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Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

New York City, New...
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Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

My husband and I are taking a one-way cruise into Seward, renting a car, and flying out of Anchorage 4 days later.

We're thinking of spending one night in Seward (Holiday Inn Express probably), one in Girdwood (Hotel Alyeska maybe), and then last night is up for grabs. We don't fly out on our final day until 8:45 pm, so spending our last night someplace that's an hour or so outside of Anchorage wouldn't be a problem.

I was thinking of the Embassy Suites (love their breakfasts and I see it's #1 on TripAdvisor) but I don't know that we will really love staying in downtown Anchorage. I think a more scenic place on the outskirts might be better, and then we can hang out downtown the day of our flight.

Thoughts on this? Any other recommendations for towns in which we should stay in between Seward and Anchorage?

Chugiak, Alaska
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1. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

So, you have four days and three nights? Personally, I'd head up to Denali, but if that's too much driving for you or you aren't interested, there are other things to do within a couple hours drive of Anchorage. Personally, I wouldn't spend a whole day and night in Girdwood. I think it's nice town, but in the Summer, it's only a few hours worth of interesting unless you are planning on doing some hiking.

If you mention what you interests are and who's traveling, what activity level you are at, it'll help us with responses of things to do. Often what you are wanting to do makes a difference on where to stay.

There are quite a few nice B&Bs in town and outside of town. Farther afield there are places like Sheep Mountain Lodge if you want to hike or just get stay a bit more in the wilderness, but not go as far (it's about 2 hours north of Anchorage).

http://www.sheepmountain.com/

The Knik River Lodge is a bit closer to 'town' but out where you can enjoy some views (only about an hour out of Anchorage):

http://www.knikriverlodge.com/

Again, a lot depends on what you want to do.

Las Vegas, Nevada
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2. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

yes, I'd head for Denali too. It would provide an entirely different look of Alaska than you saw on the cruise.

Have a look at the 2011 trip reports to get some ideas. The link is under the Top Questions ... the trips vary from 2-3 days to 3 weeks.

New York City, New...
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3. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

Hmmm. The only problem with going north of Anchorage is that we'd end up having to do a lot of driving on the day we fly (or have a 4 hour+ trip from Seward), which could be tiring. I'd prefer not to go more than 1.5 hours out of Anchorage. If the scenery is different enough to warrant that, though, it might be worth it! Also, if the drive is an event in itself because of the beauty, I would probably be okay with it. (We live in Brooklyn and went to Costa Rica on our last vacation, so pretty much all my experiences with being in the car recently have been miserable due to either poor roads or traffic. Alaska should be a welcome respite.) :-)

Sounds like maybe we should skip Girdwood. I see that Knik River Lodge and Sheep Mountain Lodge are both northeast of Anchorage--can you tell me how that area would differ from going north toward Denali? Is there anyplace just south of Denali that would be worth going to (Willow, Trapper Creek, etc.)?

We like ziplining, kayaking, light hiking, general sightseeing, museums/local heritage stuff, etc.

Thank you for your help!

Edited: 04 April 2012, 21:57
Healy, Alaska
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4. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

Well, I do love the drive up the Glenn hwy to Sheep mtn lodge area - I think it is one of the most scenic hwys. However, once you get a hour or two past Talkeenta, you enter the Interior of Alaska, and it does look completely different than the southcentral area (Anchorage and surrounding area). As well, Denali is a stunning national park, and nothing much compares to that. :)

Chugiak, Alaska
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5. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

Denali is definitely a much different experience than even a couple hours north of Anchorage. The park allows you incredible wildlife viewing for ridiculously cheap prices (a shuttle bus 80 miles into the park and back is less than $40). The park is also only accessible by the buses which are limited which makes it much less 'touristy' and less full than places like Yellowstone and other parks. It's also tundra and tiaga forests- not really something you'll get around Anchorage.

Here are some photos from my trips up there to give you a small idea of the vastness of the place and what you can see while you are there:

Spring:

flickr.com/photos/…

Summer:

flickr.com/photos/…

Fall:

flickr.com/photos/…

Ketchikan
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6. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

What about the train to Denali? Interior experts is this possible? I took the train from Fairbanks one lovely day years ago and returned the same day but I don't see why you couldn't stay overnight in the park,etc.. As someone who hates to drive, I am always looking for alternatives that let me look out the window and relax instead of watching for drivers who are texting and swerving all over the road LOL.

Healy, Alaska
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7. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

Yes, you can take the train, but it takes longer and often the arrival/departure times don't work well with seeing much of the park . . . as well, you are then stuck in lodging near the park since you don't have wheels. Cars provide much more flexibility. But I do understand the joy of riding the train - I do it every couple of years just because it is relaxing and fun. :)

Anchorage, Alaska
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8. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

With your limited time, in my opinion you either go "whole hog" and go to Denali for the duration or you skip Denali and do a bunch of activities on the Kenai &/or near Anchorage.

If you are not going to Denali, I would not consider "skipping" Girdwood. More so I'd look very strongly at Girdwood/Portage.

There are a bunch of really great, inexpensive activities (low cost, high reward) to do there:

- Byron Glacier (beautiful scenery and an easy hike)

- Winner Creek Trail (easy hike with a really neat hand tram over a gorge & some great creek rapids)

- Crow Creek Mine

- AK Wildlife Conservation Ctr

- Begich-Boggs Visitor Ctr (near Portage Glacier)

If you left Seward in the morning and drove to Portage/Girdwood, this would be a bare minimum of a full day of activities.

Now if the salmon are running, on my northbound journey from Seward, I'd take a slight detour to the Russian River and walk/hike (about 2.5 miles one-way) into Russian River Falls (see salmon jumping up the falls to spawn - amazing). This would make the drive north from Seward to GIrdwood (& all the activities) about 1.5 days long.

After this, I'd head from Girdwood to the Matanuska Glacier and get a guided glacier trek there (approx. 3 hr drive and several hour excursion). After the hike head back to Palmer (stay in Palmer), have dinner & take an evening drive up to Hatcher Pass/Independence Mine.

Save Anchorage for the last. If you get into the city with a few hours to spare before your flight, there's a lot of really cool activities to do there that don't necessarily use a lot of time.

All of this would be after spending time in Seward and getting the local activities you'd enjoy there.

Good luck & enjoy AK,

Scott

Seattle, Washington
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9. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

What month are you visiting?

florida
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10. Re: Is it worth staying in downtown Anchorage?

There is a Groupon on Knik River Lodge....good deal. we just booked it for one night in June. look at the anchorage groupon site.