HOTSPOT OF THE WEEK / ANCHORAGE

The Baltimore Sun

John McCain's choice for a running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, may have been a cold shock to some pundits, but her state has long been a hot tourist destination. Alaska's rustic beauty, from Mount McKinley to the Inside Passage, attracts adventurers, nature lovers, sports enthusiasts and more. The state offers glaciers, fjords, lakes, mountains, parks, Native American culture and wildlife, to name just a few of the tourist draws. Here are five things to do in and around Anchorage:

1

Visit Wasilla : Governor Palin's hometown - and the place where she served as mayor - is about a 45-minute drive from Anchorage. It is home to the headquarters of the Iditarod, Alaska's premier dog-sledding trail event, and features a museum that traces the history of the race. The 2009 Iditarod takes place in March.

2

Take the Alaska Railroad : The rail line offers a trip from Anchorage to Denali National Park, site of 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. Along the way, see parts of the state that are only accessible by rail as the train follows rivers, birch forests and other terrain. An upper-level outdoor deck and rail cars with dome windows offer views of North America's highest peak.

3

Catch a king salmon : The fish are biting at Ship Creek, an urban waterway in downtown Anchorage within sight of several office buildings. A new trail along the stream offers hiking and bicycling.

4

Sample reindeer lasagna : Santa probably wouldn't approve, but this is the land of hunting, and the Silvertip Grill in nearby Girdwood, according to the Los Angeles Times, serves slabs of reindeer lasagna as big as small appliances.

5

Take a day cruise. : Cruises of Prince William Sound and the Kenai Peninsula are worthwhile excursions. Take a cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park to see marine wildlife, including whales and sea lions. Prince William Sound cruises showcase the area's beautiful glaciers.

More information: anchorage.net,

cityofwasilla.com

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