Beluga Point, Anchorage AK
Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Anchorage AK
Flat Top Mountain, Anchorage AK
Eagle River, Alaska
When thinking of spring break or an Easter get-away, students usually think of warm temperatures, nice beaches and big cities that are affordable for a college budget. This summer, when searching places to go I came across an extremely cheap flight to Anchorage, Alaska, which was about $400 round trip out of Buffalo. Deciding that Alaska was somewhere that I have always wanted to visit and that I would most likely never find a better deal on flights than this, I went for it and booked my flight along with hotel rooms for the week.
I had so many expectations and preconceived notions about Alaska, associating it with quaint little towns like the one in Christmas Under Wraps starring Candace Cameron-Bure or White Fang. My thoughts were to pack layers, bring snacks and be prepared for inclimate weather, wildlife and be mindful of the hours of sunlight. My expectations would soon be shattered in the best way possible.
Embarking on the adventure, three flights and two layovers equaling about 14 hours of travel, I was anxious, excited yet eager to see a new place. Landing in the Anchorage airport, my initial thought was “Wow there is a lot of flannel and camo in this shop, and way too many taxidermied animals.” Stepping out of the airport into the shuttle, I realized that the surrounding Anchorage area where our hotel was located was pretty suburban and had several chain restaurants and coffee shops: Golden Corral, Applebees, Fridays, starbucks etc. But again the push came with another pull, and I was welcomed by two taxidermied bears, a mounted moose head and a bear rug in the lobby of our hotel.
The first day I spent exploring the city of Anchorage, stopping in the tourist center, visiting the all-encompassing Anchorage museum and walking around the city, which was definitely much smaller than I anticipated but still a good amount to do with two brewing companies, several small parks and a plethora of coffee shops. Day two was spent driving along the coast of Alaska down the Turnagain Arm Trail which has several beautiful stops for taking photos, hiking, exploring and seeing wildlife. Beluga Point, probably the most famous spot to stop along the drive, was absolutely beautiful and picturesque view of them all. During the months of July and August, Beluga whales can be seen from this point on the path, making it a hub for summer tourists. As the drive continued and many more stops were made, my cousin and I came across a tiny village called Moose Path, hoping to find a restroom, but later discovering that the town did not have indoor plumbing. The day finished with our arrival at Harbor 360 Hotel in Seward, Alaska, a port “city” on the inlet of the Kenai Peninsula. The hotel room offered the most beautiful view of the harbor and the accommodations were great, as many who stay at the Harbor 360 Hotel opt to purchase a package deal which includes access to the Sea Life Museum and a Whale Watching Cruise!
Waking up to the beautiful Seward sunrise and a very friendly otter who swam right up to the dock was an incredible start to the day. As we had a few hours between breakfast and the start of our four our gray whale watching tour, we opted to drive to an area in Seward called low point, where there was a small waterfall on the side of one of the mountains and black sand beach facing across the inlet. No picture is able to capture the beauty of this area of Alaska, or any area of Alaska that is.
The gray whale watching tour was four hours of seeing wildlife, glaciers and several parts of the Kenai Fjords national park. Cruising through Resurrection Bay and surrounding waters, we were able to see a Humpback whale, otters, mountain goats, bald eagles, orcas and a rock that was completely covered by sea lions. The views were incredible, captain Joshua’s narration was informative and helpful and there was a cash bar as well as complimentary coffee and tea. The day ended in a plethora of beautiful photos and a long drive back to Anchorage, where we chose to stop in Moose’s Tooth, a renowned pizza joint. And let me tell you, it was absolutely delicious and could definitely stand up against a lot of Buffalo pizzas. I would say top 5 best pizza I have ever had.
Day four and five were filled with exploration and hikes. As we walked part of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail that starts in downtown Anchorage and visited the Eagle River Nature Center for a gorgeous hike. Taking it all in and processing the most beautiful, pure and tranquil place that I have ever seen is something that will take some time, as I still am going through photos and have already begun making a list of what to do next time I go to Alaska; my hope is to take a cruise or a train from Fairbanks to Denali.
Visiting Alaska was the best spur of the moment decisions that I have ever made. It was breathtaking and there is truly something for everybody to enjoy. So, next time you are looking for somewhere to vacation, think outside of the box and know that even a week long get-away to Alaska can be affordable!