21 Alaska Sites for Budget-Savvy Travelers

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Getting ready for some of those classic Alaska adventures?

Well, they can indeed stretch your wallet. Iconic activities like dog sledding, helicopter flights over glaciers, and whale-watching tours are unforgettable experiences that Alaska is famous for.

Yet, these adventures often come with a premium, reflecting their unique and once-in-a-lifetime nature. However, experiencing the wonder of Alaska doesn't always require a hefty investment. Our selected destinations offer the beauty and thrill of Alaska but are chosen with the budget-conscious explorer in mind.

In recognizing the diverse appeal of the Last Frontier, we've carefully curated a list of destinations and activities that promise the essence of Alaska without the steep costs.

From wandering through lush national parks free of charge to exploring interactive wildlife conservation centers at minimal expense, there's a wealth of options available for those looking to immerse themselves in Alaskan culture and natural beauty on a budget.

Whether you're drawn to the serene landscapes of untouched parks, interested in the rich tapestry of local wildlife, or captivated by historical sites that speak volumes of the past, our guide ensures you won't miss out on what makes Alaska truly captivating.

These selections are tailored to offer you the maximum experience with minimal financial worry, allowing you to explore, learn, and marvel at Alaska's wonders in a way that is both fulfilling and financially savvy.

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into each of these budget-friendly gems, showcasing how they stand as a testament to Alaska's accessible beauty and adventure for everyone.

Good to know: Prices and opening hours are subject to change, so it's always a good idea to check the official website before you plan your visit.

1. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Anchorage

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Girdwood, Alaska

The AWCC isn't just affordable. It's an immersive experience that's both educational and inspiring. Here, you'll see various animals, from bears to bison, roaming freely in their spacious, natural habitats, reflecting Alaska's unique ecosystem.

The center operates year-round, ensuring that Alaska's iconic wildlife can be experienced regardless of season. General admission is around $20, with discounts available for youth, military personnel, and Alaska residents.

Various tours and encounters, such as the Walk on the Wild Side tour and the Bear and Moose Encounters, can range from $25 to $125 and provide up-close experiences with the animals, combining education with the thrill of seeing Alaska's wildlife up close.

2. Alaska Sealife Center, Seward

Seward, Alaska, United States Animals in the Sealife Center

This premier public aquarium is one of Alaska's leading marine education facilities, offering up-close encounters with lively seabirds, playful sea lions, and vibrant fish.

The general admission prices are designed to accommodate a wide audience. Adults are charged around $20 to $30, and children aged 3-12 are charged between $15 to $19.

Admission is free for children under three. The prices can vary per day, but they're generally cheaper on Mondays to Thursdays. You can learn more about booking and pricing here.

For a more immersive experience, the center also offers special tours such as the Puffin Encounter, Octopus Encounter, and Marine Mammal Encounter. However, additional fees apply for these special experiences.

3. Large Animal Research Station (LARS), Fairbanks

Fairbanks Alaska USA Young man in sunglasses and curly hair with hand on two musk oxen skull- male and female during tour at Large Animal Research Station - affiliated University of Alaska

For a visit to the Large Animal Research Station (LARS) in Fairbanks, the cost for a guided tour is around $15 for anyone aged five or older, while children under 5 can join for free.

These tours provide an opportunity to get up close to the animals and learn from knowledgeable guides. The tours are offered both in the summer and winter seasons, with specific schedules.

In the winter, tours are available on weekends and Mondays and require advance ticket purchase. Read our post about visiting LARS in Fairbanks, Alaska, for more information.

4. Richardson Highway

View of the Richardson Highway near Delta Junction Alaska. Empty road in the middle of the highway. Delta mountains in background

This road has stories to tell, carved out in 1898 by gold rush dreamers and named after a true Alaskan trailblazer, General Wilds P. Richardson. It's a trip down memory lane, minus the dust, and with all the modern comforts.

You can stop at Worthington Glacier State Recreation Site for free, which is great for taking in the glacier's beauty up close. Keystone Canyon is another must-see spot off the highway, where you can view Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls without any entrance fees.

