Visit to Alaska

We spent a week in Alaska this summer and since we had such an amazing experience, I wanted to share our itinerary with you!

Several months before our trip, I purchased Moon Anchorage, Denali & The Kenai Peninsula to do some research on options. From there, I built our trip and activities. It was nice to have everything booked (and paid for!) before our departure.

Since our arrival into Anchorage was scheduled for midnight, we decided to stay in a hotel near the airport with a free breakfast. Enough said about the first night 🙂

The next day we stocked up on snacks and drinks and headed north to the Denali National Park. A few years ago, The Hubby found a collapsible cooler that fit perfectly into my little one’s suitcase. It was great to have in the back of our SUV for the week!

We decided to detour off a bit and drive to Talkeetna for lunch. It was a very cute town and full of visitors! The Talkeetna Roadhouse was our choice for lunch – a historic site and breakfast until 3:00 p.m. There are communal tables and we sat with a group of hikers who had just spent the week on Mt Denali. There were about 7 of them and were visiting from various parts of the US as well as some from Europe. It was fun to hear their stories about their time on the mountain.

Talkeetna Roadhouse

After visiting a couple of the gift shops as well as the Susitna Salmon Center, we hopped back in the car. Such a scenic and beautiful drive.

We arrived at our hotel for the next two nights, the McKinley Chalet Resort. This was a great location, with the Nenana River running right next to the resort. There are a couple of restaurants onsite, we had dinner at Canyon Steakhouse the first night and enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Karsten’s Public House on Sunday morning.

McKinley Chalet Resort

Black Diamond Resort Company picked us up at 10:45 a.m. for our first adventure of the week. I had booked the Treasure Hunt ATV Adventure that was in a Polaris side by side with a guide driving us through the Alaskan wilderness. Since we weren’t driving, we chose a couple of Bota Box Cabernets and the boys grabbed some lemonades for the cooler. Our guide Louis did a fantastic job educating us about Alaska and driving us through fun trails and water. About half way through, we stopped at a cabin where lunch had been prepared for us. This meal was delicious! Pasta salad, potato salad, coleslaw, stew, beef, chicken wings, salmon, and cobbler for dessert. The chefs bring all of the food each day and cook it all onsite. After lunch, we toured around more and wrapped up the day.

Cabin Where We Ate Lunch

After the ride back to the resort, we decided to check things out. A short walk down to the “lower level” of the resort took us to a common area with lots of fire pits, rocking chairs, and live music. We enjoyed the nice weather and relaxed there before heading to dinner.

With The Hubby

Across the street we found Prospectors Pizzeria and Ale House, we did wait for about an hour, but decided it was OK because we were on vacation and waited outside. The food was very good validating our wait!

On Monday morning we grabbed a quick bite at the cafe in the lobby for breakfast and headed south to our next stop for two nights in Girdwood. This was about a 4.5 hour drive, but took quite a bit longer due to a 6 car pileup on the AK-3.

Our “home” for the next two nights was a 2BR, 2BA condo within walking distance of “downtown”, it wasn’t very big, hence the quotes. Because we had a kitchen, we headed to the marketplace to grab some groceries and decided on Chair 5 Restaurant for dinner.

Mt. Alyeska – View from Balcony in Girdwood Condo

The next day we were able to sleep in as we had an afternoon trip with Chugach Adventures on their Spencer Iceburg and Placer River Float trip. Part of the tour included a ride on the Alaska Railroad, there were several different pick up points, but because we had a car, we decided to make the short drive to the Portage Station to pick up the train that departed at 1:25 p.m. This may have been one of my favorite excursions! After the train ride, we took a bus down to the Spencer Glacier. We were then organized into several rafts (ours had 4 adults, 3 kids, and our guide) and the guide paddled us out to the icebergs towards the glacier. We were close enough to touch the icebergs, break off pieces, and yes, we tasted them! The next part of the trip was heading down Placer River, we learned about the area from the guide, saw magnificent scenery, and he had snacks and hot cocoa for us while traveling down the river. At the end point of the trip, the train picked us up and took us back to Portage Station at 5:15 p.m.

Spencer Glacier

Iceberg at Spencer Glacier
Iceberg at Spencer Glacier
Alaska Railroad Pick Up from Placer River

The guide suggested several spots for dinner – one of them was the Double Musky Inn – it was a historic building so we decided to check it out. While visiting Girdwood, we learned that Alyeska Ski Resort was the only ski resort in all of Alaska, right there in Girdwood. The Double Musky Inn first opened in 1962 and was a bar for skiers to visit after hitting the slopes. They were “famous” for their French Pepper Steak, I was happy to see an appetizer version so enjoyed that as my dinner – it was fantastic!

Our friends over at Bar Viñedo had commented on one of my IG posts that they lived in Alaska at one point in their lives – specifically Girdwood! Ironically, the next day I received a message from them to eat at the Double Musky Inn and to try the French Pepper Steak! Done! 🙂

We checked out of our condo on Wednesday and headed over to Alaska ATV Adventures for our 10:00 a.m. Backcountry Access tour. The Hubby and I each had a two person ATV so our boys could each ride on the back, there was one other double ATV, two singles, and the guide on our trip. We drove all over the place, through water, through narrow trials, under trees where we had to duck really low…you get the picture! I’m no expert at this, but felt like I did a pretty good job!

