Greetings travelers! One year and two days ago, I checked an item off my travel bucket list AKA Wanderlist that I didn’t know I had until the opportunity presented itself. Last summer, I spent the 4th of July in Anchorage, Alaska and had the very unusual experience of witnessing their 4th of July parade. We were in Anchorage to begin a week-long cruise down Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage on Silversea’s lovely Muse, a smaller luxury ship. If you have ever considered an Alaskan cruise, you know this one is top-notch, so I was pumped to begin the journey. Before catching the glass-domed train from Anchorage to Seward, where the Muse was waiting for us, we had a few hours to burn and decided to hit the 4th of July parade to see how Alaskan’s celebrate. We were NOT disappointed.
Read on for the rest of the story….
You might recall from the headlines last July that it was one of the hottest summers on record in Alaska. In fact, 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 was scheduled to begin 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.
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 craftsman. 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. Tip for when you go – 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 😊
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.
This weekend, I’ll be posting a slideshow of pictures from the parade on our Facebook page – check them out at www.facebook.com/hiddengemtravelconsulting and follow the page for regular travel inspiration!
Other highlights from strolling around Anchorage included seeing the 4-story high Anchorage History Mural and other beautifully painted murals that were strategically placed around the city. Also, the artistically colorful flower plantings were abundantly found in most of the public parks and spaces. In summary, Anchorage is very much worth a visit for the art, music, restaurants, culture, unique American History, and stunning scenery.
A few interesting facts about Anchorage is that it is located 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.
.If you’re interested in spending time on land or sea in Alaska next year and would like to schedule a virtual coffee chat about my trip and get some planning tips, hit reply to let me know or jump over to www.facebook.com/hiddengemtravelconsulting and comment on today’s post about this newsletter.
Hidden Gem Tip: You can’t drive from town-to-town in Alaska. It’s twice the size of Texas and so the best 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. You can and should consider adding on a land portion before and/or after your cruise. We are here to help you with your options!
Wishing you and your family continued good health,