Two Weeks in AK advice...
Alaska, United States
Two Weeks in AK advice... Reviews
Jan 20, 2008
Well, I finally decided to put this out there. I had a few people ask about traveling to Alaska and in some sense or another I sent them this information. But I figured I would put this out there for anyone to use, or add to, or make additional suggestion.
First, I should say that I'm not a 'travel in Alaska' expert. My advice comes from hanging out here for over ten years, working and traveling in probable more places than most people who have lived here all there lives have seen (Ketchikan, Dutch Harbor, Pribilof Islands, Elim, Russian River, North Pole, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Deadhorse.....). Then there was the two or three times my family came up to AK to visit. Once my mom, dad and sister, then there was my brother and his family, wife and five boys... So most of my information is based on these experiences and to be honest, it's been a few years since anyone has come up.
So here is my suggestions on a good ten day to two week gallivant through Alaska with the goal being to see quite a bit of the state, yet not run around with your head cut off. These suggestions are partially sponsored by dictionary.com, as I have been known to mis spell a few words with or without giving a shit (haha). But for those who care, I will try to give a shit and spell and properly use words correctly. However, should you find a couple words that don't quite fit in and they bother you a bit or two, I probable put them in there specifically for you. I took typing class in junior high and can still type 50 words a minute, even after having part of two fingers cut off in a crab fishing accident.... true storey, but still for your entertainment...... haha
I think alot of people are intimidated by the fact that it is "Alaska". don't be. There is a great road system that will take you to the majority of the major cities and for the most part, they are well traveled, so if you break down, you won't stranded in the middle of no where. Plus, the majority of the people up here are fairly nice and cordial, and willing to help someone out, yet, like many places, there are always the 'end of the roaders' that you have to watch out for. So with that said, get to planning and get your arse up here and as many of the people I have met who live up here, they came to visit and ended up staying or moving back....
First thing I would do is (maybe) purchase a MilePost...
Very touristy, yet one of the most comprehesive informative booklets about Alaska, with a great map or two.
Fly into Anchorage. You will get better airline deals (usually). and I recommend renting a RV, recreational Vehicle. a motel room with wheels. You may look at the cost and think it's quite a bit, yet when you start looking at hotel rooms and adding the cost of a rental car, it will probable save you in the long run. As well, as it nice to throw your stuff in there and not have to constantly pack and re-pack each day. And you can save a bit on having the fridge and cooking. Even if you want to come to Alaska and be cool and stay in a tent at campgrounds, you will still have to rent a vehicle and all that. It's just nice to have a secure place to put your stuff, you still can bring your tent and rent a truck/camper. To save a little more I would suggest renting an older model (usually a couple years old). (google: RV rentals Alaska and you will get a good grouping of place to check out.
Now, the first night in Anchorage...well I'm cheap and stay at the Wal-Mart parking lot in South Anchorage off Old Seward Highway. That way you can get supplies at Wal-mart for you trip as well. Hopefully you won't pick the night that they clean the parking lot, which happened when my brother and his family came up to visit. What you will need will depend on what you are going to do. Anchorage has all the stores that a major city would have, so if you don't want to pack it, you can buy it there. Cool things to see and do in Ancorage would be:
-Anchorage Museum of Art and History: http://www.anchoragemuseum.org/,
-Earthquake Park: http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-2807080-earthquake_park_anchorage-i
-Coastal Trial: http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/aktrails/ats/anc/knowlsct.htm
-Humpy's: http://www.humpys.com/, great downtown place for some halibut or salmon and a couple beers, don't give andy the bartender any stock tips, cause he won't forget for at least ten years, I could of swore RTK was going to take off....
-Moose's Tooth: http://www.moosestooth.net/ great pizza and check out the link to the Bear Tooth Theatre and Pub
-Great Alaska Bush Company: http://www.akbushcompany.com/ OK, maybe don't go here, cause it's a strip bar, but if you have a friend who is a little nasty, this is a good place to get them a t-shirt, plus, there is no cover charge, so I've heard...haha
-4th and 5th avenue and that.... walk around for a couple hours and see what you can buy cheap for you friends before you buy them something expensive from Alaska, many touristy shops and a few good local artist shops. But a couple good restaurant too. check out:
Glacier Brewhouse....mmmm good
Club Paris... Looks divey, yet probable one of the best steaks in the state, yet, you didn't come to Alaska for the steaks, did ya??
Crow's Nest, set on the top floor of the Captian Cook hotel, great views and if you have a cocktail, they set you up with a bunch of olives, which could be used as dinner, yet not advised as you might get a stomach ache...
Snow Goose restaurant and Brewery. Great outdoor setting with a view of the mud flats...
