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Suggestions for Land Tour


PennStateMom
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Posted (edited)

Good Morning!  

We are cruising aboard Celebrity Millennium northbound from Vancouver to Seward May 26, 2023-June 2, 2023.  We plan to do a land tour from Friday, June 2 to Thursday, June 8.  I've specifically reserved cabin 6030 - part of the sweet sixteen, starboard side, forward.  Would you leave that cabin assignment alone?  

 

Given the additional $1000 for car rental for oneway to Fairbanks, we are electing to return to Anchorage the evening of June 7 to fly out around noon on June 8.  Of the two couples (all of us over 65), two are pretty physically fit, and two have some mobility issues (bilateral knee replacement for one, and easy fatigue from myasthenia for the other).  Both are mobile and can get on and off tour buses, but no long hikes for them.  I've been looking at hotels, vrbo's, airbnb's, etc.  Some are already gone for next summer, so I need to move quickly.  I would welcome input on itinerary and "must see" things.  Here is what I'm thinking right now.

 

June 2 - Kenai fjord boat tour after disembarking, then take evening train to Anchorage and overnight there.

June 3 - Pick up rental car, visit Alaskan Heritage Center and possibly another tour?  Drive to Talkeetna

June 3-4 - Overnight in Talkeetna, What are the top things to do there?

June 4- 6 - Denali!   Are there any gentle hikes that we could do together.  Also perhaps one up to 5 miles for the two that can do it.  Bus tour morning of June 5 -bus tours for next summer cannot be booked until December 1, I believe.  We would take an early morning bus tour on June 5. Visitors center after.  Would love some other suggestions for the group.

 

Debating spending a 3rd night in Denali or driving to Fairbanks June 6-7.  If we did go to Fairbanks, that makes the drive back to Anchorage on June 7 pretty long.  Is it worth it for just one night?

 

Thanks to all you previous Alaska visitors for your input.  This will likely be our only trip, and though I know it is not long enough, I have critters (horses and dogs), that I can't leave for more than two weeks.  

Edited by PennStateMom
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What are you hoping to do in Fairbanks? Unless you have something specific there you are hoping to see or do, I'd skip it. 

Talkeetna: either a Denali flightseeing trip or a Mahay's Jetboat trip would be my choice.

Denali: I would suggest the shuttle bus over a "tour" bus. Same roads, same views, much cheaper. https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/shuttles.htm

You could include a stop at the Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla.

In addition to advice you get here on Cruise Critic, I'd also spend some time on the TripAdvisor forum for Alaska travel: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g28923-i349-Alaska.html

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We have done this trip twice.  We loved Fairbanks.

 

What about going from Anchorage to Talkeetna, about a 2 - 2 1/2 hour drive.  Then Talkeetna to Fairbanks, a 4 1/2 hour drive.  Then Fairbanks to Denali, 2 1/2 hour drive.  Then Denali to Anchorage, about 4 hours.   

Or

Anchorage to Denali, Denali to Fairbanks, Fairbanks to Talkeetna, then back to Anchorage.

That would break it up a bit, so not such a long drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage. 

We went the last week in Aug and the first week of Sept. both times.  

 

We loved Fairbanks, but I know you only have so much time.  So you will need to decide what's important. 

In Fairbanks we stayed at  Sophie’s’ Station, which is a “suite hotel”.  It was old but clean and had a little living room and kitchen that came in handy.   We did the Discovery Cruise.  This was a large, stern wheel riverboat that took us for a 4-hour cruise down the Chena and Tanana Rivers.   We went to Chen Hot springs, and the ICE Hotel that is there.   We also spent some time at the Fairbanks Museum @University of Fairbanks.   I think we also drove to the North Pole!   Saw lots of Moose while driving around and saw the Northern Lights.

 

In Talkeetna we stayed at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge,  beautiful lodge with large hotel rooms.   We had a beautiful view of Mt Mc Kinnley for about 2 hours...also saw the Northern Lights here. 

Here we did fly fishing, did Denali flightseeing as one of the trips had gorgeous weather.  They also offered horse back riding, river rafting, hiking with rangers.  The town of Talkeetna is small, one street and a cat is their Mayor!   But this is where most of the hikers start their trek up the Mt.

 

Denali is a must see.  I would recommend the Park's tour bus, the Tundra Wildlife Search....the 8 hour one if possible.  It is narrated and has a zoom camera so when you come upon animals they put it up on TV cameras in the bus.  It was just a school bus when we went.  They gave you a bag lunch with water to eat at your leisure.   I do remember some other things offred, such as rafting. But you could get by with just the one day here for the N'l Park tour.

 

Anchorage is just a city, but it is a pretty one!    the Alaskan Heritage Center was nice.   We did a“26 Glacier Tour” that was amazing..close up to the glaciers.   

