Alaska

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If you have been following along on social media, then you probably saw my recent trip to Alaska.  My husband, his parents, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin (yep the entire fam) ventured through the Alaskan frontier for about ten days.  Y'all, it was magical.  There was so much beauty surrounding us, I had moments where I simply stood in awe.  Our memories were ones that will last a life time and I promise we will have enough pictures to remember every moment.  I wanted to provide you guys with some helpful tips in case you ever plan your own Alaskan adventure so keep reading to see more of our favorite stops!

Before I break it down too much, I here are a few things I will say about traveling through Alaska:

  • We DID NOT do a cruise.  Not that the cruise options were bad, I just did not want to be confined to a boat.  I enjoyed this because we had our vehicles and were able to stop when we wanted to and go see things that may not have been on our itinerary.
  • We booked our trip for the end of July.  I had looked in to going during the start of summer but I read mixed reviews about the weather.  It can still be chilly in May but we ended up having highs of 75 degrees and lows of about 60 degrees!
  • Make plans ahead of time.  With these tours and excursions, there will be no guarantee that you will fit.  We planned everything out in advance so it was easy to just arrive in the city and know we were booked!
  • Bring a rain jacket!  Thankfully we lucked out and had sun most of our trip, BUT the locals said that was not the norm.  Even if you just keep it in your backpack to have on hand, I promise it will be helpful!

Seward

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After we flew in to Anchorage and stayed one night, we loaded up our rental cars and made our way down to Seward.  This drive was probably the prettiest I have ever done, as we wanted to stop every five miles for pictures!  The scenery was to die for and we were lucky enough to have amazing weather!  This was probably my favorite stop of the entire trip!

So a few facts about Seward, it is located in the Kenai Peninsula and it has a population of about 2,500 people.  One thing that helped get this little town's name on the map is the fact that the World Famous Iditarod Dog Sled Race begins in Seward!

Must Eats

1. Chinooks - This little spot was down by the water and it was super cute.  They sat us at a big table by the window and it was absolutely stunning.  So naturally, the fish dishes in Alaska (halibut in particular) are extremely popular.  I ordered the Fish-n-Chips with halibut and it was so good.  Jon Luke's uncle got the Halibut BLT thought and it was definitely a must order.  There are several breweries in Alaska so the local beer is the perfect addition to any meal!

2. The Cookery - So we did not have a dinner spot secured before arriving in Seward.  We asked the girl on our dog sled tour what she thought and she said "hands down The Cookery...if you can get a reservation."  So needless to say, I called and begged for a spot to accommodate 8 people and they were too full.  After a few minutes though, they called back due to a cancellation and were able to take us!  And y'all it was SO worth it.  The food was SO fresh and their oysters were phenomenal.  Totally worth it!!

3. Railway Cantina - So this is a burrito place.  Yep.  BUT it was delicious!  After we got off of the boat from our glacier cruise, we were getting a small lunch before getting in the car and driving to Homer.  Jon Luke made the decision to head into this little burrito shop and it was great!

Lay Your Head Down

1. Seward Winsong Lodge - This place kind of reminded me of summer camp.  It had a nice central lobby then the rooms/restaurant were spread out among the property.  The rooms were great and the restaurant was a great spot for us to get a drink and appetizer.  We also had breakfast there the next morning and it was really good!

What Should you do?

1. Dog Sledding - Hands down...best experience...EVER.  I was dying this entire time.  We actually did the combined tour that was a helicopter ride up to a glacier where we went dog sledding.  It is amazing to me that these people live up on this glacier for up to ten days at a time and take care of the dogs!  It was so cool though because we met dogs that have run, and will run, in the Iditarod Race!

2. Helicopter Tour - If you aren't one that likes dogs, or cares for the dog sledding, then I would still recommend some kind of Helicopter Tour.  We went through Seward Helicopters for our tour and they were great!

