The peaceful waters of Alaska's Inside Passage, once used by travelers looking to bypass the open ocean, give way to a host of stunning shores and coastal towns that you can visit on Alaska vacations. On cruises to Alaska, you can spend time in a variety of cities with surprising histories that will enrich your experience. From totem poles to Gold Rush–era architecture and beyond, you'll find a world's worth of culture tucked into the Last Frontier.
The first city on the Inside Passage, Ketchikan is home to the United States' highest zip code: 99950. Ketchikan also boasts the world's largest collection of standing totem poles. To learn about these cultural icons and see some of them for yourself, take time to visit Totem Bight State Park. There, you can also step into a replica Clan House and learn about Native Alaskan culture up close.
Skagway was spelled "Skagua" until a Washington, D.C., bureaucrat, thinking the name was misspelled, changed it to "Skagway." It was the first incorporated city in Alaska, beating state capital Juneau by just one day.
Skagway's rise as the first Alaskan city resulted from the Gold Rush, which brought many optimistic prospectors through the town. So many, that by 1898, Skagway boasted a population of 10,000. As of the 2010 census, Skagway's population was significantly smaller at 920, but the town has maintained its historic district, allowing tourists on Alaska vacations to truly experience its past.
Although not within the Inside Passage, Anchorage has also been an important part of Alaskan history. Home to approximately 44 percent of the Alaskan population, this modern city began as a railroad camp, located along Ship Creek. In 1915, the city was home to 2,000 people — and one bath tent.
Today, Anchorage has more espresso stands per capita than any other state in the US. It has long summer days and much shorter ones in winter. On your next Alaskan cruise, you can uncover its wonders for yourself.