There’s never been a better time to visit Alaska
With COVID-19 vaccines readily available across the US, there’s never been a better time to cross off your Alaska bucket list trip than now! Alaska is HUGE and that can be intimidating for visitors planning a trip. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you plan your Alaska vacation, using the beautiful Anchorage, Alaska as the best place to organize your adventure.
Flying: Anchorage boasts the biggest airport in Alaska, supporting around 240 flights each day from all around the world. Direct flights to Anchorage are available from most major airports across the US.
When to go
Summer and winter offer very different experiences! Anchorage is so far north that in summer, the sun doesn’t set until midnight! Summer in Alaska leaves plenty of daylight hours to pack in as much outdoor adventuring as possible.
Winter provides some great opportunities to see the northern lights, go dog-sledding, and experience the snow.
We recommend at least a 7-day stay to fully appreciate the variety of things to do.
Where to stay
Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, and is our favorite jumping-off place for a ton of Alaska adventures. The city promises to offer plenty of things to do for city-dwellers, nature lovers and families. Anchorage combines the wild beauty of Alaska with all the convenience of urban comfort.
Budget travelers can find affordable accommodations in several local hostels, and motels. There are also quite a few hotels and resorts for those who want to splurge or book with points.
Anchorage is the central point for air travel in Alaska. Air travel is such a common way to get around this huge state, that there are more pilots per capita than anywhere else in the USA! Taking a sightseeing plane from Anchorage is the best way to visit Alaska’s national parks.
The Alaska Railroad is also a great way to see the expanse of Alaska! The railroad operates year-round (though service varies seasonally), and connects almost 500 miles of track from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north. Seasonally themed routes will show visitors the aurora borialis, or tour the glaciers that formed so much of the landscape.
What to do
Alaska offers so many varied activities that it’s impossible to list them all! Using Anchorage as a jumping off point to explore the best that Alaska has to offer.
Anchorage features 60 glaciers within 50 miles of its downtown core, six mountain ranges, and 300 miles of wilderness trails for outdoor adventurers to explore. Visitors can see bears, whales, and other native wildlife. In the summer, there is an urban salmon stream for some of the best fishing opportunities. In winter, go dog-sledding and see the aurora.
Take a scenic drive into the mountains or down the coast to see some of the best views Alaska has to offer. The Chugach Mountains are Alaska’s most accessible natural area. Several of its top trailheads are located within a 20 minute drive from downtown. This huge mountain range is one of the largest state parks in America, and offers 9000 square miles of outdoor adventures. You can go hiking, rafting, biking, kayaking and fishing.
Did you know that Alaska has more than half of all of America’s national park land? With over 33 national parks and wildlife refuges, it’s nearly impossible to see them all! Anchorage offers a way to see 4 of the 5 major National Parks in Alaska. Take a sightseeing trip to Denali National Park, the home of North America’s highest peak. See the glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park. Visit the fat bears of Katmai National Park (but don’t get too close!). Take a seaplane to the remote wilderness of Lake Clark National Park. Last but not least, explore the massive Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island!
In summer or winter, there's never been a better time to visit Alaska!
This content was produced in partnership with Visit Anchorage.
