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Alaska Celebrates 150 Years

Alaska Celebrates 150 Years

With the crowds thinned out and the spectacular fall colors emerging, Alaska can be a beautiful place to visit in September and October. And in 2017, there’s even more reason to plan a trip.

This year marks the sesquicentennial of Alaska becoming a U.S. territory, after its purchase from Russia in an agreement negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward. The official transfer took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867, when the Russian flag was lowered and the Stars and Stripes was raised. Sitka, near the capital of Juneau, will celebrate with Alaska Day festivities from October 10–18, including a parade and costume ball.

Alaska’s massive glaciers are one of its most spectacular natural features, and perhaps the best way to see them is from the deck of a ship. There’s still time to catch the tail end of cruise season, which generally runs through the third week of September. Even in October, when the larger cruise ships have moved on, you can still get out on the water. Charter boats from Whittier and Seward offer small-group sightseeing tours to Prince William Sound and Kenai Fjords National Park respectively that will get you up close to the glaciers as well as within view of wildlife like seals, puffins, and bald eagles.

Of course, there’s much to see and do on land in Alaska, too.

With the weather a little cooler, September and October are good months to try outdoor activities, including hiking, biking and walking, amid the brilliant fall foliage. There’s also a better chance to see large animals like moose, caribou, and grizzlies as they prepare for winter. Or, take in the scenery from the comfort of a train car. The Aurora Winter Train makes the 12-hour trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks every weekend. If it’s a clear day, you’ll get a glimpse of Denali, North America’s highest mountain peak. In October, Alaska Railroad runs a Beer Train from Anchorage that features a multi-course dinner and an assortment of microbrews. From Fairbanks, take a tour to see the dazzling nighttime display of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

Most visitors to Alaska will stop in Anchorage, the state’s largest city. Its restaurants serve up some of the freshest seafood you’ll find anywhere, from oysters to king crab and wild salmon. One of the city’s biggest fall events is the Alaska Federation of Natives Conference, which this year takes place October 19–21. Almost all events are open to the public, so it’s a great place to sample Native Alaskan food and culture, and buy crafts from local artists.

For a change of pace, take a trip about 120 miles north of Anchorage to the small town of Talkeetna, said to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Cicely in the popular television series “Northern Exposure.” Spend time checking out the shops, galleries, restaurants, and breweries, and learn about the community’s gold mining history.

For help planning a trip to Alaska any time of year, contact Travel Leaders COS at 800-273-0793, locally 719-597-0004, or send us an email at

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