Thursday, September 3 - VANCOUVER, CANADA
Vancouver is a delicious juxtaposition of urban sophistication and on-your-doorstep wilderness adventure. The mountains and seascape make the city an outdoor playground for hiking, skiing, kayaking, cycling, and sailing-and so much more-while the cuisine and arts scenes are equally diverse, reflecting the makeup of Vancouver's ethnic (predominantly Asian) mosaic. Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the world's most livable cities, and it's easy for visitors to see why. It's beautiful, it's outdoorsy, and there's a laidback West Coast vibe. On the one hand, there's easy access to a variety of outdoor activities, a fabulous variety of beaches, and amazing parks. At the same time, the city has a multicultural vitality and cosmopolitan flair. The attraction is as much in the range of food choices-the fresh seafood and local produce are some of North America's best-as it is in the museums, shopping, and nightlife.
Friday, September 4 - CRUISE INSIDE PASSAGE
If it is drama that you are after, then you certainly need to look no further than the dramatic beauty of the Inside Passage. With isolated communities nestling in shoreside villages, mountains rising from the tidal waters, seals basking on ice floes and massive glaciers calving with a thunderous snap in the distance, this stretch of water is quite unique. Named after early explorers who were looking for the Northwest Passage (found much further north), cruising the Inside Passage has become a must for any sailing aficionado. Perhaps it is the massive - and advancing - glaciers that look like they have been sculpted by Mother Nature herself that is the draw; or maybe it is the calm waters that are protected from the otherwise enervated Pacific. Or it could be it is the plethora of wildlife that can be spotted above and below the water that will stay with you forever. One thing is certain; ths serene stretch of water embodies the best of Alaska.
Saturday, September 5 - KETCHIKAN, ALASKA
Ketchikan is famous for its colorful totem poles, rainy skies, steep-as-San Francisco streets, and lush island setting. Some 13,500 people call the town home, and, in the summer, cruise ships crowd the shoreline, floatplanes depart noisily for Misty Fjords National Monument, and salmon-laden commercial fishing boats motor through Tongass Narrows. In the last decade Ketchikan's rowdy, blue-collar heritage of logging and fishing has been softened by the loss of many timber-industry jobs and the dramatic rise of cruise-ship tourism. With some effort, though, visitors can still glimpse the rugged frontier spirit that once permeated this hardscrabble cannery town. Art lovers should make a beeline for Ketchikan; the arts community here is very active. Travelers in search of the perfect piece of Alaska art will find an incredible range of pieces to choose from.
Sunday, September 6 - JUNEAU, ALASKA
Juneau, Alaska's capital and third-largest city, is on the North American mainland but can't be reached by road. The city owes its origins to two colorful sourdoughs (Alaskan pioneers)-Joe Juneau and Richard Harris-and to a Tlingit chief named Kowee, who led the two men to rich reserves of gold at Snow Slide Gulch, the drainage of Gold Creek around which the town was eventually built. That was in 1880, and shortly thereafter a modest stampede resulted in the formation of a mining camp, which quickly grew to become the Alaska district government capital in 1906. The city may well have continued under its original appellation-Harrisburg, after Richard Harris-were it not for Joe Juneau's political jockeying at a miner's meeting in 1881. For some 60 years after Juneau's founding gold was the mainstay of the economy. In its heyday the AJ (for Alaska Juneau) Gold Mine was the biggest low-grade ore mine in the world.
Monday, September 7 - SKAGWAY, ALASKA
Located at the northern terminus of the Inside Passage, Skagway is a one-our ferry ride from Haines, By road, however, the distance is 359 miles, as you have to take the haines Highway up to Haines Junction, Yukon, then take the Alaska Highway 100 miles south to Whitehorse, and then drive a final 100 miles south on the Klondike Highway to Skagway. North-country folk call this sightseeing route the Golden Horseshoe or Golden Circle tour, because it passes a lot of gold-rush country in addition to spectacular lake, forest, and mountain scenery. The town is an amazingly preserved artifact from North America's biggest, most-storied gold rush. Most of the downtown district forms part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System dedicated to commemorating and interpreting the frenzied stampede of 1897 that extended to Dawson City in Canada's Yukon.
Tuesday, September 8 - SITKA, ALASKA
It's hard not to like Sitka, with its eclectic blend of Alaska Native, Russian, and American history and its dramatic and beautiful open-ocean setting. This is one of the best Inside Passage towns to explore on foot, with such sights as St. Michael's Cathedral, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Castle Hill, Sitka National Historical Park, and the Alaska Raptor Center topping the town's must-see list. Sitka was home to the Kiksadi clan of the Tlingit people for centuries prior to the 18th-century arrival of the Russians under the direction of territorial governor Alexander Baranof, who believed the rion was ideal for the fur trade. The governor also coveted the Sitka site for its beauty, mild climate, and economic potential; in the island's massive timber forests he saw raw materials for shipbuilding. Its location offered trading routes as far west as Asia and as far south as California and Hawaii.
Wednesday, September 9 - CRUISE HUBBARD GLACIER, ALASKA
Hubbard Glacier, off the coast of Yakutat, Alaska, is the largest glacier in North America, with a calving front that is more than six miles wide. One of the main sources for Hubbard Glacier originates 76 miles inland. It has been a very active glacier, experiencing two major surges in the past 30 years. This glacier was named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a U.S. lawyer, financier, and philanthropist. He was the first president of the National Geographic Society.
Thursday, September 10 - SEWARD (ANCHORAGE), ALASKA
It is hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Seward exists. Surrounded on all sided by Kenai Fjords National Park, Chugach National Forest, and Resurrection Bay, Seward offers all the quaint realities of a small railroad town with the bonus of jaw-dropping scenery. This little town of about 2,750 citizens was founded in 1903, when survey crews arrived at the ice-free port and began planning a railroad to the Interior. Since its inception, Seward has relied heavily on tourism and commercial fishing.