While in Alaska, I stayed at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. For me, Anchorage was the perfect spot because it was close enough to the airport but not too far from the mountains. The hotel is divided into three towers; luckily I was in the third. With picturesque views of mountains what’s not to love? Upon arrival I dropped my things off in my room, showered and went up to the Crow’s Nest. Looking for a 360° of Anchorage, Cook Inlet, Downtown Anchorage and the Chugach Mountain? This is the spot. The menu at the Crow’s Nest was a mix of French and American cuisine. YUM!
I was that annoying person running around the restaurant with my camera snapping pictures of the early stages of the sunset. Being the impatient person that I am, I insisted to my boyfriends’ parents that we finish our drinks, okay chug our drinks, so that we could get to the waterfront in time for the sunset. Unless you’re on Flat Top Mountain this is the best view of the sunset in Anchorage- no obstructions just water and the horizon.
One thing I love about traveling is the food! We found this delicious breakfast spot called Snow City Café, about a block up from the hotel. You can find everything from your standard eggs and toast to a delicious parfait (with the creamiest yogurt you’ll ever have) to gluten free and dairy free options (loved the Caramel Soy Milk Latté). Dinner options were endless; my two favorites were the Glacier Brewhouse and Orso, both on the pricier side but well worth the wait and the money. Hockey fan? Stop by CrossBar for a quick bite. PSA: if you go to Alaska you must try the fish; it is the freshest fish you will ever find.
Our first day of excursions called for traveling to Girdwood and Portage Glacier, located in Chugach National Forest. To get there, we took the Seward Highway, about a 50-mile drive. Fair warning, you will want to stop every second of the way but try to resist the urge as that is frowned upon; there are designated pull off spots so be sure to use those. A must see, and fun photo op, is the Girdwood, AK sign- widely known for its colorful flowers and mountainous backdrop. Not too far was the Chugach National Forest. Looking for the bluest water you will ever see this far up north? Where the salmon swim within an arms reach and fresh(est) air? Chugach National Forest and Portage Glacier can deliver all three. I hear the views are even better during the summer months in comparison to October (rainy season). But Alaska’s beauty can be seen rain or shine.
Our second day of adventures took us down the entire Seward Highway to Seward, Alaska. The views were obviously impeccable but once we arrived to Seward we were underwhelmed. It is definitely a fisherman’s town. We did however discover a local gem, Chinooks, don’t judge a book by its cover, a quaint little restaurant and bar right on the water. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend the sesame crusted halibut paired with a raspberry beer, an Alaskan delicacy in my book. To work off all of the delicious food (beer) and give our legs a much needed stretch we stopped by Exit Glacier. Naturally, it began to rain and snow- seemed to be the theme of the trip. Once we parked our car it was about a two-mile hike in- well worth it. You can either hike to the upper part of the glacier or stay closer to the base- both provide gorgeous views.
The Alaskan Wildlife Conservation Center is another must see, especially if you love animals. It was great because you could drive through the center, park and get out when you wanted (yes, it was still raining). Obviously, I had to get out and snap some pictures of the bears; I am an animal whisperer after all. There is also a small park on the water- perfect photo op.
The best excursion was our venture to the Matanuska Glacier, you’ll think you’ve seen a glacier until you’ve seen this one. A whopping 26 miles long, it is the largest glacier you can reach by car in Alaska. And by car we did. In the absolute middle of nowhere miles away from Anchorage via the Glenn Highway we spotted Matanuska. Seemingly unattainable, we passed the turnoff point twice, thinking there would be a huge sign designating the turnoff. There wasn’t. This place was so off the grid even my GPS was confused.
The road to Matanuska was bumpy and treacherous- I highly recommend a car with 4-wheel drive. Have patience navigating the steep dirt road. Cost is $20-$30 per person to enter and you can drive your car as there is a closer parking lot, take full advantage of that. Once you’ve parked and begin your hike ON to the glacier, you’ll see warning signs about stopping points. I have to admit- I am a bit of a wimp- so seeing these warning signs had me on edge. I took a second and stepped back and said- when will I EVER be able to walk on a glacier again? With that thought in mind I continued on. I met a group of people that had experience hiking glaciers so I tagged along with them. With their help I was able to climb down into the glacier, drink glacier water and actually feel the crevasses of a real-life 10,000-year-old artifact. As this was a dangerous decision, I do advise you to hire an experienced guide to lead you through your hike, the staff of Matanuska can provide you with one.
Our final day in Anchorage consisted of shopping around the city and venturing to Flat Top Mountain. The city is small enough that you can walk from shop to shop and there is even a mall! My favorite spots were the secondhand shops, Second Run in particular. Flat Top Mountain provides you with endless views of the landscape of Anchorage, it was a great way to say goodbye to the Last Frontier.
I learned a lot about myself while I was in Alaska and will forever remember it as the place that showed me the world.