It doesn't take much imagination to figure out why this is a "can't miss" for travelers to the North. North Pole is just south of Fairbanks. Visitors usually stop and take a picture with the giant Santa Claus and have their Christmas cards postmarked "North Pole." During the Christmas season, the local post office is besieged with letters to Santa from children all over the world. There is more to North Pole than Santa Claus, however. Visitors should take time explore Chena Lake Recreation Area for boating and swimming.
Astronauts say they can see it from space, but visitors to Alaska don't have to go that far to see one of engineering's modern marvels, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. A trip to Valdez allows the best views of the pipeline as it snakes its way down to the marine terminal at tidewater and unloads its liquid cargo into waiting tankers. This is not the only way to see the pipeline, however. A pipeline viewing area is located just minutes away from Fairbanks and along the Haul Road, a road that parallels the structure.
Mount McKinley (Denali)
Ancient Alaskans called Denali "The High One," for good reason. Towering at 20,320 feet, Mt. McKinley is North America's tallest peak. Glimpses of the mammoth mountain are visible along stretches of the Parks Highway, with designated pullouts providing the best views. Of course, the closer visitors can get to the mountain the better the view, so it's better for them to park at the Denali National Park Visitors Center and hop on a Park Service shuttle bus. On a clear day, the view is majestic.
The Iditarod Trail
Dog mushing is Alaska's official sport, and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog
Race held every March is the longest, toughest test of a professional musher's endurance. Travelers don't have to own a sled to check out the trails traversed by the mushers and their team of dogs. Drive down Joe Reddington Road in Wasilla to see Iditarod Trail Headquarters. Visitors can stroll the famous trail or even take a sled ride with any number of tour operators offering summer and winter trips.
Prince William Sound Glaciers
No trip to Alaska would be complete without glacier viewing. Some of the best access to glaciers is found in Prince William Sound, accessed either in Whittier, Valdez or Cordova. Board the state ferry or private day excursion boats in any of these communities for up close and personal views of these magnificent rivers of ice.
For the history buff, Kennecott Mine is a must. The mine is located off the McCarthy Road and lies within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Perched on the side of Bonanza Ridge next to Kennicott Glacier, the mill town was built by Kennecott Copper Corporation in 1907. When the copper market died down in 1938, the company essentially abandoned the site, leaving it as a virtual ghost town. Tours into some of the historic red buildings are available through private operators.
Homer fisherman call them "barn door" halibut because of their huge size. Of course, not every angler who visits Alaska will catch the big one, but respectable halibut are definitely here for the taking from Alaska's pristine waters. Charter a boat out of Homer, Deep Creek, Dutch Harbor, Seward or many places along the Southeast Inside Passage to the best fishing spots where the delectable flat fish lurks below.
Kodiak Brown Bears
Kodiak Island is home to world famous brown bears. Known for their huge size and large numbers, sighting a Kodiak Brownie is the highlight of more than one traveler's trip to Alaska. Visitors craving views of the big beasts can take the state ferry to Kodiak, book cabins in Katmai National Park and Preserve or hop on one of many privately operated bear-viewing tours.