Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! Are you looking forward to the upcoming 4th of July weekend and hopefully a bit of R&R? I’ll be staying local as business is brisk – my free time will be spent planning vacations (my favorite thing to do!).
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This week’s newsletter is a throwback to 2019 when I spent July 4th in Anchorage, Alaska. For the 2021 summer season, you can visit Alaska by land and/or cruise ship. However, my recommendation is to plan now for 2022. Alaska is magical and truly should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Read on for the scoop…
A few interesting facts about Anchorage is that it’s in southcentral Alaska and flanked by the Gulf of Alaska (an arm of the Pacific Ocean) and the majestic Chugach Mountains – be sure you peer out the window when you fly into Anchorage for the breathtaking views. Did you know that Anchorage is almost equidistant from New York City and Tokyo? It’s slightly farther north than St. Petersburg, Russia, and Oslo, Norway. The city is also huge – the size of the state of Rhode Island!
Summer of 2019, my husband and I spent the 4th of July in Anchorage, Alaska, and had the very unusual experience of witnessing their 4th of July parade. We had a few hours to burn before boarding the glass-domed train to Seward and decided to hit the 4th of July parade to see how Alaskans celebrate. We were NOT disappointed.
Before we hit the parade, we strolled around downtown Anchorage to take in the sights. The street art scene is awesome – there’s a 4-story high Anchorage History Mural and other beautifully painted murals strategically placed around the city. Also, the brilliantly colorful flower plantings were abundant in most of the public parks and spaces. In a nutshell, Anchorage is very much worth a visit for the art, music, dining scene, culture, unique American History, and stunning scenery and wildlife.
Fourth of July in Anchorage
On July 4th, 2019 Anchorage broke its hottest day record hitting 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and all Alaskans were talking about the unusual weather. We arrived an hour before the parade began so decided to stroll around the outdoor food, crafts, and games area. On our way to the park where the fair was held, we met a man with a famous reindeer named Star. Star lives with his owner, Albert Whitehead, in Anchorage (note – the Star we met is actually the 7th reindeer ambassador named Star since 1960). Star is very friendly and accustomed to tourists gawking at him. Albert is equally amiable and happy to answer any questions about his reindeer or Alaska in general.
Alaskan Food & Crafts
After a chat with Albert and Star, we decided to grab a bite at the fair. On the offer was standard issue street food with the addition of local treats like reindeer or sled dogs (a hot dog made with reindeer meat), salmon chowder (the salmon in Alaska is AMAZING), and numerous Asian-inspired items like fried rice with game meat – an interesting mix of options.
Next up was a stroll by the local handicraft booths which were manned by local Alaskan craftsmen. Hand-carved totem poles, fur garments, colorful quilts, unique silver/beaded jewelry, and the like were on display. I felt good about purchasing from these booths because the money supports a local Alaskan who is happy to tell you their story and how they came to live in our 49th state – in contrast to a commercial entity like many of the shops you find in the touristy areas.
💎 Hidden Gem Tip: The “silver hand” and “made in Alaska” symbols on merchandise mean the items you’re buying are authentic and made by Alaskan residents.
Of all the games, we were most interested to witness the ‘Frosted Axe Throwing’ cage. As I said, the temperature was hot, so I highly doubt the axes were frozen; nevertheless, it was fun to watch Alaskans of all ages testing their ax-throwing skills. I was slightly nervous that I might see an unfortunate accident but luckily that was not the case. Evidently, there’s a place in Anchorage where you can hire an ax-throwing coach to help develop your skills or just head on over for Ladies Night – I’ll be sure to catch it next time 😊
Parade Alaskan Style
When it was time for the parade, we found a spot under a tree to avoid baking in the sun. The parade participants and spectators made for excellent people-watching as most were dressed up in all kinds of festive 4th attire. Parade highlights include another sighting of our new friends Star and Albert, antique cars with local celebrities, and a giant bald eagle float that blared patriotic tunes as it rolled by. Knowing the history of Alaska, I was moved by the diverse group of people holding a sign that said, “We the people of Anchorage, Alaska pledge to respect one another celebrating the differences that make us unique.” Although Alaska is a state that is geographically distanced from the lower 48, they are a proud and patriotic people.
Alaska by Land or Sea 2022
Yes, you can experience Alaska by land or sea. I work with some incredible travel suppliers that will customize your trip and curate an itinerary that’s ideal for you. Perhaps a combination trip of land and sea is right for you?
Since Alaska is twice the size of Texas, the easiest way to cover a lot of ground is to take a cruise. There are MANY options including small ships with only 100-200 passengers. Lindblad/NatGeo is one of our favorite small ships that offer incredible Alaskan itineraries and experiences for families and couples alike. You can and should consider adding on a land portion before and/or after your cruise. I’m here to help you with your options!
Wishing you and your family continued good health,