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In 1867, the territory of Alaska was purchased from the Russians for $7.2 million (or about 2 cents an acre). For many years people referred to the acquisition as "Seward's Folly", named for Secretary of State William H. Seward (1801-1872) who made the deal. They viewed Alaska as a frozen wasteland, not realizing it would turn out to be one of the United States' richest resources for gold and oil. It took until 1959 for the territory to become a State of the Union.
 The flag of Alaska
Alaska's state flag, adopted in 1927, was designed by Benny Benson, a 13-year old student. It depicts eight yellow stars, forming the Big Dipper and North Star, on a blue field. The Big Dipper is an asterism of the constellation Ursa Major which represents a bear, an animal indigenous to Alaska. The North Star represents Alaska being the northernmost state.
 Get in
 By plane
Anchorage itself, and to a lesser extent Fairbanks, are serviced by most major airlines. Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Juneau are also served by daily jet service through Alaska Airlines flights originating in Seattle and terminating in Anchorage. Other communities within the state are served by an extensive system of regional and local air services connecting to Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Ketchikan, the state's four largest urban areas. Air travel is the cheapest and most efficient form of transportation in and out of the state. Anchorage recently completed extensive remodeling and construction at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to help accommodate the upsurge in tourism (unofficial sources have estimated the numbers for 2004 at some four million tourists arriving in Alaska between May and September).
 By car
Alaska is connected to the contiguous U.S. (known in Alaska as the "Lower 48") through Canada via the Alaska Highway. The highway is paved and maintained year-round. Sometimes it's a little too maintained, creating a uniquely Alaskan and Canadian situation: at any given time in the summer, you're bound to hit at least several dozen miles of road construction. Since the roads in construction zones usually have only one working lane, the construction companies operate "pilot cars" (usually pick-up trucks with yellow rotating beacons and large signs that say "Follow me"). They drive back and forth between the two ends of the construction zone and lead the vehicles safely to the other end. Depending on the length of the construction zone, the wait can be anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. Since there's only one main road, you can't really drive around the construction.
If you're planning to drive to or around Alaska, make sure to pick up a copy of The Milepost, which is widely regarded as the premiere road guide for western Canada and Alaska. Most roads in these regions have small white posts every mile or so indicating the number of miles from the start of the road. The Milepost has extremely detailed route descriptions of all of the roads, pointing out everything from scenic viewpoints and campgrounds down to the names of small creeks the roads pass over. If you're flying in to Anchorage and then driving around the state, wait and pick up a copy of The Milepost at one of the local Costcos or WalMarts--the price there is around half of list price.
Some rental car companies may offer one-way rentals in and out of the state in the shoulders of the tourist season (one-way into the state before summer and one-way out of the state after summer). Check with each agency for details. Also, it is possible (albeit expensive) to rent a vehicle one-way from Skagway to Anchorage with Avis, which is an option to pair with ferry service from Washington to Alaska (see below).
If an immigration issue prevents you from entering Canada, you may not enter Alaska by car from the contiguous US. Note that Canadian customs regulations state that Canadian residents may not rent a vehicle in the United States (including Alaska) and drive it into Canada.
 By boat
The Alaska Marine Highway System  (also see ) operates a ferry service from Bellingham, Washington up the beautiful Inside Passage to Haines. Plan your travel early as this service tends to fill up fast. A connecting ferry can take you to Whittier (although this service is much less frequent--suggest you call for details) from which the Alaska Railroad  connects to Anchorage. Some private companies operate shuttle vans between Whittier and Anchorage  as well, and the combination rail/highway tunnel allows road traffic in alternating directions every half hour. There is only one rental company in Whittier, Avis , which operates seasonally and with a limited number of cars. If you're arriving by ship without a car and want to drive to Anchorage, make reservations well in advance for one-way rentals and be prepared to pay an extremely high rate and a substantial one-way drop fee. Unless you've got five people and tons of luggage, it's usually better to make alternate arrangements (train or bus) to Anchorage and rent a vehicle there.
As mentioned above, Avis also offers one-way rentals from Skagway to the rest of Alaska (note that the only road from Skagway to the rest of Alaska travels through Canada).
