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.
A guide to each of the Hawaiian Islands
Are you still having that dream about Hawaii? The one where you’re at the beach sipping a Mai Tai? Hawaii is a rich and beautiful place with unique nuances between each island. Read more for a breakdown of what makes each island special, what the individual policies are for COVID and safe travel, and other essential things to keep in mind when picking your destination. Kaua'i Island Known for: Kaua'i is also known as "The Garden Isle" because of the tropical rainforest blanketing most of the land. Kaua'i is small at just 25 miles long and 33 miles wide, with roughly 77,000 locals, but represents the land of discovery for Hawaiian culture and the spirit of aloha. The iconic island scenery appears as the backdrop to several movies, including Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blue Hawaii, and Lilo & Stitch. "The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires, and jagged cliffs aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers, and cascading waterfalls! Some parts of Kauai are only accessible by sea or air, revealing views beyond your imagination." COVID policies & restrictions: The county of Kaua'i manages its own inter-county travel quarantine processes due to its at-risk population. Transpacific travelers are still exempt from a 10-day quarantine if they receive an approved, negative test result within 72 hours of arrival. No tests are available when you arrive. Travelers may also start the Kaua'i Resort Bubble Program, where you are required to wear a wrist tracking device and stay within resort bounds. Within, you can explore and relax freely. Masks are required. Things to do: Kaua'i is full of small towns like Hanapepe and Koloa, where visitors can taste local cuisine and culture. Because of some exclusive access points, it's a great destination for water activities and sky tours like kayaking the Wailua River or ziplining across the valleys. Other activities include snorkeling, horseback riding, and hiking. Things to note: Most of the Kaua'i hiking trails require a permit. To obtain, call the State Parks Office at (808)-274-3444. To learn more about Kaua'i trails, go to their website. Major regions: North Shore (Princeville), East Side (Coconut Coast), Lihue (Kalapaki), South Shore (Poipu), West Side (Waimea). Airport: Lihue Airport, LIH with services from Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines Oahu Island courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Oahu Island Known for: The heart of Hawaii is also known as "The Gathering Place," which is home to the capital city of Honolulu and the majority of Hawaii's diverse population. This melting pot fuses cultures from the East and West with the values and traditions of Native Hawaii. Oahu is the third-largest island with world-famous surf, Waikiki beach, historic China Town, and Pearl Harbor. "It's this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laidback surf towns — so enjoyable. Oahu, the child of Papa and Lua according to one tradition, is honored in this chant composed by Kumu Hula Manu Boyd and performed by Kumu Hula Snowbird Bento." COVID Policies & Restrictions: The standard COVID policies apply. You must have a negative COVID test before departure and enroll in all the necessary platforms. Things to do: Oahu's bustling from Honolulu's affluent culture where you can dine at farm-to-table restaurants, visit historic destinations, experience hula. Beyond learning to surf, you can explore the ocean by taking a group outrigger canoe ride off Waikiki Beach. Things to note: Oahu is the most affordable island for travelers. The competitive prices offer up the ideal budget vacation between the abundance of hotels, activities, city life, and attractions. Major regions: North Shore, Honolulu, Central Oahu, Windward Coast, Leeward Coast Airport: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, HNL. Also known as the Honolulu International airport. Molokai Island courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Molokai Island Known for: Hawaii's fifth-largest island is only 38 miles long and 10 miles across its widest point, making it easily accessible by foot, bike, or car. The highest sea cliffs in the world populate the island and the longest continuous reef. The majority of Molokai's population preserves the island roots of rural lifestyles. "Whether you're led by a guide along the cliffs leading to Kalaupapa National Historical Park or discovering Papohaku Beach, one of Hawaii's largest white-sand beaches, Molokai is truly an island of outdoor adventure where Hawaii's past comes alive!" COVID policies & restrictions: Molokai Island is part of Maui County and follows the safety protocols of Maui. Things to do: The best thing to do in Molokai is to explore the deep jungles, cathedral valleys, beaches, and one of the most remote settlements in the world. The ancient Halawa Valley features one of Hawaii's most iconic landscapes. Anglers