Alaska beckons visitors from the US and around the world to enjoy the
history, the adventure, the wildlife and - above all - the spectacular scenery.
By far, the most popular way to explore Alaska's Inside Passage is by cruise ship. More than 90,000 cruise
passengers visit this scenic strip of Southeastern Alaska, which is accessible only by air and sea, each year.
As a result, the region sees an explosion of tourists and seasonal tourism-oriented businesses in the summertime, but is quite tranquil the rest of the year. The most popular ports of call - Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau - offer exciting excursions, interesting museums and endless opportunities for souvenir shopping throughout Alaska's Inside Passage.
Hordes of salmon crowd the streams running through Ketchikan,
also known as the Salmon Capital of the World. Founded in 1900 and located in the 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan
has long been a center for commercial fishing, logging and mining. It is also home to the world's largest collection of totem poles.
Saxman Village, located two miles south of Ketchikan, features the single largest collection of totem poles, but totems can also be found scattered throughout town.
While in town, be sure not to miss the traveling lumberjack show, which features talented lumberjacks competing in a number of different logging-related sports, including axe throwing, log rolling, and an adrenaline-filled 50-foot speed climb.
Ice floes, Mendenhall Glacier.
A stop at the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Whales, eagles, moose & bear sitings are major highlights of on any trip through Tracy Arm.
The bustling frontier spirit of Skagway dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 19th-century, when tons of gold miners flooded the area hoping to strike it rich. Today, tourists have replaced treasure-seekers, but the town has retained much of its old-world charm, particularly in the seven-block downtown district known as Klondike
Gold Rush National Historical Park.
Here, visitors can stop into historic shops and saloons to learn more about the
lives - and vices - of turn-of-the-century miners. Just outside town is the White
Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, also called the Scenic Railroad of the World, which takes passengers on a three-hour, 40-mile
journey along the awesomely scenic gold rush trail.
Juneau Juneau is
often called America's most beautiful capital city. Nestled in a valley at the foot of the glacier-filled Juneau Icefield, the
city has been Alaska's seat of government since 1906. However, Juneau feels more small town than capital city. The downtown Historic District is quiet after the cruise ships leave, and much of the town shuts down in the winter.
A trip to Juneau isn't complete without an excursion to the jaw-droppingly
beautiful Mendenhall Glacier, 13 miles northwest of the city. The nearby Forest Service Visitor Center features informative, interactive displays about the glacier and surrounding forest.
If touristy port towns aren't for you, don't despair. Most cruise ships spend at least a day sailing through Tracy Arm, a majestic fjord filled with glaciers, icebergs, waterfalls and steep mountains. Sightings of whales, seals, eagles, bears and mountain goats are practically guaranteed. Your most authentic glimpse of Alaska may come from your cruise ship