By Margot Black
My family would go back to Anchorage, Alaska, in a heartbeat. The picturesque location of the city, framed by the Chugach Mountains and the saltwaters of Cook Inlet, mean that adventure is always within reach. As one of the northernmost cities on earth, Anchorage captured the rustic Alaskan vibe that I was looking for, and it satisfied with every sense. There was a time when we were kayaking on Eklutna Lake that I truly felt like I was a million miles away.
Anchorage is Alaska's largest city, making it a great place to use as a launch pad for travels near and far. In addition to stunning outdoor adventures, the city offers cosmopolitan delights such as fine dining, theaters and museums. I would recommend staying at least three to five days because there's so much to do and see, you will easily fill up your schedule.
Alaska sells out fast in the summer, so this destination requires you to do some serious planning well in advance of your trip. We made our reservations about three to four months before our trip, and things were tight even then.
We decided to stay at the Clarion Inns Suites Downtown because of its convenient location that allowed us to walk to everything we needed. They also offered a complimentary shuttle to and from the Alaska Railroad Anchorage Depot and a daily breakfast in the lobby. For our first culinary delight we had the pleasure of trying some spicy reindeer sausage.
To set our Anchorage adventure in motion, we headed to Ship Creek for some fishing, which we had never done together as a family. We visited the Bait Shack to rent boots, fishing poles and bait. After we purchased our fishing licenses the Bait Shack's owner, Dustin Slinker, taught us a little Fishing 101. Here's what we learned about fishing: It's a lot of waiting. Unfortunately, we didn't catch any fish. In fact, we watched other people catch fish. This was pretty disheartening for our son, but nonetheless, being able to fish with the city skyline right in front of us made it a gorgeous urban fishing experience all around.
We kicked off our three-hour Girdwood Summer Sled Dog Adventure with Alyeska Tours with an eight-mile trip on an open-air Pinzgauer tram from the Alyeska Resort and Hotel. We met eight-time Iditarod musher Nicholas Petit and got to interact with the dogs by putting them in their harnesses. Our time on this tram ride on the historical Iditarod Trail was spectacular, and I would highly recommend this scenic tour.
We explored the Alyeska Resort and hiked the Lower Winner Creek Trail. When we went to bed around 10 o'clock, the sun was still up in this "land of the midnight sun," which was a real treat. The whole day, complete with the Bait Shack and the Girdwood dog-sled excursion, was such a stunning and deep immersion into nature.
The next day we departed on the Alaska Railroad for an extraordinary day trip with Chugach Adventures' Bears, Trains and Icebergs tour. This tour offered scenic views in Chugach National Forest, a tour of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and a guided float tour where we got to see Spencer Glacier.
On our last day we visited Eklutna Lake Recreation Area. We rented kayaks from Eklutna Trips and Rentals and set off for the most beautiful empty-nature experience I've ever had. I would highly recommend this Lifetime Adventures Paddle & Pedal excursion as the quintessential Alaskan adventure. The unbelievably empty Eklutna Lake seemed otherworldly. We rented bikes and spent two hours exploring some of the park's trails — an enchanting experience that also provided some exercise.
To cap off our time in Anchorage we opted to get some comfort food with an epic pizza dinner at Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, which really hit the spot after all that outdoor activity. The portions were huge in this family friendly local spot. Walking downtown, we also found an amazing ice cream place called Wild Scoops that boasted an impressive selection of creative ice cream flavors that included Roasted Beet and Birch Almond.
Our trip to Anchorage ultimately made such a lasting impression because everything we saw and did was such a delight. In fact, I fell so in love with this city that I would consider moving there — if only it weren't so cold and dark in the winter.
WHEN YOU GO
For general information: www.anchorage.net
Clarion Suites Downtown: www.choicehotels.com/alaska/anchorage/clarion-hotels/ak030?source=gyxt
The Bait Shack: https://www.thebaitshackak.com
Eklutna Trips and Rentals: www.lifetimeadventure.net/eklutna-trips-rentals
Girdwood Summer Sled Dog Adventure: www.alyeskatours.com/summer-sled-dog-adventure
Bears, Trains and Icebergs: www.alaskanrafting.com/product/alaska-wildlife-glacier-discovery
Lifetime Adventures Paddle & Pedal: www.lifetimeadventure.net
Moose's Tooth Pub and Pizzeria: www.moosestooth.net
Wild Scoops: www.wildscoops.com
Margot Black is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Anchorage, Alaska, is one of the few cities where a fishing trip can take place right downtown. Photo courtesy of Margot Black.