AK Travel Guide
Back in October, our favorite hotel roasting show and its polished, tough-lovin' host, Anthony Melchiorri, took up residence at the, ahem, "rustic" Glacier Bear Lodge in southeast Alaska. The result, which aired on the Travel Channel a few weeks ago, is one of Hotel Impossible's most entertaining episodes to date.
The fishing lodge's claims on its homepage -- that it "has all the amenities and activities to experience a true Alaska vacation" plus "world-class fishing" -- aren't exactly false advertisements. But Melchiorri quickly learned its self-proclaimed status as "the best lodging and dining in the area" were a bit off the mark, due to the fact that the 32 room property was quite literally falling apart.
Inside, years of untreated water damage was causing the floors, ceiling, and walls to rot away. Rusty, unhinged toilet seats and accumulated soap scum prompted Melchiorri (an admitted germaphobe) to declare that Glacier Bear's bathrooms were "the worst I've ever been in. You might as well go pee on a tree." It was hilarious when Anthony then discovered the maintenance department's favorite tool for fixing problems was simply "duct tape." (Trust us, it doesn't get much more Alaskan than that!).
Brrrr! Here we are, HC'ers, riding out the winter all the way up in Alaska: mushing sled dogs, spending romantic nights beneath the aurora, and catching wind of fascinating local oddities. Like this wacky, abandoned igloo hotel.
Built back in the '70s along the highway between Anchorage and Fairbanks, the giant, four story-structure known as "Igloo City" has been picking up plenty of fresh press this month -- with even London's Daily Mail getting in on the action.
Happy Independence Day! This year, we're celebrating with a patriotic look back at one of the United States' most historic hotels: the McKinley Park Hotel in Mt. McKinley National Park, Alaska. Really, what's more "nuclear family" traditional Americana than a National Park?
We recently came across a vintage pamphlet from a stay at the hotel in the summer of 1957. The yellowed pages tout the 86-room property as "a friendly hotel in Alaska's scenic land of the midnight sun" and a perfect location for spotting the multitude of wildlife of the park, whose land measures an impressive 1,939,493 acres.
When you vote a politician into office, you hope that he or she lives up to all their campaign promises, looks out for the little people, avoids wasteful spending, makes smart decisions and fingers crossed, doesn't get messed up in a sex scandal.
But thanks to Wasilla, Alaska's city councilmember, Steve Menard we will now hope that our politician doesn't act atrociously in a hotel room that our tax dollars paid for. The Claims Journal reports:
Menard was staying at the Westmark in Sitka earlier this month for a meeting of the Alaska Municipal League. The hotel reported that damage to his room included urine on two mattresses and a chair, vomit on the carpet, ruined bedding and a burned mattress. The hotel sent the city of Wasilla a $350 bill for repairs to Menard’s room, which was out of service for three days.
A burned mattress? WTF? Is that why there was urine on it?
Celebrity Scoop / Kristen Bell / Movie Hotels / Alaska Hotels / Anchorage Hotels / Justin Bieber / Ted Danson / → All Tags
Kristen Bell all dolled up in '80s Anchorage garb for her new film.
TV show character names must be the go-to aliases for celebs. We told you about Justin Bieber's hotel handle—Chandler Bing—and now we find out about another star's make-believe check-in name. Kristen Bell recently checked into an undisclosed Alaska hotel under the moniker Holly Frobisher.
It sounds like an innocent-sounding name. The Couples Retreat star stole it from the show Damages; it's the name of Ted Danson's character's wife. Again, no big deal. But it turns out that Danson was in the hotel lobby after she checked in.
The 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville.
The good news is there's going to be yet another 21C Museum Hotel opening. That will make four 21C Museum hotels--the original in Louisville, the second in Cincinnati, a third in Austin and now, a hotel near Bentonville, Arkansas.
The odd news is that the people who are making this third hotel possible are some Wal-Mart people. The Waltons, the heirs to the megastore that famously bans music and books for being too provocative, are now supporting an art hotel. The WSJ reports:
A Walton family investment arm and partner 21c Museum Hotel of Louisville, Ky., are scheduled to disclose Tuesday that they will construct a $28 million, 130-room hotel near Bentonville's downtown square that will open by 2012.
