Alaska is a big state. Getting from Denali to Anchorage and vice versa is a 233 mile trek, and for some perspective on just how far that is, when I drive from Seattle to Portland it’s “only” 173 miles. Alaska is big. The airport we were to fly home out of was in Anchorage, and in order to get there we spent 8 hours on board the McKinley Explorer Rail Car.
I felt like I was an extra character in the Polar Express.
Up until this point we were placed on motor coaches in order to get around, and I tell ya what, not being stuck on a bus with the permeating smells of a lavatory was like finding snow on Christmas morning. Not to mention extra leg room, and options to walk around.
Oh, and did I mention a better view?
When visiting Alaska, a train ride of some sort is a must. I’m glad this was the train we were able to ride, and although 8 hours is a long time to be on any type of transportation, the train provided a handful of options to make the ride more comfortable.
The train was separated into multiple different sections, but if you wanted to visit another car, or find your way to the caboose for a better view, you were able to walk about freely. I enjoyed being able to walk a bit and stand outside whenever I felt stagnant.
Each car had a personal guide, providing information of the local surroundings as well as suggestions for prime photo spots. There’s a shop on board should you wish to purchase any last minute souvenirs, and the bathrooms are downstairs below the seating area.
Yea, this train was two levels. Too legit to quit.
The lower level also had a small restaurant, because who doesn’t get hungry in an 8 hour time span? We chose to visit the lower eating area for breakfast, while some chose to visit for lunch. The lower area doesn’t have the dome like windows, but you can still see your surroundings outside.
This ride was quite enjoyable, and provided more views of Alaska I would not have seen had I traveled to Anchorage by motor coach. The train took us through back country landscape soaking up the final fall colors. Fall in Alaska happens quick, within one week we watched the leaves turn from red, to yellow, to falling off the trees.
As with everything else, this train ride was 100% set up by Holland America, and was included in our cruise package. Before arrival in Denali we were given a packet with our travel information regarding everything land based. Badda boom, badda bing.
Like a science.
8 hours later we arrived in Anchorage, and were shuttled to our hotel, where we would spend one night before departure. Anchorage was like any other big city, but smaller. This was the only location I felt “meh” about. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit Anchorage, although I ate the second best meal of the trip at Humpy’s. First place still goes to Skagway.
There was limited time for exploring the morning we flew home, just enough to walk around a bit, find some legit wall art, and in the words of Dale Cooper I did find myself a damn fine cup of coffee. I lost all my morals at Dark House Coffee and ate myself a vegan/gluten free muffin with my coffee. I paid for it later, but it was worth it.
And just like that, our trip to Alaska was complete. I cannot recommend an Alaskan cruise enough, and this is coming from someone originally uninterested in the idea of any kind of cruise. Sometimes it’s nice to let others do the work for you. If you’re on the fence about embarking on an adventure like this, in the words of Nike – just do it.
Q: Where is your next adventure? I’m off to Arizona for two weeks, and we’ll be back to current time blog posts!