Take an Alaska Vacation to America's Last Frontier

Alaska is indeed the last frontier. Even the license plate says so. One-fifth as large of the Lower 48 (as the natives like to call the rest of the United States), Alaska is the largest state in the union. Much of Alaska is wilderness that is inaccessible to the average tourist, but that shouldn't stop anyone from visiting. Most people prefer to an Alaska vacation during the summer months, when the sun never completely sets and the temperatures are close to 70 degrees Fahrenheit--considered "too warm" by many of the residents.

Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage
Established in 1999, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is the best place to learn about the Eskimo and Native American people (referred to as Alaska Natives) that first populated this vast area. There are exhibits and tours as well as native dance performances and storytelling every day. The center is open every day from 9 AM to 6 PM. Admission is $20.95 for adults and $15.95 for children 7 to 16 years of age. Ages 6 and under are admitted free.

Alaska Zoo, Anchorage
If you want to see some Alaskan wildlife in person, drive south out of Anchorage and look for the Dall sheep that congregate on the rocky cliffs beside the highway. In most cases, however, the best place to catch a glimpse of Alaska's native wildlife is at the Alaska Zoo, where you will find polar bears, caribou, reindeer, arctic fox, harbor seals, bald eagles, ravens (an important part of some Alaska Native cultures) and more. The zoo is small, personalized and perfect for young children. It is open every day between 10 AM and 5 PM, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 12 to 17 and $4 for children ages 3 to 11.

Reindeer Farm, Palmer
Located in Palmer, about 45 minutes north of Anchorage, is the Reindeer Farm. The reindeer at the farm are tame and gentle, allowing visitors to pet and feed them-perfect for children and adults alike. The farm is open for tours between May and mid-September, about the time the snow starts. Entrance fees are $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 3 to 11.

Denali National Park & Preserve, Denali
Denali National Park, 236 miles north of Anchorage, is home to America's tallest mountain, Mount McKinley. Because Denali covers six million acres, the park is toured by bus. Once you board, you will ride to your destination (buy a ticket in advance at the visitor center) and then return to the main visitor center. For safety reasons, no one is permitted to leave the bus until partway into the park, although the bus does make frequent stops for wildlife sightings and photography opportunities. Once you get off the bus, you can flag down any inbound bus to return to the main visitor center. The buses are not equipped with restrooms, so a visit to Denali is better suited to older children. The entrance fee to the park is $10 per family and the park is open year round. The visitor center is open at 9 AM and closes at 5 PM (spring) or 9 PM (summer).

El Dorado Gold Mine, Fairbanks
At 358 miles from Anchorage, Fairbanks is the end of the road-literally. Mining and prospecting is what many towns in Alaska were founded on, and Fairbanks is no exception. A visit to the El Dorado Gold Mine (in existence for almost 100 years) includes a two-hour tour by rail through a permafrost tunnel and a walking tour of a mining camp that offers the opportunity for visitors to talk to present-day miners. At the end of the trip, everyone is invited to pan for gold, usually with success!.Open mid-May to mid-September, reservations are required. The cost is $29.95 for adults and $19.95 for children ages 3 to 11.

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