Anchorage (Seward), Alaska

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One of Southcentral Alaska’s oldest communities, Seward is ground zero for the Klondike Gold Rush's Iditarod National Historic Trail, a dogsled route that connected the Kenai Peninsula’s ice-free port with Nome during frontier-era winters. Though the modern race makes a ceremonial start in Anchorage, it’s inspired by the famous run of 1925, which dashed along parts of this older path. It allowed 20 mushers to carry urgently needed diphtheria vaccine more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) in just over 127 hours.

Natives and explorers from Russia, Britain and the United States all frequented this area before Seward’s official founding in 1903. The early settlement included a colorful neighborhood known as Homebrew Alley which was erased by a 9.2-magnitude megathrust earthquake—the second most powerful ever recorded—which dropped the shoreline nearly six feet in 1964.

Today this mellow town welcomes visitors to Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords National Park, not to mention the 204-kilometer (127-mile) Seward Highway—honored as an All-American Road—stretching north to Anchorage. In town, favorite stops remain the Alaska SeaLife Center, a research aquarium open to the public, and the steep, stony 920-meter (3,018-foot) Mount Marathon, which hosts one of America’s oldest footraces each Fourth of July.

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