As a traveling family with big ideas and a never-ending bucket list of destinations to visit, we are well aware of budgeting. After all, the more wisely we spend our savings the more adventures we can take! These are our top 7 Alaska experiences we think are well worth their (sometimes lofty) price tags.
Alaska is a vast state of incredible landscapes and amazing excursions you likely won’t be able to experience anywhere else on Earth. We knew there were a handful of tours we just HAD to take, so we could truly experience all Alaska has to offer.
If you’re traveling to Alaska and looking for something extra special, here’s our list of top Alaska experiences that are well worth their prices.
1. Alaska Helicopter Tour
A completely unforgettable experience, and our most favorite excursion on our entire Alaska 2-week road trip.
This amazing 2-hour helicopter tour brings you to three remote landings. These include landing on a glacier with its bright blue melt pools, and an alpine meadow peak overlooking Knik Glacier. Keep your eye out for moose and bears as you fly through the valley and around the hillsides!
Price Range: $579 for kids 2-11 years old, $629 for adults
How to Book: Alaska Helicopter Tours
Tip: Bring your water bottle to fill it up with crystal clear glacier water at your last stop!
2. Bear Viewing Tour
Alaska West Air offers a variety of locations for bear viewing tours, which all depart out of the town of Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula. We chose their trip to Wolverine Creek, and were so glad we did. We were rewarded with seeing a mama brown bear and her two babies, along with a black bear that came right down to the water in front of our boat! A truly memorable Alaska experience.
Price Range: $550+ per person, depending on flight time and final bear viewing location
How to Book: Alaska West Air
Tips: Book early, especially if you are traveling during peak Summer season. Most bear viewing companies do NOT accept small children on their trips. However Alaska West Air did and we are so thankful for that.
3. RV Camping
Traveling in an RV from Cruise America was the epitome of freedom in our Alaska experience. We were able to stay off-grid in gorgeous campsites around the state, and always had our home nearby no matter how far off-path we traveled.
Price Range: Cruise America starts at $90 per night for a “Compact Motorhome” in the off-season. Prices increase due to demand, so expect to pay $405 for the same “Compact Motorhome” in Summer. Add $.38 per mile, $75 per bedding kit, and $125 for a kitchen kit. You’re welcome to bring your own bedding/kitchen supplies to help with costs!
How to Book: Cruise America RV Camper Rentals
Tip: Stock up on provisions before you leave Anchorage. Supplies are more limited once you are in more rural areas!
4. Denali Flightseeing Tour
We had to make the nearly impossible choice between a Denali Flightseeing Tour or the Bear Viewing Flight… The only consolation was that we knew we’d have a great time either way!
We decided on the bear viewing tour mainly because I had already been on a K2 flight with my mom years ago during my first trip to Alaska. If that hadn’t been the case I know the kids would have absolutely loved flying around in a teeny tiny plane and having a snow ball fight during a glacier landing! This is an Alaska experience you really can’t pass up.
Price Range: Starting at $230 plus $100 for a (highly recommended but optional) glacier landing add-on. Kids 2 and under are 50% off and get their own seat, kids 3-12 (but under 100lbs) are $50 off.
Tips: Kids 0-2y need a FAA approved car seat for their K2 Denali Flightseeing Tour. If you don’t have one you can rent one from K2.
5. Alaska Railroad Trip
Since we were road tripping in our Cruise America RV we didn’t take the Alaska Railroad, but if we hadn’t had the camper we would have opted to take the AKRR “Coastal Classic” route from Anchorage down to Seward, or the “Denali Star” from Anchorage up to Fairbanks.
When my mom and I visited Alaska years ago we took both of those AKRR routes, and they were each gorgeous. It was incredible to travel through the rural areas see scenery you can only witness from the train or from your own personal plane! This is a beautiful and easy way to experience Alaska in all its beauty without having to coordinate much on your own.
Price Range: Adventure Class from Anchorage to Seward (ROUND TRIP) off-season prices start at $173 for adults and $87 for children (2-11y).
Adventure Class from Anchorage to Denali (ONE WAY) off-season prices start at $144 for adults and $72 for children (2-11y).
Tip: For the trip from Anchorage to Denali, call after booking and ask if your seats can be on the LEFT side of the train. Also if your budget allows (and by that I mean if *doubling* your ticket price is possible) upgrade to the GoldStar service when you call with your seating request. This is the upper dome on the train, and allows uninterrupted views of the gorgeous scenery.
6. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a rehabilitation sanctuary for injured and orphaned wild animals. It provides over 200 acres of habitats for the animal enclosures, and offers research and education opportunities for curious people. There are brown and black bears, moose, a heard of bison, lynx, reindeer, coyotes and wolves! A perfect day trip from Anchorage.
Price Range: Adults- $18 per person, Kids (5-17y)- $14 per person, Kids (4y and under)- Free!
How to Book: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Tips: Book an extra “animal encounter” to participate in the training and feeding of some of the center’s most incredible residents, such as the bears and moose. The Bear Encounter is $125 and is limited to guests 12y+ (includes admission), and the Moose Encounter is $15 with no age limit (does not include admission).
7. Denali Bus Tour
Ranked by National Geographic as the #2 Best Drives of a Lifetime, and for good reason.
Private cars can only drive the first 15 miles into Denali Park Road. The remaining of the 92 mile Denali Park Road can only be accessed by private buses, or you can continue on foot or bike. While riding a bus may seem less convenient and flexible, it severely cuts down on traffic into the park, therefore preserving the incredible nature everyone travels so far to see.
We weren’t able to partake in a bus tour because they were already sold out by the time we knew which dates we’d be in Denali (hint: book a bus tour as soon as you know your Denali dates!). But if we had been able to plan ahead a tiny bit better we would have chosen this bus tour which brings you all the way into the park.
Three Types of Denali Bus Tours
There are three types of Denali Bus Tours, and both the national park service and private companies offer bus tours into the park.
Non-narrated Transit Buses are more flexible and are more like fixed route park taxis, best for people who just want a ride further into the park.
Narrated Tour Buses are NOT for hopping on and off, and include a trained tour guide who teaches you everything you need to know about the park during your trip.
There are also Free Buses which don’t require reservations, but only operate on the publicly drivable portion of the Denali Park Road.
Only two national park service provided Denali Bus Tours are operating in 2022. The Denali Natural History Tour is $104 for an adult and $44.50 for a child (15y and under) for a 4.5-5 hour tour up to mile 17 on the Denali Park Road. The Tundra Wilderness Tour is $128 for an adult and $56.50 for a child (15y and under) for a 5-5.5 hour tour up to mile 43.
More Info: Denali Bus Tour Information
But what if I want to go further into the park?
What if everything is sold out?
If those two tour options are booked for your dates (or you simply want to get further into the park), don’t despair! There is a private company which is actually a much more convenient option for touring the park, and provides a comprehensive all day excursion of everything you could ever want to experience in Alaska. It costs $199 per person, and is a 10-12 hour experience.
They will pick you up from your hotel in the Denali area, and bring you all the way through the entire park to the Denali Backcountry Lodge at mile 92 (!) where you have lunch. After lunch you choose between activities like gold panning, going on a hike with a naturalist, or taking a botany walk, before making your way back through the park and being dropped off back at your hotel’s doorstep.
How to Book: The Best Denali Bus Tour
Tip: Book early regardless of which tour you’d like to take, seats are VERY limited.
I hope this blog helped you plan a trip of a lifetime to Alaska!
Disclosure: All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that (at no additional cost to you) may earn us a small commission. If you found this blog useful while planning your trip please consider using these links when booking your travels.