Mention Sitka in surrounding Southeast Alaska island towns, and locals invariably perk up: “Oh Sitka? It’s really (drag it out for three syllables) nice there.” All starry eyed, you have a feeling they’re conjuring up mental images of rainbows and unicorns.
Although we rolled into town at an ungodly hour after a 13-hour schlep on the Alaskan Marine Highway Ferry, the chipper (caffeinated?) concierge Shee Atika Totem Square Inn made us feel right at home. After cracking open the windows for some cool night air (Alaska hoteliers tend to overheat rooms), our head hit the pillow for one of the most restful slumbers on the nine-day Alaskan adventure.
Timing for our first visit to Petersburg, Alaska was a bit off: Memorial Day weekend during the peak of the 28th Annual Salmon Derby. Hours before our arrival, local angler Duane Olsen had caught a 59.8 lb. king salmon and residents were in a tizzy about the record-breaking catch. With a $7500 prize on the line for the first place winner, competition was fierce and if you weren’t out fishing that weekend in Petersburg, you were pretty much S.O.L.
Luckily, our digs at Scandia House were within walking distance of all the dockside action (and lots of watercraft eye-candy). The hotel exterior evokes a European vibe, no doubt a nod to the town’s strong Norwegian heritage. Scandia House isn’t fancy, but then again, most accommodations we saw in Alaska don’t subscribe to a fancy school of thought. It is, however, practical in every way – a terrific concept to consider when most tourists visit Alaska for the sake of the great outdoors and not for five star pampering.
Hey, Alaska travelers – especially those not yet eligible for AARP! Guess what? You don’t have to subject yourself to big cruise ships packed with thousands of passengers to experience the islands of Southeast Alaska and the Inside Passage. (Although if en masse modes of transport are your thing, that’s a-okay by us.)
Independent travelers with wanderlust and time to spare hop on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry in Bellingham, Washington for a scenic 38-hour ride to Ketchikan. Don’t panic – there’s a bar onboard, as well as cabins for your sleeping pleasure. Or you can start your nautical itinerary from a handful of other islands within Southeast Alaska. Alaska Airlines also operates flights between the major destinations.
Silverbow Inn and Bakery co-owner and former New Yorker, Jill Ramiel, had us at hand-boiled bagels. There has been a bakery on this historic site since the 1890’s, and Ramiel’s bakery is a bit of a social fixture in the small community, being the first to offer free Wi-Fi.
Jill and her hubby also offer regular indie flicks on a big projector screen, rotating art exhibits, and the most divine cookies, brownies, and yes, bagels. Don’t miss the snickerdoodles, toasted toasted almond bagels with apple butter and Alaskan Beer bread.
The bakery also stays open late serving beer, wine and light fare, offering a civilized alternative to the countless beer-and-a-shot dive bars that dot downtown Juneau.
For some people fishing requires a cooler of canned beer, a couple bros, and a local lake or river. Then there are those "Big Tunas"-- heads of mega-corporations, sultans, magnates, and independently wealthy gadabouts-- that won't settle for mediocrity in any corner of their lives.
For those special souls there is a private fishing lodge 185 miles southeast of Anchorage Alaska only accessible by private plane called The Newhalen Lodge.
Ironically, the accommodations themselves are not particularly special. Bedrooms are shared, with wood-paneled walls, shaggy tan carpet and dorm-room linens on the beds. In their defense however, the people that are going there are not ones to sweat decor.
Ever considered Alaska for a far-flung vacation? Then we say hit up the town of Girdwood, Alaska located about 45 minutes outside downtown Anchorage and home to the state's biggest ski resort, Alyeska Resort.
The resort has seen numerous changes in ownership over the last few years and the newest owners have recently made a dedicated effort to improve the rooms inside the The Hotel Alyeska, the resort's "base camp" hotel.
Not to fear though, you'll still find stuffed polar bears in the lobby and massive views of Alyeska Ski Resort out of the huge panoramic windows, provided there is sun.