There is definitely a reason Alaska is on 90 percent of peoples bucket list and I’m happy to say I discovered a handful of them, very, very easily! Besides seeing snow fall for the very first time and the magic of that alone, there is an overwhelming amount of magic in the air, the people and the things to do in Alaska in general.
I was lucky enough to bump heads with Alaska’s best one-stop-shop tour guide, Lynne, from A+ Dog Sled Excursions and Tours to help me along the way in discovering the beauty of the Great Northern State! Lynne is a true Alaskan lover and finds joy in showing others the beauty of her home, with a sweet disposition and relentless approach to “the experience” you won’t walk away with anything less than pure satisfaction. So, you want to know what we got up to? Let’s hit my top things to do in Alaska!
- Aurora Borealis / Northern Lights
Okay, who am I kidding, I’ll play favourites. Of course, this is my number one! In fact, it’s probably the most common reason people take the journey to the Last Frontier specifically to catch a glimpse, an epic photo and a dazzling time lapse of this natural wonder!
Tip: learn your camera before going or invest in a camera that will take great night time captures. Double Tip: you want a little bit of backlight coming from somewhere, you don’t want to use flash and it can’t be over bright, but enough dim light to be able to see what your capturing and really bring out those colours (we used the lights on in the living room from the house and captured this beauty abover our AirBnB.)
We also saw them coming down from the Arctic Circle with Lynne from A+Dog Sled Excursions and Tours and again when she took us to Chena Hot Springs, I’ll always remember her saying “Whistle at them, it makes them dance!”
The best was watching them from our bedroom window erupting up into the sky like a shooting beam of light and then fading into a dance as it wiggled across the night sky. Absolutely magical and a definite highlight when considering your things to do in Alaska!
- Arctic Circle Tour with A+ Dog Sled Excursions
This was amazing for photo ops and seeing a whole bunch of sightseeing and Alaskan history in one day! I would definitely recommend this as a must for things to do in Alaska and it’s also one of the most popular tours on Trip Advisor.
We start off in the morning and our first stop is the Alaska Pipeline which runs across the whole state! If you’re tall enough (or someone can give you a boost!) you can touch the pipeline and feel the oil running through it. We then drove up the Dalton Highway and had some great photo ops of some amazing scenic Alaskan landscapes!
We then were on a race with the sun to catch a glimpse of the Yukon River which spans across both Alaska and Canada, we made it for dusk and still got a clear view, enjoyed a hot chocolate before continuing our journey to the Arctic Circle.
Once you reach the Arctic Circle, Lynne prepares sandwiches and everyone gets a certificate saying you made it to the Arctic Circle, we drive over the circle and can either have two options of 1) driving back or 2) if snow permits, staying overnight at a nearby log cabin and watching the Northern Lights.
Unfortunately for us, we didn’t have enough snow that day but we did see our first glimpse of the Northern Lights when we headed back down and were definitely sure to give them a wink and a whistle!
- Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?
Come on let’s go and plaaaaaay! So it was our first time in snow, we wanted to do snow EVERYTHING, snow angels, snow fights and SNOWMEN! But, what we didn’t know, was Alaska is full of dry snow. What does this mean you ask? It means it took an hour and a half to build a snowman.
Lynne informed us later it should only take 10 minutes but Alaskan snow doesn’t stick together, but both her and our AirBnB owner were super impressed we even managed to build one. The only one who wasn’t too impressed was Cooper the chocolate Labrador, which he demonstrated by picking a fight with Ol’ Frosty and digging him undone 😉
- Dance in the Snow among Alaskan Trees
Baby, it’s cooooold outsiiiide. Well, that’s the point of an Alaska trip! So get on those beanies and heat-thermal gloves and go dancing in the snowflakes in the nearby woodlands, open your tongue out to catch the snow fall and BE IN THE SNOW!
You didn’t come to Alaska to complain about the cold, so go and enjoy it, because when you’re sweltering at the beach, applying your sunblock, you’re going to look back and reflect about your snow dancing, catching snowflakes and feeling snow fall on your shoulder as you brush past the tree branches and twirl around in the magic that’s raining down around you!
This was quite literally one of the funnest days of my life and one of the most amazing things to do in Alaska. We went with Lynne from A+ Dog Sled Excursions and Tours down to Quartz Lake for some fresh salmon Ice Fishing! Could not have been more nervous driving out the car onto the lake but after needing to drill down 9 inches of solid ice just to make a fishing hole made us quickly realize we were perfectly safe from my fear of falling through ice.
In fact, we were SO safe that the holes we made even kept freezing over and we would have to scoop the fresh ice out to keep our fishing lines from freezing in the hole!
After our holes were drilled the boys moved the tent over so we could be indoor with some hot cocoa and our baited rods, the lake wasn’t very deep where we were so we could literally see the salmon swimming past or nibbling on our bait, I literally knew when to give my line a yank and happily caught two fresh Alaskan salmon.
We couldn’t stop laughing all day and got a case of the giggles trying to pull the fish out, having fun catching fish and me sneakily stealing RJ’s hole where all the good catches were coming from! So many jokes, laughs and the best memories made! Ice fishing with A+ Dog Sled Excursions is for sure an A+ from me!
Our very first day in Alaska, Lynne took us to visit Running Reindeer Ranch as it came highly recommended as one of the top things to do in Alaska and I’m honestly not surprised why! These total cuties or “boss reindeer” as owner Jane would call them were an absolute delight to go walking with. Their velvety fur was so soft to pat and they loved playing and knocking antlers together showing each other just who’s BOSS!