and divers celebrate Molokai for its diverse underwater landscapes. Things to note: This island is considered the "getaway" for inter-island travelers, with some of the most deserted beaches among the Hawaiian islands. Major regions: West End, Central Molokai, East End Airport: Hoolehua Airport, MKK. Mokulele Airlines services inter-island flights from Oahu or Maui. Lanai Island courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Lanai Island Known for: This is the smallest inhabited island open for travelers to Hawaii. Located only nine miles away from Maui, yet it feels like a whole other world. Visitors can indulge at luxurious resorts or take a 4-wheel-drive to explore hidden treasures. Lanai is known for its serenity, adventure, and privacy. "Take the rocky road to Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) for dazzling views of Molokai and Maui, go horseback riding amid lush valleys and ironwood forests near Lanai City, amble the Munro Trail through the lush rainforest to Lanai's highest point at 3,370 feet—the opportunities for adventure on Lanai are endless." COVID policies & restrictions: Lanai Island is part of Maui County and follows the safety protocols of Maui. Things to do: There are 400 miles of dirt roads, hiking trails, and 18 miles of secluded beaches. With that, the world is yours. You can hike, explore the parks and gardens, ride horses, go clay shooting or enjoy an archery adventure. Get on the water at sunset for a romantic boat ride or go whale watching. Things to note: Some of the best whale watching can happen in the ocean channels between Lanai, Maui, and Molokai when humpback whales travel to Hawaii in winter and spring. There are only a few ways to get here, and it's from another island. Major regions: North Lanai, Central Lanai, South Lanai Airport: Lanai Airport, LNY. Local flights services inter-island travelers from either Oahu or Maui. Maui Island courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Maui Island Known for: Maui is the second-largest island in Hawaii and is affectionately called "The Valley Isle." The island is loved for its world-famous beaches, the sacred Iao Valley, and the magnificent sunrise and sunset from Haleakala. Haleakala National Park encompasses the island's tallest peak, volcanic Haleakala. "It's not surprising Maui has been voted "Best Island in the U.S." by Condé Nast Traveler readers for more than 20 years." COVID policies & restrictions: On top of the Hawai'i Safe travels program Maui posted its new Public Health Emergency Rules. As of April 9, trans-Pacific travelers who arrive with a negative COVID-19 test result may also be required to take a second COVID-19 test, which would be administered and paid for by Maui County. Things to do: Whether you choose the spa route or the adventure route, there is a lot to do. Choose from 14 courses (several of which are ranked at or near the top of the "world's best" lists). One local tourist spot is the Haleakala Ecotours, an authorized concessionaire for Haleakala National Park. The scenic Hana Highway can take you all along the island's 30 miles of beaches, including golden-crescent Kapalua, sheltered from strong currents by lava-rock promontories. Major regions: Maui comprises five regions known as West Maui, Central Maui, South Maui, Upcountry, and East Maui. Airport: Kahului Aiport, OGG or the regional, private airport Kapula Aiport, JHM on the west side of the island. The Big Island courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority Island of Hawaii Known for: “The Big Island,”' is the largest and the youngest in the Hawaiian chain. It's nearly twice the size of all the other islands combined with four different climate zones, including a polar tundra resulting from the shielding effects of its massive volcanoes. "The island of Hawaii is an unrivaled expression of the power of nature. However you decide to experience the island, it is sure to leave you humbled!" COVID policies & restrictions: Both inter-island travelers and transpacific are expected to either quarantine for ten days, get a quarantine exemption, or take a pre-test within 72 hours of arrival. Things to do: Travelers can ride horses along waterfalls trails or explore the Hawaii Volcanoes National park, which offers plenty of hiking trails like the Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) or the Devastation Trail. You can stargaze on the mountain tops, tour a coffee farm, or hang out on the beach. There's more beach here than any of the other islands. You can even go on a Manta Ray dive at night. Things to note: Make sure you read up on safe hiking practices on the island trails. Some can be pretty difficult or unsafe. Don't hike alone and tell someone where you are going. Don't drink any of the water on the trails or wade in with open cuts. For more information, go here. Major regions: Kohala, Hamakua Coast, Hilo, Puna, Kohala, Kona, Kau Airport: Kona International Airport, KOA.
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.