1. What time is it up there?
Alaska is so big it has its own time zone: Alaska Standard Time (AST). Alaska Standard Time is one hour behind Pacific Standard Time and four hours behind Eastern Standard Time. So, if it's 1 p.m. in California, and 4 p.m. in New York City, it's noon in Alaska.
2. Do I need a passport to get to Alaska?
U.S. citizens flying between another state and Alaska do not need a passport. However, those driving through Canada or traveling on a ferry or cruise ship with stops in Canada are required to carry one. All non U.S. citizens will need a passport and possibly other documents to enter. As with all travel, check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration as you plan your trip.
3. Is it really cold and dark all winter long?
You might be thinking of way up north, Anchorage is actually quite mild. In the winter we average seven hours of functional daylight and 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The sun does get low on the horizon in December, but that just means gorgeous, lingering sunsets. If you love winter activities, one of the best times to visit is late February through March. The sun sparkles off the snow making skiing, skating and snowmaching perfect. Get more weather and climate information.
4. Is Alaska really, really far away?
Alaska is not as far away from the contiguous United States as you might think. A direct flight from Seattle means you'll arrive in Anchorage in three hours or so. Flights from Minneapolis take about five hours. Several international carriers also have nonstop flights to Anchorage, although many only operate on a seasonal basis. Visitors can also drive to Alaska, take a ferry or board a cruise ship. Get more information on traveling to Anchorage.
5. Does the rental car need to be four-wheel drive? Do you need chains in the winter?
Anchorage roads are well maintained all year, meaning any rental car will work fine and you won't need to chain up if it snows while you are here. Anchorage is actually built on a glacier outwash plain from tens of thousands of years ago, which means it's all pretty flat - and driving is easy. Get more information on getting around Anchorage.
6. How far away is Mount McKinley?
On a clear day you can see Mount McKinley, also known as Denali, from Anchorage. Mount McKinley is located in Denali National Park, a four to five hour drive from Anchorage or an eight hour train ride. But if getting a good view of the mountain is all you're after, consider taking a flightseeing tour.
7. Are there igloos?
Sorry, you won't see an igloo in Anchorage or anywhere in Alaska. Igloos were used by the Inuit people of Canada's Central Arctic and Greenland. If finding out how Alaska Natives lived for centuries is what you're interested in, Anchorage has cultural centers and museums with examples of traditional housing.
8. What's the nightlife like?
Anchorage's nightlife is just as active as any modern city. If you're looking for food and drinks we have plenty of restaurants, many showcasing Alaska seafood and produce or pouring locally brewed beers or spirits. On the first Friday of each month, join the locals for an artwalk. You'll make new friends and find great gifts to take home. If you enjoy the outdoors, hike up one of the nearby mountains and for a stunning view of the city or if it's winter, strap on the skis and take a spin on one of the many lighted trails.
9. How do I get to/from Whittier or Seward?
Both Whittier and Seward are south of Anchorage and offer fishing, wildlife and glacier viewing as well as being major ports of call for cruise passengers. It will take just over an hour by car to reach Whittier including a two mile trip through a mountain tunnel. Seward is about a two and a half hour drive. The Alaska Railroad also serves these two towns. The ride may take longer by rail, but the scenery will blow you away. Find transportation options between Anchorage and Seward or Whittier.
10. I will be in Anchorage for just a few hours but would like to look around. Where can I store my luggage?
If you have just a few hours or a full day to explore Anchorage, you can store luggage (and fish) at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Several storage options are available year round in the South Terminal.
11. I have heard that the mosquitoes are just awful up in Alaska!
Yes, Anchorage does have mosquitoes, but if you're strolling through an urban area or hiking above the treeline you probably won't find many. If you're heading out for a walk on a tree lined trail in the evening, you might want to apply a layer of bug spray first. Likewise if you're spending the day on the river in hopes of catching that trophy fish. Just to have fun with friends back home, make sure you stop at one of the local souvenir shops and pick up your very own mosquito trap.
12. Can you see the northern lights from Anchorage?
Yes, you can see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, from Anchorage - but not in the summer. The aurora actually occurs all year long, but the sky needs to be clear and dark to see it. That's why winter is the prime viewing time. If you're staying in a hotel, ask them if they have a "northern lights wake-up call." If you're visiting in summer, several local attractions offer short films on the aurora.
13. Alaska seems to be a very outdoor focused place, are there opportunities for people in wheelchairs or who have reduced mobility?
Absolutely. Not only can you find accessible transportation, you can also find accessible scenic trails around town. Some tour operators also cater to those with special needs. Check out Accessible Anchorage for more information.