OK, you must, must, must goto Gwennies Old Alaskan restaurant for breakfast...http://www.gwenniesrestaurant.com/ and set yourself up with a breakfast that will last the whole trip. hotcakes with a a side of reindeer sausage... maybe some biscuits and gravy too. and if you don't want to eat santa's helpers, just go for the cakes and setting. Did I say this is a MUST GO...
Great upper scale hostel type setting, I would recommend: Anchorage Guest House: http://www.alaska.net/~house/andy.html Andy, not the bartender, is a cool dude with a great set up for a little more price than your usually hostel, but worth it. and if you have to go cheaper, go Spenard Hostel.
alright, so let's get you out of Anchorage, which is sometimes called Los Anchorage or North Seattle. get my drift..........
Let's get you down the Kenai Peninsula and on a fishing trip and glacier tour. Why, cause, you want to fill up a cooler full of fresh halibut, or salmon that you can cook up for the remain week or your stay. So, get out of Anchorage quick and head down to the Kenia Peninsula. http://www.kenaipeninsula.com/pics/maps/penmap.html. I would suggest going to Homer and Seward. You will want to book a charter for fishing. Homer has plenty of places to pick from, yet I have had great success out of Ninilchik with Tim Berg's outfit http://www.alaskanfishing.com/. Expect to leave early and get sick, nothing wrong with it, just eat something that taste good in the morning and in the afternoon when it comes up the other way. Not that the water is rough, just hanging out on a little boat that bobs up and down might throw your stomach in a frenzy. Just lean over the boat and feed the fish and get back to fishing..... YOU can also maybe, if you want go out of Seward and hire a boat for the day to take you on a fishing trip with a glacier tour. We did this with my brother and his family, a party of eight. We had lunch right in front of a glacier and grabbed some ice floating around for the cooler.
Back to Homer, stay at the spit. goto the Salty Dog Saloon for a can of Foster's and check out the walls and such, and bring an extra dollar or bra, which ever you prefer to put on the wall. Grab a growler of beer at Homer Brewing Company which now has it's own place instead of being in the gas station garage. Beachcombers, is a restraunt that you want to get your sourdough pancakes at Beachcombers. Seaside Farm is a great, unique hostel and place to rent a cabin from for you non-RVer's http://www.xyz.net/~seaside/home.htm.
So you've see the world famous kenai river and the russian river where they catch monster king salmon. Check out some good day hikes around the area too. Let's talk Seward a little. Probable the place you want to take a glacier cruise fromhttp://www.alaskatravel.com/seward/tours.html , unless you get down to Haines or Skagway. Fishing ain't too bad here either, maybe not as good as the Homer Side.
I like their harbor, and the city has a couple good camp grounds by the water too. Moby Dick's for you hostelers http://www.mobydickhostel.com/.
Now, again, make sure you go fishing and catch some halibut and maybe salmon or rock fish, and should you be lucky enough to be there for ling cod, get on it. Because you packed some clothes in a cooler you can put some fish in the cooler, and if you get have a group and get on the fish and end up with alot more than you can eat (hopefully) in a week. pack your cooler with the fish and ice and take them to a fish packing place like Indian Valley Meats. Drop it off and get you fish vacuum packed and frozen. they will hold is till you pick it up in a week before you leave. Again, pack your clothes in a couple coolers, so then you can ship your clothes home instead of your fish, much cheaper, and you don't have to buy another damn cooler. But fill your fridge or cooler with a few good meals on your trip. And don't be afraid to pack a cooler with some good food from home (ei, steaks from Nebraska). Makes the people in the camp ground eating top Ramen look at you like your smarter than you are.....haha...
Moving along, your gonna head back north thru Anchorage on your way to Denali National Park. As you wind your way north of Ancorage, I hope, hope, hope, it's a clear day for ya. You'll be seeins some mountains thinking, is that Denali (Mt. McKinley), is that Denali. All I can say is that you will know it is when you see it. It's a big piece of earth.. unfortunately alot of times in the summer you don't see it for days. I've usually traveled in early spring and late fall and saw it all the time, but June, July, and such, it's tough. I recommend booking a couple night at Riley Creek Campground just inside the park. http://www.reservedenali.com/campground.php. It's just inside the national park and close to the park headquarters, I think, as I think they have a new visitors center. But you will want to also book a round trip SHUTTLE BUS to Eielson Visitor Center http://www.reservedenali.com/shuttle_bus.php. You can do the 'tour' thing, but the drivers on the shuttle bus, chat with ya and stop for wildlife, at least they use too. Go early, as you will have much better luck with wildlife viewin, like 6am.... Pack a lunch adn a thermos and don't forget your camera.
If you have to eat out, on the highway has the little village and there is a good pizza joint there called LYNX CREEK PIZZA. Also, the Alaskan Northern Lights Theatre Show is worth the dimes you have have to pay.
