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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Winston’Salem

    Alaska: Seeking Travel Advice

    Okay, DBR travel denizens. Time to shine. We are intending to go to Alaska in late July. In and out of Anchorage. Staying six nights. Looking for recommendations, and and to avoid traps for the unwary.

    Go!
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Okay, DBR travel denizens. Time to shine. We are intending to go to Alaska in late July. In and out of Anchorage. Staying six nights. Looking for recommendations, and and to avoid traps for the unwary.

    Go!
    https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/24903/

    Also, check Ymm, Beer as I dredged up a couple old Anchorage Brewing reviews.

    Whaddaya expect, bowling alley addresses?
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Winston’Salem
    Quote Originally Posted by devildeac View Post
    https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/24903/

    Also, check Ymm, Beer as I dredged up a couple old Anchorage Brewing reviews.

    Whaddaya expect, bowling alley addresses?
    Thanks. Local beer is certainly part of the agenda.
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Okay, DBR travel denizens. Time to shine. We are intending to go to Alaska in late July. In and out of Anchorage. Staying six nights. Looking for recommendations, and and to avoid traps for the unwary.

    Go!
    Since you're going, I assume you already know what's accessible within a drive of Anchorage --- the Kenai Peninsula and all it has to offer (Kenai Fjords NP and its glaciers, Girdwood, Seward, etc) and Denali could easily eat up 6 days each, but both could be visited in 6 days total. It's the time of year for the salmon run so make sure you find some good viewing spots for that. There are several right in Anchorage. And, of course, the salmon run means bears catching them --- there should also be a few good areas to do that.

    Oh, and eat some seafood.

    Note: I have family in Wasilla (yes, where Palin's from). I'm sure I could ask them a few specific questions if desired.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    Since you're going, I assume you already know what's accessible within a drive of Anchorage --- the Kenai Peninsula and all it has to offer (Kenai Fjords NP and its glaciers, Girdwood, Seward, etc) and Denali could easily eat up 6 days each, but both could be visited in 6 days total. It's the time of year for the salmon run so make sure you find some good viewing spots for that. There are several right in Anchorage. And, of course, the salmon run means bears catching them --- there should also be a few good areas to do that.

    Oh, and eat some seafood.

    Note: I have family in Wasilla (yes, where Palin's from). I'm sure I could ask them a few specific questions if desired.
    Ohmygod! Look at Russia while you're there!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Winston’Salem
    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    Since you're going, I assume you already know what's accessible within a drive of Anchorage --- the Kenai Peninsula and all it has to offer (Kenai Fjords NP and its glaciers, Girdwood, Seward, etc) and Denali could easily eat up 6 days each, but both could be visited in 6 days total. It's the time of year for the salmon run so make sure you find some good viewing spots for that. There are several right in Anchorage. And, of course, the salmon run means bears catching them --- there should also be a few good areas to do that.

    Oh, and eat some seafood.

    Note: I have family in Wasilla (yes, where Palin's from). I'm sure I could ask them a few specific questions if desired.
    We have found a terrific AirBNB in Wasilla, and are thinking we may stay 3 nights there. Debating Homer vs. Seward on the Kenai Peninsula for the other three nights.
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    We have found a terrific AirBNB in Wasilla, and are thinking we may stay 3 nights there. Debating Homer vs. Seward on the Kenai Peninsula for the other three nights.
    Super exciting trip! I am sure we'll have fun!

  8. #8
    Marx Bros Cafe for an upscale dinner. Definitely get the table side Caesar.

  9. #9

    Anchorage

    It's been 15 years since we visited, so keep that in mind.

    In Anchorage, highlights included Simon & Seafort's for dinner, biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (you can rent bikes in town), and drinking Alaskan Amber.

    We also enjoyed our brief stay in Girdwood. We took the ski lift up for some fun hiking on the nearby glaciers and then hiked all the way back down. We found good food there at Double Musky Inn.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by Book_Face View Post
    It's been 15 years since we visited, so keep that in mind.

    In Anchorage, highlights included Simon & Seafort's for dinner, biking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail (you can rent bikes in town), and drinking Alaskan Amber.