For a bit of history, Rika's Roadhouse charges about $5 for entry, offering a cheap way to learn about Alaska's past.

5. Denali National Park

Denali National Park View - Teklanika River

If you're curious why we didn't list Katmai or Glacier Bay, it's because they're quite isolated and require a flight and boat ride to reach, which could add between $400 to $600 per person to your travel expenses.

But places like Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park are easier to get to and kinder on your wallet (more on Kenai Fjords coming up next).

For example, if you're starting from Anchorage, roughly 240 miles away from Denali, and your vehicle gets 25 miles per gallon with gas at $3.50 per gallon, the cost for a round trip could only be around $67 for fuel.

At Denali, an entry fee of under $20 grants you a week's applicable year-round access and covers activities like hiking, wildlife viewing, and photography. Children aged 15 or younger can enter for free. If you want to extend your stay, you can go camping in the park at just around $20 to $50 per night.

There's also an option to purchase an annual pass at around $40, which covers up to four adults. You can learn more about fees and passes at the National Park and Preserve website.

Or you can opt for the America the Beautiful Pass, which offers access not only to Denali but also to national parks across the U.S. This pass is a great deal, especially if you're planning to visit multiple parks in a year.

6. Kenai Fjords National Park

Spire Cove located within Kenai Fjords National Park. Wildlife Cruise around Resurrection Bay, Alaska, USA.

Kenai Fjords National Park presents a unique landscape where glaciers meet the ocean. Here, you can explore the icy waters against the backdrop of the impressive Kenai Mountains.

One of the park's highlights is that you don't need to pay an entrance fee to enjoy its wonders. You can hike various trails, enjoy wildlife watching, and take in the stunning glacier views, all for free.

That said, if you want to explore Kenai Fjords National Park by cruise, note that it can be a bit pricier. This is because third-party operators offer these services and are not covered by the free entrance, costing anywhere from $200 to $300.

So, if a Kenai Fjords cruise is on your must-do list, you'll want to prepare for the experience to make the most of it. Our handy guide has all the tips and insights you need to navigate your journey smoothly!

7. Turnagain Arm Drive, Seward Highway

Alaska Scenic Road: The Seward Highway curves beneath cloudy skies as it passes by snow-covered mountains at the edge of an ocean inlet south of Anchorage.

Close to Kenai Fjords is the Seward Highway Scenic Byway, home to the captivating Turnagain Arm Drive. This route is a treasure trove of natural beauty and affordable stops, making it a must-see for anyone in the area.

Starting with Beluga Point, which is completely free and offers stunning views of the waters where you might catch sight of beluga whales, especially in late summer.

Bird Creek is another great, no-cost stop along the way. It's ideal for a laid-back day of fishing or just enjoying the peaceful surroundings. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife that often makes an appearance.

For hikers, McHugh Creek Recreation Area offers a variety of trails with a small parking fee of around $5. These trails provide stunning area vistas, making every step worth it.

Potter Marsh is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. With no entry fee, you can stroll the boardwalk and enjoy birdwatching. In the summer, the sight of salmon in the creek adds to the experience.

8. Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, Juneau

Visitor Center next to Mendenhall Glacier

With its stunning icy facade and blue glow, this magnificent glacier is a must-see for nature lovers and adventurers. At the heart of this natural wonder is the Visitor Center, which enhances the experience with modern facilities.

Inside, you'll find interactive exhibits and an informative movie that provide insights into the glacier's ecology, geology, and the broader environmental implications of glacial movement.

A visit between May 1 and September 30 comes with a modest entrance fee for those aged 16 and over, a small price to support the maintenance and service quality of the visitor center.

However, during the winter months from October to April, access to the visitor center is free, although it operates with reduced hours (Friday to Sunday, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm), allowing for quieter exploration of the glacier's serene winter landscape.

