[by Susan Sommer]
Riding the rails through Alaska should be at the top of everyone’s list at least once. The state-owned Alaska Railroad hauls passengers and freight through Southcentral daily. No two trips are ever the same, for weather, wildlife, and the seasons change. Learn more at alaskarailroad.com.
1 – Book online. All the information you need is right at your fingertips. Reserve a seat in GoldStar Service for glass-domed windows on the top level and an outdoor viewing platform, plus full-service dining below. Or try Adventure Class, which offers comfortable front-facing seats and large windows. Discounted fares apply to some groups.
2 -Travel by train is slightly slower than by road, so plan accordingly.
3 – Combine your train travel with a day trip or adventure package, such as the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop guided hike, a jetboat adventure, or flightseeing.
4 – Food and beverage prices in the onboard dining car or café are higher than at landbased restaurants, but splurge so you don’t have to lug the kitchen sink with you.
5 – Head north from Anchorage to Talkeetna, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks. Or go south from Anchorage to Girdwood, Whittier, and Seward. You’ll pass through spectacular scenery along any route.
6 – Set your camera to a fast shutter speed to help counteract the train’s motion. Your photos—and memories—will be sharper.
7 – The Alaska Railroad’s special-event trains sell out fast, so book early for fun times skiing the backcountry at Curry, a remote area north of Talkeetna; singing along on a blues-musicand-food fest; sipping microbrews and seasonal fare on a beer run; and acting all spooky on a Halloween train with live music.
8 – Make sure to check out the large selection of Alaska Railroad merchandise online or at a depot, including the popular collectors’ annual posters, first produced in 1979. Each one features the creative interpretation of the signature blue-and-yellow train from an Alaska artist.
9 – Do take time to stand in the vestibule area between the cars and feel the elements— wind, rain, sun.
10 – Combine your train trip with a return excursion by bus, or enjoy the same scenery as Alaska Railroad passengers from a privately owned dome car. Find more options at alaskatrain.com.