Every turn on the Denali park road heralds some new astonishment. Watch for ptarmigan, Alaska's state bird, in the open valleys and golden eagles patrolling the higher elevations and ridge tops. With luck, you'll see grizzlies crossing braided streams, Dall sheep traversing rugged cliffs and moose foraging in upland meadows. Listen to ravens, magpies and gray jays chattering in the brush. And always present, there looms Mount McKinley, raising its massive alabaster bulk high above the surrounding plain.
If you didn't know any better, you'd think Glacier Bay ostentatious for the way it flaunts its ice. The glaciers practically terminate in your lap. A cruise to Glacier Bay National Park with Holland America Line will show you a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects a unique ecosystem of plants and animals living in concert with an ever-changing glacial landscape.
When a monumental chunk of ice splits off a glacier and thunders into the sea the impact shoots water hundreds of feet into the air. You hold your breath as you catch the moment on film. Then you wait for it all to happen again. And it does: Glacier Bay has more actively calving tidewater glaciers than anyplace else in the world.
Anchorage flaunts its mountains: The Chugach seem to rise just like that out of the backyards of city's eastern neighborhoods. So much of the rest of the scenery is water. The west of the city is bounded by the Cook Inlet, the north and south by its two major branches: the Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm. Hit Anchorage on the solstice and enjoy the restaurants, saloons, museums and galleries in round-the-clock sunshine. Extend your stay and take advantage of the many optional tours that spotlight Alaska's history, culture and outdoor lifestyle.
Fairbanks is the northernmost city of consequence in the United States and cruise to Alaska with Holland America Line gives you the chance to head deep into the heart of the Great Northland. The city's location on the broad Tanana River plain between the White Mountains and the Alaska Range affords easy passage to the Arctic Circle and the Alaskan wild country.
If you could watch the history of Vancouver as a time-lapse movie, you'd see the creation of a sawmill and a community that grew up around it, which then became the townsite of Granville. Then comes the railroad, and development of the great natural harbor. Then: a sudden linkage to the Orient, Eastern Canada, and Europe. Immigrants come, business blooms, and the skyscrapers rise up along Burrard Inlet, always with the mountains visible in the spaces between the buildings. Go for the galleries, boutiques, public markets, and restaurants of every flavor. Visit vibrant Chinatown and Stanley Park, with its 1,000 acres of forests, gardens, lakes and lawns in the heart of the city.
In the summer of 1896, a small cadre of prospectors making their way along Bonanza Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, stumbled upon huge quantities of gold. Word of the discovery spread slowly until the next summer, when word hit Seattle and San Francisco. The Klondike Gold Rush ignited, and the town of Dawson sprang into being to serve the floodtide of prospectors. Located at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike rivers, Dawson is now a National Historic Site that has turned back the clock to preserve a rich living history. Meander the wooden boardwalks with costumed townsfolk ready to share their home and its national historic treasures.
Whitehorse is where thousands of Stampeders traveling down the Yukon River to Dawson met the most treacherous obstacle on the entire route -- the Whitehorse Rapids. Nearly 300 boats were dashed to bits on the rocks, but nothing stopped the flow of miners to the Klondike. Take in the ss Klondike National Historic Site. This park evokes the days when riverboats brought virtually all goods and many newcomers into the region. It is the final resting place of the ss Klondike II, the largest and last of the great Yukon River sternwheelers.
Some of the aspiring Klondike gold rushers who made it to Skagway took a look at the 500-mile journey that still lay ahead of them and decided a change of profession was in order. So many of them set up shop as provisioners that Skagway was the largest city in Alaska by the end of the 19th century. Booms fade and dreams move on, but the glory days still reverberate through the town. Ride the antique White Pass & Yukon narrow-gauge railway, step into the Red Onion Saloon or peruse the restored buildings and wooden boardwalks of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
Ketchikan clutches the shores of the Tongass Narrows, with many shops and houses built right out over the water. The stairways are weathered and the vibe is cheerful in the town that calls itself the Salmon Capital of the World. Besides the main attractions Creek Street, the Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Village try a flightseeing trip to Misty Fjords National Monument. These deepwater fjords were gouged out by retreating glaciers, leaving granite cliffs towering thousands of feet above the sea and countless waterfalls plunging into placid waters.
April - September