There are a lot of things to love about staycations.
Sure, vacationing close to home when “home” is Alaska may lack the lulling sway of palm trees, the curling froth of warm waves and the exotic architecture, tastes and colors of foreign soil.
But consider this: Instead of shelling out money for transcontinental flights, all-inclusives and cruises, you save time getting there and exorbitant travel costs and splurge on other indulgences closer to home.
Here are a few of my favorite Alaska adventures and all the fun and frivolity they entail.
THE GIRDWOOD GETAWAY
Girdwood is about the closest you can be to Anchorage while still feeling like you’ve gone far, thanks to the small town’s gorgeous scenery, luxurious accommodations and a slew of awesome restaurants to choose from.
Feel like splurging? Throw down on one of Alyeska Accomodations’ upscale chalets, with mountain views, steaming hot tubs and unparalleled privacy. Many sleep several couples and include full kitchens and perks like pool tables. Back-up option: I love the Alyeska Resort Hotel. Even the workouts feel glamorous in this hotel, with the workout room offering tranquil views of the giant indoor pool and spa.
Hungry? Double Musky is widely viewed as the best steakhouse in Alaska, with its Cajun-inspired fare and quirky Mardis Gras-inspired décor. Don’t overlook their seafood options, also delectable, and their wine cellar is hard to match. A table here is worth the wait. I also love Jack Sprat, a sprightly restaurant at the foot of the ski slopes with exceptional yet approachable cuisine that is unique and seasonal.
THERE’S ALWAYS HOPE
A personal favorite getaway is Hope, the small gold-mining town at the end of a 17-mile spur road off the Seward Highway. Hope is not lavish; many accommodations offer outhouses, and it’s never a bad idea to pack your own water. But what Hope lacks in excess, it compensates for with charm. This is the perfect place to take visitors for a folksy Alaska experience. Check VRBO.com for rentals year-round, and in the summer months, enjoy delicious, stepped-up diner grub from Tito’s Discovery Café and the Seaview Café.
HUNKER DOWN IN TOWN
Looking for a getaway without the actual time spent getting away? It’s possible. I once spent a night in the Dimond Center Hotel with my little sister and we had a blast, drinking at the makeshift lobby bar, dunking in the indoor pool and lounging around the room soaking up the cable channels. Downtown, the Captain Hook Hotel offers high-end housing with its unbeatable gym and pool, English pub-inspired Fletcher’s, and the chic Crow’s Nest, which boasts both top-floor views and top-shelf liquors. For something different, check out the Whale’s Tale, where you purchase a pre-paid wine card to sample various wines from mechanized dispensers.
HOMER AWAY FROM HOME
On the opposite end of hunkering down near your ‘hood, if you truly feel like hitting the road – or hopping on a plane for a very quick flight – there is always Homer. People associate Homer with halibut and its legendary finger of beach, the Homer Spit. But this fishing town is a worthy stop even once charter season is over. Homer has plenty of cozy B&Bs, or try the Land’s End Resort at the very end of the Spit. I love the condos, which offer views of the water and mountains, plus more privacy and space. The hotel itself has a restaurant and bar, and an amazing hot tub that looks out over the impressive mountains and glittering waters of Kachemak Bay.
It can be hard to find a spot to eat off-season in Homer, as many businesses shutter up when the last tourists depart. Don’t despair: head to Fat Olive’s, a Homer institution known for its pillowy calzones stuffed with fresh ingredients and melting cheeses, plus an impressive wine selection. Another local favorite is Two Sisters Bakery, open year-round. Two Sisters features an incredible dinner menu, with fresh seafood, McNeil Canyon meats, local produce whenever possible, and a range of beer and wine.
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