Travel

Exploring Alaska – Talkeetna, Seward, Anchorage & Alyeska

Everyone has a travel bucket list – I’m lucky to have knocked a destination off my list last year when we visited Alaska. I had always wanted to go, and when Colm found out he had to travel to Anchorage for work, we decided to make a holiday of it. We went in April, which is slightly between seasons in Alaska (not too cold, but too early for a lot of summer activities). We had 8 nights and decided to focus our itinerary on areas that were within driving distance of Anchorage. It was by far the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken. It really is the final frontier and the landscapes were breathtaking. The people we met along the way were characters, very friendly and genuine. The food (and drinks!) were great too – Alaska is notable for it’s seafood and it definitely didn’t disappoint. There is so much to do in Alaska, even off-season, that we had to pick and choose what we could fit into our week. Read on for all the details of our trip!

TALKEETNA

We flew into Anchorage, rented a car and drove straight to Talkeetna (with a moose sighting on the way!) for our first night & day in Alaska. Talkeetna is a small town 113 miles north of Anchorage, close to Denali National Park.  It is famous for having a cat, Stubbs, as it’s mayor since 1997. Obviously I had to go there once I read that in our guidebook! It’s essentially just one main street, dotted with historical old wooden buildings but it is definitely worth a visit. Stubbs hangs out at Nagley’s Store, but there was no sign of him when we visited.

What We Did

The main reason why people visit Talkeetna is to use it as a base for exploring Denali National Park, home to North America’s highest peak, Mt. McKinley. The Park was still closed for the season when we were there, but we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it. We decided to book a flightseeing tour of the park with a local tour group, K2 Aviation. They have several different tours to choose from, weather permitting. We chose the Denali Flyer tour with the glacier views. The tour took place on an 8-seater plane and was about an hour long. We flew over most of the park, with the guide narrating the entire time. We saw the Kahiltna Glacier, the mountain and even some climbers that had been dropped in by plane for a week long climb (crazy!). Words can’t describe the experience but theses images give you an idea of how astoundingly beautiful the park is.

 

Aside from the flight tour, which was one of the highlights of our entire trip, we spent the rest of our time in Talkeetna checking out the local bars, coffee shops and souvenir shops.

Where We Stayed

We rented a really cute AirBnB for the night. It was right off main street, and was very cosy with everything we needed.

Where We Ate

While the town of Talkeetna is essentially just a main street, it has a lot of great bars and places to eat. We did our best to check them all out (all in the name of research of course!);

Denali Brewing Company – Good beer and appetizers. It was pretty busy and had a laidback atmosphere.

West Rib Pub & Grill – We may not have found Stubbs at Nagley’s, but we did find this dive bar in the back of the store. You can write your name on the wall – if you ever visit, look out for ours!

Fairview Inn – The Fairview Inn is the place to be in Talkeetna on a Saturday night. It had live music, strong drinks and was a good mix of tourists and locals.

Conscious Coffee– Decent coffee (definitely needed this after a night at the Fairview Inn!)

Talkeetna Roadhouse – Excellent breakfast spot – I went all out and had the reindeer sausage (Delish!)

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GIRDWOOD/ALYESKA

After one night in Talkeetna, we drove 153 miles south, past Anchorage, to the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. The drive was beautiful and very scenic. Alyeska consists of a 4-star hotel and spa situated within a ski resort, with hiking trails and plenty of bars and restaurants. Alyeska is in the Girdwood region, in the valley of the Chugach Mountains.

What We Did

We spent three nights in Alyeska as the relaxing part of our holiday. It was the end of the ski season, so we actually got complimentary passes for the mountain. Colm is the snowboarder out of the two of us, I’m more of a snow bunny. He availed of the passes while I curled up in the lounge with a coffee and a book. We also spent our time in Alyeska exploring the grounds as there are several hiking trails, and chilling out at the pool and hot tub. We were also there for our 3rd Wedding Anniversary, so we treated ourselves to some fantastic massages at the spa.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the resort for all three nights.

Where We Ate

Alyeska has several top notch restaurants, including the famous Seven Glaciers restaurant – We tried them all.

