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Travel Tuesday: Summer sightseeing

By Scott McMurren 10:22 AM July 1, 2014

Face it: If you live in Alaska, all of your friends and relatives think you are an Alaska expert. Don’t disappoint them.

Here are a few tips for showing visitors the sights this summer.

Day 1. Chances are better-than-even that your guests are arriving late at night, so you can go easy on the first day. Get them up early and take them to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It’s an awesome setup and your visitors will learn a lot about Alaska’s indigenous people. Plan for 2-3 hours.

Next, take them downtown to the Anchorage Museum and Town Square Park. Remind them that the Museum includes a Smithsonian exhibit on Arctic Studies, as well as a planetarium and a great cafe, Muse. Oh — that’s a great place for lunch!

Take the rest of the day off to get bug dope and sunscreen and decide on one of several itineraries:

Tour A — The Kenai Peninsula:  Start early and take the beautiful drive along Turnagain Arm. Make plans to go on the National Park Tour from Seward with Kenai Fjords Tours or Major Marine. Spend the night. Get up early and have breakfast at the Smoke Shack, aka “The Train Wreck.” It’s awesome. Go see Woody, the giant sea lion at the Alaska Sealife Center. Check out all the exhibits: see puffins, seals, king crab — the works. Then drive over for a scenic float or fishing trip on the upper Kenai River. It’s beautiful. Continue to Homer and spend the night. The next day, have breakfast at Two Sisters. It’s a glorious bakery with the world’s best cinnamon buns. I am not making this up. Catch a ride with Mako’s Water Taxi for a glacier hike across Kachemak Bay. Bring your camera — it’s awesome. Spend another night before driving back to Anchorage. Eat at Fat Olive’s.

Tour B — Denali: Take the Alaska Railroad north from Anchorage to Denali. You’ll get to the park in time to go for a raft trip on the Nenana River. But get to bed early so you can catch the early bus for the 6-hour wilderness tour, which leaves at 6 a.m. You’ll see critters — bear, moose and caribou — and if you’re lucky, Denali will poke her head out of the clouds.

Tour C — Kennicott and Valdez: I call this the Golden Circle route. Get an early start to drive from Anchorage up the Matanuska Valley to Glennallen, then south on the Richardson Highway. Stop at the Copper River Princess for lunch—and to use the free wi-fi! Then, head to the Chitina Airport and catch a ride with Wrangell Mountain Air back to McCarthy. Stay at the Kennicott Glacier Lodge for two nights. You can walk on a glacier, take a history walk through the old mining town of Kennicott and climb up to the old mining sites overlooking the glacial valley. It’s truly spectacular, deep in the heart of Wrangell St. Elias National Park.

Then, fly back to Chitina and drive south to Valdez. Take a Columbia Glacier cruise with Stan Stephens Cruises. Spend the night. Have dinner at the Fat Mermaid. The next morning drive your car on the Alaska Ferry for a trip across Prince William Sound. You’ll end up in Whittier, just 60 miles from Anchorage. Drive through the tunnel. Stop in Girdwood and eat dinner at Chair 5.

You will be famous with your friends, leaving them begging for more awesome adventures, and cement your worldwide reputation as an Alaska travel expert.

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