What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

After being cooped up during the pandemic, heading to a place where horizons are your only walls might be just the tonic. And there is no place with more distant, awe-inspiring horizons than Alaska.

But the 2021 Alaska summer tourist season looks a lot different, especially since cruise ships will not be sailing there until at least July. This means most visitors will be coming on their own.

Stuff to know before you go

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Don’t forget about the Canadian border closure. You can avoid roadblocks by doing a little research in advance. Keep in mind that there are very few roads in Alaska, and the southeast part of the state is cut off from the mainland by Canada, whose border remains off-limits to leisure travelers until June 21.

The airlines are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to begin laying the groundwork to reopen it by the end of the month and border city mayors held a virtual meeting with Canadian Public Safety Minister Bill Blair on May 28 about easing COVID-19 cross-border policies once the current restrictions expire on June 21, Niagara Falls, Ontario Mayor Jim Diodati told USA TODAY.

However, the Canadian federal government has yet to confirm any firm plans for easing border restrictions with the U.S. So for the time being, Americans need a compelling reason to visit, a negative COVID test and they have to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days – even if they’re completely vaccinated.

► Get vaccinated in Alaska:You can get your COVID shot in America’s final frontier

► When are Canadian borders reopening? City officials say restrictions could ease this month

► Canadian border: Airline trade groups urge Trudeau government to put border-reopening plans in motion by June 21

You may have to get creative to find a rental car. Because so many agencies sold off their fleets during the pandemic, the rental car situation in Alaska is tight – so tight that Denali National Park rangers are seeing people show up in rented U-hauls.

Of all the cities in Alaska, Anchorage is your best bet for finding a rental car. But if you come up empty, look at peer-to-peer car rental sites such as Turo, which connects people with cars they’re not using with people who need them short-term. The company has safety requirements for participating cars, you can choose the level of insurance you need and rentals come with roadside assistance. You can cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance and they can ever deliver the car to you at the airport.

► Travel tech: These apps can help you find a rental car, campsite or RV for your summer vacation

Two birds, one stone

If you have a hard time finding a hotel room and a rental car, consider renting a small RV near the Anchorage airport. Another option is use a peer-to-peer rental site like Outdoorsy, a sort of Airbnb for campers, RVs and other recreational vehicles.

What to wear

There is an Alaskan saying about summer: Go north to Fairbanks to get warm and south to Anchorage to get cool. Fairbanks hovers around the 80s in the summer while Anchorage tends to be in the 70s.

Denali: A must-see spot

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

You will be cheating yourself if you don’t take the opportunity to see Denali, North America’s highest peak at 20,310 feet. If you’re not able to get a rental, a train ticket on the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park from Anchorage is $176, $325 if the dining car is included.

“Come with flexibility,” advises Sharon Stiteler, a public affairs officer at Denali National Park.

Though Denali Park Road extends 92 miles into the park, most tour busesonly go as far as Eielson Visitor Center, located 66 miles into the park. The tour buses are operated by Doyon Aramark, which sells tickets online. The $162 adult fare includes park admission. The ride goes through bear country with abundant moose and caribou. Denali itself can be viewed at various advantage points and is spectacular.

Backcountry permits (available now through Sept. 22) are free, but you will have to pay the entrance fee ($15) and the price of the transit bus (Doyon Aramark fares). You will also have to attend a backcountry orientation session and reserve your pass at least two days in advance but no more than 14 days before your planned start date.

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Fairbanks: The ‘real Alaska’

How to get there: From Denali, Fairbanks is 4 hours by rail and about 2½ by car. Many Alaskans describe Fairbanks as “the real Alaska”. The gold rush never ended here with corporate and individual working gold mines. It is a city of construction, gold and oil – as well as home to Alaska’s primary university.

What to do: The university’s Museum of the North has a vast collection of Native and natural exhibits including Blue Babe, a preserved 36,000-year-old bison. You can also sail the river by old-fashioned paddle boat and tour Gold Dredge 8, learning how gold is mined in Alaska’s interior which differs from elsewhere. For gearheads, there’s the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, which has 70 working antique automobiles.

Where to eat and drink: Recommended places to eat include the Turtle Club, Silver Gulch Brewery and Restaurant, Ivory Jack’s and Chatanika Lodge with its 1956 Thunderbirds. They are all located just outside of town.

Fairbanks’ watering holes can be intimidating but two that ought to be experienced are the Howling Dog Saloon and Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn, both just outside of town.

