Denali National Park . | Dan Kosmayer

Alaska, the Last Frontier 

If all you know about Alaska is from reruns of Northern Exposure, what you may not know is that it offers top-shelf, locally sourced cuisine and brewed beers, a vibrant art scene and a state identity built on rugged individualism.

Anchorage, the state’s largest city, has plenty to keep you busy. First Friday showcases blocks of downtown art galleries, live music and food trucks. Thanks to the midnight sun, you can be sipping an Alaskan Brewing Co. Summer Ale without even noticing the time as you’re bobbing in and out of galleries and shops, including Her Tern women’s clothing boutique, Octopus Ink Gallery and Alaska Native Arts Foundation. There are plenty of places to eat as you go, including Glacier Brewhouse or martini happy hour specials at Sullivan’s Steakhouse in the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall.

The longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice on June 20, means the sun only dips below the horizon for about five hours, yielding a kind of dusky twilight, not pitch-black darkness. So don’t be surprised if you’re still going strong long past your usual bedtime.

How to Get There

Expect to pay about $450-$550 roundtrip. It’s hard to find nonstop flights from Las Vegas (try Alaska Airlines), so plan on a layover in Seattle, Portland or Salt Lake City. You can save on airfare by booking each leg separately—to Seattle (from $69 on Southwest Airlines) and then to Anchorage (from $79 on JetBlue).

Where to Stay

Hotel Captain Cook and Embassy Suites by Hilton Anchorage are both downtown.

Where to Eat

Moose’s Tooth Pub & Pizzeria at 3300 Old Seward Highway is a locals favorite. A great breakfast and lunch spot is Snow City Café, which slings all the conventional hash and eggs as well as local delights such as reindeer sausage, vegan fare and locally roasted coffee. For upscale fish and seafood, head to Simon & Seafort’s.

What to Do

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage, an easy 11-mile coastal excursion (bicycle rentals available), offers spectacular views. About a 15-mile drive outside of Anchorage is Flattop Mountain in Chugach State Park, a kid-friendly, one-hour hike. Popular day trips from Anchorage include Portage Glacier (55 miles away) and Seward (126 miles away). If you have the time, take the train north to Denali National Park (237 miles away), which really merits an overnight stay (hotels and camping available). Another day trip is to the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, where you can see Matanuska glacier and pan for gold at Independence Mine in Hatcher’s Pass, near Wasilla.