6 Breathtaking and Affordable Alaskan Destinations

By Lindsay VanSomeren on 4 July 2018 0 comments

Alaska is on almost everyone's bucket list. Who wouldn't want to be blown away by some of the tallest mountains in the world, the most pristine natural areas, and the tastiest fresh seafood?

Unfortunately, there's just one problem: Alaska can be an expensive place to visit, even after you muster up the cash to travel to the far edge of the continent. But that doesn't mean everything is expensive. You can still find budget-friendly activities all across the state that don't sacrifice your enjoyment of the area. Here's where to find them.

1. Denali National Park

The entrance to Denali National Park is surrounded by a tiny seasonal village full of people who want to sell you things. But once you get inside the park ($10 per person for admission), there are plenty of free things to do.

You can take a free shuttle bus to watch a thrice-daily demonstration at the sled dog kennels (they're still used to patrol the park in the winter). Free shuttle buses go as far as the Savage River campground into the park — which is not very far, unfortunately. To go farther into the park and see the famous Dall sheep and Wonder Lake, you can expect to spend $31.25–$60 per adult, depending on which part of the park you go to.

The cheapest way to stay in Denali National Park is by camping. You can stay in a tent campsite for $15, an RV campsite for as little as $24, or if you're up for a true Alaskan adventure, you can even get a backpacking permit for free. (See also: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card Review)

2. Fairbanks

The long summer days mean that this city comes alive between snowfalls. There are plenty of events to be found, including the Tanana Valley State Fair, the Midnight Sun Festival, and the annual Midnight Sun Baseball Game, which is a full game of midnight baseball on the summer solstice without any artificial lighting.

Bird-watchers can check out the free trails throughout Creamer's Field (a former dairy farm turned bird refuge), and foodies can pick wild blueberries and lingonberries for free on a wide variety of public lands around Fairbanks.

Lodging in Fairbanks is relatively affordable. You can find a decent three-star hotel starting from $119 per night, or even a cute Airbnb cabin for under $50. (See also: Where to Do 9 Popular Budget List Items on a Budget)

3. Juneau

Juneau might be the capital of the biggest state in the nation, but you wouldn't know it. It's still just a small town. In fact, there aren't even any roads that go here. Your only options are to fly in on a plane or float in on a boat. Once here, you can find several affordable (<$100) Airbnbs right in town.

Be sure to check out the town's free historic mine walking tour that takes you past one of the most productive gold mines from back in the Gold Rush days. If you have $5 to spare, you can visit the Mendenhall Glacier and meander around its network of trails that take you seemingly into the Alaskan wilderness. If you're a beer nerd, $20 will get you a guided beer tasting at the famous Alaskan Brewing Company. (See also: Best Airlines for Scoring First or Business Class Award Seats)

4. Ketchikan

Ketchikan has a bit of a reputation as a cruise ship town. But even if you're not on a cruise, there's plenty of activities. The Saxman Native Village is a must-see ($5 per person) because it houses the world's largest collection of totem poles, as is the town's historic Creek Street with old-time buildings built right up on top of a creek.

If you need to get some exercise, the Ketchikan Historical Society offers a free walking tour (stop by the visitor's center for a map) or you can visit the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument (the only way to access it cheaply is by renting a sea kayak from $35 per day).

You can stay in a cabin in the Misty Fjords National Monument for as little as $35 per night (although there are some free cabins available on a first-come-first-serve basis). There are also a plethora of Airbnbs under $125/night from local residents where you can stay. (See also: How to Add an Extra Destination to Your Next Trip for Free)

5. Sitka

Juneau might be the state's capital now, but way back in the day when Russia owned Alaska, Sitka was the hoppin' capital. Even today, there are no roads going to this town, either. Your best bet for getting into town is via ferry or plane. Otherwise, it's a long, cold swim from the nearest town! Lodging in Sitka is a bit more expensive, but you can still find budget Airbnbs for $125 or less. Once you're here, however, the downtown and point of interest can be reached on foot.

There are tons of fun free activities, especially for history buffs. Visit the free Sitka Historical Park to see the town's rich cultural history as a melting pot between the Russian, American, and native Tlingit cultures. Also make sure to check out the Sitka Sound Science Center Aquarium for just a small $7 entrance fee. (See also: 7 States With the Lowest Taxes for Retirees)

6. Seward

You can visit two major areas in Seward: the historic town itself, or the neighboring Kenai Fjords National Park. While most of the Kenai Fjords National Park isn't accessible by road, you can drive and hike up to the base of the Exit Glacier within the park — and since there are no entrance fees for the park, it's a great budget activity.

Within Seward itself, make sure to check out the Alaska SeaLife Center (admission is $24.95 per adult) where you can see all sorts of cool Alaskan wildlife, including endangered Steller sea lions, puffins, rhinoceros auklets, and eider ducks. When you're ready to rest your sight-filled head, drop off to a local cabin Airbnb (there are about 20 to choose from under $100).

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