Alaska celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2009. We found 50 unique ways to experience the "Last Frontier" all year long.
1. Turning 50 this year? Your birthday gets you a free ticket on the Alaska Railroad, which stretches from Seward to Anchorage, then continues up through Denali National Park to Fairbanks. With their dome cars, every seat feels like a window seat. Disembark to climb on glaciers, canoe and kayak, or camp in the park. +1 907 265 2494.
2. Grab a spot on a sled dog team through the annual IditaRider auction. A winning bid (or a upfront fee of $7,500) will get you a ride on a sled through 11 miles through Anchorage the day before the official race begins. Anchorage, +1 800 545 6874.
3. Visit the Nikolaevsk Russian village on the Kenai peninsula, and a welcoming committee most likely will come in the form of Nina Fefelov of the Samovar Café and Gift Shop, who is known to invite guests to dress up in traditional garb, and serve them piroshki and borscht. While in town, visit the dazzling icons painted throughout the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox church. Nikolaevsk, +1 907 235 6867.
4. For nearly 20 years, international teams of ice-cutters have converged on Fairbanks to create huge, sometimes 25-foot-tall sculptures at the World Ice Art Championships. These guys work through the night whittling away at their frozen masterpieces, but there's an amateur classic if you want to get the hang of it yourself. Held every March. Fairbanks, +1 907 451 8250.
5. Stay with chef Kristen Dixon, who with her husband owns the five-cabin Winterlake Lodge along the Iditarod trail, 198 miles northwest of Anchorage. A cookbook author and hotelier, Dixon imports cheeses from Murray's in New York, and hosts wine-tasting sessions and cooking classes. Work off your organically prepared meals with yoga sessions, guided hikes, and bear-viewing trips. Winter Lake, +1 907 274 2710.
6. Float along the Chilkat River on a 21-mile guided viewing tour of the Bald Eagle Reserve in Haines, just one part of the week-long Bald Eagle Festival held in November each year. Watch as over 3,000 eagles make the most of salmon spawning season, and learn more about our national symbol from photographers and preservationists working in the field. Haines, +1 907 766 3094.
7. If you want to stay in the eight public-use cabins in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, don't plan on driving there. These rustic cabins are only accessible by boat or floatplane, but once you settle in, you can hike through the park's trails, looking for moose, lynx, black bears, and wolves. The lottery for cabins starts three months in advance; cost per cabin is a staggeringly cheap $20 per night. Kodiak, +1 907 487 2600.
8. Dream of skiing with the likes of Tommy Moe or Laird Hamilton? Sign up for the Kings and Corn heli-skiing package from Chugach Powder Guides and one of them might be along for the ride. This five-day adventure trip combines king salmon fishing and corn-snow heli-skiing on the Tordillo Mountains. Not for the fainthearted! Girdwood, +1 907 783 4354.
9. Pop quiz: Which national scenic byway is not only a road? The Alaska Marine Highway includes the Aleutian Island ferry system, and you can grab a spot in their onboard cabin (or pitch a tent on the ferry's roof) to visit the World War II embankments, Russian villages, and the native Alaskan town of Nilokski, believed to be the oldest active town site in North America. Based in Juneau. +1 800 642 0066.
10. Travel the Golden Circle, a linked highway and ferry system considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Connecting Haines and Skagway, Alaska, with Whitehorse, British Columbia, the route takes you through mountain passages first carved out by miners and World War II soldiers. The trip typically takes three days by car or RV, but many have cycled it as well. +1 800 661 0494.