This page in a way is a continuation of Alaska Itinerary. Once you’ve figured out your path, chalk out if these towns are some place you want to stay and play. Here’s Alaska through my lens.
Anchorage– a regular city with regular weather and I say that using the northeast as my yardstick. I think I expected more from a town that has hills on one side and water on the other. Anchorage was just very meh.
The food options were mediocre- We ate at Humpy’s and liked the food. Same Humpy’s at TED airport ANC was horrible.
I drove around the city for hours, except Glen Allen and was yet to find a view or a spot that was nice enough to spread out a picnic for. No cafes seemed inviting, no streets seemed artsy. Can a city really be that shabby and uninteresting? And yes people I lived near Buffalo and know a thing or two about sad cities.
Anchorage was so boring, we decided to return our rental car early and save some dough and spent the evening (some 7 hours) in the airport instead. Yes, you read that right. But there is a backdrop to that story too, read Alaska: Fireweed to Forest Fires for our brush with #SockeyeFire
Really though, if you can, skip Anchorage and spend as little time as possible in the city. Here are some popular things Tripadvisor and Pinterest will show you but I don’t think they are worth your vacation time:
Reflection Lake: part of a suburban community very hard to get to and not scenic at all
Mirror Lake: large lake with some family beach area, most towns and cities in the US have something like this. This is not a tourist spot, just some place local families go hang out on a warm day.
Eagle River Nature Center: very remote, if you are going to spend that much time and effort, go on the Turnagain Arm. Also if you like us are looking less for education, but more for an intimate experience with Nature, maybe you can try Potters Marsh… but then are any of those really in the city of Anchorage?
Potters Marsh: Lovely area and although they would call this part of Anchorage it’s about 16 miles away on Turnagain Arm. It’s a large marshland which gets many birds (we saw very few but the overall atmosphere made up for it). It’s a nice place to spend half a day in. Easy trail, paved boardwalk and accessible. Great for kids too! Absolutely delightful for meditative Nature lovers and depending on your luck, photographers.
Kincaid Park: rave reviews on Tripadvisor, but really there’s very little to do or see in there. A big part of our misadventure was the weather. On our first day there it was cold and very wet, our second time there it was near 90 degrees. Maybe on good weather days and clear skies it’s a nice place. I’ll never know.
Point Worwonzof: Okay view of the water and Anchorage but worth going only once. Again we got bad weather, but if you’re lucky and can/ wait to do the trail along the water, your experience might be very different.
Our B&B in Anchorage was 11th Avenue B&B and it was great. Marilyn is very professional and our room was very comfortable and private. The breakfast was fancy too! Read my review here
Girdwood– very pretty, laid back town and not as touristy as I feared Alyeska resort would make it. Small easy trails make it a lovely, casual, nature lover’s retreat. the food options are not plenty, but whatever is there is decent. What made our Girdwood stay wonderful was our B&B (Bob & Carol’s B&B). Simple, clean and with amazing views, our room was comfortable. Our hostess Carol wowed us with homemade bread! And she owns an icecream place in town which serve amazing Alaskan flavors. Don’t miss the fireweed honey. Delightfully fresh! You’ll find my full review here. Unless absolutely compelled avoid Seven Glaciers restaurant in Alyeska. Get a reservation, it will get you the tram tickets, then go have a dessert… seriously the food isn’t good and the rudeness will spike your blood pressure.
Talkeetna– Quaint, quirky and cute. I have to admit the day we got there was the first day of our vacation it started to clear up and we got to see some blue skies. (yay!) Besides a ton of food options and crafty galleries, you get old historic buildings which is not very common in Alaska. People are friendly, dogs and kids playing everywhere, Talkeetna is where everyone comes to play. Walk the tiny “downtown” to the river to watch the glorious snowclad McKinley, Hunter and Foraker peaks on a good day. On a cloudy day, stay indoor try the local microbrew. Or if you like me are not a beer person, go to the Roadhouse for a steamy cup of soup or chowder.
Don’t feel like walking in a crowd (if you can call it that), go to the Talkeetna Overlook (right before entering downtown) where the mountains seem closer than the next car. The pizza place opposite Roadhouse wasn’t worth it, so skip it for a sandwich or pack of cinnamon nuts at the Mexican Moose
Our B&B here was Talkeetna Chalet- offering hearty breakfasts and amazing views of the mountains. My son loved that birds came to their bird feeders all day long and on a rainy morning, the birds played host as we drank our coffee. The owner Andi is an amazing person, a great host, very knowledgeable and warm. My full review is here
Between Seward to Healy, the best view of the mountains is from the Talkeetna Outlook. Also a great base for flightseeing, climbing, kayaking and rafting.
Seward– Very touristy little town at the end of a long scenic road from Girdwood. Cruise ships galore…so tons of eating options. Parking is tight. We didn’t spend much time here, but of course there are quite a few places to stay here as well.
Healy– Kind of a run down, shabby town, about 10 miles north of Denali. Good for people looking to ATV I guess. The crowd seemed a tad rowdy. That said, Lake Otto which is where our B&B (Denali Lakeview B&B) was is gorgeous.
The B&B wasn’t much to speak of either. It was impersonal and hotel-like and not a fancy hotel either. For the cost, breakfast was neither fun or sufficient…a large fruit bowl with 2 slices of bread and some cereal for 3 people? But the view was wonderful and almost made up for everything! Full review here
Again not much to do in Healy, just hang out on your deck and enjoy the view. Or go to Denali NP of course. (Denali’s Morino grill is delish! and fresh. Lots of good options, so eat there instead)
Overall my favorite places in Alaska for this trip were Girdwood and Talkeetna (read here how we ended up spending more time in Talkeetna than originally planned), maybe if our day in Seward wasn’t as cold and cloudy we’d be able to hang out there more too. Plan your trip wisely because the journey is great, but you’ll want to stop often and sleep where it’s interesting. Know before you travel that there are very few roads in Alaska, if you’re coming from the lower 48, you will expect backroads in case highways are closed and those are simply nonexistent. Travel safely, check weather and before you travel follow the Borough social network pages and Department of Forestry Facebook pages. You’ll be amazed at how little news channels actually cover. Check out all our pics on my Flickr album