Alaska, Discovering

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

To see Alaska in person is an experience like no other. We can’t possibly find the words to describe how truly beautiful Alaska is. Our visit was in mid-September,  which was perfectly timed with the peak fall colors and it added to the beauty in spades. The different autumn colors that took our eyes as far as they could see showing the depths of mountain ranges were pure magic. We will share 20 incredible adventures that made us love Alaska.

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Is Alaska Worth Visiting?

In a word, YES. Alaska is more beautiful than we could have imagined and would tell anyone that if a trip to Alaska is on your bucket list, do everything you can to make that trip happen.

Here is our list of 20 Incredible adventures that made us love Alaska.

We hope you’ll enjoy this summary of the highlights of our trip to Alaska. One thing is for sure, we absolutely fell in love with Alaska and hope to visit again. 

1. Ate Pizza at Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria

Dusty discovered that Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria was once rated 3rd best pizza in all of the United States. You can bet we would be checking this place out for ourselves. Two of our meals were eaten here! To top it off, they even had a vegan option. After a long day of travel, the pizza and beer brewed in-house hit the spot and gave us plenty of leftovers for the next couple of days. 

Pro-Tip: Their pizza menu is huge and creative. They’re known for ‘half and half’ pizzas allowing you to order more than one pizza. 

Bonus Pro-Tip: Kelly recommends the Moose’s Tooth Hefeweizen and Dusty recommends the Pipeline Stout. 

Getting to Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria

3300 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK  99503 website | facebook 

2. Watched the Sunrise and Sunset On the Cook Inlet

It was pure magic to watch the sun come up through the mountain range that stretches along the Cook Inlet. Most of our day trips took us on the Old Seward Highway giving us daily views of the Cook Inlet.  There are numerous scenic areas and pull-outs to stop to take in the beauty or stretch your legs for a bit. If you’re lucky you’ll see a Beluga Whale. We were not so lucky. There is a tide change in the Cook Inlet as well. 

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

Likewise, watching the sunset on our way back to Anchorage after exploring all day is an amazing way to end the evening.

3. Drove on the Homer Spit

The Homer Spit is a 4.5-mile paved road that juts out into Kachemak Bay at the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula in Homer. The Spit is peppered with a boat harbor, shopping, restaurants, and excursion offices. It’s the hub of tourism activity as you can pick up a boat or fishing excursion on the Homer Spit. It’s a cute tourist area. 

We noticed the tsunami sirens along our drive on the Homer Spit. Landslides and earthquakes causing a tsunami are a possibility in Alaska.

The Homer Spit is the 2nd longest “Spit” in the United States and was formed by a glacial moraine. The paved road sits atop the sandy bottom left behind. The area offers views of active volcanoes and several glaciers. The Homer Spit is an iconic area and is 127 miles south of Anchorage on the Seward highway. 

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

4. Had a Bloody Mary and left a dollar on the Wall at the Salty Dawg Saloon

Inside the Salty Dawg Saloon

The Salty Dawg Saloon is something to see. The ceiling and walls are covered in dollar bills, money is literally hanging everywhere. Built in 1897, the story goes that fishermen would come in from a hard day of fishing and would then leave a dollar for another fisherman to buy themselves a drink. 

Today, the tradition continues and tourists sign a dollar and pin it to the wall. Every year the employees take down the “low-hanging dollars” and end up donating them to local charities. For example, last year it was approximately $80K that was pulled down and donated. It’s a must-see!

Of course, we left our mark in a spot that was not ‘low-hanging’ so hopefully, it remains on the wall for some time.

Getting to the Salty Dawg Saloon

43800 Homer Spit Road, Homer, AK  99603 website | facebook 

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

5. Took a Wildlife Cruise on a water taxi

We highly recommend this excursion with Coldwater AK out of Homer. The tour is not cookie-cutter. There were 6 of us on the wildlife cruise. Captain John starts by asking what we want to see. We all agreed- any and everything! It was amazing to see mountains, a volcano that was active the day before we were there, wildlife, glaciers, and just pure beauty everywhere you looked and exceeded our expectations.

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

Getting to Coldwater AK

4241 Homer Spit Rd, Homer, AK  99603 website | facebook

6. Saw eagles, otters, and a humpback whale, oh my!

During our tour of Kachemak Bay on the Coldwater AK Water Taxi we saw eagles, octopuses, tons of playful otters, and even lucked out with a humpback whale. It was incredible. 

