Q: Which less expensive tours would you suggest for Alaska, after mid-June? We will not be driving. We would like to see wildlife, glaciers, and to visit a friend in Fairbanks.
–Tina Koenigsberg, North Palm Beach, Fla.
A: Since you're not going to have a car, may I suggest getting around by train while you're in the Last Frontier? Both Alaska Railroad and Gray Line of Alaska offer à la carte and package trips on the railroad line that runs between Seward and Fairbanks.
Taking the railroad is a good way to save money on tours, since the train essentially is the tour. It passes through coastal regions, alpine forests, two mountain ranges, and a national park on its 500-mile trip from south to north. The trains have open-air or enclosed-glass 360-degree viewing vestibules from which you can take pictures. During the summer, one of the companies often has free narrative "tours" given by young Alaskans.
If you're flying into Anchorage, you'll probably want to catch Alaska Railroad's Denali Star train, which traverses the Anchorage-to-Fairbanks portion of the line. The trip costs $420 round-trip for a standard-class seat during peak season (June 1–Aug. 31). If you want to stop overnight in Denali National Park and explore a little, you can buy a rail-hotel package that includes accommodations at the McKinley Chalet for $398 per person. Tours of the park cost extra and start at $129.
Gray Line also offers an Anchorage-Denali-Fairbanks trip on its McKinley Explorer train. Prices start at $249 per person one-way.
Once you're in Fairbanks, if you want to explore the city's Gold Rush history and sights on a day tour, Alaska Railroad and Gray Line each offer one. As an alternative, Riverboat Discovery Tours takes guests on a three-and-a-half hour river cruise, which explores the Native American history and daily life of Fairbanks, from $54.95 per person.
If you're headed to other parts of Alaska, the Gray Line and John Hall's Alaska both offer dozens of well-priced tours and excursions for just about every budget and special interest, from flight-seeing to bay cruises to fishing trips and bear viewing.