9. Steese Highway, Fairbanks

Steese highway, Fairbanks 83 mil, Pinnell Mountain, interior Alaska, USA

Steese Highway runs from Fairbanks to Circle. Along this historic route, several stopovers provide memorable experiences at little to no cost.

You can stop at the Chatanika Gold Camp and partake in activities such as guided tours or gold panning, which only cost around $10 to $30.

The Wickersham Dome Trail presents a perfect opportunity for a free hiking adventure where the only investment is your time and energy.

The Davidson Ditch Historic Site is another free stop, providing insights into the ingenuity behind historic mining operations. Lastly, the Twelvemile Summit offers stunning vistas and free wildlife viewing opportunities.

10. Sitka National Historic Park/Totem Park

Sitka National Historical Park Totem Poles are a major world famous attraction in Sitka, Alaska.

Sitka National Historical Park covers 113 acres and is renowned for its collection of totem poles that tell a unique story within peaceful forested trails.

Entrance to the park is free, providing open access to explore Tlingit and Russian heritage through various activities, including ranger-led tours and carving demonstrations.

Getting to Sitka National Historical Park is convenient from downtown Sitka, with easy access by either a short walk or a quick taxi ride.

11. The Solomon Gulch Hatchery/Wildlife Viewing, Valdez

Solomon Gulch Fish Hatchery in Valdez, AK

The Solomon Gulch Hatchery in Valdez, known for bolstering the salmon population since 1982, offers unforgettable wildlife viewing.

During salmon runs, the area teems with fish, attracting predators like bears and sea lions. This remarkable scene, best witnessed from July to October, is accessible via a scenic 15-minute drive from New Valdez along Dayville Road.

Free self-guided tours run May through October, providing insights into the hatchery's impact and salmon life cycles.

More details are available on their website.

12. Museum of the North, Fairbanks

 Portrait. University of Alaska. White facade with green windows of Museum of the North under thick blue cloudscape and green lawn up front

This museum is a great place to learn about Alaska's rich heritage, with artifacts up to 2000 years old, extensive gold collections, and life-size wildlife replicas, including the extinct steppe bison.

The entry fee is just under $25, but there are discounts for older people, folks in the military, people living in Alaska, and kids.

Free entry is also available for children under five and UA affiliates. Additional fees apply for science movies in the auditorium, which provide general insights rather than Alaska-specific content​.

13. Georgeson Botanical Garden, Fairbanks

Flowers red lilies at Georgeson Botanical Garden in Fairbanks, Alaska

Just three minutes away from the Museum of the North, the Georgeson Botanical Garden at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is home to a diverse set of native plants that bloom in summer under the midnight sun.

With an admission fee of just under $10 per person, you can explore beautiful flowers and remarkable garden beds, including giant cabbages. The garden is a research facility with a children's area, making it a perfect spot for families.

For more details, check out our detailed blog post here!

14. Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, Valdez

The Valdez Museum, located on Egan and Hazelet Avenues, tells the story of the area's past, including the Native Cultures and the Gold Rush.

It's a neat place to spend a few hours. Tickets are just below $10 for grown-ups, older folks, and teenagers and free for kids under 13. It's packed with stories from the big 1964 earthquake to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

If you're keen on exploring Valdez's rich past, this museum is a perfect stop, even if you're passing through. You can learn more about booking here.

15. Gold Rush Cemetery, Skagway

Gold Rush graveyard. Old abandoned cemetery in Alaska. 19th century.

With just a short 2-mile walk from the town of Skagway, you'll find the Gold Rush Cemetery. It's known for being the first cemetery in the city, hosting graves of notable figures from the Gold Rush era, like Jefferson "Soapy" Smith and Martin Itjen.

The site is also close to the scenic Lower Reid Falls, making it a good spot for a picturesque walk. You can also take the local SMART bus shuttle for a small fee, with the stop about a half mile from the cemetery.

There's no admission fee, making it an accessible and enriching experience for all visitors.