7. Listened to silence in a fjord

So peaceful and so calm. Silence really can be deafening. It was incredible to see no other boats. It was a calm day on the water and even the waves from our own boat quickly receded. There truly was almost no and it was amazing.

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

8. Visited a Russian Orthodox Burial Ground

There are a number of Russian Orthodox Churches throughout Alaska due to its close proximity to Russia and that the US bought Alaska from Russia in 1959. We stopped by a Russian Orthodox Cemetary in Ninilchik, the Transfiguration of Our Lord Church. Mount Iliamna Volcano can be seen in the background.

The church is not open to visitors but we were able to see the above-ground graves. Each grave is marked with a white cross and is surrounded by a white picket fence. 

Getting to the Russian Orthodox Church in the Ninilchik, AK

66448 Church St, Ninilchik, AK  99639

20 Incredible Adventures That Made Us Love Alaska

9. Saw beautiful fall colors in Willow Knik 

The colors!! It is still amazing to think how we won the ‘fall color jackpot’ during our Alaska trip which was Sept 13-21.  The varying colors really showed the depth and distance of the trees. 

Chasing Fall Colors in Alaska

For more pictures of fall colors, read our blog post dedicated to chasing fall colors in Alaska!

10. Rode the Alaska Railroad Scenic Train to Seward

This was amazing. We added on a scenic train ride to Seward aboard the Alaska Railroad to get to our Glacier and Wildlife Boat Cruise. Highly recommend. The train left from Anchorage and at 30mph, we arrived in Seward 3 hours later. 5 miles of the ride is only accessible by this train. So many mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. Our train slowed down for views of a moose, bear, and eagle. 

11. Took an 8.5-Hour Glacier and Wildlife Boat Cruise

After the train dropped us off we immediately boarded the boat for an 8.5-hour wildlife and glacier tour with Major Marine Tours and enjoyed every minute of it. The train ride and boat cruise were a splurge that we don’t regret and would recommend to anyone! We saw orcas, mountain goats, seals, eagles, and tons of other birds. We saw a glacier up close and even touched an ice chunk that had fallen from the glacier! 

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12. Saw the Spires in Resurrection Bay

We thought for sure that the spires shown on the website for Major Marine Tours were just great marketing photos. We saw Spire Cove with our own eyes! This might sound dramatic, but it was other-worldly. The light mist and moody skies only added to the ambiance. 

13. Drank a margarita with Glacier Ice

The boat crew scoops a chunk of glacier ice out of the water, lets everyone see it up close then chips it up into pieces and serves it in a margarita that can be purchased at the bar. We’ve never seen a more pure, solid, and clear piece of ice ever. If you like to chomp your ice in a beverage, you will not be able to do that with a sizeable chunk of glacier ice in your glass. 

14. Saw Wildlife at The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

This is a beautiful stop that gives you an opportunity to see elk, moose, caribou, lynx, bears, and eagles. These and many more animals reside on 200 acres of land. These are animals that have been injured and would not survive in their natural habitat. We recommend walking around the property. It took us under 1.5 hours. 

Pro Tip: arrive early! We arrived just before they opened and there were a few other cars waiting. On our way out it was filling up quickly with visitors. 

Getting to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Mile 79, Seward Hwy, Girdwood, AK 99587 website 

elk at wildlife conservation center

15. Found Fall Colors in Hope, Alaska

We took a beautiful drive to Hope, Alaska, and feel like we drove to the end of the road which is at a campground! After getting off the Seward Highway, we took the 17-mile scenic drive into Hope. 

16. Enjoyed insanely beautiful views along the Glenn Allen Highway

We picked up Glenn Highway National Scenic Byway north of Anchorage in Matnuska. The Scenic Byway is 135 miles that run parallel to paths carved by glaciers. We had gorgeous views of the Talkeetna Mountains, and rivers, and drove through Eklutna, Palmer, Sutton, and Chickaloon.

17. Drove (almost) to Matanuska Glacier

We received the tip to drive to Matanuska Glacier from our table mates on the Major Marine Boat Cruise a few days prior. Matanuska is a glacier that you can drive up to and take guided hikes onto.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the glacier hike (read until the end to find out why) but we drove close enough for amazing views. We would definitely add a Matanuska Glacier hike to our next trip.  This tour was recommended to us.