  • Seven Glaciers – Located at the top of mountain with panoramic views, the Seven Glaciers is probably the most beautiful restaurant I will ever eat at. We didn’t have a reservation, but decided to take the tram up anyway for a look around. The tram ride was gorgeous with views of the entire valley. We lucked out and they had two seats at the bar, so we stayed for dinner. The food was excellent – being in Alaska, we had to try the oysters!

  • The Pond Cafe – Decent breakfast spot, nothing too fancy.
  • Sakura Restaurant – Really fresh sushi, we got lucky to have a bar seat and watch the sushi chefs do their magic.
  • Aurora Bar & Grill – Good for lunch or dinner, and evening drinks.
  • Jack Sprat – The only place we ate outside of the resort. Unassuming spot with a fantastic menu & excellent food.

SEWARD

Seward is a major fishing port located on the Kenai peninsula, 92 miles south of Alyeska. It’s famous for it’s fishing and whale watching. The town itself is pretty small but has a decent sized main street with lots of shops, restaurants and bars.

What We Did

We had one night/one day in Seward and decided to make the most of it with a Wildlife & Glacier Cruise. There are a few tour companies in Seward, and your options depend on the time of the year. Our boat was full even though it was off season. Pulling out of the harbour, we saw a bald eagle and a gang of sea otters! If that had been all we saw, I’d have been happy, but about 15 minutes into the tour we spotted a humpback whale. The captain mentioned it was very unusual for that time of the year so we got very lucky. The sea got pretty choppy as we got further out, which made a lot of people miserable. Colm and I must have iron stomachs and weren’t affected at all. It was raining pretty hard and freezing cold, so we stayed in the boat unless there was something to see. And there was a LOT more to see – We ended up with an additional whale sighting, sea lions, mountain goats and an entire pod of porpoises. It was amazing!

We checked out the Alaska Sealife Center the next day before we left Seward. It’s a non-profit aquarium focused on Alaskan Sealife – pretty fun for adults but I bet kids would love it!

 

 

Where We Stayed

We stayed in an AirBnB apartment above the Sea Bean Cafe on 4th Ave.

Where We Ate

Sea Bean Cafe – We had coffee and pastries here before we got on the road to Anchorage. Pretty decent coffee, large and comfy cafe.

Thorn’s Showcase Lounge – This place looks really gaudy, but the food is fantastic. It’s famous for it’s halibut for good reason, it’s delicious.

Yukon Bar – We had a blast at the Yukon Bar. It’s the ultimate dive bar – We stumbled upon it during a trivia night. It was packed with locals – good drinks, friendly people and a great atmosphere.

ANCHORAGE

Anchorage is Alaska’s most populous city with 40% of the State’s population. It was the only real “city” we visited when in Alaska. The drive from Seward to Anchorage is 125 miles and is quite scenic. We spent our last three nights of our trip in Anchorage. Colm attended the conference while I got to know the city a little better.

What We Did

Anchorage is a typical US city, with a concentrated downtown area. I visited the Anchorage Museum and spent the most part of a day exploring the exhibits. It was fascinating, with most exhibits focused on Alaskan life through the ages. There was an Inuit exhibit that was particularly interesting, complete with clothing and a display of the tools they use in their daily lives. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take many photos due to flash photography restrictions. I spent the rest of the time shopping – Anchorage has decent shopping!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Residence Inn, about a 10 minute drive into downtown Anchorage. While it was a little far out, there were shops & restaurants within walking distance.

Where We Ate

Crow’s Nest –  The Crow’s Nest is a very well-known restaurant on the top floor of the Captain Cook hotel. We visited here twice – once for drinks and once for dinner. The views are spectacular. The food is tasty (especially the seafood), and the wine menu is extensive.

Anchorage Brewing Company: The Anchorage Brewing Company is a large brewery downtown with decent pub grub. The food and beer are good, and the atmosphere is great.

Blues Central: We stumbled across this speakeasy cocktail bar on the way to dinner. You literally need to call them from a phone box to ask for the password to get in! It’s dark, moody and the drinks are fantastic. A must-visit when in Anchorage!

Moose Tooth Pub & Pizzeria: This gem of a pizzeria was within walking distance of our hotel – tasty pizza and a solid drinks list.

It feels like we packed a lot into our trip to Alaska, but there is so much more to see. We hope to go back some day and actually visit Denali, plus check out the Fjords, Homer & Juneau. I guess I may add Alaska 2.0 to my bucket list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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