10 best LGBT+ bars across the United States
June is dedicated to Pride month in the United States and around the world to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Get in on the festivities at these 10 best LGBTQ+ bars in the country where queer people can be free to be themselves year round. Support these businesses to help maintain safe spaces for queer folks to gather and celebrate as they please. Unfortunately, lesbian bars have been closing up shop lately. In the 80s there were about 200 lesbian bars in the U.S., today there are fewer than 25. The Lesbian Bar Project aims to support the remaining lesbian bars across the U.S. Queer women and non-binary people need dedicated bars where they can be themselves since they may not always feel welcome at traditional gay bars geared towards men. The Stonewall Inn - New York City Pride honors the Stonewall Riots, a series of protests led by Black and Latinx trans women including Marsha P. Johnson, Zazu Nova, and Sylvia Rivera in June of 1969 after NYPD raided the gay bar The Stonewall Inn. The uprising was a catalyst for the modern gay rights movement. Today, the iconic gay bar partners with The Brooklyn Brewery to create The Stonewall Inn IPA which benefits The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative. The Lipstick Lounge - Nashville, TN What could be more fun than singing karaoke surrounded by queer women and non-binary people? All that magic and more can be found at The Lipstick Lounge in Nashville, TN. Karaoke kicks off every night at 7 p.m. Other weekly events include live music, trivia, and more.Stacy’s @ Melrose - Phoenix, AZ No list of LGBTQ+ bars would be complete without at least one epic spot for a drag queen show. Stacy’s at Melrose in Phoenix, AZ is often hailed as the best gay bar in town. The friendly neighborhood spot is known for the happy hour drag show Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. A League of Her Own - Washington, DC The U.S. capital is home to one of the most celebrated lesbian bars, A League of Her Own. Located in Washington D.C.’s queer-friendy Adam’s Morgan neighborhood, there’s never a cover at this queer drinking hole. Cubby Hole - New York City New York City’s Cubby Hole is a gay bar frequented by lesbians and queer women with a laid-back atmosphere. The epic happy hour special includes half off beer, wine, and well drinks Monday through Saturday until 7 p.m. The Loft - San Diego, CA Located in San Diego, CA, The Loft was rated the best gay bar in the country in 2019. It’s a relaxing spot to sit outside and enjoy the southern California weather with a few ice-cold beers and great company. Big Chicks - Chicago, IL Big Chicks in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, IL is a quirky spot adorned with artwork from local artisans. If you’re looking for a dance floor, go on the weekend when a DJ spins the best songs to groove to with your queer pals. Chill Bar - Louisville, KY As the name says, this relaxed gay bar in Louisville, KY is a chill spot to unwind offering trivia nights, show tune sing-alongs, and more. Chill Bar is also decked out with a beautiful mural declaring to everyone who walks by that love is all we need. The Stable - Providence, RI One of the best gay bars in Providence, RI is The Stable. Don’t miss the Sangria Sunday drag show from noon to 7 p.m. Ripcord - Houston, TX The second oldest gay bar in Texas is also the state’s oldest leather bar. Houston’s Ripcord has been the spot for gay men to gather and mingle since the 80s and is located in the LGBTQ+ friendly Montrose neighborhood.
The 5 worst ways to die in a national park (and how to stay alive)
#1: Dissolving in a Yellowstone hot spring People from all over the world go to marvel at the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Occasionally, people decide to avoid warnings, fences, and pathways in order to get into one of the hot springs - an activity known as “hot potting.” Unfortunately for many who decide to partake in this very illegal activity, both the heat of the springs and the strong acidic nature of them make this a very dangerous idea. 22 people have died throughout the park's history doing this. In 2016, a brother-sister pair were on a trip to Yellowstone National Park when they decided to try to hot pot at the Morris Geyser Basin, considered one of the hottest geysers in the park. After walking past the pathway and several signs, Colin Scott went to dip his toe in the water when he slipped and fell into the pool. By the time his sister Sable found help, Colin’s body had almost entirely dissolved by the acid in the pool. His flip flops were the only piece of him ever seen again. How to stay alive: Never go swimming without ranger permission. #2: Falling off of Angel’s Landing in Zion Angel’s Landing is one of the most formidable hikes in the USA, not for anyone with any fear of heights. The final half mile traverses the spine of a 1500-foot high rock formation. The trail is very narrow in places, only 5 feet wide, with an iron chain to hold onto - it is the only thing separating you from falling down the 1500-foot straight drop into Zion Canyon. ©Ryan Kelehar/Shutterstock Unfortunately, that’s exactly what has happened to at least 10 people since 2004, who have fallen off the side and perished. In 2018, a 13-year-old girl was hiking Angel’s Landing with her family when she decided to turn back and meet them at Scout’s Lookout. When her family returned from the hike, they were unable to find her and reported her missing. Search crews found her body the next day, and determined she had fallen off the cliff to her