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Anchorage, Alaska

The past two days I have been at two in-person trade shows in Melbourne and Port Canaveral. It was nice to get out to be amongst suppliers and other Travel Advisors I haven’t seen in over a year.

At Wednesday’s show, we had a speaker from Anchorage, Alaska. I found the presentation especially appealing because they talk about making Anchorage your base camp.

When I usually talk about Alaska, it is about the cruising aspects of Alaska. Today people are looking to get out and travel after being locked down for the past year, and the cruise lines are not sailing just yet. So the alternative to sailing is to go someplace and have a land vacation.

One of the appeals to a cruise is that you unpack once and visit many different places. You are using the ship as a floating hotel. When you go to a destination to set up your base camp you are doing the same thing.

Base camp is the primary place you are staying when you travel. Instead of having a different hotel each night, you get a hotel located in the middle of everything you want to do on your trip. Each day, rather than checking out and moving to another hotel, you take a day trip and then return to the hotel at night.

Anchorage is a great place to set up your base camp because there is so much to do, all within a few hours of the city. It is in the Southcentral part of Alaska. This also includes the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska Valley.

You can take a cruise through the Inside Passage and end in Anchorage (or starting in Anchorage and then going to the Inside Passage) but you will need to plan for a few extra days staying in Anchorage to get the most out of it. This can be done by just booking a hotel/resort pre or post-cruise, or booking a cruise tour through your cruise line.

Cruises sail to Anchorage from May to Mid-September. These are the prime tourism seasons but there is no best time to visit Alaska. Each season holds something different for everyone.

Summer is best if you want the warm weather (between 56 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit). The summer has the longest days and shortest nights in June. You will get to visit snowcapped peaks and lush green landscapes. If you are looking to fish, August and September are great times for salmon fishing in Ship Creek. And if you like to kayak, hike, take day trips to the glaciers, go to markets and festivals; this is an ideal time to visit. If you want to see the Aurora Borealis, its viewing season starts mid-August.

Fall (mid-September through October) is a perfect time to visit if you want to go for the Aurora Borealis as it gets easier and easier to see them the later in the fall you go. This is also the start of the off-season. You will find a lot of value pricing for airfare, lodging, car rentals, and activities. There are also fewer visitors this time of year and you will have more options with fewer people. Temperatures are typically between the mid 50’s and low 40’s during this time of year. This makes it a great time for glacier and wildlife viewing as well.

Winter (November to March) gets down into the 20’s and 30’s. With the Winter Solstice in December, you will have the longest nights and shortest days during this period. Value pricing extends into the winter seasons and the Aurora Borealis is at its most visible during this time. This is a great time to go if you are looking at taking photo tours, go snowmobiling, and experience dog sledding. The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off from downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday of March. And the Fur Randy festival is the last ten days of February.

Spring (April to Mid-May) expect temperatures in the mid 40’s to mid 50’s. You are still in value season at this time but you will feel summer coming right around the corner. Snow is starting to melt now but there are still options for skiing in the mountains. Migratory birds are starting to return and it’s the season for newborn animals including moose, musk oxen, and reindeer.

Anchorage has over 223 municipal parks and 135 miles of trails for you to explore on foot, bike, or on a guided tour.

Alyeska Resort in Girdwood is an adventure playground with scenic tram rides, hiking, downhill mountain biking, and winter season cross-country ski trails, downhill skiing, and snowboarding.

If you are looking for cultural things to do, there are museums and cultural centers. These include the Anchorage Museum, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Aviation Museum, Alaska Veterans Museum, Alaska Law Enforcement Museum, and the Alaska Jewish Museum. For nature lovers, there are the Eagle River Nature Center, Alaska Public Lands Information Center, and Alaska Museum of Science and Nature.

And don’t forget to do some shopping while you are here. There are unique Alaska native arts and crafts stores, local artisans, galleries, and souvenirs galore. And Anchorage has no sales tax!

For those who are not comfortable heading out on their own, there are plenty of tour companies. Some of these companies will offer tours to see the glaciers, Aurora viewing, bike tours, city tours, farm & food tours. If you want to be adventurous, at least five tour operators are operating Eco Adventure Tours including zip lining, glacier jet skiing, kayaking, and more.

Lastly, don’t forget to take a wildlife tour. You came to Alaska, you don’t want to miss the state’s most valuable asset!

There is so much to do in and around Anchorage that you will need several days to see it all. At our presentation the other night the speaker referred to cruises as an introduction to Alaska. He said many people who do cruises come back again for land tours because there is just so much that you can’t see and do while on a ship.