Monday, September 11, 2006

Coming To Anchorage?

These are my thoughts regarding where to stay, where to eat and where to go if you are planning a trip to Anchorage to watch your team get beaten by the Seawolves. I haven't stayed at many of the hotels, but I have eaten at every restaraunt I've listed and spent more time than I care to admit in the various bars. If you come here though and don't get out of Anchorage at all then you haven't been to Alaska. I'd like to invite comments on this post from anyone with other suggestions or if you've been here before and really liked or disliked something then feel free to let others know.

Hotels:
There are three primary areas in Anchorage where you would likely consider staying if you're visiting for a weekend of hockey. On the "westside" (near the airport) you have a number of good choices. The Millenium Hotel is often the host to visiting teams. It's situated on Lake Hood the worlds largest floatplane airport (it's mostly not too noisy ... except for the occassional idiot cheap-ass pilot that over-rotate's his two-bladed propellor causing mini-sonic booms when the tips of the prop exceed the speed of sound ... get a prop with three blades!!!). Next door is the Best Western Barratt Inn and across the street is a Marriot Courtyard. The Millenium has the best amenities with good food and a nice bar. The Microtel just off International Airport road usually seems to have good winter rates with chain-hotel quality but you might have a hard time figuring out exactly how to get to it. There's a Holiday Inn Express nearby as well as a few other local places that I wouldn't stay. In the "midtown" area you'll find a fair number of chain hotels (Motel 6, Marriott Residence Inn, Marriott Springhill Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden, Fairfield Inn) with the usual clustering of chain restaraunts (Applebee's, Friday's, SeaGalley, LoneStar Steakhouse, Stuart Anderson's Cattle Company, Boston's etc.). The downtown area has the most choices for lodging ranging from the upscale Hotel Captian Cook to the classic large scale Hilton and Sheraton to the local quality of The Anchorage Hotel. In past seasons the Hawthorn Suites has offered weekend packages that include UAA tickets and dinner at Benihana's next door. Each of these three areas offer pretty straightforward access to the Sullivan Arena with midtown and downtown locations offering the simplest routes.

Restaurants:
Club Paris (Best Steaks), Corsair (Best "Fine" dining), Crows Nest (Top of the Captain Cook Hotel "Fine" dining), Fiori D'Italia (Best Itialian Food in the weirdest location in Spenard*), Glacier Brewhouse (if you like "brewhouses" then this is your place), Gwennie's Old Alaska (Large Portions for Breakfast, in Spenard*), Harry's (named after that old cat who wouldn't leave Spirit Lake before Mt. St. Helen's erupted ... who knows what the hell that has to do with Anchorage but it's a nice place with great burgers and never crowded), Hogg Brothers Cafe (another great Breakfast place), Humpy's Ale House (Halibut Taco's, awesome soups and 42,653 different beers on tap), Mooses Tooth (Pretentious Pizzas and the granola-crunching crowd), La Cabana (great Mexican food downtown), La Mex (Grande Margarita's, good food and it's in Spenard*), Simon and Seaforts (Great seafood downtown overlooking Cook Inlet) Sorrento's (Awesome Italian Food but small dining room), Tempura Kitchen (Best Tempura in town and its in Spenard* to boot!), Greek Corner (if you can't get through a weekend without your Stuffed Grape Leaves fix), Romano's (Good Italian). There are also just too many restaraunts serving Asian-faire to even begin to list them... just ask someone since everyone has their favorite place to get Szcheuan Beef and Anchorage's Pacific Rim location means it's all very authentic. There are lots of other good restaurants like Orso and Marx Bros Cafe but I recommend them only on reputation.

Nightlife:
Blues Central (Live Blues with food and booze), Rumrunner's (a bit of a meat-market with DJ and dance floor), F-Street Station (Best Calamari in the world, plenty of booze), Darwin's Theory (downtown hole in the wall booze joint), Bush Company (Typical high-end Strip Bar, no cover charge, reasonably priced drinks, plasticized women), Peanut Farm (Sports Bar with a million TVs), Chilkoot Charlies (20-somethings meat-market with multiple bars and themes in Spenard*), P.J.'s (my neighborhood bar in Spenard*, Booze, Strippers and Darts).

