This tour through Alaska focuses on some of the events that make Alaska so unique—the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and the Iditarod. In Fairbanks, when conditions are right, one of nature’s most breathtaking shows, the Aurora Borealis, lights up the sky. You’ve heard of it and now you have the opportunity to see it! Spend time in Fairbanks and take the scenic Alaska Railroad to Anchorage. Be sure to watch for views of Mount McKinley and wildlife—as well as other spectacular scenery—along the way.Your time in Anchorage focuses on the Iditarod, Alaska’s best-known sporting event. Meet four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser at his kennels and visit the Iditarod Headquarters. Enjoy the festivities at a Musher’s Banquet, see the musher’s draw for starting position in the race, and perhaps meet them for photos and autographs. You’ll get a chance to be at the ceremonial start of the race in Anchorage and at the official restart of the race in Willow, where you’ll be able to cheer on your favorite mushers as they head off into the Alaska’s wilderness on this 1,131-mile journey to Nome.You’ll also spend time at the luxurious Hotel Alyeska, located in the ski resort community of Girdwood. Here, you can enjoy a variety of activities, including skiing, snowshoeing, taking an aerial tram ride for breathtaking views, or simply relaxing at the hotel’s spa. For a chance to see grizzly and black bears, moose, caribou, and more, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.This is a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime adventure not to missed. You’ve seen photos of the Aurora Borealis and the Iditarod race—now is your chance to see them both!
Day #1 Arrive in Fairbanks. Welcome to Fairbanks, the “Golden Heart” of Alaska and gateway to Denali National Park. Late this evening, join your Local Guide and traveling companions and get your first glimpse of one of nature’s most magnificent shows—the colorful celestial arcs and waves of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). When conditions are right, the aurora dances across the horizon and lights up the night sky, enchanting even Alaska’s tough ol’ “Sourdoughs” (old timers).
Day #2 Fairbanks. Your morning begins at leisure. Later this afternoon, enjoy a city tour of Fairbanks that includes a visit to the MORRIS THOMPSON CULTURAL CENTER. Afterward, venture to CHENA HOT SPRINGS—natural thermal springs that were discovered by gold miners in 1905 and are at the center of a 40-square-mile geothermal area. Consider a nice, relaxing soak, or maybe spend your free time ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or even taking a tour at the hot springs that focuses on geothermal energy. This evening is another opportunity to view the amazing Aurora Borealis as it lights up the northern skies. (B)
Day #3 Fairbanks–Alaska Railroad–Anchorage. Travel from Fairbanks to Anchorage today on the world-famous Alaska Railroad. The train’s wide windows are ideal for drinking in the stunning scenery on this full-day journey that truly showcases America’s 50th state. Keep an eye out for views of Mount McKinley—Denali, as the locals call it—as well as wildlife along the way. Arrive in Anchorage and transfer to your hotel. (B)
Day #4 Anchorage. Enjoy a full day at leisure in Anchorage. You may want to explore the historic downtown area, the Anchorage Museum, or join in some of the festivities happening throughout the city, including a winter carnival, ice-sculpting contest, a melodrama, and more. Check at your hotel’s front desk for an up-to-date list of activities. (B)
Day #5 Anchorage–Seward–Girdwood. This morning, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions at a welcome breakfast. Then, board your motorcoach and make one of the world’s great drives as you travel along the spectacularly scenic Turnagain Arm. Marvel at the dramatic views, and keep your eyes open for dall sheep, eagles, and some of Cook Inlet’s 350 beluga whales. Take a break at the ALASKA WILDLIFE CONSERVATION CENTER for the chance to see grizzly and black bears, moose, musk ox, caribou, lynx, and even a porcupine up close. In coastal Seward, visit the ALASKA SEALIFE CENTER for an in-depth look above and below the waters of Alaska. Arrive in the ski resort community of Girdwood, where you’ll spend the next two nights at the luxurious Hotel Alyeska. (B,L)
Day #6 Girdwood. Enjoy a full day at leisure—perfect for joining in a wide variety of optional activities. Maybe consider dogsledding, flightseeing, skiing, snowshoeing, or you may choose to just relax at the hotel’s spa. An included aerial TRAM ride offers breathtaking panoramas of Turnagain Arm and seven glaciers. (B)
Day #7 Girdwood–Anchorage. Return to Anchorage and join an included tour through the historic downtown district and to Lake Hood, the world’s busiest seaplane base. Next, visit the ALASKA ZOO for a behind-the-scenes tour. This afternoon there is time to explore Anchorage on your own. You may want to visit the Anchorage Museum. Tonight, enjoy Iditarod festivities and dinner at the [LF] MUSHER’S BANQUET. Enjoy Alaska entertainment, see the mushers draw for starting positions, and have the opportunity to meet them for photos and autographs. (B,D)
Day #8 Anchorage. Excursion to Big Lake. Travel north to Big Lake and meet four-time Iditarod Champion Martin Buser at his [LF] HAPPY TRAILS KENNELS. Hear his fascinating personal stories, including how his sons are named after Iditarod checkpoints, while viewing the grandeur Alaska has to offer along the Iditarod Trail. Then, visit IDITAROD HEADQUARTERS and see a replica of an Iditarod Trail station. This evening is at leisure back in Anchorage. Perhaps do some souvenir shopping, try some fresh seafood, or sample a locally made brew. (B)
Day #9 Anchorage. Ceremonial start of the Iditarod. This morning, head to 4th Avenue to get a great spot for the ceremonial start of the IDITAROD. Before the race starts, there’s a chance for photos and autographs with some of the mushers. Spend time cheering-on mushers from all over the world and enjoy other Iditarod festivities. Later, visit the ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE CENTER, which shares the rich heritage of Alaska’s 11 indigenous cultural groups. Tonight, reminisce over your Alaska winter adventure at a farewell dinner. (B,D)
Day #10 Anchorage. Excursion to Willow for Official Restart of the Iditarod. Travel north today to the quaint community of Willow, which started as a mining camp when gold was discovered in 1897. Here you’ll view the official RESTART of the Iditarod. Cheer your favorite musher as they head off into the Alaska wilderness on this 1,131-mile journey to Nome and the finish line. Make sure to have your camera ready for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. (B)
Day #11 Anchorage. Your tour ends this morning with guests departing on independent schedules. Transfers are provided to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (B)