Summer Festivals in Alaska

state-fair-pumpkinAlaskans like to celebrate Alaskan summers and there is no better way then community events such as festivals and fairs to celebrate the Alaskan way of life. Many towns also have weekly markets that locals and visitors attend as well where you can purchase local produce, seafood, and arts such as Anchorage’s Downtown Weekend Market but today we’ll concentrate on once a summer seasonal fairs and festivals.

The Alaska State Fair is the largest fair in the state and runs 12 days during late August and early September. The State Fair is located in Palmer, Alaska, 50 miles north of Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad offers special train service for the fair but the space is limited so be sure to make reservations. Otherwise we recommend renting a car for the day to visit the Alaska State Fair. For 2014 the fair will run from August 21 to September 1. This fair features the annual Giant Cabbage Weigh Off – the record stands at 138.25 pounds! See many over-sized vegetables caused by the extra hours of daylight this area receives during the growing season. The State Fair offers carnival rides for the young and young at heart. My favorite fair activity is eating! Be sure to try the unique Alaskan fair food like a salmon quesadilla, a grilled reindeer sausage or deep fried halibut. Of course you can also find the more traditional fair food such as corn dogs, pork chops on a stick or a barbecued turkey leg.

Below is a list of dates for fairs and festivals throughout the state. Be sure to wander by if you find yourself in one of these locations at the right time!

May 15-18, 2014 Little Norway Festival Petersburg, Alaska
May 22-27, 2014 Crab Festival Kodiak, Alaska
June 6-29, 2014 Sitka Summer Music Festival Sitka, Alaska
June 20-21, 2014 Midnight Sun Folk Festival Nome, Alaska
June 21-22, 2014 Gold Rush Days Juneau, Alaska
June 22, 2014 Midnight Sun Festival Fairbanks, Alaska
July 4-6, 2014 Pink Salmon Festival Valdez, Alaska
July 4-6, 2014 Girdwood Forest Fair Girdwood, Alaska
July 16-20, 2014 Golden Days Fairbanks, Alaska
July 23-27, 2014 Alaska BearFest Wrangell, Alaska
July 31-Aug 3, 2014 South-east Alaska State Fair Haines, Alaska
August 1-3, 2014 Sitka Seafood Festival Sitka, Alaska
August 1-3, 2014 Salmonstock Music Festival Ninilchik, Alaska
August 1-9, 2014 Tanana Valley State Fair Fairbanks, Alaska
August 15-17, 2014 Kenai Peninsula Fair Ninilchik, Alaska
August 21-Sept 1, 2014 Alaska State Fair Palmer, Alaska

Vacationing with Kids in Alaska

Alaska traditionally has been a vacation destination for retirees who seek to see their first glacier or to experience the scenic wonder of Mt. McKinley. But more and more families are traveling to Alaska. There are a number of great activities to experience in Alaska with children and a couple that are best avoided! Certainly the age of the children you are traveling with will dictate what you can and can’t do but there are many tours and destination suitable for people of all ages.

When booking hotels and excursions within Alaska, keep in mind that the child rate applies to children 11 years of age or younger and those over the age of twelve are considered adults. Another important aspect of traveling with children is becoming familiar with the car seat regulations. If you are traveling with a child under 60 pounds you will need to bring a car seat or booster seat along.

How to Travel
You have many options on how to travel around Alaska with your children. The most economical route is to travel by rental car. This allows you the most flexibility and if you are required to use car seats then you only have to secure them once. However, kids love a train ride as well! I would recommend traveling by car between Anchorage and Denali and then visiting Seward by train and bus. The train ride to Seward is about four hours and is the most scenic stretch of rail-belt in Alaska. (more…)

The McKinley Explorer’s New Alaska Rail Schedule for 2014

In the past, there was only one northbound and one southbound scheduled passenger train between Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. This train route is traditionally called the Denali Star. New for 2014 is a second train traveling the Denali Star route that may be more convenient for some traveler’s schedules.

Alaska RailroadThe Alaska Railroad’s standard Denali Star scheduled service will continue to depart Anchorage at 8:15am and arrive in Denali at 3:40pm. This train service includes the standard Alaska Railroad Adventure class cars and their Goldstar Dome deluxe cars as well as the privately operated Wilderness Express Dome cars which are pulled at the back of the train. The Wilderness Express offers a great value for independent travelers looking for a premium dome service and is highly rated as well. For guests traveling south from Denali, the Alaska Railroad’s standard Denali Star scheduled service will depart at 12:30pm and arrive in Anchorage at 8:00pm.

New for 2014 is that there is an additional rail departure northbound and southbound between Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali that will strictly pull the McKinley Explorer Dome cars owned by Holland America-Princess. The McKinley Explorer is customarily the cars used by Princess and Holland America cruise-tour clients but are also available for independent travelers who book in advance. This rail service offers dome seating, open–air viewing platforms and a full dining room in the lower level of the train car. The McKinley Explorer Dome cars will travel on the same Denali Star route but will depart Anchorage at 9:15am, Talkeetna at noon, and arrive in Denali at 4:40pm. (more…)

Experiencing the Glaciers of South-central Alaska

Matanuska GlacierA glacier is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as a very large area of ice that moves slowly down a slope or valley or over a wide area of land – A fairly bland description of a breathtaking sight! A common Alaska definition of a glacier is a river of ice. Glaciers common to Alaska include tidewater glaciers, hanging glaciers and valley glaciers. Tidewater glaciers flow down mountains and end in the sea, hanging glaciers rest on mountain sides and only descend a part of the way down the mountain and valley glaciers fill mountain valleys.

