glimpse of Mount McKinley (locally known as Denali), the tallest mountain in North America, is an excellent way to spend your first day in Alaska.
Stand literally on top of the world
Photo by the US Geological Survey
As we wake up for our second-day trip, we board a small plane and enjoy Alaska’s natural beauty from the air before landing above the Arctic Circle and jumping out of the plane. We are literally standing on top of the world. Going for a small hike, we get to experience the vast arctic tundra first hand. After a few hours, we jump in the bus. We sit in silent admiration as we enjoy a scenic drive and say goodbye to the Arctic Circle and head back to Fairbanks to relax in our hotel and soak in the memories of an epic day.
Free seats to the greatest light show on earth
We spend our last night in Fairbanks watching the spectacular Northern lights, which are only seen in winter. In order to experience this natural wonder in all its glory, we need to venture beyond the city lights. You will not even mind the bite of the cold when you have a front row seat for Mother Nature’s greatest light show, as the sky bursts forth with shades of emerald green and bright yellow.
Watch the biggest mammals on earth hang ten
Photo by Ruth Clark
We head to the city of Seward and make it our base camp for the day as we embark on our next day trip: whale watching. Thousands of whales flock to Alaska’s waters to feed, making this the perfect opportunity for us to jump on a boat for our whale-watching day trip. Out on the cold, blue waters off the Alaskan coast, you get a personal encounter with one of the largest mammals on the planet. You’ll never forget watching a pod of humpback whales swimming around your boat or the powerful Orca caught in limbo between sky and water as it explodes out the ocean before you very eyes. Alaska is one of the best places in the world to go whale watching!
Cruise by mammoth walls of ice and snow
Photo by Marc Lundy
We have to depart from Anchorage for our last unforgettable day trip, glacier watching. We find ourselves face to face with gigantic walls of snow and ice. We hear a creak and a groan, and a mammoth chuck of ice starts breaking away, sliding down the side and barreling towards the ocean creating a massive splash and a wave that breaks against the cruise ship. Everyone has seen the videos of huge blocks of ice calving from glaciers, but nothing does it justice like seeing it in person. With beautiful landscapes, untamed wildlife and tall glaciers, Alaska’s day trips call to the adventurousness that’s is in all of us. If you are looking for an action-packed vacation and wild experiences in North America, Alaska is a destination that is hard to beat.