Along you way from Ancorage to Denali, you can run up to Talkeetna for a night and throw a good penny or two down for a scenic flight. But it's a cool little town with some local artist and such. OH, just read that Talkeetna was the model for Cicely Alaska for the show 'Northern Exposure'.
Alright, Denali is checked off. Let's head up to Fairbanks, but no need to be in a big hurry, it's only a couple hours or so drive north and and to be honest, since I live here, there really isn't much up here..... But there is a few things worth seeing.. There is a good Alaska pipeline viewing place north of town
and a Gold Dredge #8
Although most rental companies don't want you to take your vehicle on certain roads. Driving up to the Yukon River and maybe the Arctic Circle could be cool... Otherwise, you can check out the Steese Highway or Chena Hot Springs Road...
Now you have a couple days left and you just as well take the Richardson Highway back to Anchorage, as you took the Parks highway up north. The Rich, follows the pipeline.. and if you have an extra day, go down to Valdez. and you can always buzz over to Haines or Skagway too.....
So, you have a day left to grab your fish and go downtown, pack and ship your clothes home and header on back home...
When to go? Well I like the end of May, first of June. Things are not quite in full swing yet, and you get a bit of a discount on some prices, but make sure to check and see if everything you want to do is open. Course there is always the winter and northern lights, or the fall and the colors, then halibut in spring and salmon in fall generally. AND dang it, I forgot to mention while you are up here you better take another week and go over to Canada, the Yukon and Northwest Territories are amazine, and shoot, while you're at it, drive up the Al-Can. You will probable see more wildlife in British Columbia then in all of Alaska, and the Canadian Rockies 'Rock'!!!
WORTHWILE SIDE TRIPS THAT COME TO MIND (at various times I'll update this)
Wrangell - St. Elias National Park and Preseve: I mentioned this earlier as in McCarthy and Kennicot mine. But the park itself is amazing with a variety of outdoor activities to keep you busy.
Any questions? anyone, anyone???? haha scott
Jan. 27th: Someone asked about the the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle and/or Prudoe Bay: Driving up the Haul Road to Prudoe Bay, Deadhorse or the Arctic Cicle:
Most all rental car places do not allow you to drive their vehicles up there. Course not everyone adheres to that. You risk the possibility of messing up the car. More than likely you WILL crack the windshield and possible blow a tire. It's a rough long road, used mostly by trucks hauling up to Prudoe Bay. It was built for them and they still basically own the road.
I have driven up there a half dozen times or so times in my personal vehicle, summer and winter to various place (all the way or the Arctic Circle and once to Wiseman in the winter to view the northern lights). When I saw a truck coming I pulled over and gave them plenty of room and when one was behind me I found the quickest place to pull over to let them buy.
Is it worth it. Well if you are like me and like to visit places that most people don't go to just to say you have been there, then yes, it's worth it. If you live in the city and are amazed by wide open spaces with not much around, then yes it is worth it. If you have no cd player and don't like to think too much when there isn't nothing to listen to on the radio then I would say no. And if you are scared that something is going to happen to your car if it's your or a rental, then don't go. Otherwise, if you have the time (lots of time) it's an awe-inspiring drive if you can time it so you are going through Atigun Pass at midnight. Just insure your car up a bit.
There is also a possible drive to the Arctic Circle or the Yukon River that might be worth the experience on the haul road too.
Otherwise, if your looking for a safer road trip out of Fairbanks, take the Steese Highway or Chena Hot Springs Road to the Hot Springs or even look into Manley Hot Springs for a little off the road adventure. Then there is always the tour companies too, but you are on your own with that one.
FEBRUARY 3RD, 2008:
MUST BUY BOOKS for your Alaska adventure. I think I referred to the MilesPost Book up in the blog. But I also recommend a little book called "The Alaska Almanac: Facts about Alaska". It's a great little book that has all those little facts about Alaska that you always wanted to know but didn't want to ask and sound like a tourist. So order it in advance and read a bit of it here and there before you go to bed and bring it along and scroll through it as you are cruising on your trip.
Where to get it: GULLIVER'S BOOKSTORE (http://www.gullivers-books.com/) 1-800-390-8999. I'm there right now, as I will be writing a quick review on them too. They have an upstairs cafe and used book section that has free wireless internet acess. Free coffee too and a great selection of bagels, wraps, soup and such. They have been around a while and are locally owned and support local artist and writers.
You can order the Milepost, the 2007 Edition at a 25% discount for $20.97 and the Alaska Alamanac for 2006 for $2.98. Ship it US postal on the multi-media rate (if your not in a hurry) for $2.50 or priority mail for $5.70 (I had the lady weigh the books and give me the price). Sorry for the international people, don't know their policy. sorry....
I'm mailing one to my sister and brother in law in Colorado who are planning on coming up in May/June for about 10 days. Great Deal!!!!
Part of the ALASKA travel blog
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