To try and put this trip into words seemed kinda impossible. I found it hard to find a lot of info on Alaska (personal info, not guide books) and want this to be a nice resource on everything we did while we were in Anchorage. I will go day by day and give you my tips and suggestions, too.
This trip all came about when Abby said she would go see the “cool” states with me. Back in December, I jokingly suggested Alaska. She was all about it. Just like that, flights were booked. We decided on a Wednesday-Wednesday (red eye home Tuesday) in order to get acclimated to the time change before the race (which was on Saturday). We didn’t really do any research on what we wanted to do, just booked the flights and the race and we were in! (Side note: I had a Delta buddy pass but you could only use it within the continental US so AK and HI were out. We decided to connect in Seattle and were able to save money on the flights this way since ATL>SEA was buy 1, get 1 free). A few weeks later, our friend Sally decided to join us and the three of us started to plan.
My suggestions up front:
1. Use a Rental Service. hotels in the summer in Alaska are insanely expensive. $250+ per night just wasn’t in our budget for a week. Abby had used airbnb in the past and we decided to go that route. The place we rented, technically a B&B, is owned by Heather and Doug who ended up being pretty amazing hosts. The rate was also $140 night (plus fees) and included breakfast.
2. Get out of Anchorage. I’m SO glad we planned day trips to get out of town. There is only enough to do in Anchorage to fill a day, day and a half at most. We avoided a lot of the tourist trap stuff but found that dinners downtown were much more expensive than just 5 minutes outside of the downtown area. Also, Anchorage is not exactly what I would call nice and safe. There is something odd about the night life (even if it was still daylight out) downtown. All of the locals come out and they seem to be a bit sketchy and drunk. We did not feel safe out past 9pm.
As far as the day trips go, if you can plan ahead, stay out of town a few nights as well. There are a ton of great 2-3 day excursions that I wish we had researched a bit before booking our flights. Having the race in the middle of our trip kinda hurt any plans for staying outside of Anchorage over night.
3. Plan Transportation. I had read that cabs were expensive, but we didn’t find them to be that bad. Rental car options, however, were very expensive. We decided not to get a car because they were $87 a day before any fees. Luckily, our airbnb hosts had bikes for us to use, but there are several bike rental options in the city and that is a great way to see downtown and the coastal trail. There are several bus and train options to get you outside of the city, as well as public buses inside the city.
We spent most of our day in Seattle and arrived in Alaska around 10:30pm. I think we finally went to bed around 4am Atlanta time. Talk about exhausted.Thursday:
Sally and I both needed to run and Abby decided to bike. Our place was right near the Coastal Trail. 17 miles of paved path all along the water. It’s known for its views and wildlife. Breakfast was from our backyard chickens and then we took the bikes into town to explore. We stopped at the visitor center to get maps and brochures and decided how we wanted to spend the day. We had lunch at Humpy’s (highly recommend for casual lunch-great beer list and food) and then biked over to watch salmon fishing (lots of fisherman and only 2 salmon actually seen) and go to the ULU factory. The ULU factory was a bit of a tourist scam, but the ULU’s are cool and I decided to get one that was “defective” for half the price (aka one tiny scratch or imperfection).We biked on a different trail that was near the salmon fishing, picked up our race packets, and went to the Sleeping Lady Brewery and each had a flight.
We had 7:30 dinner reservations downtown and didn’t feel like going home, so we did a little shopping. The main highlight was the the local running store, Skinny Raven Sports.
Our dinner was at Glacier Brewhouse and it was okay. Nothing over the top, nothing terrible. Pretty touristy and crappy service.
We pre-booked a glacier cruise that left Anchorage at 9:45am. We were lucky to have our host family drop us off at the train station. You can take your own transportation, the train, the bus, or a combo to the town of Whittier. We chose a combo, the train down and the bus back up. Both had spectacular views…I recommend the bus back simply because it’s faster.
We also chose the Glacier Quest cruise. This one was a bit cheaper and took us up close and personal to 5 different glaciers. There was a national forest ranger as our guide, lunch was included, along with a few snacks. It was a great way to stay off of our feet most of the day before the race.