Alaska ATV Adventures Backcountry Access Tour

We did take a break during the trip and hiked out to see an overview of Bird Creek then hiked down to it…and of course back up! It was a really fun time! Our guide, Bob, positioned us on a rock/next to a tree with the waterfall of Bird Creek behind us, it was quite the process, then he held onto the tree and leaned WAY back to take the photo – he did a great job during our tour!

Bird Creek Waterfall

After wrapping up our tour, we headed back towards Girdwood to grab a quick bite before our 90 minute drive towards Seward. Coast Pizza was quick and delish!

Our next “home” for the last three nights was a lakeside cabin at Renfro’s Lakeside Retreat. Our host, Gary, was so accommodating and customer service oriented. After we booked, he reached out and advised he could offer some discounts on tours with Kenai Fjords tours, we decided to take him up on that – keep reading to learn more about that trip!

At Renfro’s, there are 5 cabins with views of the woods and 5 with views of the lake. We reserved a lakeview cabin and upon arrival, Gary gave us everything we needed for our stay in cabin #2. I cannot tell you how much we loved this place! So cute, quaint, and literally RIGHT on the lake! There was a dining table by the front window, a small kitchen, bunk beds, and a bathroom on the lower level. A spiral staircase took us up to the loft with a full size bed. With a hammock next to the cabin, chairs on the deck, and no internet, we spent most of our time outside while there. The view of the lake was gorgeous! Unfortunately, there was a wildfire burning not too far away (Swan Lake Fire) and we had some limited visibility for the next few days.

Renfro’s Lakeside Retreat – Cabin #2
View of Kenai Lake from Cabin
View of Kenai Lake from Cabin
View of Kenai Lake from Cabin – photo taken at 1:00 a.m. 🙂

We enjoyed dinner in Seward at Chinooks – complete with crab bisque and Alaskan King Crab Legs! Yum!

Crab Legs at Chinooks
View from Chinooks

On Thursday we spent the day walking through Seward, roaming the cute gift shops, and checking out Chattermark for lunch where our older son tried Reindeer sliders and thought they were pretty tasty!

As we had driven between our cabin and Seward, we had seen signs for Exit Glacier so decided to check it out. What’s really cool about the drive back to the glacier is the signs along the way showing where the glacier was throughout the years as it retreated. There’s a nice nature center there, various hike options, and a chalkboard out front for visitors to note wildlife sightings.

Exit Glacier

On Friday we headed out on the Kenai Fjords National Park Tour with dinner on Fox Island. This was an 8.5 hour boat tour to see wildlife, amazing scenery, and of course glaciers. Lunch was included on the boat and we enjoyed a fantastic dinner on Fox Island of Alaskan King Salmon and Prime Rib. We spent quite a bit of time right next to Aialik Glacier which was very cool to see! The crew captured some glacier ice and used it to make cocktails on board! Of course we had to have one! Although, after starting to consume it, we thought it about what was really in our drink – ice out of the ocean water – but quickly got past it!

Photo Credit: My Older Son
Approaching Aialik Glacier
Aialik Glacier
Aialik Glacier Ice Keeping My Wine Cold
Holgate Glacier
Sea Lions
Fox Island Beach

Saturday was our last day in Alaska – but we had the entire day to make our way back up to Anchorage as our flight wasn’t until 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning! Because it was going to be a late night, we decided to sleep in and check out as late as possible. We then headed down to Seward for breakfast at the Lighthouse Cafe and Bakery. After breakfast, we started our trek back towards Anchorage and based on the suggestion of our host, Gary, at Renfro’s, we decided to check out the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This was actually pretty cool. They take in injured or orphaned wildlife and care for them here. We saw a bald eagle, bears, moose, and even reindeer.

Bear at AWCC – Photo Credit: My Older Son
Reindeer at AWCC

Even with the smoke from the wildfire, we decided to stick to our plan and ride the aerial tram at Hotel Alyeska. There is a nice option for your tram ride and a voucher for lunch at the top of the mountain – so that’s what we did. It was a quick ride – you go very high very fast! The views were masked by the smoke – but it was still a very cool experience! You also have the option to hike up / down from the hotel. You can see hikers and wildlife from the tram!

Hotel Alyeska Down Below

Back on the road to Anchorage, we stopped along the way to check things out – even saw a moose right off of the highway.

We decided to check out the Anchorage Market that was in downtown – we only had about 30 minutes before they closed, but it was nice to get out, walk around and see more of the local crafts, food, and arts.

At 6:00 p.m., we were still 7 hours away from our departure! The Hubby and I both jumped on our phones to see what else we could do. The Hubby came through with Dave & Busters just 5 miles from the airport. The boys could run around, play games, burn off energy, and we could enjoy some wine.

The sandwiches from our lunch at Alyeska were gigantic so we decided to take everyone’s leftover “half” and put it in our cooler for dinner. After our fun at D&B, we grabbed our sandwiches, found a table in the food court of the mall where D&B was, and ate dinner. Ironically, there was an ice skating rink right next to the food court. That was a first.

We had an amazing vacation – I would highly recommend visiting Alaska to anyone! We had considered many options – a cruise, renting and RV, or what we did. This really worked best for our family and I’m so happy we did it!

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