Touristy Stuff:
There's the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the various tourist traps downtown (buy yourself an Oosik) but if you want to see something other than Anchorage then you've only got two choices. Drive north or drive south. A drive north out of Anchorge presents a good number of potential points of interest. The first is the exit to Arctic Valley Road which takes you up into Arctic Valley offering alpine views and a great view of the Anchorage Bowl. Next you come to Eagle River which is a bedroom community to Anchorage that thinks it's a real city. Their main saving grace is the road up into Eagle River Valley which ends at a state visitor center. It's a beautiful drive any time of year. Further on from Anchorage the next interesting destination is Thunderbird Falls. A very short mile or so hike from the parking lot and you come to a pretty waterfall. Obviously the winter and summer experience here are pretty variable. The next cool spot is the road to Eklutna Lake. Its a beautiful drive ending at a spectacular glacier fed lake. 10 miles or so further up the main highway and you're faced with the choice of continuing northerly or going in an eastern direction. To the north is the city of Wasilla and then the road to Squarebanks. The other direction takes you to the city of Palmer and then east to Glenallen and eventually Canadia. Going east is a far more interesting day drive. If you just have one day to drive around and check things out then you'll probably prefer to head south out of Anchorage down the highway that parallels Turnagain Arm. It's possible at various times of year along this road to see Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, Eagles, Beluga Whales and the occassional Orca as well as the chance to see a bore tide. The road leads to Gidwood/Alyeska which is the local ski-bum town (where you can take a tram up to the Seven Glacier Restaurant on top of the mountain or eat at the much ballyhooed Double Musky Inn) then to Portage Glacier which is apparently the most frequented tourist destination (though November to April the place is a bust). You can continue your drive around the end of Turnagain Arm and head up into Turnagain Pass (if you've seen the Avalanche footage from 1999 with snowmachiners running down the mountain for their lives then you've seen Turnagain pass). I'd recommend driving the road to Seward if you have the time and the weather permits; its a somewhat quaint little berg on Ressurrection Bay which is the gateway to the Kenai Fjord's National Park. If you don't have the time to leave Anchorage then find your way up to the Glen Alps parking lot in Chugach State Park for spectacular views of Anchorage but be warned that the final approach to Glen Alps is via Toilsome Hill Road.

*Spenard is the most colorful and absolutely coolest part of Anchorage.

11 comments:

Runninwiththedogs said...

Interviewer: RWD, how did you singlehandedly beat the UAA Seawolves? Have you been working out?

RWD: No, but I stayed at the Anchorage Holiday Inn Express last night.

Donald said...

I was gonna use a Holiday Inn Express joke ... LOL.

Anonymous said...

You have entirely too much time on your hands. do you write for Fodors or the the Milepost as well?

Runninwiththedogs said...

I prob. could stay at a HoJo and still whoop their butts.

Suze said...

Eagle River IS a city. Dang you.

Mongolian BBQ next to the Sullivan Arena is a good place to eat as well.

Donald said...

anon:
Yes I do.

RWD:
I dunno if we have a HoJo. Check with Fodors or the Milepost first.

Suze:
If it's a city then why is it patroled by Anchorage Police Department? Why do they get their water from the Anchorage WWU? E.R. is no different than other Anchorage communities like Mountain View, Fairview, Spenard, Turnagain, Hillside etc ... it's an area that is part of Anchorage.

We both wish it wasn't. But it is.

*shouldershrugging*

Anonymous said...

Moose's tooth also has GREAT microbrews!!!!!!!!! yeah the pizza rocks too.

Anonymous said...

Eagle River bites, don't they consider it part of Fort Rich?

Suze said...

Umm, prett sure that Ft. Rich is closer to Anchortown than ER.

4four4 said...

The Homestead

Oops..

They are in Homer.

Sorry.

Jimjamesak said...

I have to vouch for Mooses Tooth. Sure the granola chunching hippies run it but it has beer and a pizza with meat on it so it isn't too bad.

And I'd mention my favorite bar but I don't want no fucking tourists there.

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