16. Alaska State Museum, Juneau

Alaska State Museum, State Library and Archives in downtown Juneau, Alaska, USA

The Alaska State Museum is a vital resource for understanding the state's unique story, featuring a wide array of exhibits spanning Alaska's indigenous cultures to Russian influence, the gold rush era, and modern times.

You can explore an extensive collection of artifacts, including traditional totem poles, intricately crafted baskets, historical photographs, and contemporary Alaskan art, providing insights into Alaska's diverse communities and landscapes.

Admission to the museum is just under $15 for adults and seniors and free for those 18 and under.

17. Tā Ch'ilā Provincial Park, Stewart-Cassiar Highway

A floating dock at Boya Lake in Tā Ch’ilā Provincial Park in northern British Columbia

Tā Ch'ilā Provincial Park, known for its clear and vibrant waters of Boya Lake, offers scenic camping and water recreation opportunities.

The park features unique geological formations like eskers and drumlins from the last Ice Age. It's a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with two short hiking trails, a mountain bike trail, and ideal conditions for canoeing and kayaking.

During the operating season from May 15 to September 30, camping fees are $20 per party per night. The park is open year-round, but services are limited outside the main season, and no fees are charged during this time​.

You can learn more about booking on this page.

18. Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve & American Bald Eagle Foundation

Two bald eagles have a mid-air confrontation over a salmon dinner. Chilkat River Bald Eagle Preserve, Haines, Alaska.

The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in Alaska is renowned for hosting the world's largest gathering of bald eagles, particularly between October and November when up to 4,000 eagles are attracted by the late runs of salmon.

The preserve covers 48,000 acres centered on river bottomlands a few miles north of Haines.

This site offers a unique opportunity for wildlife viewing, especially eagle watching. Also, it provides facilities like latrines, a boardwalk/viewing platform with a telescope, and a 2-mile riverside trail for a closer look at the natural habitat.

For a visit to the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines, Alaska, adults pay around $15 to $25, while children five and under can enter for free.

Active military members have a discounted rate. These fees include sales tax, and reservations aren't required. A visit typically lasts around an hour and a half, but a minimum of 45 minutes is recommended.

19. Red Onion Saloon, Skagway

Red Onion Saloon, a lively landmark brothel museum built in 1897 during the Klondike Gold Rush. It's famously haunted by a former prostitute, Lydia.

Once a dance hall and bordello during the Gold Rush, the Red Onion Saloon in Skagway now operates as a saloon and restaurant with a museum upstairs.

You can take the "Quickie" Brothel Tour for around $20 per person to explore the museum, hear tales of the past, and possibly spot the resident ghost. The tour includes a Red Onion souvenir garter and lasts about 20 minutes.

For more details, you can visit their official website.

20. Kenai Beach

At Kenai Beach, you can look forward to soaking up those epic Alaskan sunsets and maybe even spotting some local wildlife. Walking the beach at sunset is a must-do, offering up some insta-worthy skies and waves' peaceful sound without spending a dime.

If you’re into more adventure, consider hitting the water in a kayak or checking out the local history, like the Russian Orthodox Church, without opening your wallet for entrance fees.

For wildlife enthusiasts, the area is a hotspot for spotting everything from beluga whales to caribou — these are also free unless you opt for a guided tour.

21. Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center

To wrap up the list, the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center is a special place where you can explore the world of the Tlingit people.

It's filled with amazing totem poles, beautiful art, and numerous artifacts that show how the Tlingit have lived and celebrated their culture over the years.

If you're curious, it costs only around $15 and has a discount for seniors. It's a neat way to spend a day learning about Alaska's indigenous heritage.

Check out their website for all the details on their pricing and how to book your visit. It's got everything you need to know to plan your trip.

Visiting Alaska Doesn't Have to Break the Bank!

As you can see, there are still many destinations in Alaska where you don't need to spend a fortune!

So, have you checked any of these affordable spots off your list? Or is there an Alaskan adventure you're dreaming of? Please share your experiences or bucket list dreams with us.

If you've got a must-see Alaskan spot, let us know in the comments. Let's inspire each other to explore the majestic without breaking the bank!

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