Various cruise lines sail up the Inside Passage as well, typically ending in Seward or Whittier (these cruise lines usually--but not always, so check--provide transportation to Anchorage and may even include package tours or your return air travel out of the state). Additionally cruises depart from cities such as Seattle, Vancouver, and even San Francisco.
 By bus
Greyhound Canada provides service to Whitehorse, YT from points in Canada. The Alaska Direct Bus Line  provides service from Whitehorse to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Dawson City.
 Get around
Most cities and villages in the state are accessible only by sea or air. The Alaska Marine Highway System also serves the cities of Southeast and the Alaska Peninsula. Cities not served by road or sea can only be reached by air, accounting for Alaska's extremely well-developed Bush air services—an Alaskan novelty.
 By plane
Although Anchorage itself is accessible via most major airlines, Alaska Airlines has a virtual monopoly on jet air travel within the state, meaning prices are extremely high. The airline offers frequent jet service (sometimes in combination cargo and passenger Boeing 737-200s) from Anchorage and Fairbanks to regional hubs like Bethel, Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham, Kodiak, and other larger communities as well as to major Southeast and Alaska Peninsula communities. Smaller communities are served by the three main regional jet and turboprop commuter airlines: ERA Aviation, PenAir, and Frontier Flying Service. The smallest towns and villages must rely on scheduled or chartered Bush flying services using general aviation aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, the Piper Navajo, or the smaller Cessna 207, the most popular aircraft in use in the state. But perhaps the most quintessentially Alaskan plane is the seaplane. The world's busiest seaplane base is Lake Hood, located next to Ted Stevens airport in Anchorage, where flights bound for remote areas carry passengers, cargo, and lots of items from Costco and Sam's Club.
 By train
The Alaska Railroad  runs from Seward through Anchorage, Denali, and Fairbanks to North Pole, with spurs to Whittier and Palmer. The railroad is famous for its summertime passenger services but also plays a vital part in moving Alaska's natural resources, such as coal and gravel, to ports in Anchorage, Whittier and Seward. The Alaska Railroad is the only remaining railroad in North America to use cabooses on its freight trains. The route between Talkeetna and Hurricane (between Talkeetna and Denali) features the last remaining flag stop train service in North America. A stretch of the track along an area inaccessible by road serves as the only transportation to cabins in the area. Residents board the train in Talkeetna and tell the conductor where they want to get off. When they want to come to town, they wait by the side of the tracks and "flag" the train, giving it its name.
 By car
Alaska is arguably the least-connected state in terms of road transportation. The state's road system covers a relatively small area of the state, linking the central population centers and the Alaska Highway, the principal route out of the state through Canada. The state capital, Juneau, is not accessible by road, which has spurred several debates over the decades about moving the capital to a city on the road system. One unique feature of the road system is the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with the relatively isolated community of Whittier. The tunnel is the longest road tunnel in North America at nearly 2.5 miles and combines a one-lane roadway and train tracks in the same housing. Consequently, eastbound traffic, westbound traffic, and the Alaska Railroad must share the tunnel, resulting in waits up to 45 minutes (or more) to enter; for specific times, see the schedule at http://tunnel.alaska.gov. Anchorage International Airport is serviced by all of the major national rental car chains as well as a number of independents, while Fairbanks is served by fewer agencies. Some smaller towns around the state may also have a national chain company presence.
 By bus
There are several bus and shuttle services that can take you between cities on the road system. You will see many tour busses from major tour lines, although their tickets are usually only sold in a package tour. There are other companies that do sell individual tickets. The Alaska Park Connection sells tickets between Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, and Denali. Alaska Direct Bus Line travels from Whittier to Anchorage, north to Tok and Fairbanks, and also to Whitehorse. Alaska/Yukon Trails has lines from Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks, and they also have routes from Dawson City, Whitehorse, and other smaller towns. Homer Stage Line has busses from Anchorage south to the Kenai Peninsula, stopping in cities like Cooper Landing, Homer, Kenai, Seward, and Soldotna. Seward Bus Lines has routes from Anchorage (incl. the airport) directly to Seward.