demise. How to stay alive: if you’re going to climb on a ledge 1500 feet off the ground, make sure you’re as safe as possible. ©Bram Reusen/Shutterstock #3: Murdered by a serial killer in Shenandoah National Park Distance hiking is typically an activity where the dangers come from natural forces - things like storms, bears and cold. Hikers don’t typically have to plan to come into contact with a serial killer, but that’s exactly what is alleged to have happened to Julianne “Julie” Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans in May of 1996. The two women were on an overnight hike in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia when their throats were slit, they were stripped of their clothing, and their bodies dumped near that Appalachian Trail. Investigators initially suspected that the murders were committed by a man named Darrell David Rice, who was indicted for the crimes in 2001. Rice is suspected to be the “Route 29 Stalker” that abducted women in Northern Virginia in the 90s. The charges were eventually dropped after investigators could only establish circumstantial evidence that Rice was in Shenandoah National Park that day. There are a few other potential suspects, none of which can be conclusively tied to the murders. The case remains unsolved. How to stay alive: Constant vigilance while distance hiking. Don't murder people. SSDGM. #4: Eaten by a bear in Katmai National Park Alaska’s National Parks are some of the most remote places in the world, which was part of the appeal to Timothy Treadwell. Timothy was an environmentalist who established a foundation called Grizzly People, dedicated to protecting bears. He spent 13 summers camping in Katmai National Park living with grizzly bears and studying them. ©Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock In 2003, he was camping near a salmon stream that was a popular grizzly feeding spot. He was accompanied by his girlfriend Amie Huguenard, even though she was reportedly afraid of bears. When a remote plane pilot landed to pick up the pair, he couldn’t find them and reported them missing. When park officials arrived to search for them, they found their mangled remains nearby, with a large male grizzly aggressively protecting the campsite. All that was left of Timothy Treadwell was a partially disfigured head, spine, and an arm with his wristwatch still on. Investigators also found a video camera nearby, which included a 6-minute audio recording of screaming and cries as the bear attacked the duo. This is the only known occurrence of a bear attack in Katmai National Park. How to stay alive: bears don’t want to be your best friend. Leave them alone. #5: Getting lost in Death Valley Death Valley is the hottest place in the United States, and often in the entire world, and anyone visiting the National Park needs to be prepared for extremely high temperatures. In 2009, a mother and her 6-year-old son got lost in Death Valley when a GPS unit told them to turn down a remote backcountry road. Alicia Sanchez and her son Carlos were only supposed to spend one night in Death Valley. Instead of using a paper map, Alicia was relying on the GPS unit in her car. The GPS turned them onto a gravel road, where they got stuck with a flat tire. She fixed the flat tire, and then continued on into the desert, where it is unclear if she was lost, disoriented, or trying to turn around. Eventually her car got stuck in a patch of sand, and for 5 days, she and her son were stuck in the hottest desert in the western hemisphere waiting for help. Her son succumbed to dehydration and heat exhaustion the day before his mother was found by a search and rescue team. How to stay alive: Always carry a paper map and more water than you think you’ll need.
The best hot springs near Reno, Nevada
There are more hot springs in and around Reno than anyone knows what to do with. Some are through resorts while most others are natural. Some of them even have campsites near to offer an overnight soak under the stars. Here are the top 10 favorites! Before you go, be sure to read up on Nevada's COVID-19 policies and guidelines here. 1. Wild Willy’s Hot Springs This hot spring, near Mammoth Lakes, is open year-round, has beautiful views, and always has close to perfect water temperature coming in anywhere from 95-105 degrees. Upon arrival, there is a boardwalk leading to two hot spring pools. One of the pools is much larger and deeper than the average hot spring pool appealing to bigger groups. They both have cement and have been built-up to keep them in pristine condition. 2. Hilltop Tub Hot Springs Yet another hot spring in Mammoth with a view of the Eastern Sierra. This pool is on the littler side so arriving early or going during the week may be key to getting a secluded experience. It is a man-made stone pool with a valve for slight control of the temperature. This is one of the places that nude soaking is more popular. 3. Travertine Hot Springs This area is easily accessible and has multiple pools making it easy to share which is needed at this high traffic popular hot spring. The name of these pools most likely came from the rich gray travertine mud that lines the floors and is known for its restorative properties. This is one of the places that nude soaking is more popular. 4. Buckeye Springs This warm waterfall like experience pours down from the springs above into a warm pool between the banks of the Buckeye creek and a steep sidewall. The sound of the falling water brings a different kind of relaxation to the hot springs. There is nearby camping at Buckeye Campground. This is one of the places that nude soaking is more popular. 