We spoke with Michelle Glass to get an insider’s view on travel in Alaska.
Q: How would you describe Alaska for visitors who haven't been there?
I like to use the word "ineffable" which loosely means without description but in a divine sense. There is something so big and beautiful and awesome there just aren't words to adequately describe it!
Q: What is the best time to visit and why?
Well it depends what you are looking for but in general the "summer" season is June, July and August with a little spill over in late May or early September – this is when the majority of locations are open and the greatest amount of activities are available. However, March can be a great time to visit for a winter trip to see the northern lights and experience winter sports such as dog sledding and snow machining (the Alaskan way of saying snowmobile)
Q: What are the top sights?
Juneau and Anchorage are the top cities; Denali National Park Glacier Bay and the Kenai Fjords are very popular destinations as well. I think the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (Mat-Su for short) between Anchorage and Denali Park is a great location for those who love to be active! A hidden gem on the cruise circuit is Haines (just south of Skagway) it is a true unspoiled small town Alaska, a little rough but very authentic
Q: What are your personal favorite sights?
I love the Wrangell St. Elias region it is truly a mountain kingdom that surpasses Switzerland and Nepal! Stunningly beautiful and amazingly remote and massive in its size! The old mining town of Kennicott and McCarthy are rich with history and human ambition.
Q: Do you have any interesting facts about Alaska you would like to share?
Only 5% of Alaska is accessible by road yet 95% of visitors only see Alaska by road or cruise ship- it really pays to fly out to the backcountry!!!
Q: How would you describe the people and the culture?
The people are actually the most amazing part of Alaska in my opinion. They are warm and kind, quirky and gracious and no matter how much disagreement two people have they would always lend a hand if the other was in dire straits – life can sometimes hang in the balance in Alaska and no one takes that for granted.
Q: Can you suggest any unusual accommodation options?
I have a favorite B&B at a dog musher's kennel – where in the morning you can help with dog tending duties all the way from playing w/ the puppies to picking up after if you know what I mean – a real Alaskan experience! My other favorite is a completely remote lodge featuring truly luxury accommodations and activities that blow you away as everything is accessed by Small plane (think 3 passengers max) more agile than a helicopter!
Q: Can you describe your most unique cruise/tour?
Gosh that is a hard one – maybe a private dinner at the home of a 4-time Iditarod Champion (who's home complete with a view of Mt McKinley was just in Dwell magazine for its modern architecture.) Or flying out to the far reaches of western Alaska with your own private pilot and plane to see walrus hauled out on a completely remote and wild beach, or maybe fly-fishing in the Brooks River along with 7-10 bears as your fishing buddies. There are just so many unique experiences in Alaska.
Q: What foods / wines / desserts would you recommend people try?
Fresh Salmon and halibut are a must! But I also like fresh Alaska-grown Oysters – you have never tasted anything so clean and sea-like! You will never eat oysters again without wishing they were from Alaska! Also Alaska has some pretty great local brews from beer to micro-distilleries (smoked salmon vodka makes for a killer Bloody Mary (or so I hear...)
Q: Do you have any tips for people planning a cruise or tour in Alaska?
Dress like an onion – in lots of thin layers to peel off and put back on. The temperature can change so much in the course of a day it is amazing – from walking on glaciers to reeling in fish – you'll need lots of different options for clothing and having the layer system will allow for the most flexibility. Also BUY LOCAL – there is so much "junk" sold to tourists it is really better to buy less and buy better quality real Alaskan-made remembrances!
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