Anchorage: Alaska’s best eats

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Best breweries, bar none: Anchorage is home to a multitude of breweries while boasting of watering holes like Chilkoot Charlie’s (aka Koot’s), the Peanut Farm Sports Bar & Grill, Humpy’s, F Street Station, McGinley’s Pub and Alaska’s ultimate dive bar, Darwin’s Theory.

Fine dining in America’s last frontier: For foodies in search of upscale dining, the city offers Jen’s, Simon & Seafort’s, Glacier Brewhouse, and Kincaid Grill with casual offerings at Moose’s Tooth, Snow City Café’, Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Gwennie’s Old Alaska Restaurant.

Must-see seafood stops: Girdwood to the south has the eclectic Double Musky Inn, serving Alaskan seafood New Orleans-style, and Seven Glaciers, perched on top of the surrounding mountain peaks, where the aerial tram deposits passengers.

Relax and take in the view: Fancy Moose Lounge at Millennium Hotel’s Lakefront offers patrons panoramic views of Lake Hood, the landing spot for float planes when returning from the Alaskan Bush.

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Souvenir stop: Anchorage is a unique city in a unique location offering unique shopping. One place is Oomingnak downtown. A cooperative owned by 250 Native women, the store sells qiviut products. The inner wool of muskox, and roughly eight times warmer than wool, the light weight qiviut is offered in the form of sweaters, scarfs, and the like.

Juneau: Explore on the cheap

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Getting around: Juneau is the entryway to Southeast Alaska with most places open save for a few restaurants along the waterfront, which are closed awaiting the return of cruise ship traffic. In the event you can’t find wheels, Juneau is a good place to explore car-free. The city’s bus system, Capital Transit, is excellent. You can go virtually anywhere for $2.

Instagrammable spot: Juneau is fractured into more than one town. The University of Alaska Southeast is located in the quaint town of Auke Bay, one of the most photo-worthy places in Alaska.

Hike through history: Douglas is across the bridge from Juneau. You can hike the ruins of the Treadmill Mine, once the most productive gold mine in the U.S.

Haunted hospitality: Downtown Juneau’s Imperial Saloon was where poet Robert Service witnessed a shooting, inspiring his “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” The Red Dog Saloon has Wyatt Earp’s pistol. The Alaskan Hotel is supposedly haunted, but with a great 19th-century bar.

Food with a view: Hangar on the Wharf has some of the best views in Alaska while you eat. Douglas’ Island Pub has a reputation for fine, hand-crafted pizza. And the Sand Bar and Grill near Auke Bay has the best halibut in the state.

Everywhere in between

From Juneau, float plane services are eager to fly you over the southeast Alaskan fjords while the Alaska ferry system can send you off to small rubber-boot fishing ports dotting the region. If you go to Skagway, do not miss the Red Onion Saloon, which operated as a former brothel during the Klondike Gold Rush.

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

For scenery, the drive between Anchorage and Valdez is the best in Alaska, bracketed by the volcanic Wrangell Mountains. Valdez offers several boat tours of Prince William Sound. You can also take in Columbia Glacier and seal haul-outs. Recommended is Captain Freddie’s Lu-Lu Belle, a small craft that will get you close and personal with glaciers and seals for $150 a person.

► Tiny TikTok town: How almost everyone in Whittier, Alaska, lives under one roof

The one thing you can’t do in summer

What to expect when visiting Alaska in the summer: Where to go and the one thing you won't see

Sadly, one sight unavailable during the Alaskan summer is the Northern Lights. The lights go on year around, but with Alaska’s 20-hour summer daylight, they are almost impossible to view.

News Related

OTHER NEWS

Pro-Trump senator suggests FBI knew more than it has revealed about Capitol riot

Republican senator Ron Johnson suggested in a private conversation on Saturday, without evidence, that the FBI knew more about the planning before the January 6 Capitol riot than it has ... Read more »

CDC says travelers should avoid Greece, Ireland and other destinations, regardless of vaccination status

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising travelers to stay away from Greece, Ireland, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other destinations, regardless of vaccination status. The agency bumped ... Read more »

One Perfect Night For Couples In Chicago

Downtown city buildings and skyline over the Chicago River at night in Illinois USA getty In a metropolis like Chicago, it’s an easy task to come up with an ideal ... Read more »

Top Things To Do In Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia’s Pitons getty Geothermal activity, dramatic mountain views, dense rainforests, volcanic sand beaches and multi-hued coral reefs allure travelers to the island of Saint Lucia, located in the West ... Read more »

Are You In The Shrinking Global Middle Class?