Glaciers are one of the top Alaskan attractions. Alaska is home to 100,000 glaciers, two-thirds of all of the glaciers on earth. Whether seen from the air, from the water or on a hike, your first sight of a glacier can be an awe-inspiring, humbling experience. It is amazing how accessible these massive rivers of ice can be! Below is a guide to the glaciers of South-central Alaska. (more…)

50th Anniversary of The Great Alaska Earthquake – Sites to Visit

sb-earthquake-park-monumentMarch 27th marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaskan Earthquake, the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America. This 9.2 magnitude quake was the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, the first being the 1960 earthquake in Chile. The earthquake struck at 5:36pm and lasted over four minutes. Strong aftershocks were felt throughout the South-central Alaska region for days and weeks after the initial earthquake.The earthquake itself was responsible for 15 deaths and 124 people perished as a result of subsequent tsunamis. The tsunami death toll includes 5 killed in Oregon and 13 killed by the tsunami in California. (more…)

The Denali Park Village – More Than Just a Name Change

dpr_Village_OutdoorSince its development, the area 7-miles south of the Denali National Park entrance has been called the McKinley Village, the area’s name associated with the McKinley Village Lodge located on an arching river bank cut long ago by the Nenana River. The Village name remains in part, but the owners of the lodge have now replaced “McKinley” with “Denali Park”. This change is welcomed by those who support ridding North America’s tallest peak the name associated with President William McKinley in favor of Denali, the Athabascans’ name meaning “The High One.” The new name is therefore is The Lodge at Denali Park Village.

Denali-River-Cabins-with-KaThe Denali Park Village has expanded to include its former neighbor, the Denali River Cabins, which was purchased by Denali Park Resorts early last winter. The River Cabins, considered an economical, value property in the past with its small cabins located on the Nenana River has been re-branded as The Cabins at Denali Park Village. The Denali Park Village owners have spent the winter freshening up The Cabins’ interiors and replacing the double beds with one king bed. Other amenities include a wall-mounted television, telephone, alarm clock, hair dryer, coffee maker and complimentary Starbucks coffee. You can upgrade to a deluxe cabin that in addition to the standard room amenities also includes a bathrobe, complimentary bottled water, and feature either a wilderness or river view. (more…)

Alaska’s Wilderness Express Dome Rail Service

IMG_7564Travel by rail in Alaska received an infusion when the Wilderness Express was purchased by Alaskan owned and operated Premier Alaska Tours prior to last summer. The Wilderness Express is a deluxe, private dome rail service that travels on the same route and schedule as the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star service between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali and Fairbanks. In fact, it’s attached and beginning this year will act as the “caboose” providing for clear rear views from its outside viewing platform.

Traditionally a rail service that only Celebrity and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line passengers were able to experience, a few independent Alaska visitors traveled on the private dome rail service in 2014 and their reviews were excellent. The dome cars offer 80 leather upholstered seats in the upper dome that recline. The upper dome service also offers a full bar service and espresso bar while the lower dome’s host the restaurant, gift shop, restrooms, and viewing platform. (more…)

Guided Hikes in Alaska

k2-ultimateIf your like most independent visitors coming to Alaska, you are seeking active experiences that thrust you into Alaska’s scenic wilderness. As a result, one of the most popular activities you may take part in are guided hikes into Alaska’s backcountry. Alaska Tour & Travel offers guided hiking tours in Seward, Girdwood, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali State Park, and at Denali National Park and the great news is that when surveying our 2013 clients, we discovered that the guided hikes we offer were among the highest rated tour experiences included in packages. Hiking allows you the opportunity to “get off the beaten path” and to experience Alaskan destinations which even many Alaskan’s haven’t seen. Typically, guided hikes tend to have a smaller maximum number of participants to reduce the impact on the environment. Your safety is always the priority on any professionally guided hiking excursion. Most guiding services keep the guide to hiker ratio to less than six to one, which allows participants to not only to get to know their guides personally, but also provides the guide the opportunity to provide more interpretation about the ecosystem.

Alaska’s wild expanses result not having any two hikes being alike, which is terrific for avid hikers who want to include multiple hiking trips in their trip. Difficulty wise, hikes range from novice hikes which are little more than a walk through the woods to more technical hikes which require participants to suit up with glacial gear while hiking on accessible glaciers. Hikes also range by the means of transport it takes to “being able to hit the trail” – whether the trail head is just outside a lodges front door, a short van ride, a ride on a tram up to the top of a mountain, or by helicopter or float plane to a remote location all of these options are available. Here are a few hikes to consider including in a travel itinerary.


chugach-hikingRising to the east of the City of Anchorage are the Chugach Mountains and one of Alaska’s best state parks – the Chugach State Park. The Anchorage Day Hike provides visitors a chance to explore an alpine environment with beautiful vistas of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet, and on a clear day view as far away as Mt. McKinley. Transportation is included, and the name itself doesn’t do the experience justice as the best thing that the Anchorage Day Hike does is quickly transport you away from the city up into one of Alaska’s most accessible and scenic wilderness areas. Our staff loves spending time in Chugach State Park and the views from our office of the Chugach Mountains beckon us often into the mountains during summer months. Each Anchorage Day Hike is tailored to your fitness level and transportation is included from Anchorage hotels. (more…)

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