 

 

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Some some random thoughts --

 

Given the itinerary proposed by @PennStateMom I don't know what they would do if they drove north to Fairbanks.  Not much time to drive to the Chena Hot Springs Resort (which  has an ice museum/hotel), spend much time at the Museum of the North (which is the museum on the University of Museum campus and should not be confused with the Fairbanks Community Museum which is downtown), visit the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, tour Gold Dredge No. 8, take the Riverboat Discovery tour down the Chena to the confluence of the Tanana, enjoy the Running Reindeer Ranch and so forth.

 

When planing driving itineraries it is important to build in some time for potential delays due to road construction.  At this point I have no idea of our Department of Transportation has some major projects scheduled on the Parks Highway.

 

In addition to the Anchorage Native Heritage Center also consider the Anchorage Museum.

 

Regarding Denali we have not had any recent reporting in our local newspaper (which has a full time reporter who lives year round in the Healy area) regarding updates on the plan to bridge the single park road at the Pretty Rocks area.  Baring a miracle I would plan on the road remaining closed at Mile 42 for next year.  If so there will be no 8 hour shuttle buses to Eielson Visitor Center.

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Posted (edited)

Here is a great video about their Ak trip. It covers a lot of ground and is 2 hrs. All kinds of highlights. It is from June 2021 so c-19 in full swing and got to go on bus ride to m/p 66 in Denali. Shows where they stayed and ate. 

Alaska 8 Day Road Trip: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Glaciers, Wildlife & Denali over 1,000 Miles - YouTube

We made it to Fairbanks and Ice bar in the first setting of the video. Great interaction and camera work. Some trails in early part of park. Watch for the signs where they pan for gold. 

sightcrr

Edited by SightCRR
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In Fairbanks a visit to Fox to see the pipeline and the Gold Dredge 8 for gold panning. The Discovery riverboat cruise is awesome with a knowledgeable 

narrative and view of the huskies and a visit to a native village. Check out the Princess lodges they are clean. We weren’t impressed by Talkeetna, it was very hot and dusty there. While in Anchorage, the Snowy City cafe has great food and your Kenai Fjords tour will be a highlight for you.

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Itsanita has given some great suggestions!

Major Marine typically  offers 40% off Kenai Fjords cruises as a Black Friday sale (Thanksgiving weekend). Great savings and great cruise!

I'm probably in the minority, but Denali didn't "wow" us, but everyone should see it if they want. 

We didn't go to Fairbanks, so no comment there.

We loved Talkeetna!

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On 7/28/2022 at 8:06 PM, Northern Aurora said:

Some some random thoughts --

 

Given the itinerary proposed by @PennStateMom I don't know what they would do if they drove north to Fairbanks.  Not much time to drive to the Chena Hot Springs Resort (which  has an ice museum/hotel), spend much time at the Museum of the North (which is the museum on the University of Museum campus and should not be confused with the Fairbanks Community Museum which is downtown), visit the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum, tour Gold Dredge No. 8, take the Riverboat Discovery tour down the Chena to the confluence of the Tanana, enjoy the Running Reindeer Ranch and so forth.

 

When planing driving itineraries it is important to build in some time for potential delays due to road construction.  At this point I have no idea of our Department of Transportation has some major projects scheduled on the Parks Highway.

 

In addition to the Anchorage Native Heritage Center also consider the Anchorage Museum.

 

Regarding Denali we have not had any recent reporting in our local newspaper (which has a full time reporter who lives year round in the Healy area) regarding updates on the plan to bridge the single park road at the Pretty Rocks area.  Baring a miracle I would plan on the road remaining closed at Mile 42 for next year.  If so there will be no 8 hour shuttle buses to Eielson Visitor Center.


I am not a fan of auto museums and didn’t want to waste the time when there were a lot of other things to do.  I was outnumbered and we ended up going.  I am so glad we did.  I think it’s a hidden gem.  We spent about 2 hours there and we could have easily spent several more hours.  They have over a hundred different cars and clothing that would be worn during that era.  Every single car runs except for one they take them out once a year for everyone to go and see.  I would definitely recommend doing it.  Even my 11 year old daughter didn’t want to leave.
We also did Gold Dredge 8 and Riverboat Discovery Cruise and they were great. 

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On 7/28/2022 at 7:44 AM, PennStateMom said:

Good Morning!  

We are cruising aboard Celebrity Millennium northbound from Vancouver to Seward May 26, 2023-June 2, 2023.  We plan to do a land tour from Friday, June 2 to Thursday, June 8.  I've specifically reserved cabin 6030 - part of the sweet sixteen, starboard side, forward.  Would you leave that cabin assignment alone?  