A new tool can calculate your standing in the world. getty For anyone who has sometimes wondered just how well off they are compared to everyone else in the world, ... Read more »

No Vax, No Service: Here's Where Bars And Restaurants Across U.S. Are Requiring Proof Of Vaccination

Road tripping in the US? Don’t leave home without your vaccination card. getty Road tripping through the U.S.? Don’t leave home without your CDC vaccination card. In just the past ... Read more »

Architects Help Ensure A Stress-Free Travel Experience

Innovative designs by creative architects can reduce stress. CallisonRTKL Is it possible to travel stress-free these days? Considering the uncertainty that still looms large throughout the world, it may be ... Read more »

The Stunning Norse-Inspired English Church Of Balestrand, Norway

St. Olaf’s Church is an eye-catching landmark in the village of Balestrand in Norway. getty At first glance, St. Olaf’s Church in the idyllic Sognefjord village of Balestrand looks like ... Read more »

Alaska Airlines' biggest sale of the year starts today with $99 flights to Hawaii

Alaska Airlines is offering $89 flights to Mexico and $99 flights to Hawaii as part of its biggest sale of the year. The three-day sale started today and runs until ... Read more »

JetBlue Launches New York To London Service August 11 Despite Lingering Pandemic

First Airbus A321LR delivered to Jetblue for transatlantic flights to begin August 11,2021. Airbus You have to give JetBlue some credit for sticking to its plans. Despite a summer airline ... Read more »

GO NZ: Top tips for a West Auckland winter weekend

It’s still Auckland but proudly moves to its own beat, writes Alexia Santamaria The area where West and North Auckland converge is a glorious eclectic mix of art, wine, good ... Read more »

New York Luxury Brand NoMad Launches First European Hotel In London Police Station

Magistrates Court, now a Ballroom at NoMad, London Sydell Group Chic hotel brand NoMad has launched its first property outside of the United States in London in the historic, grade ... Read more »

Travel trouble Tuesday: American, Spirit cancel hundreds of flights for third consecutive day

American Airlines and Spirit Airlines have canceled nearly 600 Tuesday flights, the third consecutive day of major travel trouble for the airlines’ passengers. American, which is still struggling to recover ... Read more »

Night Train Service Expands In Europe

A photo taken on May 24, 2021 shows a Nightjet train waiting for departure during the media event … [+] ‘Start for the new Nightjet to Amsterdam’ by the Austrian ... Read more »

Puerto Rico cautiously welcomes first cruise since COVID-19, Carnival's biggest ship yet

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Carnival Mardi Gras docked Tuesday in Puerto Rico — the first time a cruise ship has visited the U.S. territory since the pandemic began. ... Read more »

Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of law, AG report finds

ALBANY, NY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women in violation of state and federal laws as well as the executive chamber’s own written policies, according to a long-anticipated ... Read more »

In Photos: 75 Years Of Scandinavian Airline SAS

A crew portrait in front of Sverre Viking DC-6 in 1955. SAS 75 years ago this year, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) completed its inaugural intercontinental flight from Stockholm to New ... Read more »

On Washington's Coast, Seabrook Aims To Be The Perfect Beach Town

Seabrook’s recipe for coastal living: Incorporate the best elements of small-town life and let the … [+] endorphins flow. Seabrook Close your eyes for a minute and picture your ideal ... Read more »

Trolltunga: Iconic Norway Rock To Host Weddings

Norway’s Trolltunga (the Troll’s Tongue) rock formation attracts thousands of hikers every summer. getty A Danish couple are to become the first people to get married at one of Norway’s ... Read more »

Cap Rocat Mallorca - Sustainable Luxury In A Historic Location

Cap Rocat Mallorca is a place where history resonates. As a former military fort, it takes full advantage of its elevated position in a secluded yet strategic location on a ... Read more »

20 Best Bird Photos Of The Year: A Peek At Audubon's Top 100 Winners

A fuzzy, mottled Black-necked Stilt chick stands beneath its mother, which has a white underbelly … [+] and stabilizes the fuzzy chick with one long pink leg.. San Joaquin Wildlife ... Read more »

60% Of Unvaccinated Americans Blame Travelers For The Covid Surge

Six in 10 unvaccinated Americans think travelers are responsible for the current surge in Covid cases. getty One of the most interesting takeaways from the latest Ipsos survey is who ... Read more »

