PB&J Travels: Alaska

The land of the midnight sun... Welcome to Alaska!
Alaska. A destination that was never on my radar nor made any of my travel lists... until now. Read on to hear about our amazing adventure to the last frontier!

By special request
Alaska was a place I would have never even considered traveling to if it weren't for a special request by my mom. She asked our family to join her on an Alaskan adventure through land and sea for her birthday. Of course, we all said yes and what happened next was truly the adventure of a lifetime!
Moose type of kisses from Alaska!
We embarked on a 10 day land and sea voyage arranged by Princess Cruise Line. I'll be saving my cruise experiences thoughts of Princess itself for another post. But for now I'd like to focus on everything we did within Alaska, the ports, the parks and everything in between.

City meets Nature
I deem myself more of a city (Disney) type of gal, so the thought of Alaska was definitely foreign to me. What would I have to pack? Would there be bugs? Animals? Oh gosh, how would I ever survive in nature?! I'm more about castles and magic than hiking and wildlife.
Nature? My exact face when contemplating Alaska for the first time,
So after researching as much as I could about our destination and probably overpacking x100, we ventured north to begin this crazy Alaskan adventure!

The first stop of our journey took us to Anchorage, Alaska. We flew in just around 10pm on our first day and were greeted by the midnight sun, literally. Alaskan summers are synonymous with lots of daylight. Upon our arrival the skies were still completely bright, it didn't feel an ounce like 10pm, as it still looked like it was 4pm outdoors. It was a little surreal, but totally amazing to look out your window at midnight and the skies still have a hint of sunlight. Our time in Anchorage was short as it was just our initial arrival point before our true trek around the state.
Hello, Alaska! The endless sunlight definitely confused Ben at first, but wasn't really an issue for his overall sleep schedule and routine. 

Mt. McKinley
After our brief stay in Anchorage, we ventured a few hours north and inland. Our first stop was near Talkeetna, a few hours away from Denali National Park. Since our entire vacation was through Princess Cruises, we stayed at the McKinley Princess Lodge which gave for the most magnificent sight of Mt. McKinley. We might have lucked out since we were able to catch glimpses of the behemoth mountain. Most of the staff we talked to said that the mountain is only visible 30% of the time, so we definitely lucked out with the weather and clarity the day we were there.
Can you spot Mt. McKinley peaking through the clouds?

We also took part in our first excursion upon our arrival, a horse drawn wagon ride through the wilderness! We also got to pan for gold, roast s'mores, feed reindeer, and just have a flat out good time!

For the sake of honesty, I do have to say that we did hit a slight vacation snag at this particular lodge/part of our trip due to a missing pair of sunglasses and some bad customer service on the lodge's part. It could have just been a one off, but I'll leave this rant as part of my total cruise review in my next post. Although the frustration of this situation was definitely annoying, what came next in our Alaskan journey truly made up for that and more!
RIP cute sunglasses! :(

Denali National Park
The following day we took another ride a few hours north to get to Denali National Park. Let me just say that this was one of the aspects of our Alaskan adventure that had me worried the most since I had no clue what to expect. We were booked on a 6 hour "Natural History Tour" of the park and on paper, it sounded less than ideal. What took place though is what made me start to truly fall in love with Alaska!
We checked into our next lodge, the Denali Princess Lodge (MUCH better in comparison to our first Princess lodge experience) and immediately embarked on our next tour taking us into the heart of Denali. We boarded refurbished school buses and went on a *wild* ride, in the most amazing ways!

**Denali National Park Tour TIP for families** 
Children under 4yrs of age must have a carseat to use for the bus tour. We weren't fully aware of this beforehand but luckily had it on hand with us. If we didn't, Ben wouldn't have been allowed on the tour since riding without a carseat would go against park regulations on this bus. Other than this tour, none of our other motorcoaches, bus rides or tour shuttles required a carseat for our little guy,

Due to park regulations, most vehicles are prohibited past a certain point in the park, unless you're on a tour provided by the park itself. Hence the reason for the school buses! Your highly informative driver/guide will tell you the history of the park, along with stopping at a few historic points along the way for you to be able to get out, explore and learn a little bit more about this beautiful park. But best of all? Wildlife spotting! One of my top dream Alaska hopes was to spot a lot of wildlife and boy oh boy were we in for a treat.
On our tour we were lucky enough to spot a male moose in the distance, a caribou cooling off in the waters literally feet from our bus, tons of other smaller animal pals, but the star of our journey? The grizzly bear that was in the middle of the road! Once he saw our bus coming he walked away, but not before we could all catch a glimpse of him (or her) sprinting down a hill. It was amazing!