5. Soldier Meadows Hot Springs There are 4-6 places to get in the hot water ranging from the 90’s to the low 100’s in this area. They are made up of damned pockets along the hot spring’s river. This is a great hot spring to go to if the plan includes staying overnight. There is a cattle ranch near that offers lodging or tons of BLM campgrounds to choose from. 6. Trego Hot Springs Though the Black Rock Desert is most popularly known for Burning Man every summer, it is also perfect for visiting several hot springs that give the spring soakers a different vibe than the others on the list. The views of the playa combined with the pond-like hot spring is unlike any other. This is technically on private property but there are BLM signs guiding the way to the hot spring. This is ideal for those who do not want to walk because you can park right next to the hot spring. 7. Spencer Hot Springs This spring includes natural pools and an enclosed pool with a metal tub and an in-ground spring. Some reviews say that the bottoms of the pools are soft sand, and the water is cleaner than one would expect in a natural pool. There is also a beautiful view of the Toiyabe Range. It is easily accessible (still on a dirt road though) and free to camp. Or, for a more civilized stay, the town Austin is not too far away. This is a great place to visit for those who are new to hot springing. 8. Fish Lake Valley Hot Wells This is a popular place for those with campers and ATV’s. Unlike most other hot springs, this one comes with amenities such as BBQ’s and firepits. The hot springs here are a large concrete pool and two natural ponds with a view of the White Mountains and Boundary Peak. 9. Bartine Hot Springs This is perhaps the most unique tub of the hot springs on the list. The pool here is a three-seat stone tub that was dug into the ground. There is a breathtaking view in all directions, in and out pipes to keep the water nicely circulated and clean and has carpet on one side for a more comfortable area. The bottom is known to get a bit slippery from algae. The walk in can be muddy and finding the hot spring has proven difficult in general, though there are directions to follow. 10. Resorts If the natural approach is not for you, there also resorts that have luxurious hot springs. They have limitations due to the pandemic, but they are worth the time and consideration. Steamboat Hot Springs, Carson Hot Springs, and 1862 David Walley’s Resort (my personal favorite because of the beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Carson Valley) all offer a range of services and a spa-like experience with facials, massages, steam rooms, and of course, hot springs and pools. Don’t forget these tips when planning your trip to one of the hot springs! 1. Dress accordingly. Some hot springs require a little walk or hike after parking the car. If the plan is to stay later into the night, bring a set of warmer clothes. And while we’re on the subject of clothes, it is also important to note that most hot springs are in remote places. This means that there is not a dress code, and some may take advantage of that for a nude soak. 2. A lot of people are out looking for adventure and a chance to experience the springs, share the space. 3. Just like anywhere else, leave the area cleaner than when you found it. Our planet needs our help. Be respectful to the land and future visitors. 4. Some springs on private property. This does not mean that they cannot be visited but pay close attention when there are “no trespassing” signs 5. Some hot springs can be difficult to get to without a bigger vehicle. A lot of them require at least a short drive on dirt roads. 6. The temperature of the hot springs is ever changing. Because they are naturally-fed, there is no guarantee that they will be cool enough to get in. Some hot springs have seriously burned or even killed people and their pets so always check the temperature beforehand. Haley Beyer is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020.
How to see the best of Montana in 7 days
Montana is criminally underrated. Its natural beauty has earned it the nickname “The Last Best Place” and, after a week-long road trip across the state, you’ll have a hard time arguing otherwise. The western half of Montana is particularly spectacular thanks to the wonders of Glacier National Park, Flathead Valley, and its many small town splendors. But don't miss out on the beautiful highways that wander around the 100+ mountain ranges in the state. One of the many unintended consequences of COVID-19 travel restrictions has been the rebirth of the American road trip. Instead of flying to far flung places, people are escaping in their vehicles, in search of rest and respite. Luckily, there is only one way to properly see Montana in all its glory-- road trip. Due to the sheer size of the state, it would be nearly impossible to scratch the surface of Montana in a week. Instead, spend your time enjoying the Western side of the state-- where buffalo roam in front of snow capped mountains. Trip length: 7-10 days; 448 miles (720km) Best time to visit: August through mid-September (fewer crowds, weather is still warm) Essential photo op: Lake McDonald Can’t miss experience: Driving Going the Sun Road Quick road trip summary: Day 1- Kalispell and Flathead Lake Day 2- Wild Horse Island and Bigfork Days 3 and 4- Glacier National Park Day 5- Missoula Day 6 and 7- Bozeman and West Yellowstone Optional additions: Whitefish Kalispell Start your Montana adventure in quaint Kalispell! This quintessential Montana town, which