    We also enjoyed our brief stay in Girdwood. We took the ski lift up for some fun hiking on the nearby glaciers and then hiked all the way back down. We found good food there at Double Musky Inn.
    Your handle makes me laugh. Please post more so I can see it more.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    We have found a terrific AirBNB in Wasilla, and are thinking we may stay 3 nights there. Debating Homer vs. Seward on the Kenai Peninsula for the other three nights.
    Wasilla itself is not that exciting, IMO, and Denali is not to be missed. I would recommend the train from Wasilla, which is a full day ride up to Denali, arriving by late afternoon. In Alaska, late July, you'll still get solid twilight well past 10pm, even behind the ranges, so there will be time that same day for a scenic walk of some kind. The entire train trip is relaxing and extremely scenic. Hotels/lodges all have shuttles to/from the train, if you can find one with an open night, so transportation won't be an issue.

    If you are in the mood for another trip, on day 2, take the park shuttle bus (they call them "transit buses" these days) out into the park, no need for the guided tour. You'll get extremely likely views of caribou, moose, ptarmigan, Dall sheep, and grizzlies, with an outside chance of seeing wolves or other truly exotic critters, plus some of the best mountain vistas in the world. You'll even see the Great One if you are lucky (maybe a 1-in-3 chance for any given summer day), but you'll see lesser and still impressive mountains for sure, barring outright rain (the trip is still worth it, even in the rain). You can get off a bus, take a break or do a day hike, and then hop on a different bus if you want. Be aware it is a dirt road, so the going is slow, but highly varied. If the buses are all full or you don't want to travel three days in a row, the headquarters area is worth a visit for dog sled demos and other interpretive events (range led walks and talks), plus day hikes in abundance at virtually any difficulty level. You can still get a free bus out to the Savage River (12 miles, less than 30 min., though likely not a lot in the way of animal viewing) for some better views than you get right in headquarters.

    The last day of three is the train trip back, with departure around noon and getting to Wasilla somewhere around 6:30. The trip can be done to/from Anchorage, instead, if you have plans actually in the Wasilla area.

    The trick is lodging near the park. It might not be possible to reserve a room this late in the year, even with COVID uncertainties.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington, D.C.

    Homer!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    We have found a terrific AirBNB in Wasilla, and are thinking we may stay 3 nights there. Debating Homer vs. Seward on the Kenai Peninsula for the other three nights.
    Twelve years ago, we rented an RV and drove around the Kenai for a great trip. We took a day boat trip out of Seward that was very cool. Coolest thing was in Homer, where we took a bear trip via Emerald Air over on the Katmai Peninsula. The folks who started the trips have retired, but someone else seems to have acquired the business and are still doing the trips. Very expensive, but one of the most memorable days of my life. I'm sure my wife and kids would agree. We saw 50 or 60 "Brown" bears -- AKA grizzlies. We literally (yes, I know) walked among the bears, which were feasting on salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

    Have a great time.
    Last edited by MChambers; 01-25-2021 at 02:29 PM. Reason: To add details about the bears

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Durham
    Don't spend much time in Wasilla, Fairbanks, or Anchorage. Get out and drive around. Alaska is beautiful. We spent 7 days there and drive hundreds of miles to see all the sights. Most of the small towns have great local restaurants; eat fresh fish at all of them.
    You'll see few billboards, few fast food restaurants, and no litter. We never had advance hotel reservations and never had a problem getting a room.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by wandalee View Post
    We never had advance hotel reservations and never had a problem getting a room.
    The Park (meaning Denali) is an exception to that. If you want to go there, especially without a car at your disposal, you will need reservations almost for sure. Even with a car, you likely won't get within 10 miles or more without booking ahead. I recommend the Denali Park Hotel if there is space available. It's actually in the park, so very convenient.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Albemarle, North Carolina
    For food you must try some halibut, salmon, and crab. Other good eats to try are reindeer, bison, and elk. Ive never had a chance to eat there but my buddy says the locals swear by Mooses Tooth Pizza and everytime we tried to go it was 1 1/2 wait.

    Denali. Go there.