All aboard!
After the Denali thrills the day before, we were yet again off on another leg of our journey. This time we were headed back down to the Alaskan coast to board our cruise ship. Going from inland to the port was such an adventure in itself. We boarded the Alaska Rail in a special glass domed train car that would take us on a 9 hour ride down to Whittier where our cruise ship awaited.
Now 9 hours on a train may seem a bit tedious, but this wasn't any ordinary train. The entire experience was beyond stellar. There was gorgeous scenery along the route, more  wildlife spotting from the windows all around, and all while in the comfort of a fully serviced and elegant train ride. We're talking comfy seats, a full on dining car with yummy Alaskan eats, and even an excellent narrator and guide to keep us entertained for the entire 9 hours. Plain and simple, the train ride didn't feel like a 9hr train ride. It was fun, comfortable and best of all? Ben loved getting to be on his first real "train" ride!
Loved the dining car on the train. The food was pretty delish, too!

A Bon Voyage from Whittier
The final destination of our 9 hour train ride was Whittier, Alaska. We didn't do much here except board the ship, but from the gorgeous views it gave us as we left the port, it was just the beginning of the endless breathtaking beauty that was in store for us soon.

Ice, Ice Baby!
Once we were onboard our cruise (more on that in then next post!) we sailed to two of the most spectacular places I've had a chance to visit. I've seen the silhouettes of Santorini at sunset, the crystal clear waters of the Maldives, and the ancient ruins of Rome to name a few spectacular sights.. all enough to take your breath away in their own right. But sailing to the glaciers Alaska? That's an experience that can definitely hold their own against the most gorgeous wonders of the world.
We first sailed to view the majestic Hubbard Glacier. I dare anyone to go and not have the breath taken away by the sheer magnitude of this sight. When you first enter Disenchantment Bay, (yes its really called that) you start to see the waters change and become ethereal. It's due to the sea and fresh waters mixing tougher and creates a glimmering sheen of water top. The air gets cooler, everything gets really quiet.. then you see the shards of ice floating and it's almost like  you're sailing into an icy dream. Then you see it... I'll let my pictures fo the talking
Breathtaking, right? It's literally a giant ice wall. The craziest part is knowing that you're the only ship in this bay along the glacier. Once in a while you hear a loud clap of thunder like sound, then you see chunks of ice and the glacier fall into the water due to Calving. It's awe inspiring! My family joked that the likeness of the glacier is that of "the Wall" from Game of Thrones. It's eerie, mysterious and gigantic all at once. You almost start to second guess if the night king is about the break through... LOL Sorry for the *nerd alert!*
Waiting for the White Walkers to break through the wall....
If the excitement of Hubbard glacier wasn't enough, the next day we sailed into Glacier Bay National Park. We sailed through he fjords, saw more wildlife, and stopped at the Margerie Glacier. Another truly beautiful sight!

After two full days onboard at sea sailing past glaciers and ice bays we finally docked on land! Skagway, Alaska was our first port on the cruise and the quaint little town is almost like something out of a movie.
We hiked across town to the viewpoint for some spectacular views of the harbor and our ship.
We couldn't leave without trying the famous Fry Bread from the Klondike Doughboy. SO YUM!

Our next port of call was the capital of Alaska, Juneau! We ventured to Mendenhall Glacier which was something that I was looking forward to visiting the most during our trip. Upon my research of Alaska pre-trip, I stumbled upon Juneau's Mendenhall Glacier in photos and was immediately transfixed on it's beauty.

Upon arrival to the glacier site, PB, Ben, myself, along with my parents took a short hike along the Nugget Falls trail and ended up at the base of the falls! It was incredible because you're basically right in front of the falls, surrounded by the lake, with a giant glacier in the distance. It was surreal and truly a beautiful hike and experience.

After working up quite the appetite from all the hiking, we headed to quite possibly the best king crab  spot in all of Alaska: Tracy's Crab Shack. Out of all our friends and aquaintences that have visited Juneau, the overall consensous is to go to Tracy;s to try their famous crab. Let me tell you, it did not dissapint! So YUM.

Immediately after our Juneau fun we headed to our last land destination in Alaska, Ketchikan. Here we took a short trek to the Totem pole museum, watched salmon trying to go upstream to spawn, strolled down the historic Creek Street and ended our day with an excursion that took us on a wildlife cruise. We spotted bald eagles fly up close to us, learned about crab catching and ended the adventure with a giant crab feast!

A sweet goodbye to the last frontier
So what's my verdict on Alaska? After all the initial hesitation and worries... I can 100% say that I truly LOVED alaska! Who would have thought that this Disney-City gal would absolutely fall in love with the majestic beauty, the nature, the wildlife, the people of Alaska. There's so much beauty around every corner, so much history, so many stories, so much to love and learn about this beautiful state.
If you're looking to find your next travel destination, I highly recommend putting Alaska on you "must visit" list. It's a gorgeous place with a little something for everyone.
To wrap up, Alaska, you were amazing and youve truly stolen a piece of this girl's travel loving heat! Until next time...💜

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