 By boat
One of the best ways to see Alaska is by cruise ship. Cruise ships bring you wonderfully close to glaciers, whales and rocky coasts. Larger boats offering more amenities, while small ships and yachts carrying 12-100 passengers go where the big ships can't, getting you up close to Alaska's nature and wildlife. Many vessels include naturalist guided hikes and sea kayaking right from the ship, perfect for active, casual travelers.
Cruise ships have 2 main itineraries: The Inside Passage Route going roundtrip from either Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, Canada and the Gulf Route running Northbound and Southbound cruises between Seattle/Vancouver and Seward/Whittier.
Companies offering cruises in Alaska include:
Of course, after you get off the boat, you'll want to stay and explore Alaska's inland destinations. Don't get straight on an airplane and head home--you'll miss out on some of the best Alaska has to offer!
Alaska is huge. It actually spans five time zones ! So big in fact you probably won't scratch the surface of what it has to offer in terms of geography, wildlife, local flavor, or Alaska native culture.
If possible, try and visit a couple of the regions of the state during your visit. It is quite possible to experience the ancient rainforest of Southeast Alaska, camp in Denali National Park, and visit a working gold mine on the same trip.
There are many things to do when traveling to Alaska. If you are an adventure type then Alaska will be a great place to go. You can go hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and expeditions to see the wildlife of Alaska like wolves, whales, moose, and bears. There are also month-long expeditions to the top of Mt.McKinley.
Alaska, like many areas dominated by cruiseship tourism, is dominated by a shopping experience focused on jewelry, tee shirts, and trinkets. Yes, there are good buys occasionally (especially at the end of the season), but local products can be difficult to find.
If you are on a cruiseship, don't be afraid to visits stores not listed on the "preferred business'" list provided by the cruiseline. Those businesses paid a premium (ransom) to be listed and don't necessarily represent higher quality or better selection.
Alaskans love their food, fresh or otherwise you need good feed to keep up with daily life here. The portions in this state are huge. Almost every little town will have a local diner where one can get a filling breakfast and lots of hot coffee. Try the reindeer sausage with your eggs and hash in the morning and you'll feel like a true Alaskan.
Some foods indigenous to this area are fireweed honey (distinctive and quite uniquely delicious), and spruce tip syrup made from the Sitka spruce which grows very commonly throughout Alaska; and of course there is perhaps the most well know of all Alaskan produce: seafood. Alaska’s fishing grounds are among some of the richest in the world and feature among other delicacies King and Snow crab which are exported the world over. Many local restaurants close to the shore serve fresh halibut and salmon daily, right off the boats.
If you are sightseeing, please be sure to pick some up while you are there.
Beer is a big deal in Alaska with 4 breweries in Anchorage alone. Alaska Brewing Company in Juneau is the best known brewery in the state and their Alaskan Amber leads beer sales. Other towns with local Breweries include Homer, Haines, Kodiak, Fox (near Fairbanks), and Wasilla. In January there is the Great Alaska Beer and Barleywine event. It is the third largest in the United States and may be the largest event highlighting barleywine in the US.
The unofficial motto of Alaska : "Hold my beer and watch this !!"
 Stay safe
Alaska is wild and beautiful, but does not tolerate fools easily. It is quite possible to get lost, cold and wet - and die - within sight of downtown Anchorage. Further, the state's populace varies between extremely friendly to tourists to openly hostile, and users of the famous bumper sticker quote: "If it's tourist season, why can't we shoot 'em?" Many Alaskans are understandably tired of those people from the "lower 48" who head North to live out ill-conceived--and sometimes fatal--fantasies about living off the land.
The remote parts of the state are its jewels, but be prepared for the trip you plan. Do your homework, and plan on being self-sufficient. Consider using a guide, or checking out local conditions with locals before jumping in the kayak, and heading for yonder point that looked so nice on the map. The water in Alaska is so cold, falling overboard can kill within minutes. More importantly self-rescue becomes impossible often within SECONDS, especially around glacier-fed rivers. Treatment for hypothermia is required reading before doing any water sports, even during warm weather.
Bears and - just as dangerous - moose live in many areas of the state and it is wise to avoid them. Moose attacks are more frequent than bear attacks. See wilderness backpacking for more information about staying safe in areas of known bear activity.
 Get out