Alaska is a weird and wonderful place to visit. One of the last great wildernesses left in the world, it is full of excitement, mystery, and wonder, offering unique attractions and once-in-a-lifetime experiences around every corner.
While the major attractions of Alaska – the glaciers, the wildlife, the sheer unspoiled natural beauty – are pretty well-known, the Last Frontier is full of lesser-known, weirder, and off-the-beaten-track places to visit and things to see. Exploring the road less traveled and getting to know a different side of Alaska is a real treat, and something all visitors should do.
So whether you are a veteran, regularly taking Alaska cruises from Seattle to explore the 49th state, or a complete Alaska newbie packing your bags for your first trip north, here are some of the most amazing, unusual, and hidden places to visit in Alaska!
Mendenhall Ice Caves
Only a few short miles from the center of Juneau, the Mendenhall Ice Caves take you into a magical frozen world of bright-blue ice and freezing water. ‘The Glacier Behind the Town’ houses offers the opportunity to literally climb inside one of these vast natural constructions of ice and rock, and explore the inside of a glacier. Despite its proximity to Alaska’s capital, the Mendenhall Ice Caves remain under the radar, mostly because the only way to reach them is by kayak, followed by a scramble up and across the glacier itself!
The Dr. Seuss House
Officially called the Goose Creek Tower, this mind-bending construction is known locally as the Dr Seuss House, due to its resemblance to one of the bizarre, freaky habitations from the popular children’s books. Its creator, designer, and builder, Philip Weidner, originally planned to construct a two-story cabin, and just got carried away stacking floor after floor, so the final product now towers over the surrounding woods. The house remains under construction, and there are currently between 14 and 17 floors, depending on how you count.
Aurora Ice Museum
The Aurora Ice Museum is the most impressive, and largest collection of ice sculptures that lasts all year long in the world. From medieval knights to polar bears, these remarkable sculptures are the creations of famous ice artist Steve Brice, who designs and hand-crafts each one. Room after room of frozen statues and huge dioramas lit by ethereal light make this attraction a must-see.
Kennecott Ghost Town
Thanks to the gold, copper, and other precious metals found in its hills and mountains, Alaska is full of ghost towns, settlements that sprung up at the height of the mining surge, and now remain uninhabited and alone in the woods. Kennecott is probably the most impressive of these fascinating towns, the remains of what was once the world’s largest copper mine, now totally deserted. It is worth visiting for the eerie atmosphere alone, although there are also some impressive historical buildings to see, as well as the beautiful Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.
The Upside-Down Forest
No, not something from Stranger Things, but rather a quaint, curious, and altogether delightful reimagining of a botanical garden. The ‘hanging gardens of Alaska’ were born when local landscaper Steve Bowhay deposited a dead tree stump upside-down when clearing a stream at the foot of Thunder Mountain. He loved the visual aesthetics, and repeated the feat with over 75 more dead spruce and hemlock trees. The roots hang down like vines, and he and his wife Cindy planted flowers and other bushes and shrubs in the root bowls, creating a remarkable upside-down forest. Now, Glacier Gardens is one of the most charming attractions Juneau has to offer!