 

Given the additional $1000 for car rental for oneway to Fairbanks, we are electing to return to Anchorage the evening of June 7 to fly out around noon on June 8.  Of the two couples (all of us over 65), two are pretty physically fit, and two have some mobility issues (bilateral knee replacement for one, and easy fatigue from myasthenia for the other).  Both are mobile and can get on and off tour buses, but no long hikes for them.  I've been looking at hotels, vrbo's, airbnb's, etc.  Some are already gone for next summer, so I need to move quickly.  I would welcome input on itinerary and "must see" things.  Here is what I'm thinking right now.

 

June 2 - Kenai fjord boat tour after disembarking, then take evening train to Anchorage and overnight there.

June 3 - Pick up rental car, visit Alaskan Heritage Center and possibly another tour?  Drive to Talkeetna

June 3-4 - Overnight in Talkeetna, What are the top things to do there?

June 4- 6 - Denali!   Are there any gentle hikes that we could do together.  Also perhaps one up to 5 miles for the two that can do it.  Bus tour morning of June 5 -bus tours for next summer cannot be booked until December 1, I believe.  We would take an early morning bus tour on June 5. Visitors center after.  Would love some other suggestions for the group.

 

Debating spending a 3rd night in Denali or driving to Fairbanks June 6-7.  If we did go to Fairbanks, that makes the drive back to Anchorage on June 7 pretty long.  Is it worth it for just one night?

 

Thanks to all you previous Alaska visitors for your input.  This will likely be our only trip, and though I know it is not long enough, I have critters (horses and dogs), that I can't leave for more than two weeks.  

 

We did our own land tour in Alaska in 2021.  It is a shame you can't spend more time.

We tried to do the Kanai Fjord boat tour but the weather was bad and that did not work out.  Hope it goes better for you.  Bring really good binoculars, stabilized ones if you can afford it.

 

We liked the Alaskan Heritage Center however it is 4 hours at most.  Other things to do near Anchorage include Hatcher Pass, the trolly ride (a narrated tour of the anchorage area, you could do this in the morning and the Heritage center in the afternoon, you pick it up right near the Anchorage visitor center), right near the railroad station is the Ulu Factory, next door to the Ulu Factory is a Salmon fishing bridge.  It sounds like there may be mobility issues however the BEST non-glacier hike we did was up a small mountain near Palmer Alaska, about 700 feet of elevation gain.  I think it was Bodenburg, but not sure.  Bodenburg Butte Trail | ALASKA.ORG 

 

Carefully look at Google Maps to see where the Anchorage Train Station is.  It is an uphill walk to Anchorage center.  Plan on a taxi, etc.

 

Given you don't have that much time I would just stop in Talkeetna for lunch if you are not doing a flightseeing tour out of there.

 

FYI, they say you only have a 30% chance of actually seeing the mountain due to weather.  If you are doing any type of hiking in Danali you should probably buy/rent bear spray.  I would suggest 2 days in Denali for the best possible chance of seeing the mountain.  Book the longest possible bus trip available (the one that gets you deepest into the park), you don't need the guided trip, the hop on hop off works just fine for viewing wildlife.  On one of our bus trips there was a backup because a mother grisly and her cub decided it was better to walk on the road.  Bring looks of bug spray (high Deet content), lots and lots and lots of mosquitos.  Again, you need excellent binoculars because some of the wildlife does not get that close to the road.  We stayed at Earthsong Lodge, which we loved (MY WIFE ESPECIALLY LOVED PETTING THE SLED DOGS) however it is not for everyone.

 

We did not make it to Fairbanks, everyone told us it was not worth it.

 

Two thing we did do in our trip that we liked (I don't think you have time) was the 26 Glacier tour out of Whittier (you may be glaciered out by then), and the Matanuska Glacier hike with MICA guides.

 

image.thumb.jpeg.c83259561bf1f1bb41ee6c012232c721.jpeg

 

The web site Alaska.org is pretty good for information.

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14 hours ago, MellyBell said:


I am not a fan of auto museums and didn’t want to waste the time when there were a lot of other things to do.  I was outnumbered and we ended up going.  I am so glad we did.  I think it’s a hidden gem.  We spent about 2 hours there and we could have easily spent several more hours.  They have over a hundred different cars and clothing that would be worn during that era.  Every single car runs except for one they take them out once a year for everyone to go and see.  I would definitely recommend doing it.  Even my 11 year old daughter didn’t want to leave.
We also did Gold Dredge 8 and Riverboat Discovery Cruise and they were great. 

 

+1 on the auto museum.  It is a world class collection.  I have been in Fairbanks 3 times and have visited the museum each time.  If I went back to Fairbanks I would go there a 4th time.  As Mellybell said - one of the really neat things about the place is the juxtaposition of period correct clothing with the cars.  Another good thing about the place is that because it is a hidden gem it tends not to be over crowded.

 

DON

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