We have just returned from a trip that was a long time coming.
Long story (very) short, my brother and I were reunited five years ago and although he has visited us in Los Angeles many time since then, we had yet to spend time with him in Anchorage, Alaska. Raising babies, crazy schedules, and work-related trips got in the way of us making our way to the 49th state. However, this year we committed to seeing it in all it’s glory and spending time with family in their natural habitat.
You will know from my previous posts that we are huge baseball fans, so we decided to take advantage of the route from LA to Anchorage and spend Fourth of July weekend in Seattle to catch a Mariners game at Safeco Field. We checked into our club level room at the Seattle Sheraton downtown and headed out in search of eats, making the wise choice to grub on pizza at MOD. Staying in the heart of Seattle rocked because it was walking distance to all of the attractions we wanted to hit during our short stay.
|Seattle’s Gum Wall|
On our first and only full day, we relaxed in the club lounge and wished away the drizzle as we sipped lattes and filled up on the provided breakfast spread. We wandered through the trendy shopping district to the famous Pike Place Market, stopping at the Pike Place Fish Co. stand first. The display of fresh seafood and fish is quite impressive and the employees are top notch, playing to the tourists by throwing fish over the heads of people and engaging with the kids. Our daughter wasn’t too impressed with the talking monkfish, but I found it hilarious. Okay, I found the horrified expression on her face hilarious! We took some time to wander through the tiny shops and admire the rest of the produce and flower sections of the market before heading over to the original Starbucks located at 1st and Pike.
The weather was still cooperating as we strolled down to the waterfront. This was very important to me, as my parents had brought me and my sister here many times when visiting family in Washington. A visit to Ye Olde Curiosity Shop was a must with my own child. They still had those same mummified mermaid bodies hanging from the ceiling! We wandered around the piers and then killed some time chowing down on salted chocolate old-fashioned donuts and Ovaltine lattes at Top Pot Doughnuts.
We walked through the Washington Square area, which is lined with quaint shops, art galleries, and sports bars, enroute to Safeco Field. We arrived at the stadium about an hour before the game started so we could find our seats and explore the site. Safeco Field is one of the most beautiful MLB stadiums I have ever been to; a well-designed layout on the waterfront with their local monorail passing through the stadium walls. The weather was gorgeous by the time the game started and they opened the retractable roof to let in the intense sunshine. They had a children’s play area near our seats where I took the little one when she got restless and I was able to track down the must-have crab sandwich, which went perfectly with a locally brewed red ale. It turns out, attending a sporting event in another city is the perfect way to immerse yourself into a passionate part of the community.
|Eklutna Historical Cemetery|
Anchorage is not one of those places where you should spend your effort or money to make it a stand alone destination. It is often a starting point for cruise ships or sea planes that eventually head for more far-flung locations. It’s not small enough to feel quaint or cozy, yet not big enough to have nice things or must-see attractions. My brother put it into perspective for me when he relayed that the winters are harsh and much of the municipality to set up out of convenience. However, one can make a nice living in the city and the neighborhoods are green and overflowing with the most beautiful wildflowers. And the people are pretty great.
An absolute bright spot, which fortunately was walking distance from my brother’s home, is the Rustic Goat. This lovely two-story eatery serves breakfast and has a full espresso bar. They also do lunch and dinner and have a killer dessert menu! We came here several times during our visit and it’s a wonderful neighborhood staple. I wish I had one at home!
One drizzly, melancholy morning we made our way out to the Eklutna historical cemetery, near the native village of Eklutna. It’s a tiny Russian Christian orthodox cemetery that incorporates Native Alaskans’ burial traditions. Each spirit house was elaborately decorated and the different colors represent the different tribes or families that are laid to rest there. The bright colors against the dreary backdrop made for a truly breathtaking sight. Before heading out of Anchorage for the weekend, we also visited the Anchorage Museum. This little local museum sure knew how to pack a lot into its building. They had a floor of modern art, several sections dedicated to Alaskan history, and an especially interactive Imaginarium for kids. It was a great alternative to the zoo since the rain continued.
Finally we busted out of Anchorage-proper and pointed our RV toward Seward, Alaska. The 2 1/2 hour drive gave way to the majestic mountains and satiated my love of geology. We were in the Ring of Fire after all! By the time we hit the the marina of Seward, the sun was shining and miraculous white clouds filled every view.
We scurried onto the Orca Song run by Major Marine Tours to begin our wildlife cruise through Resurrection Bay. The wildlife must have been as excited as we were to have good weather as we were certainly given a show. Adorable otters guided us out to sea, grumpy sea lions scoffed at us as we passed, and puffin whizzed along side our vessel. I kept saying that all I wanted to see was a “killer whale” (actually not whales but of the porpoise family) and sure enough a pod of Orca emerged right on cue; this was truly the highlight. We also spotted bald eagles on their nests and were able to sit and watch a pod of humpback whales feeding for the week.
We camped overnight at Miller’s Landing right on the beach of Resurrection Bay. We sat in large, rustic rocking chairs on the waterfront listening to a twangy local strumming his guitar as our daughter danced around, full of life. Campfire, beer, and s’mores felt a little strange at 11pm when it was still bright as midday. There’s an Alaskan summer for ya!
Our extended trip back to the city was truly something special. After a quick tour of the SeaLife Center, we stopped at the Kenai Fjords National Park and took a quick 1.3 mile hike up to Exit Glacier. Markers posted along the hiking trail indicate where the glacier was beginning at 1916 and every 10 years since. It was extraordinarily heartbreaking to see how much the glacier had receded and then to finally see it literally melting away. I feel so fortunate that I was able to visit this part of the world and document it with my family. I wonder what it will look like 10 years from now when my daughter is in her mid teens.
We stopped for dinner at the majestic Alyeska Resort. A stunning destination for snow bunnies, the resort was just as spectacular in the summertime. Wildflowers poured out of every corner, ponds sparkled, and the modern yet cozy resort seemed to encompass everything “Alaska.” I joked that it would be my daughter’s future wedding venue (“Can we book for 2036?”). We were treated to a special sushi dinner at their premier restaurant, Sakura. We had a hidden booth all to ourselves and noshed on the best sushi boat that included fish from Alaska, Hawaii, and Iceland We let the chefs entertain us with their own sushi roll concoctions and they absolutely did not disappoint! It was a wonderful end to our journey to the Pacific Northwest and beyond. This travel experience had everything…nature, good eats, and family. You can’t find that just anywhere.
I’d love to hear about other places in Alaska that you have seen. Please comment below so I can plan my return trip!