3. Glacier Cruise - The glacier cruise is a longer commitment.  Definitely worth it if you have the time because the scenery is stunning.  We saw everything from the glacier, to seals to whales!  It was definitely exciting!  We took our cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours and they were super informative and had a lot to show us.

4. Hiking - We didn't have that much time to hike while we were in Seward, but the locals said there were a lot of great trails in the area!

Homer

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After we spent the night in Seward and participated in several activities, we piled back in to our vehicles and drove over to Homer.  Again, another beautiful drive with lots of picturesque stops.  If you have never heard of Homer then you may not know that it is actually a small town on a "spit".  You drive up and can see it sitting out in the water with the mountains behind and it is stunning.  With that being said, there is one way in and one way out and it is smaller than some of our other stops, but still lots to do!  Homer is the "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World" so I would definitely be prepared to fish for and eat lots of halibut.

Let's Talk Food

1. Two Sister's Bakery - If you go to Homer you absolutely have to go to Two Sister's Bakery.  Then when you get there...get the chocolate bread.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  This stuff was to die for.  We stopped at this little joint on our way out of Homer on my birthday so I definitely treated myself!

2. The Little Mermaid - Make a reservation.  Before you read the rest of this be sure to claim your table!  This little joint houses about eight tables and they are ALWAYS full!  We were super lucky to sneak in for a late lunch our second day in Homer and I am so glad we got in!  We ordered a pizza, fries and tuna poke and it was all amazing!

3. Fresh Catch Cafe - Another great dinner spot, we ended up eating here on our second night.  They had a great selection and I loved the vibe.  This was definitely a close second for a lunch/dinner spot to The Little Mermaid.

4. Captain Pattie's Fish - On our first night in Homer (when we could not get in to The Little Mermaid), we walked over to Captain Pattie's.  It was good but if you are limited meals, I would try the others first!

Been A Long Day

1. Land's End Resort - I think it is called Lan'd End because it sits at the very end of the spit.  I loved this because we had great views from our balcony and could walk out the back door and were right out on a little beach area!

2. Kenai Peninsula Suites - This was another spot I looked in to when planning our trip but it is much smaller.  With only a few rooms on the property, I knew it would be close since we needed four rooms for our party alone.  But it looked like a great spot!

Mostly They Fish

1. Halibut Fishing - I mean, it's the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World...you gotta go fishing right?  Well we did, and if you asked me on the boat if I would go again, I probably would have said no.  The waves were big and several people in our group felt it (although I did survive).  BUT once we found calmer waters and caught some fish, I would definitely say the experience was worth it!  I loved it because we were on a true Alaskan fishing boat and I was able to experience my own Deadliest Catch. 

Girdwood/Alyeska

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This was a quick stop for us as we just spent the day there.  We were driving back to Anchorage on my birthday, so I wanted to stop and see the resort.  We hiked a BEAUTIFUL trail and got massages (AMAZING!) then topped the night off with dinner at the top of the mountain!

Don't Miss It

1. Hike the Winner Creek Trail - Once we got to the resort and walked around (it was BEAUTIFUL), we decided to venture out to the hiking trails.  We took the Winner Creek Trail and for the most part it was an easy hike.  About six miles of STUNNING scenery, we hiked through the woods, over bridges and even did the hand tram!

2. Massages at The Spa at Alyeska - So this day was actually my birthday and a massage was the perfect gift.  After our hike, we visited the spa and had time to relax, which was much needed.  I would highly recommend the spa whether you are staying at the resort, or just stopping in!

3. Dinner at Seven Glaciers - This spot was amazing because the restaurant sits at the top of the mountain.  You ride the tram to the top and thankfully it was clear when we got up there.  After a little bit, the fog started rolling in so it felt like we were having dinner in the clouds!  This stop will definitely be a pricier meal, but SO worth it!

