First I want to give you a little insight into our world when it comes to traveling on my working trips, particularly this Alaska adventure. We are sitting in the living room in Denver, Colorado talking about places we want to go. As I scroll through looking for trips available I see it...ANC - Anchorage, ALASKA! 32 hour layover out of Seattle which means the trip starts in Seattle - I have to get their on my own from San Fransisco and Austin from Denver. Alaska has been a dream location of mine to visit, above even most international places so I picked it up right away and we left 2 weeks later. That may sound soon but 2 weeks is actually a long time compared to most of our trips we plan - maybe I'll write a blog on last minute travels sometime. If you ever only have 1 day in Anchorage, Alaska I cannot think of a better way to spend it than how we did.
FRIDAY: I arrive in Seattle from San Fransisco at 9am and Austin was supposed to arrive at the same time. He missed his first flight and due to weather in Denver he was delayed and delayed and delayed. The Anchorage flight I'm working leaves out of Seattle at 5:30pm so we figure he has plenty of time to get to Seattle. As fate would have it, his flight lands right at 5:30pm and we take off without him *cue tears*. Thankfully we had a flight leaving 3 hours later but we were pretty bummed he wouldn't be getting in until around midnight. Austin ends up surprising me by flying another airline arriving less than an hour after I land *awww* (we get super discounted rates on other airlines). Lucky for him, he flies into Alaska right at sunset. His photos are absolutely breathtaking. We get into Anchorage around 9pm and have dinner - halibut and salmon. It was DELICIOUS!
SATURDAY: We wake up early and have breakfast at Snow City Cafe in Anchorage. This is probably one of the best breakfasts we've ever had and yes we've been to Snooze. Austin got the breakfast burrito which when ordered gluten free actually comes as breakfast tacos - sooo good. They have so many good vegan and gluten free options which was wonderful. I got the golden benedict (gluten free) - it had grilled pineapple on it! I also had breakfast tea - they have a pretty decent tea selection. The restaurant gets busy so plan on getting there early or having time to wait. If you're by yourself or with just one other person - we recommend sitting at the bar if you can - it's open seating. Next we went to pick up our rental car.
We got an SUV just in case but we really didn't need the 4 wheel drive. You can find good deals on rental cars. Check with the hotel where you're staying because a lot of times they can get better rates for you. Just the drive itself took our breath away! Driving around the Turnagain Arm is a MUST! Keep an eye out for Beluga Whales - unfortunately we didn't see any this trip. First stop was Alyeska Ski Resort. We rode the tram up the mountain (prices here) to see some incredible views! There is an observation deck, a gift shop, and a restaurant at the top. The tram ride is worth it for the views alone.
Next we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It's not very big and you can drive-thru and see so many animals. The moose came right up to the fence and was so cute and friendly - we may have snuck a little pet in there (PSA: they aren't cute and friendly in the wild - they are terrifying creatures and please don't touch them) - But this one was really nice! We stopped at the bears next just as they were getting fed. They came right up to us! They look so cute sitting down - like fat little babies. It was so neat to see such magnificent creatures up close. We saw lots of other animals before ending our animal adventure with the porcupine. He was in a little training session with one of the employees. She showed us his quills - they can have up to 30,000! And no, they cannot shoot them - myth BUSTED!
Our next stop was the highlight of the trip for me and completely unplanned. We drove passed Portage Lake - which is a glacier lake and noticed people out in the middle of it - the lake was frozen! We decided to stop and walk/frolic/skip across. We could see the glaciers and the mountains behind the lake were beautiful. When the lake isn't frozen, you can do glacier tours. We snapped a few photos and continued on our way to our most unique stop of the day - Whittier.
The little town of Whittier is separated by the Whittier Tunnel - the longest through mountain tunnel in North America. It is 2.5 miles long and has 8 safe houses spread throughout the tunnel. The tunnel is only one lane and is shared by cars and trains traveling in both directions - making the tunnel very narrow but very tall. It was an interesting experience and it's just one of those "got-to-do-it" things. Austin and I have found if something is the only, the longest, the biggest something wherever we are - we just want to see it. We cross over to the extremely windy town of Whittier and not much is there - the shops and restaurants were all boarded up! Maybe they closed for the winter or maybe it shut down completely - we aren't really sure. We only spent about 30 mins there just taking in the views.
We drove back through the tunnel and then drove south admiring the mountains surrounding us on all sides. We have both lived in Colorado and have never seen anything like what we saw in Alaska. We saw a lot of areas where people did heli skiing - which is now on our list of things to do. We headed back toward Anchorage and stopped at Moose's Tooth Pizza before dropping off the rental car. We are pretty sure the entire city of Anchorage was at Moose's Tooth that night. All day we hardly saw any people until then - that's how you know it's a good place. We ordered the Pesto Chicken Pizza and the Avalanche - both on gluten free crust. I would have to say easily the best pizza I've ever had - and I believe Austin would agree.
Lastly we were able to catch the sunset and grab a couple of souvenirs. You all, we have barely even begun exploring Alaska and it is more breathtaking than I could have ever imagined.