These sure-fire Alaska excursions will entertain
August often brings with it the over- whelming sense of summer failure as one realizes our warm sunny days are numbered and we’ve neglected to do all the things we optimistically intended to accomplish at the season’s onset. Road trips, campouts and festivals always sound so achievable back in May, when we’re shaking off the chill and wet of winter and spring and making big plans for exciting weekend getaways and Alaska staycations. But time flies, and come this time of year, we’re ever too aware that shorter days and colder temps are just around the corner.
Don’t let the sun set on your summer bucket list just yet. With weeks to go yet, here are some simple and satisfying summery excursions to satisfy your wanderlust and win the day.
TAKE THE FERRY!
Alaska’s ferry system is a poor man’s cruise, a chill way to literally get off the beaten path and enjoy some scenic coastline, marine wildlife and super cool glaciers. The trip from Whittier to Valdez is a personal favorite; you can take the car along and enjoy a day in Valdez, and then make that six-hour drive to Anchorage just the once on the way home, enjoying the stunning waterfalls of the Richardson Highway’s Keystone Canyon and skirting past Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Lasting several hours or longer, depending on the vessel, you can enjoy snacks and beverages while taking in the view. (www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs)
WANDER AROUND WHITTIER!
Bonus points for taking the ferry from Whittier, because it means an excuse to visit one of Alaska’s oddest towns. In Whittier, most of the residents live in one of two buildings. An underground pedestrian tunnel skirts the city’s notori ously bad weather. And speaking of tunnels, to get to this railroad port town, you have to drive through the famous Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. Between the super-long tunnel and the derelict Buckner Building hulking on the horizon, the creepy factor in Whit- tier is delightfully high. (www.whittieralaska.gov)
Seward is a must-do summer trip, and the fabulous factor for Seward is high, thanks to its customizable and versatile potential. For the glampers, you can stay in a nice hotel or cozy VRBO. More outdoorsy folks can book a rustic cabin or pitch a tent. Seward is near enough to the Anchorage Bowl, you can even do it in day (making sure to stop at Summit Lake Lodge for ice cream, of course). Seward has
hiking, sightseeing boat tours, a pretty harbor for dock walking, cute shops, and lots of great food. I love the crepes at Le Barn Appetit just off Exit Glacier Road, and a trip to Seward isn’t complete until you’ve had a Bucket of Butt (halibut, that is) at Thorn’s Showcase Lounge. (www.seward. com)
GO TO THE FAIR!
Seriously, go! The Alaska State Fair is a blast. Pork chops on sticks, giant cabbages, cheesy kid talent acts, wax hands, and who doesn’t flippin’ love the corny lumberjack show at the Wood Lot? Add a pint of Alaska beer at the fabled Sluice Box bar, and it’s just about a perfect Alaska day with the right blend of fresh air, quirkiness and calories. Go on a weekday at opening to beat the crowds and lines, and take the Alaska Railroad there and back to skip traffic snarls and parking headaches. (www.alaskastatefair.org)
BE AN ANCHORAGE TOURIST!
Who says you need to leave town to en- joy summer? Not me! Anchorage is full of fun stuff to do. Whether it’s an afternoon at a museum, exploring the city’s extensive trail system, picnicking on the Park Strip or popping into the zoo, there’s tons under the sun in our fair city. When’s the last time you poked around in one of the mega tourist trap shops downtown? These places are goldmines for stocking stuffers! The Anchorage Downtown Market and other city farmers markets allow you to stock up on veggies and fresh flowers while simultaneously supporting local growers and artists. Never let summer pass without an iconic reindeer dog from one of Downtown’s tireless vendors. When those guys close up shop, it’s official: Winter really is coming.