We got a chance to walk side by side with these wild animals along Running Reindeer Ranch’s large property, through beautiful forest and trees, up snow-kissed paths and over golden-winter leaf grass trails learning about the nature of these animals and some good ol fashioned Reindeer history!
Not going to lie, the homemade cookies and cocoa at the end of the tour while Jane talked about behavior patterns, antler habits and knowledge of Reindeer in general was an added plus to the whole experience. It was pretty magical too that the snow was falling during our tour and we had little snowflakes on our eyelashes to keep from the day on the drive home. A very special way to spend your day and try something new when you’re looking for things to do in Alaska!
- Chena Hot Springs
There is a lot, or a little, you can do on a visit to Chena Hot Springs! Not only can you get hot and steamy in the springs while your hair and eyebrows develop crunchy frost on them, you can also watch the northern lights above the mountains surrounding you if you visit at night time like we did. Or go into the Ice Bar and check out all the Ice Sculptures!
I would have loved to go back during the day to get some better pictures, but alas, I was trying to experience all the things to do in Alaska within a short time period and Lynne very sweetly driving us to all of our must-sees, so I’ll have to save it for next time, but in the meantime, here is a Google pic to entice your visit!
Our AirBnB host, Mark, suggested we take a sunset drive up to Murphy Dome – a local secret! In fact, Lynne, RJ and I were the ONLY people up there! Can you imagine having a view like this all to yourself?!
I remember standing on the tip of the edge of the Alaskan mountains, watching the sunset, breathing in the fresh air, nothing but the sound of the wind making any noise, complete open Alaskan space and beauty, untouched land and a truly captivating moment taking your breath away, I thought to myself “Man am I lucky to be able to see this.”
It reminded me of this quote “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” Every sunset takes my breath away, but it’s just that bit more special when you think about it being the same sun even if you’re standing in a different place, what that means to you and how it can be so incredibly humbling and simplistic.
With a bit more of an off-the-beaten path feel, it’s definitely one to add to your list of things to do in Alaska.
Lynne and I decided to have a girls day and went exploring Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska! We had a visit to the Yukon Quest museum and also Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitor Centre which truly takes you into the heart of how people lived back in the day in Alaska, from the natives through to old log houses and sled transport. Ice fishing with nothing more than a stick and string! Smoke houses and berry picking and fields of wild flowers and what it means for the seasons coming. Especially when the cold gets a little too cold, it’s a good to have indoor choices for things to do in Alaska as well.
After learning more about Alaskan lifestyle and history, we walked across the local city park, beautifully covered in snow glistening with the days sun light and then indulged in some people watching at the local café ‘Fudge Pot’ enjoying hot chocolates and cheesecake brownies, perusing how the locals live in Fairbanks, Alaska!
- Get Hot and Cold with your outdoor Hot Tub
There is nothing quite like sitting in a nice hot tub in the privacy of your AirBnB backyard, honey-whiskey in hand, the snow falling, ice flakes in your hair and hot steam all around you while looking out at a beautiful Alaskan landscape and hearing moose and caribou calling, birds flittering past and chirping or the sound of ice dropping off the tree branches when a light wind breezes by.
Turn your phones off because you are on vacay mode my friends! An absolute must when looking at your accommodation choices because, trust me, you’ll want this to be one of your things to do in Alaska!
Lynne was lovely enough to take us to Lance Mackey, the infamous dog sledder and Yukon Quest/Iditarod Champion, while her pups and sleds were still in the process of coming together for visitors. Lance is the ultimate dog sledder and his pups and tracks by his puppy playground are the real deal, so cute and so scenic to mush around.
We loved meeting all the dogs and getting to stand on the sled and have the pups pull us along, hearing the commands and marveling at how all the dogs knew what to do and being able to grill Lance with all our questions on the dog sledding sport and his championships and achievements.
Truly such an amazing and inspiring man to meet with a heart-warming story of perseverance and a love for his team mates, you will for sure leave feeling inspired and humbled and should definitely consider this as one of the musts on your things to do in Alaska! Read my blog about him here with more info!
- Cozy up by the Fireplace!!
After the sun goes down and the fun has been had, there’s nothing quite like cooking a hot meal and cozying up to an authentic woodfire fireplace. All the workings of getting the fire going, hearing the wood crackle and knowing you can legitimately potentially survive in the wilderness as long as you have a matchbox….an axe….some newspaper……….(probably, definitely, could not survive in wilderness) making some hot cocoa or having a glass of whiskey or wine, cooking up that fresh salmon you caught ice fishing, making some hot pasta, enjoying good company and sitting down by a warm fire while it snows outside, making you think, hey, I could TOTALLY live in Alaska.
And that my friends, is what makes a good trip, when you leave a place honestly considering moving there, when it makes you feel like home, when you have so many great memories and met some amazing people and have truly SEEN and EXPERIENCED a place, well I definitely couldn’t have had such an epic trip without the insight and guidance of amazing, sweet and now lifelong friend – Lynne from A+ Dog Sled Excursions and Tours!
The thing I loved most about Lynne was how much SHE loves Alaska and how much her main mission is just to show you the lifestyle in hopes you’ll love it too! It’s truly like being shown around by a friend your visiting and you’re simply in town for the week and they want to take you around to all the must-sees.
There’s no pressure, you’re never on a time limit, everyone’s just there to have a great time and enjoy and experience all the possible things to do in Alaska during the time you’re there – Lynne is sooo sweet and I can’t wait to go back as her tour company grows and enjoy all the other secret treats she has on the horizon – hint: think of the number one snowy animal you would LOVE to spot! That’s all I’ll say 😉
Get in touch with her for your Alaskan adventures at www.dogsledexcursions.com