    For some amazing historical experiences go see the old ww2 base (forgot where sorry) and also check Hatchers Pass for unlimited fresh blueberries for all the eye to see, a gorgeous hike to a glacier fed pond you can swim in, and of course see the old mining town and how it ran all in 1 place.
    "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge" -Stephen Hawking

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Okay, DBR travel denizens. Time to shine. We are intending to go to Alaska in late July. In and out of Anchorage. Staying six nights. Looking for recommendations, and and to avoid traps for the unwary.

    Go!
    Get a guide for part of your stay. Fishing is fine, or just exploring. I have found guides are a source of a lot of information and insights you don't get from the travel guides. also, you don't have to drive yourself those days (or fly a plane into the back country).
    Sage Grouse

    ---------------------------------------
    'When I got on the bus for my first road game at Duke, I saw that every player was carrying textbooks or laptops. I coached in the SEC for 25 years, and I had never seen that before, not even once.' - David Cutcliffe to Duke alumni in Washington, DC, June 2013

  17. #17

    Homer

    If you make it to Homer, there's a couple of places to eat that I would recommend. Captain Patties on the Homer Spit for casual seafood (try the smoked salmon spread appetizer and really, all the entrees are great. The razor clam chowder is the best.) Also, Cafe Cups back in downtown Homer.

    The Homer Spit is an interesting place to wander around. It is definitely touristy, but still a nice place to spend a few hours, shop, drink and eat. Plenty of opportunities to book excursions (kayaking, fishing, etc.) The views of Katchemak Bay are some of the best I have seen, and that's saying a lot when we're talking Alaska.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Winston’Salem
    Iím reading all of the great suggestions, even if I donít reply. Keep Ďem coming! We have decided on 3 nights in Homer in addition to the 3 nights in Wasilla. We have extended family in Palmer (who we donít know terribly well, but enough to pay a brief visit).

    Regarding Denali: Itís a *haul* to the National Park. Is Denali State Park (at the base of the range, near Talkeetna) a decentíish substitute? Or will we kick ourselves for not taking a super-long day getting into the National Park (and back)?
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Outside Philly
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Iím reading all of the great suggestions, even if I donít reply. Keep Ďem coming! We have decided on 3 nights in Homer in addition to the 3 nights in Wasilla. We have extended family in Palmer (who we donít know terribly well, but enough to pay a brief visit).

    Regarding Denali: Itís a *haul* to the National Park. Is Denali State Park (at the base of the range, near Talkeetna) a decentíish substitute? Or will we kick ourselves for not taking a super-long day getting into the National Park (and back)?



    Depends on what you value, I suppose. My recommendation, particularly if you're not planning on going back any time soon to ever, would be to go to the National Park.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Regarding Denali: Itís a *haul* to the National Park. Is Denali State Park (at the base of the range, near Talkeetna) a decentíish substitute? Or will we kick ourselves for not taking a super-long day getting into the National Park (and back)?
    The state park is nothing like the National Park. For one thing, the views are completely on the other side of the range. The national park views of the range are from the north, and much of the park road is through the Alaska Range foothills (and those "foothills" are several thousand feet tall). The state park doesn't really have an independent road, and many of the views from the highway (with some notable exceptions) are obstructed.

    More importantly, there aren't any interpretive services in the state park. If you just want to go camping or on a hike but not much else, the state park has some nice places. But if you really want to learn about the mountain, the range, the wildlife, the history, and life in Alaska, you won't find that in the state park. Denali National Park will give you lots of opportunities to learn and be entertained in addition to hiking and camping.

    BTW, I recommended earlier taking the train to the park, which is pretty much an all day trip. That's a very relaxing way to go, but reduces your time at the park. You can certainly rent a car, instead. The drive from Wasilla takes about three hours, and is itself quite scenic. Don't think of the drive (or train trip) as just a way to get there. It's flipping gorgeous! You'll want to make stops and take pictures and look around some of the time. And with the length of the days in late July, even if you go very early in the day and/or leave very late, most of the time you'll be able to still see the view. I do NOT recommend doing it as a day trip, though. Allowing time to take a shuttle bus is by far the best way to get the most out of your visit. You could do it in a whirlwind two days, if you are ambitious. But not in one.

    Word of advice on the shuttle, if you go: Take one as early in the morning as you can stand it. The wildlife tends to be more active earlier in the day, and often the views are better before the mountain starts to make it's own weather.

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