What’s cooler than being cool?
When Next Vacay sent me a great deal on round trip flights to Anchorage, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go. Now, I’m not a fan of cold weather in the slightest, but it only made sense for me to travel to Alaska in the winter. I pictured the mountains, the snow, the sled dogs, and experiencing winter in a place I’ve never dreamed of visiting before. Two of my friends and I purchased our plane tickets months in advance and began to plan what we wanted to do during our trip. This trip also gave me an excuse to update my nonexistent winter wardrobe (I’ve been using rain boots as an alternative for snow boots when shoveling the driveway for a few years now, so new winter gear was much needed). If you would like to see what clothes and items I purchased and took to Alaska, you can find my Alaska Amazon purchases here. I also purchased a pair of Columbia snow boots that were on sale on their website that I would highly recommend. At no point did I feel cold using these items and I was very happy with my purchases.
Only a drive to Chicago and a short layover in Seattle stood in our way to get to Anchorage. Once there, we went on a few tours around the area, tried different restaurants and breweries, and explored the sights of downtown Anchorage and learned about the city’s history.
There were heaps of restaurants in downtown Anchorage that served all types of cuisine. It was hard to choose which restaurants we wanted to go, but we narrowed our choices down to the ones that were recommended to us most by our tour guides, Uber drivers, and locals.
- For our first night in Anchorage, we ate at Glacier Brewhouse. The inside of the restaurant was spacious and appealing. They brewed their beer in the restaurant which also had a huge open kitchen and a fireplace in the middle. I had their Seafood Fettuccine which had salmon, shrimp, clams, and cod in it (I was in seafood heaven). After polishing off the pasta, my friends and I shared a piece of their Original Peanut Butter Pie for dessert. After I took that first bite of pie, I thought the top button of my jeans was about to pop off. To say I was stuffed was an understatement.
- After one of our tours, the tour guide took us to Long Rifle Lodge. This restaurant is located in Sutton, Alaska near the Matanuska Glacier. If you happen to be visiting Alaska and are in the area, you definitely need to stop by. The restaurant is a beautiful wooden lodge containing numerous taxidermy animals. Our lunch was included with our tour, and I ordered the Cod Sandwich. The portions were generous and the cod was some of the best seafood I had during the trip.
- Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse was our next dinner outing. A very relaxed, casual restaurant, Humpy’s had different taps lining the walls and lights strewn up across the ceiling. I ordered a Reindeer Burger (because who knew when I would get the chance to try reindeer anywhere else) and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.
- We had brunch at Snow City Cafe on our last day in Anchorage. This was probably my favorite restaurant we went to during the trip. The cafe was bright and colorful. When you walk in, they have a table set up where you can grab a mug and fill it with coffee during your wait. The coffee isn’t free (your server will add it to your bill) but it’s nice to have the option to grab coffee if you have to wait a bit for your table. There is artwork displayed around the cafe that can be purchased. Each month, a new local artist’s work is displayed. I ordered the Deadliest Catch – a Benedict with housemade smoked salmon cakes and a Benedict with Alaska Red king crab cakes. The restaurant was busy, but the food was delicious and worth the wait.
- Our last meal before we had to head to the airport was Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria. We went to the Midtown location, but they also have a location downtown. This was another restaurant that was recommended to us by multiple people. Moose’s Tooth also had their own house-brewed beer and I liked the aesthetic of the different beer bottles that lined the walls. My friends and I decided to split a pizza since we didn’t want any to go to waste before we had to head to the airport. We ordered a large pizza, half Santa’s Little Helper and half Call of the Wild. We ordered mozzarella bread sticks as an appetizer and there was plenty to go around for three people. The appetizer came with marinara sauce and their house sauce, which was marinara sauce mixed with pesto. It seemed like it would be a weird mix, but their house sauce was scrumptious. When our waiter served our pizza, the slices were huge and the task of finishing the entire pizza off was daunting. It was also topped with pepperoni, steak, chicken, bacon, and reindeer sausage with some veggies. I was able to eat three pieces before throwing in the towel.
Overall, we were happy with the restaurants we went to. Each restaurant served amazing food and we had great experiences at each one. We were able to try different foods and I was able to get some delicious fresh seafood.
