If Mother Nature had a favorite state it would probably be Alaska. After all, it was she who showered it with love—in the form of skyscraping mountain summits, tranquil glacial lakes, enchanting temperate rainforests, black sand beaches and other breathtaking vistas most often seen as screensavers and motivational posters.

Alaska is unlike any other state in the Union. For starters, it’s the largest. Within its borders, including the northernmost and westernmost points in the U.S., you can fit four Californias. More than 2,000 islands help comprise its 34,000 miles of coastline. The entire state, including the overwhelmingly vast interior, is shared by a small, but well-endowed, population of 700,000. They’re a hardy crowd, but they’re hospitable to the 1.8 million out-of-state visitors who come every summer to experience endless days.

No one travels to Alaska for the food, unless they’re coming for the world-class salmon and halibut fishing. No one travels to Alaska for the shopping, unless they collect authentic handicrafts and Inuit art. No one travels to Alaska to test-drive their new bathing suit, unless it’s during a soak in a natural hot spring—only accessible by seaplane.

No one travels to Alaska for the nightlife, unless their dream is to dance beneath the Northern Lights. No one travels to Alaska for rest and relaxation, unless their idea of resting is riding on the back of a dog sled and their definition of relaxing is floating in a kayak surrounded by icebergs. No one travels to Alaska to find romance, unless they view romance as synonymous with adventure.

Yes, Alaska is not a destination described by things you seek out in the Lower 48. It’s clear Mother Nature spent a little more time on the Last Frontier.

Best Season:Summer, Fall
Popular Location: Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier, Glacier Bay National Park