More of my best Alaskan scenic photos 👉 link here!The idea of an Alaskan vacation can be daunting. How much warm clothing to bring? Will I need to know how to build an igloo or forage for food? Will I get eaten by bears? Typical.
Alaska is one of those destinations that if you overthink it, you may never go. Sure, planning is essential, as you don't want to be hunting for hotels and tours last minute. There are a variety of activities from sea life viewing to hiking to culinary and craft beer enjoyment. There is something for everyone from the rugged adventurer to the family of four. The important thing is to think ahead, choose your own adventure, and just go.
|Early morning walk to the Anchorage train depot|
Ride the Train
railroad, and it is a magnificent way of taking in optimal scenic beauty per minute by way of icy blue rivers, lush green forests and majestic mountains. We chose the trip to Seward in a railcar that surrounds you with large windows to take in all the views. The premier class serves a meal in the dining car and offers an open-air deck to feel the wind in your hair and get all the great photos as you zip through the countryside.
Seward Sea Life
Seeking out a delicious seafood dinner at one of the various restaurants, we walked past the marina and witnessed some salmon swimming up a nearby stream. Seeing the few campers nestled along the picturesque shore, we imagined a perfect evening might just be cooking up our own fish over one of the nearby fire pits.
Your plans really should include going out on the water in some fashion. We chose Major Marine Tours' three-hour cruise that took us out on Resurrection Bay where we were pleased to see many animals in their natural habitat up-close, such as bald eagles, puffins, sea lions, and humpback whales. The town is small enough to explore on foot.
Girdwood and Flightseeing
Double Musky Inn - a local favorite that fills up upon opening at 5pm, serving New Orleans-inspired meats and seafood complemented by an extensive wine list.
|Portage Glacier and Portage Lake|
However, the primary purpose of our Girdwood visit was a ninety-minute Alpine Air helicopter flight which lands on a glacier high up in the mountains. Do this! The chopper was big enough only for a pilot and three passengers and provides an unforgettable journey through the clouds, over peaks and valleys to a giant piece of ice that looked a bit like Superman's home. Looking around we were in awe of the glistening bright whites and blues under our feet and streams of water carving their way around us. The trip may seem a bit pricey in planning, but if you can fit it in your budget, it will be sure to be a highlight and one of your best trip decisions.
Road Trip to McCarthy
On the advice from my friend Carrie, we rented a car and drove out to an old copper mining community at Kennicott and McCarthy. You should budget a whole day of driving each way from Anchorage and have a rugged vehicle to navigate the bumpy and gravelly McCarthy Road. In fact, national brand car rental companies do not allow their vehicles to be driven on this and several other unpaved roads in the state. There are other rental agencies that specialize in 4x4 vehicles, but require that you have your own primary insurance. I suggest staying at the peaceful and cozy Wrangell Mountain Lodge along McCarthy Road - log cabins on the edge of Chokosna River in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. While there are many activities and tours in and around McCarthy, we chose a self-guided tour of Kennicott and were quite content to stroll around the old mining town (in the rain) and dip into the various buildings showcasing displays of life there in the early 20th Century. Luckily for us, it looks like the miners left here like Joe Biden left Afghanistan, so there I still a lot left to see from that operation.
We found a really cool spot for an early dinner at The Potato in McCarthy, which had a live band, delicious food (smoked salmon mac 'n cheese!) and a craft beer list into which I would have loved to delve further into had we not a substantial drive ahead of us.
|Smoked salmon mac 'n cheese (The Potato)|
Craft Beer in Alaska
We were excited to see that Alaska is home to some great small breweries! For our last dinner of vacation we visited the very popular Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage for Alaskan alder grilled salmon and herb-crusted Alaskan halibut with both the Tangerine and Blackberry IPAs. However the brewery highlights of the evening were at Midnight Sun Brewing Company with their "I Said Never, But..." pale stout and the "Panty Peeler" Belgian tripel; also a nightcap of "Passionfruit Permafrost Pucker" sour at 49th State Brewing was a fantastic last beer of the trip. In Girdwood, we visited Girdwood Brewing for a flight and great conversation with a couple from Utah visiting for a wedding. Favorites from there were the "No Woman No Cryo" Northeastern IPA and the "Hippie Speedball" oatmeal coffee stout.
|Midnight Sun Brewing Co. Loft|
Thanks, Alaska! It was a great birthday celebration exploration! I hope we meet again.