will only take a day out of your itinerary, is the gateway to Glacier National Park, making it the best introduction to the state any first-time visitor could ask for. It’s an essential rite of passage for every visitor to order a huckleberry milkshake from Norm’s News. Flathead Lake, Montana. ©Justin Foulkes/Lonely Planet Flathead Lake If you have the time, drive 14-minutes south towards Flathead Lake! It’s the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River and an idyllic place for a picnic. In warmer weather, you’ll see people stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, and horseback riding around the Lake. You might also spot Flessie, the resident lake monster that locals swear dwells in the water. Flathead Lake is also home to guided Llama treks for the extra adventurous. Whitefish A 20-minute drive north from Kalispell will land you in Whitefish, a gorgeous town known for its ski slopes and high-end boutiques. Whitefish also has quite the reputation for its “romantic getaway” status. Montana has the second most breweries per capita in the country (just behind Vermont), and Whitefish has plenty of them. Because of this, it’s almost a requirement that you grab a craft beer from a locally-owned brewery like the Bonsai Brewing Project. If you happen to be visiting during the summer, check out the town’s farmer’s market for local vendors selling everything from florals to produce and handcrafted jewelry. Short on time? Skip Whitefish (for this visit) in lieu of exploring Flathead Lake. The Rocky Mountains in Montana. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Bigfork Bigfork, Montana, nearly qualifies as a hidden gem. It gets overlooked regularly by those passing through, but that’s a mistake. Bigfork is so picturesque it was proudly featured in the Hallmark film “Christmas in Montana”. Bronze bear fountains are dotted throughout the town, adding to its Western feel and shops along the main street sell homemade preserves from native berries. Make sure to try a pint of the local brew at Flathead Lake Brewing Company. Wild Horse Island For a totally unique Montana experience, head to Wild Horse Island. The island, which is actually a state park, is inhabited by bighorn sheep, deer, bald eagles, and (just as the name suggests) wild horses. You can kayak or paddleboard out to the island if you’re feeling fit, or opt to relax on a boat ride from Bigfork. Glacier National Park. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Glacier National Park Warning: visitors who travel to Glacier National Park may never want to leave. If there is one single spot you simply cannot miss on a visit to Montana, it’s Glacier. As the Crown Jewel of the state, it could keep you occupied with its scenic trails and glacial lakes for days on end, however, you’ll want to allow yourself a minimum of two days. First-time visitors to Glacier might feel overwhelmed by the wealth of options for what to see and do, but there are some clear winners topping any must-see list, including: stopping by Lake McDonald, hiking Grinnell Glacier, and, of course, driving Going the Sun Road. This 50-mile stretch of road is a feat of engineering that takes about 2 hours to drive one-way. The Highline Trail and Avalanche Lake are also well-worth seeing. Helmville Rodeo. Photo by Donnie Sexton. Missoula As far as college towns go, Missoula, Montana, is one of the best for outdoor enthusiasts. It is also one of the country’s quirkiest. An autumn visit to Missoula calls for a hot cup of caffeine at Clyde Coffee, Butterfly Herbs, or Break Espresso. Enjoy your joe while you stroll around the city and take in its many murals and Tibetan prayer flags flying from front porches. There are plenty of local businesses to support, including Hometana, The General Public, and Rockin’ Rudy’s. On the way to Missoula, make sure to stop in at Ninepipes Museum to support Indigenous art and designs. Bozeman Venture further south and you’ll land in Bozeman. Made extra popular with tourists thanks to the television series “Yellowstone” (starring Kevin Costner), Bozeman is known locally as the “California of Montana” due to the number of start-up companies. Despite its reputation as a “pass-through” place with pseudo cowboys and obvious wealth, Bozeman is remarkably easy on the eyes. it only takes a heartbeat to see why everyone wants to live there. Bozeman has a thriving food and coffee scene (local favourites include Nova Cafe, Jam!, Five on Black, and Plonk), historic ghost tours, and luxury spas. Bozeman is also home to the Bozeman Stampede Rodeo, the Montana Ballet Company, and rowdy Montana State University football games. Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Donnie Sexton. (West) Yellowstone National Park Montana might be home to only 3% of Yellowstone National Park, but that sliver is steeping with phenomenal views. Fill your days up here with fishing, whitewater rafting down the Yellowstone River, and hiking the nearby trails. After all your outdoor recreation, treat yourself to dinner and huckleberry ice cream at Arrowleaf Ice Cream and Grill. Beartooth Highway in the Summer. Photo by Laura Brown. Red Lodge Montana and the Beartooth Highway The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile All-American road connected the town of Red Lodge, Montana to Yellowstone National Park. It is considered one of the most beautiful drives in America. It is typically open in the summer months, but those with adventurous snow experience can try their hand at a snowmobile in the winter. Stop over in Red Lodge for a charming small western town experience.