Three of the best off-the-beaten path bars in Alaska
Once upon a time, I wrote an Alaska nightlife column for a local newspaper, dishing out details on the latest and greatest drinks, food and entertainment. Readers weren’t far off when they routinely proclaimed it must be the best job in town.
Now it’s time for a second round. My goal: your happiness. Life’s just too short for repetition and boredom, and there is plenty of nightlife in the land of the Midnight Sun.
With August still ahead, don’t wait another moment. Take advantage of open-ended weekends and the waning luxury of extended daylight, and dive into Alaska’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it depository of destination bars and dining.
Once Labor Day passes, many far-flung watering holes shutter up, doorways decked with those ubiquitous “Closed for the Season” signs. Other establishments stay open, but scale back to a low simmer, sans the influx of tourists and road-trippers.
Here are three of my favorite on-the-road spots you should pony up to before the summer ends.
The Seaview, Hope
Now 117 years old, this historic a bar is cozy and rustic, decorated with old photographs and mining relics dating to the town’s Gold Rush origins. Enjoy a cold Alaska brew from a mason jar or sip wine while lounging on the Seaview’s giant deck. The scenery is breathtaking – a rippling creek, jutting mountains and Turnagain Arm glittering beyond. Thursday is a music jam night, with other live acts rotating through Friday and Saturday. The adjoining café serves delicious food, or head up the road to Hope’s staple diner, Tito’s Discovery Café. The Seaview is just a 90-minute drive from Anchorage. Make a night of it and pitch a tent in the campground across Main Street. Open until mid-September.
The Wheelhouse, Valdez
Good luck finding a prettier view than the one at this laid-back Valdez watering hole. The Wheelhouse is perched at the west end of Valdez’s harbor, off the main drag. Grab a stool, order the Pow Pow Shrimp (trust me), and lose yourself in the calming view of boats bobbing in the Valdez Harbor, backed by the glorious Chugach Mountains. On any given night, fishermen return with the day’s catch, colorful kayaks paddle into dock, and playful otters dunk and twirl in the water below. The food is great and Wheelhouse is smoke-free. From Anchorage, Valdez is a six-hour drive or 40-minute flight. The fast ferry from Whittier cuts it to under three hours. Open year-round.
The Yukon, Seward
Seward’s Fourth Avenue is full of fun options, including the lively Seward Alehouse, old-school Thorn’s Showcase Lounge, and the delightful dive Tony’s Bar. See as many as you can and definitely don’t miss the Yukon. The interior is dizzily decorated with life ring floats and colorful boudoir-inspired lamps, the ceiling slathered in graffitied dollar bills. Live music, DJs and karaoke regularly kick the rambunctious and rowdy atmosphere up another notch, especially if Hobo Jim is onstage. Drinks are on the cheaper end and Yukon is cash-only. Open year-round.
You have at least a month to enjoy socializing in some of Alaska’s best small-town destinations. Go get it!
Side note to curious tourists: yes, the bells that hang above our Alaska bars are shiny, and enticing, but do not ring them – unless, of course, you want to buy a round for the house.
Have a favorite restaurant, bar or venue you want to share? Contact Katie Pesznecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.