Talkeetna

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So after our day in Girdwood, we drove back to Anchorage to return the rental cars and spend the night.  The next morning we got up to catch the train up to Talkeetna.  I will say I did not understand why people were so adamant that we try to train, but now I understand.  A famous, glass-top train, you have windows for days, great service and a comfortable ride north.  It was perfect and got us to Talkeetna quickly!  Just south of Denali National Park, Talkeetna serves as a stopping point for visitors making their way to the park.  We actually learned that you are more likely to see Denali/Mt. McKinley from Talkeetna than you are from the park!

The Grub

1. Mountain High Pizza Pie - Thankfully our party was ready for something other than fish.  So we settled on pizza and I am glad we did!  With a cute outdoor patio, a cold beer and great pizza...I was a happy girl!

2. Wildflower Cafe - A perfect stop for sweets or breakfast goods!

3. Ice Cream - There were several "fresh", "homemade" ice cream spots in Talkeetna.  We ended up choosing Shirley's Northern Lights Ice Cream and it did not disappoint!

Catch Some ZZZs

1. Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge - I loved this spot because it felt like a true mountain lodge.  It had a great back patio that was perfect for an after dinner cocktail and on a clear night, you had the perfect view of the mountain!  We were lucky enough to see it twice!

What Should You Do?

1. Salmon Fishing - You can't go to Talkeetna and not salmon fish.  We ventured out with Phantom Tri-River Charters and had a blast.  I did learn that I probably do not have enough patience for salmon fishing on the reg, but the men in our group were in heaven.  And thankfully our guides were AMAZING and even helped me catch some fish!

2. Jet Boat Tour - This adventure was a fast boat ride through the river.  We went with Mahay's  Jet Boat Adventures and I have to say, our guides were so knowledgeable.  I loved that because they had so many great stories to share with us!  Our driver in particular had a baby moose story that was making my heart race!  Anyways, this was a fun tour through the river, then hike to see an old trapper cabin.  I will say that if I did not have time, I probably would have been okay with out it, and our men probably would have preferred to fish twice.  But it was still fun!

Denali

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So after a night in Talkeetna, we woke up, went salmon fishing, then got back on the train to head further north to Denali National Park.  Another fun train ride, we saw plenty of great scenery and I was actually able to get some work done which was nice, but again...big fan of the train!  Once you arrive to Denali, you will have plenty of options both in and around the park.  The hotels sit just outside it's boundaries, but there is a lot to do!

Time for Food

1. The Salmon Bake - This spot was perfect for any craving.  With a great selection of beers, their menu also had a wide variety and everything was really good.  We actually ended up eating here twice! The Fish N' Chips was great and Jon Luke ordered the burger which looked delicious.  And the nachos to start!

2. Prospector's Pizzeria - Another great pizza joint, it really hit the spot after our white water rafting!

Bed Time

1. Denali Park Village - So we stayed at Denali Park Village and I have mixed feelings.  I loved the resort and our room was great, with a great view of the river!  We had a washer and dryer (praise!) and they were great with helping us plan activities.  The thing I did not like was that they did not run a shuttle to and from town all day.  It began around 4pm and stopped at 11pm which made it difficult to get to town in the mornings.  Then (since they were keeping me on their property) I was disappointed that all of their restaurants were not open for lunch.  BUT it was a great hotel and I did enjoy it as an option to stay. 

LOTS of Activities

1. ATV Tour - So we planned the Denali ATV Trailblazer Tour with Denali ATV Adventures.  I think this was my second favorite excursion of the trip.  We were able to drive our ATVs and covered a ton of ground!  It was a great time!

2. White Water Rafting - This was not on our original itinerary, but we ended up adding it through our hotel.  I am so glad we did because we had a blast!  The water was freezing but my entire family had the boat to ourselves (with our guide) and we paddled as hard as we could through that river!

So I guess that about covers it.  Wow I am sorry this was so long, but I wanted to make sure that you all have the most information possible about Alaska!  I will say that it was a trip I will never forget and I would definitely go back!  Maybe one day Jon Luke and I will venture up there and experience the cold! 

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