Brews & Bars
- At Glacier Brewhouse, I ordered the Raspberry Wheat and Blackberry IPA. The Raspberry Wheat was light, with a faint hint of raspberry, while the Blackberry IPA had more flavor to it. Glacier Brewhouse beers are not sold in St. Louis, so I guess I’m going to have to find a close alternative to the Raspberry Wheat and Blackberry IPA on my next beer run.
- We went to Matanuska Brewing Company where we ordered two flights of beer to share (if you look at the picture above, you can guess what type of beer I typically fancy). The bar was getting ready to close in a little over an hour and the place was dead, but there were a few people at the bar finishing up their last drinks. Most of the beers I had were light in taste and easy to drink. Their Apple Ale had an interesting flavor, but not something I would typically buy. I was really excited to try their Blueberry Ale, which we were told is their most popular beer, but it was sold out that evening. Maybe I’ll get the chance to try it another day.
- We briefly went to F Street Station, another small, causal bar, before ending one of our nights in Anchorage. We each ordered one last drink (I got a Pale Ale) and headed back to our hotel for the night. Before we left, we did notice that their bar menu had some inexpensive food choices. If we had more time, we probably would have stopped in again to grab lunch or dinner.
- Moose’s Tooth served beers from the Broken Tooth Brewing company. I ordered the Northern Lights Amber (chosen specifically because of the name). The beer wasn’t as hoppy as I was expecting and it had a slight caramel taste. It ended up being one of my favorite beers I tried on the trip.
There were many other breweries in the area that we didn’t have time to try. Fun fact: Alaska has around 35 craft breweries around the state and Alaska is #3 among states for gallons consumed per capita (data obtained from Alaskanomics.com). Alaskans really love their beer.
There were plenty of amazing sights to see in Anchorage. Each of the tours we went on surprised me by how much they offered and how much we were able to take part in. Multiple times while on the tours or just walking around town, I was taken aback by how beautiful and peaceful Alaska was.
- Multiple tour guides and locals recommended that the Anchorage Museum was a must see. Admission was $20 for adults. The museum reminded me of a Smithsonian due to how big it was and how many different things were displayed. There were areas throughout the museum that showcased art (both historic and local), history, Alaskan Native lifestyle, ecology, and science. There was a Planetarium on the main floor and art work from local high school students displayed on the walls. My favorite displays were artifacts collected from the Alaskan Native tribes and information and pictures depicting each tribe’s history and customs. We spent a few hours at the museum, which helped us pass the time before our red eye flight.
- One tour company, Greatland Adventures, was recommended to us due to the fact that they offer a shuttle service where they will pick you up from the hotel you are staying at and take you to your tour’s destination. Since our trip was in the winter and we were unsure of how the weather would be, we decided that Greatland Adventures was our best option. The first tour we booked was their Anchorage Dog Sledding Tour. We were picked up from our hotel promptly at 8:00 a.m. Our flight had landed in Anchorage around 3:00 a.m. and I was pretty awake even though I had only slept about three hours that morning. There were snacks and waters provided on the shuttle. After about an 1 1/2 hour drive, we arrived at Snowhook Adventure Guides of Alaska. There were a few dogs roaming around on site. A guide told us that there were 53 dogs on the property and some of them were chained to keep them from tackling us when we walked up there (which I would not have minded at all). Our guide directed us to a nearby sled where we were told that we would get the chance to drive the sled, with a musher, on a 10 mile track they had set up on site. This was not something I was expecting, but was very excited to try. While the dogs were being gathered, we spent some time going around petting and playing with the dogs. When it was time to drive the sled, we were taught how to properly stand on it and how to use the brakes. The coolest thing about the tour was watching the dogs bark before we moved, but when they started to run all of the dogs went silent. It was peaceful to be on the back of the sled as the snow was coming down. I also found out that the musher who was driving the sled with me was just sixteen years old, which made me contemplate everything I’ve been doing with my last for the past ten years. After the 10 miles were up, we were told to pet the dogs as a “job well done” and as a “thank you” for their hard work.