It was cold and windy, so I recommend bringing layers and if you have long hair, something to keep it pulled back.
The town of Whittier is quite fascinating. The entire town literally lives in this one condo building. It is THAT small. They get around 15 feet of snow in the winter and apparently we got really lucky and it didn’t rain on us (which is the norm).
Dinner that night back in Anchorage was outside of downtown at the Oasis Cafe. LOVED this place- smoothies, juices, and all natural/local meals.
Race Day! You can read my recap here. After the race we had brunch at a well known spot for Anchorage, Snow City Cafe. We indulged in their signature sweet roll, and then I had a crab and avocado omelet.Several people told us to go to the weekend market for great local goodies. It was a major tourist trap and pretty much all junk except the Christmas ornament I found. It’s actually made from glacier clay. Other than that, a total bust.
That night, we went to dinner at the most popular spot in Anchorage, Moose’s Tooth. They are known for their pizza, and it didn’t disappoint. It was worth the trek out to it (it’s not downtown). Sunday:
Our airbnb hosts have a cabin in Girdwood (legit cabin, no running water). They were going to spending the weekend there and offered to drive us on Sunday so that we could go hiking. We were THRILLED. We had another hike planned that was a bit more touristy from Anchorage but had heard great things about Girdwood. It’s about an hour south of Anchorage, so we were going to have to take a train or a bus there and the ride from our hosts’ saved us around $70 a person.
I read several books that talked about the Alyeska hotel. It’s gorgeous, and overpriced. BUT, you can hike to the top of the mountain and take the chair lift down for free. Our hosts recommended the hike, and I must say, it was much more challenging that I expected and absolutely stunning. All I wanted to see was a moose, but we didn’t. We took the chairlift down the mountain and walked to downtown Girdwood for lunch at the Bakeshop. Another splurge on an insane cinnamon roll. Pretty sure it negated my healthy lunch.We walked back to the cabin and our hosts weren’t quite done working on their place so they let us take their car (!!YES!!) to the Alaska Wildlife Center about 10 miles south of Girdwood. Since we weren’t having any luck in the animal sightings, we would see plenty here. I’m usually not a fan of these things, but it was cool to see and to learn that all of the animals had been rescued. That night, we were exhausted and grabbed takeout from Bear Tooth. Pretty sure I was asleep by 9pm!
Our big adventure day! We were picked up at our place by Marlene from Planet Earth Adventures. She drove us 2 hours to start our glacier hiking adventure with Mica Guides to hike the Matanuska Glacier. Mica provides the helmets, the hiking boots, the crampons and even weather gear if you need it. The guides were really amazing and made sure we were safe and taught us a lot all at the same time. I’m not kidding when I say this one probably one of the coolest things I have ever done.The glacier from afar doesn’t look like much…
but once up close, it’s completely different. The glacier melting has formed rivers through Alaska, as well as pools within the glacier. We hiked for about 3 hours total and the views could not have been more spectacular. That night, we went to one of the nicer restaurants in Anchorage to celebrate our trip and last night, Simon & Seaforts. The oysters were probably the best I’ve ever had. I also had halibut cheeks for dinner, and they were amazing.
We had just enough time to bike the Coastal Trail again and decided to go out pretty far in one last attempt to find some animals. As expected, nada. But, the views were gorgeous. Had the weather been nicer on the day of the race, this what we would’ve seen (in addition to the pictures from our first bike ride).
We rode for about an hour and then headed back to pack, grab lunch and head to the airport.
The redeye flight home was tough, but it was worth it!
It was truly, truly a trip of a lifetime. I wouldn’t change much about the trip (other than extending it) but I would go back again tomorrow if I could and do a totally different trip to see new things. I would love to go rafting, go spend time in Denali Park, go fishing, and do a few more hikes.
I hope this all makes sense…..but bottom line, go to Alaska. If you have any more questions, just let me know!
The name of the post came from Sally’s cab driver. Everyone warned us about the animals and how to approach them. His approach? To look the moose straight in the eye and say, “I see you, Moose!” Too bad we weren’t lucky enough to get that close!
Anything you were surprised to read about? What’s the one thing you would want to do in Alaska?