Frequently Asked Questions About Alaska
Where do Alaska cruise ships go?
The Inside Passage is Alaska’s biggest cruise destination, but popular cruises also visit Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. The Inside Passage is also known as the Panhandle and as “Southeast.” The main ports of call are Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau and Skagway, along with Glacier Bay National Park and Hubbard Glacier in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Prince William Sound, tucked into the underbelly of Alaska, holds abundant wildlife and glaciers, including Columbia Glacier. Cruises in the Gulf of Alaska visit Seward and Kodiak. Bering Sea cruises call at Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, Nome and the Pribilof Islands. In addition to these weeklong cruises, there are local day cruises, especially in Juneau, Whittier and Seward. Cruise ships visit glaciers and search for whales and other wildlife such as eagles, bears, sea lions and sea otters.
What’s the summer weather like in Alaska?
The Southcentral climate (Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula and the surrounding area) boasts relatively mild summers (highs near 70). The Interior climate (Fairbanks and Denali) has warm summers (highs in the 90s). The climate of the Inside Passage, where most of the cruise ships go, is usually warm and damp (summer highs in the 60s and 70s). Coastal areas have more moderate temperatures than inland areas as well as more precipitation. Daily temperature fluctuations are wider inland. In late spring and early summer (close to the solstice in mid-June), the days are the longest. Early summer has less rain than late summer and fall.
Where can I find a map of Alaska?
We have a Map Page.
Will the mosquitos eat me alive?
Unless you are a caribou, no they won’t. We have a page dedicated to Mosquito information.
Click here for Mosquito information.
Where does the ferry system run?
The Alaska Marine Highway services over 30 towns throughout Alaska. The ferry does not go to Anchorage, which is instead served instead by highways, trains and airplanes. Most of the ferry system’s business is in Southeast Alaska, where roads connect few towns. Another ferry works the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak, and a third runs through Prince William Sound. Every month a ferry crosses the Gulf of Alaska to and from Juneau. We have a detailed page with a map if you click on the link below.
Click here for Ferry Schedules, Map, and Information.
Can I see a glacier up close?
A number of Alaska’s coastal and landlocked glaciers can be seen close up. Cruise ships carry their passengers close to glaciers and icebergs in Glacier Bay National Park, at Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat and Columbia Glacier near Valdez. In addition, day-tour companies carry hundreds of passengers a day on glacier and wildlife tours from Juneau to Glacier Bay, from Whittier into Prince William Sound and from Seward into Kenai Fjords National Park. Several land-locked glaciers, notably Exit, Matanuska, and the Mendenhall, are close to the highway system. People willing to hike a short distance can walk up to and touch several other glaciers as well. Helicopters carry passengers onto glaciers from Juneau, Haines, Seward, Anchorage and the Denali area.
Click here for Glaciers.
Can I ship my vehicle to Alaska?
If you don’t want to drive your vehicle to Alaska for vacation or when you’re moving, take heart. Cars, trucks, RVs and boats can be loaded onto a container ship in Seattle and delivered to Anchorage. The loading, voyage and unloading takes a week or more. Drivers in Washington state who want to visit the Inside Passage and then head for the Alaska Highway have another option. They can put their vehicles aboard the Alaska Marine Highway ferries in Bellingham, Washington, and be taken to cities in the Inside Passage such as Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway. Haines and Skagway have road connections to the Alaska Highway. The ferry system provides a scenic alternative to driving the length of the Alaska Highway and its feeder roads in British Columbia and Alberta. Elsewhere in Alaska, ferries provide transportation around Prince William Sound and between the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak Island and the Alaska Peninsula. (The ferry system doesn’t go to Anchorage.) Some visitors drive to Alaska, put their vehicles on a ship and fly back to the Lower 48.
Can I pan for gold?
You may pan for gold for free in a number of places without the danger of being shot as a claim jumper. For example, people with a gleam in their eye can pan the beach east of Nome; several streams in the Interior, including the one where the Fairbanks gold rush began; several streams in Southcentral Alaska, including the Kenai Peninsula; in places along the Dalton Highway; and in some streams in Southeast. Some companies that charge for tours of towns and mining areas also have panning areas, complete with gold pans and soil that sometimes is salted with “color.” Pans, shovels and loupes can be bought in mining supply shops and discount stores. As you’re panning and sifting through the muck, remember that nothing that glitters is gold. You’re looking instead for a gleam.
Click here for information about how to and what to use for Gold Panning.
Where can I see the Northern Lights?
Winter visitors have the best chance of seeing the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Even though the electromagnetic activity that creates the aurora occurs all year high overhead, the lights are visible only at night — and Alaska’s long winter nights make for good viewing.
Click here for more Aurora Borealis Info,
How big is Alaska?
Alaska covers 570,373 square miles of land, plus an additional 45,000 square miles of water. It’s the biggest state in the country. Alaska is 2.3 times the size of Texas, 10 times the size of Georgia or Florida; and 499.7 times the size of frequent comparison victim Rhode Island. Alaska covers 20 percent of the total U.S. area.
Is it dark all the time? When is the midnight sun?
Alaska gets as much daylight and darkness as anywhere else on earth over the course of a year; it’s just distributed differently. Summer is a time of ong days. Above the Arctic Circle, the day can be 24 hours long or months long. In Anchorage, almost 400 miles south of the circle, the summer solstice day is 19.5 hours long. Winter has much shorter days. Above the Arctic Circle, the night can last for months, although lingering twilight brightens the sky. In Anchorage, the shortest day still provides 4.5 hours of daylight. Around the equinoxes in March and September, Alaska gets the same 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness the rest of the world does.
What are the four seasons in Alaska?
Almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.