- Immediately after the dog sled tour, our driver informed us that the Iditarod restart was happening literally right across the street from us and they could drive us to the race and back to our hotel for an extra fee. We decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and told our tour guide that we were down to go. Once we parked, we were handed spikes to put on the bottom of our shoes and headed to where the race would begin. As it got closer to 2:00 p.m., the spectators lined up near the track. People went down the track as far as they could to get a good spot to see the racers; farther than I or my camera could pick up. There was an announcer that introduced each racer and after their introduction they set off with their sleds and their time started. Each sled team was introduced and began the race in 2 minute increments. It was interesting to hear about each musher’s home town and how they became interested in sled dog racing. Our tour guide, Steven, was also having a lot of fun taking pictures and trying to get closer to the track. After about 15 racers (out of a total of 57) went by, we decided to leave a bit early to beat the traffic. When we got out of the parking lot and on to the highway, there were still cars lined up waiting to get in to the parking lot.
- My absolute favorite part of the trip was the Matanuska Glacier Winter tour through Greatland Adventures. Similar to the dog sledding tour, two different guides picked us up at our hotel. This time, multiple tourists were picked up from their respective hotels, rather than the three of us having the shuttle to ourselves. The shuttle was packed and our guides drove us 2 1/2 hours out of Anchorage to our destination: Sutton, Alaska. Since we were picked up early, around 7:50 a.m., the ride to the glacier was fairly quiet. There were plenty of snacks in the shuttle for everyone to munch on before we got to our tour destination. When we made it to the glacier, our tour guides asked us if we needed any snow gear. They had multiple bags piled in the back of the shuttle containing winter coats, gloves, hats, boots, and snow pants. Once everyone was bundled up, we received spikes to put on the end of our boots and we began the hike across the glacier. Mind you, this glacier is 27 miles long and we were only planning on hiking around 3 miles of it. We were informed to hike on the path made by the tour company in single file, because they want to keep the rest of the glacier as pristine as possible. Also, the ice shifts every single day, so the tour path continuously changes. Someone has to come out and check on the path every single morning to make sure that areas on the path are safe to hike. If they aren’t, a cone is put down near the area that tour groups need to stay away from. When we were walking on the glacier, we could hear all sorts of different sounds the ice made depending on how thick the ice was in that particular area. There was an instance we heard the ice crack and another instance where we heard a loud “WHUMP” that sounded like it came from way down below us. One of our tour guides mentioned that he wasn’t too worried about the sound, but he would have been more concerned if the sound had occurred while skiing on a mountain. Our tour guides were very informative and we learned about why some of the ice formations had different colors and why water would seep out of some areas of the ice. We were able to get up close and personal with the ice. We were able to go inside, crawl in, and climb up some of the ice caves and ice formations. We were also instructed to take our gloves off and touch the ice (which surprisingly did not feel that cold). It still baffles me that we were walking on a huge lake covered with ice and I had a hard time comprehending that in the next few months, as the temperature gets higher and summer gets closer, the glacier I saw that day would begin to melt and look completely different. There were many times, as I was taking pictures or videos, that I just stopped and looked around me. It was fairly quiet as we were walking around the glacier, so I couldn’t help but take in the scenery. I have never felt anything remotely close to this in my home state of Missouri, where I have been completely captivated by my surroundings. The Matanuska Glacier was beautiful to learn about and discover. Nature is truly spectacular.
I will never forget these experiences. They left me breathless and appreciative that I have the ability to travel to a place as alluring as Alaska. I am especially grateful for our wonderful tour guides from Greatland Adventures that were extremely accommodating and everyone in the area that gave us recommendations. The trip would not have been as easy or as fun to plan without them. It was also interesting to find out that many people from Alaska aren’t originally from the area, but have moved there from various parts of the United States. While I don’t imagine myself ever moving to Alaska, I can definitely see myself visiting again in the near future!
There were some things I was not able to do that I would love to do the next time I visit. I would have loved to see the Northern Lights or taken a kayak tour on the lake to get a different look at the glaciers or icebergs. Unfortunately there weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we wanted. Hopefully I will get the chance to experience more things Alaska has to offer the next time I visit. Now that I’ve survived an Alaskan winter, I think at some point I need to see what an Alaskan summer has to offer.
Until the next adventure ✈️