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Adventure your way across Alaska

By Ashley Strickland, Special to CNN
  • iReporters share their tips and photos for venturing through Alaska
  • Don't try to see everything in one trip; instead, focus on what you want to experience most
  • Whether by cruise ship or car, your trip to Alaska will be filled with scenery
  • Alaska
  • Anchorage
  • Juneau
  • Travel and Tourism

Editor's note: CNN's Destination Adventure series takes a look at destinations for the wanderer at heart. We're kicking things off with Alaska. Each week, we'll feature favorite regional foods, secrets from the locals, and the best photos and stories from readers. Next week, we'll journey to Hong Kong, so please stop by CNN iReport if you've got photos or tips to share.

(CNN) -- Alaska's vast expanse of wilderness and natural beauty is captivating to its residents and visitors alike. Whether you're new to this fascinating state or a native Alaskan, it takes time to explore all the Land of the Midnight Sun has to offer.

"I feel even if we do a lot of homework online, it won't be enough to have a good vacation in Alaska," iReporter Uday Ellala said.

Don't let this wide-open landscape intimidate you. Traveling to Alaska is well worth the planning.

"Alaska is an amazing, enchanted place," iReporter Joan Splinter said. "The scenery is unbelievably beautiful, and the people are warm and welcoming."

iReporters, both tourists and locals, shared their favorite experiences and tips for navigating your way across the state.


Don't feel overwhelmed by Alaska's sheer size -- or treat this like it's your only opportunity. First-timers in Alaska should try to immerse themselves, iReporter Laura Grabhorn said.

"Instead of going for the whirlwind, pick a couple of destinations and spend a few days there. From Seattle, you can get to Sitka in less than two hours. Rent a car and enjoy the place!" she said.

Go with a plan for what you want to see and experience for your "immersion." Also, don't forget to keep the season in mind when making your plans.

"If your first visit to Alaska is in the summer, your next trip must be in the winter," Splinter said. "Winters are magical: peaceful, amazing sunrises and auroras. It is easily my favorite season there of all!"

iReporter Adyson Ellis has a few tips of her own for the summer. "Make sure you have hotel reservations, as rooms can get booked a year in advance. Be prepared for high gas and food prices, and in the smaller communities, there are limited places to eat, so plan accordingly."

Because hot weather is rare in Alaska, don't forget to bring layers of clothing, especially if you go out on the water.

"First-timers should see glaciers, attempt to go fishing on a stream or the ocean and, of course, consume much fresh seafood," iReporter Russ Dale suggested.

Cruising through

Photographer and iReporter L. Craig Smith knows the importance of making the most of your trip.

His recommendation? "A cruise through the Inside Passage of Alaska to explore and experience the small and beautiful mining and logging towns, as well as witnessing up close the beautiful glaciers."

To take a gander at the wild side of Alaska, get your adventure on in the Kenai Peninsula, Smith suggests.

iReporter Dino Robert U. Eleazar recommends taking a cruise to maximize your time in Alaska -- and visiting multiple cities.

"I've been to Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway, Sitka and Icy Straight Point, amazing places. At least you can visit not just one place in Alaska, but the cruising experience is really the best," he said.

Road trippin'

For those with the opportunity to see Alaska by car, iReporter Joan Splinter advises to venture along the road rarely taken.

"There is nothing like seeing Alaska by land. Homer -- a haven for artists and sportsmen alike -- is the crown jewel of the peninsula. The four-hour drive from Anchorage to Homer can easily take you six hours or more if you stop to photograph the amazing scenery along the way," she said.

You can also adventure through Alaska with horseback riding, kayaking, float planes and water taxi tours, Splinter said.

Where to eat and stay

In Juneau, Laura Grabhorn recommends several places to grab a bite. "My absolute favorite is Hangar on the Wharf: awesome food in a friendly and low-key spot. It used to be the Juneau airport, and now you can eat and see float planes taking off and landing and enjoy the mist and clouds as they tumble down the mountains."

She also suggests the Twisted Fish Company in Juneau and the Larkspur Café in Sitka.

Joan Splinter loves visiting Homer, and when she does, she stops by Fat Olives or Cosmic Kitchen. "For fine dining, Cafe Cups cannot be beat by any restaurant in Alaska or the lower 48." She usually stays at the Timber Bay Bed & Breakfast or the Ocean House Inn.

When Grabhorn is in Juneau, she stays at the Alaska Beach Cabin on Indian Cover with a waterfront view. In Sitka, she suggests staying at the Shee Atika Totem Square Inn. "Lovely people, and they'll help you find your way around town and give you water for your stroll."

Feasting in Alaska: Dried moose, whale blubber and spit-roasted yak

Favorite spots

As iReporter Paul Tamsai said, "I would recommend the Denali area, but there is no place that I would not recommend."

While Juneau, the state capital, is a favorite with its museums, art galleries and live shows, iReporters ventured all across the state.

"I love Seldovia!" said Alicia McDonald, a former Anchorage resident. "The town is in such a beautiful setting, the people are great, the sunsets are gorgeous, the views are humbling ,and there is such a peacefulness to the area."

iReporter Russ Dale felt similarly about Ellamar. "There is no way to describe the breathtaking sights I saw, no way to describe the glee and transformation of a free soul on the edge of the untamed wild."