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18. Drove through the Tunnel to Whittier

We threw this adventure in last minute and are glad we did. The Whittier Tunnel is the only way in and out of Whittier and Prince William Sound. It’s 2.5 miles long- the longest in North America. This is a one-lane tunnel shared by cars and trains. You queue up in a line to wait your turn and then it takes about 10 minutes to drive through the tunnel and the speed limit is 25 mph. Cars are allowed to drive through the tunnel every half hour. While you wait, you’ll have gorgeous views of waterfalls. 

19. Enjoyed the Whittier boat harbor

It was a very quiet day in Whittier, as the last day for cruise ships to port in the area was two days prior. This meant it was us and a few fishermen in the boat harbor in Whittier. So charming and to view and we also had eagles flying over us looking for lunch while we visited the harbor.

20. Hiked to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

Exit Glacier is the only park accessible by vehicle. With views of the glacier as you drive in, it’s also interesting to note the date markers you see as you drive in. You’ll notice signposts marked with a year throughout the short drive and on the trail. The year indicates where the glacier once reached allowing you can see how far the glacier has retreated since that year. 

The Glacier Overlook Loop Trail is 2.2 miles, well-maintained, and moderately strenuous. If you’re looking for something more challenging you can take follow the 8-mile Harding Icefield Trail.

Again, we recommend you arrive early if you want the trail mostly to yourself. You’ll notice a sign at the entrance of the trail that alerts visitors of bear sightings that day.

How to Get To Exit Glacier from Seward

We planned to hit Exit Glacier on our way out of Seward. Even though we took the scenic drive down to Seward we had to immediately board the boat for our tour. We took another day to do a scenic drive to Seward so we could see it for ourselves. 

We planned to go to Exit Glacier on our way back to Anchorage from Seward. It’s very easy to accomplish this because it’s 12 miles north of Seward, on the way back to Anchorage. You could also hit it on the way down to Seward. 

A Chance Encounter

This experience was unique to us but the story is worth telling. We connected with the childhood and life-long best friend of Dusty’s mom, who moved to Alaska to marry her sweetheart just out of high school and has lived there ever since 1969. They remained lifelong friends until Dusty’s parents passed away.

We reached out on a Facebook direct message and by chance, she read our message and responded (we weren’t connected). We set a date for dinner. After dinner, we went back to their house for more stories and ended up playing cribbage until 1 am.  We had an hour’s drive back to our hotel, and got stuck in traffic for 45 minutes because someone hit a moose and it was completely worth it (for us, not the people who hit the moose)!

This dinner was why we couldn’t drive all the way to walk onto Matanuska Glacier but we don’t have any regrets. It was a wonderful, chance encounter. 

Will We Visit Alaska Again?

Absolutely, that is our plan! Alaska was so beautiful and has left such an impression on us that we intend to plan future trips to see more of Alaska and experience other parts of the beautiful state. 

The next trip we would like to include: visiting Juneau, visiting Denali National Park, and seeing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks. Looks like we will need several trips because none of our remaining bucket list items are close.

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  1. sagescottkc

    March 22, 2023 at 8:43 pm

    OK, what’s NOT to love about Alaska? (Except maybe the winter up north?) That said, the wildlife there will always be my #1 on any list!

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      March 25, 2023 at 1:22 pm

      The wildlife is so beautiful! Alaska is simply impossible not to love!

  2. Amy

    March 15, 2023 at 11:22 am

    I plan to go to Alaska within the next year. I am just wondering how late in the year to go? Is late summer or fall is better? I suspect the colors change earlier there than in the lower 48.

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      March 16, 2023 at 11:31 am

      Our travel dates were Sept 13-21 and timed it right for fall colors! We love cool weather so fall is our first pick but watch the dates for the end of tourist season. For instance, we booked our glacier/wildlife cruise on the LAST day it was offered for the season. You can run the risk of some places closing for the season but less tourists so that is a plus. We had lots of cloud cover on our trip so we weren’t able to see all the mountains which would be a plus for going in the summer. We don’t think you can go wrong anytime of year though.

  3. Agnes

    March 14, 2023 at 8:37 am

    I also love Alaska. It is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love her for its wildlife and the possibility to observe and photograph bears. But I haven’t had a chance to eat pizza at Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria yet. I must go there on my next visit. Great tips on what to see!

    1. Kelly & Dusty Ratcliff

      March 16, 2023 at 11:33 am

      Agnes- just thinking about Alaska brings tears to my eyes (Kelly). It was so beautiful and precious and we think about Alaska every single day since being there! Mooses’s Tooth is a good one!

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