Inside Christian Dior's Château De La Colle Noire - The By Invitation Only Gem In Provence, France

Maison Christian Dior has completed a loving and respectful restoration of founder Christian Dior’s former residence – the Château de La Colle Noire and I have been fortunate to experience ... Read more »

'We can accidentally love our parks to death': How to protect crowded national parks

America’s most popular national parks are seeing a record number of visitors, and that’s a problem. “We can accidentally love our parks to death,” Sen. Angus King of Maine, chair ... Read more »

The Luxury Travel Essentials You Didn't Know You Needed

A luxury trip calls for luxury essentials getty From scented mask spray from Japan to a pro-level suitcase just for your makeup, these are the must-have travel essentials for your ... Read more »

This Design-Forward Catskills Hideaway Is The Antidote To New York City Living

Piaule Catskill Sean Davidson As more urbanites venture beyond the confines of their high-rise apartments and buzzing city blocks, Hudson Valley—with its open acreage and tree-lined terrain—presents an attractive opportunity ... Read more »

Inside The (Surprising) Historic Building Home To The NoMad's First International Location

NoMad London Atrium ©simonupton Originally a courthouse, police station, and jail (with occupants including Oscar Wilde, the Kray Twins, Vivienne Westwood, and more) for over 266 years, London’s former Bow ... Read more »

These gorgeous gardens across the U.S. are ready to transport you to faraway lands

Big and small alike, public gardens can be naturally transformative, offering a close-to-the-earth, soulful respite to workaday life. These gardens feature more than just the familiar sensory delights; they also ... Read more »

On the sesh in Herefordshire with the ultimate food and drink tour

Lemore Estate dates back to 1640 (Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire) Numerous studies from across the globe have revealed that many of us are carrying extra pounds since the start of ... Read more »

The best spa hotels in the UK for a relaxing staycation

South Lodge in Horsham, West Sussex (South Lodge) Relaxing spa hotel staycations will soon be back on the travel agenda when properties open from 17 May in England, although confusingly, ... Read more »

What are UK hotels doing behind the scenes to tackle coronavirus?

Hotels are taking extra measures to keep guests safe (Getty) “I keep telling them to shout about what they’re doing, because lots of them aren’t right now,” says Jane Pendlebury, ... Read more »

The most extraordinary new hotels opening in 2021

Kruger Shalati on the Selati Bridge (Kruger Shalati) We can all agree that 2020 has been an awful year that we can’t wait to see the back of. For travel, ... Read more »

The best Airbnbs in the Cotswolds for all tastes and styles

Asphodel Cottage (Airbnb/Asphodel Cottage) Is there anywhere that feels quite as quintessentially English as the Cotswolds? With its patchwork of thatched cottages, charming churches and sleepy villages, this is famously ... Read more »

The best all-American experiences

The ultimate way to see Sin City: from a chopper (Maverick Helicopter) Planning a bucket list-worthy American holiday? Although it looks like the US-UK travel corridor won’t be opening this ... Read more »

How cruises will change after coronavirus

Cruising will change in many ways post-Covid (Getty Images) The multibillion pound cruise industry, which normally carries 30 million people a year on the world’s oceans and rivers, has been ... Read more »

11 Irish towns you need to visit that aren't Dublin or Belfast

Views over Galway City (Getty Images/iStockphoto) When visiting Ireland, on the hunt for history, scenery and, of course, “the craic”, people usually head for the two capitals: Belfast and Dublin. ... Read more »

Swimmers asked to stop bathing naked at a beach on Norway's Glomma River

Some local residents aren’t too happy with the skinny dipping. Others say being naked is natural and good for self-esteem. Bathers from all over the district and beyond come to ... Read more »

Explore Vancouver Island, Canada With Magnolia Hotel & Spa's Flavour Trails

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada has an incredible array of food, wine and activity trails RoamTravelPR-0950, Magnolia Hotel & Spa Now that Canada has started to ease travel restrictions and opened ... Read more »

Into Africa—The Return Of Safari…Now What To Wear?

From South Africa’s Kruger National Park to the Eden of Botswana’s Okavango Delta to the vast plains of the Serengeti, travelers are ditching lockdowns and are, instead, choosing to socially ... Read more »

These small historic restaurants serve the classics – and their communities

Historic sites aren’t limited to battlefields or stately homes. Sometimes, they can be as surprising as a sushi bar. A new grant program sponsored by the National Trust for Historic ... Read more »