I've lived in Alaska for 33 years and didn't realize the train ran in the winter. Went on line and sure enough - they be running. Weekends only.
I've made the run in the summer, both north to Fairbanks and south to Seward. Very pleasant trips and a great way to sit back and enjor the scenery without worrying about hitting a moose or a patch of ice while driving.
The railroad has upgraded their cars in the past 10 years or so, as cruising gets more popular in Alaska. Very nice.
If you are here for any appreciable length of time, you will definitely want to rent a vehicle and get out exploring on your own. Even just a drive on one of the state highways can be a memorable experience - and they are well-maintained and about as safe as they can be, given the climate and conditions!
WALKSING THROG THE CITY , IF YOU WANTTO SEE THE NICE PANORAMA OF ANCHORAGE AND THE SOUROUNDING MOUTAINS .
FOR THOSE WHO WNTS TO MAKE ONLY A SHORT TRIPP BY FEET AND SSE THE MOST INTERESTING POINT , FOLLOW THE FOOTPRINTS ANT THE INFOCENTER
We did a 7 day cruise from Whittier, Alaska, to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Our ship was the "DIAMOND PRINCESS'
Boarding at Whittier went smoothly and quickly on a very miserable day.
On board, and we had an inside cabin which was very nice, always kept clean and tidy by our nice steward.
Meals were excellent, and we had a huge choice. Entertainment was very good as well.
The Cruise directors can make or break a cruise, and ours on this cruise were excellent, laughs galore with them. There were plenty of things to do onboard if you wished, lots of people to mix with, and great ports for full days of sightseeing, etc.
We had no complaints, everything ran smoothly, and nothing was too much trouble for the crew.
Would definitly sail with them again.
My sister and I rented a car from Hertz from the airport and did not have to use public transportation. But I felt I needed to write about this amazing public transpo service they have in Anchorage.
This local transit system is at 6th Ave between G and H St and can take visitors to specific atraction and activities. The Buses run on the hour and one way fares are as follows:
Youth 5-18 yo $1.00
Unlimited day pass available for adult and youth at $4. These can be bought on the bus, but bring exact change.
You can get route and schedule info straight from a phone system (push-button) at 343-6543 (24 hours service). Live operators are available M-F 8AM-5PM.
This a great service that Anchorage has for its thousands of visitors, especially during the winter when people may be more uncomforatble about driving. Lucky for me and my sister, we visited during the spring - and would do so again in the future!
The People Mover System, as the local bus service is known, is actually quite good. The current mayor has put a lot of effort into improving service and it shows. If you are in Anchorage for a bit you can get just about anywhere in town by bus. The main hub is right downtown on 5th street next to JC Penneys and the 5th Ave Mall and is not a very safe spot for the lone traveler. Schedules vary depending on who main the route is with frequency anywhere from every 15 minutes to every hour.
Fare is 1.75 one way, or .50 for seniors 60+ and handicap. All buses are handicap accessible now and most have a rack for bicycles.
Parking downtown can be hard to find and expensive, so many workers leave their cars at home and take the bus. With the price of gas above 3.50/gal ridership is growing.
A downside (or upside depending on your outlook) is that you will experience a cross slice of humanity rarely seen by tourists. There is a large number of folks just struggling to find their next meal and you most likely will run across them on the bus.
A rental car is almost a must to see all that Anchorage and the surrounding areas have to offer, especially if you are an independent traveler and plan on seeing more of Alaska.
A few tips:
-- There is a large tax that applies to all rental cars rented in the state. It is a long story, and involves politcal paybacks, etc. Just be sure you know whether it has been included in the price quoted.
-- It used to be that you could rent from a company away from the airport and avoid some of the airport surcharges. Some of the major brands have branches downtown and if you go thru them there they don't charge the airport surcharge. With the completion of the rental car parking garage at the airport, all the majors are there now. The walk from the baggage claim to the rental car counters at the new facility is a long one. I'd suggest sending someone to get the car rather than dragging all your bags if you aren't traveling light. But remember that if you plan on driving the car you have to be at the counter and show your driver's license.
-- Shop around for the best rate. I've been using Orbitz.com and Expedia.com lately (02/2008) and they seem to be finding lower rates. It is a different company each week. Last week Avis this week Thrifty.
-- Avoid Rent-A-Wreck and other offbrand companies in the winter. Nothing worse than having your clunker break down in sub-zero weather - no matter how much you save.
Particularly because it was off season- a fabulous trip. Really lets you experience how vast and wild Alaska is. The train made local "whistle-stops" (you can wave the train down with a white handkerchief) at places where there are no roads. At this fall season, only 1 car for passengers, the last weekend with a dining car and the train stopped to let us photograph the spectacularly clear (rare) views of Denali and a few other things.
During the fall/winter season it only runs Anchorage to Fairbanks on Saturday and Fairbanks to Anchorage on Sunday. No runs to Seward in the winter.
We stayed at the Dome Home B&B in Healy. That was cozy, Alaskan and cheerful.
Renting a car at the Anchorage airport is not an easy thing to do. To start with, it is a long walk from the Main Hall to the new rental car building. You can also forget Avis Preferred. They do it the old-fashioned way. Counting the time I spent stading in line, it took an hour to get my contract and then I had to go inspect my car in the gargage and come back to add all the dings (esp. on the windshield) to the contract. To top it off, the low oil warning light came on while I was in Homer (thank goodness I was near a service station). The car was two quarts low and the oil was filthy. For sure that car had not had an oil change within 5000 miles. Anyway, it all turned out okay. Just don't expect the same Avis service as in the Lower 48.
The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is a very nice, modern airport with beautiful common areas and even a Native art gallery upstairs, although most of the art is presently covered up to prevent sun damage. Concourse C already services Alaska and American Airlines (the ones I flew) and Northwest Airlines. It is being remodeled so that all the domestic airlines can be consolidated there. Just a thought... does Veco Corporation do airport remodeling as well as houses? [sorry Catalysta].
Anchorage was a common stopover for passengers flying to East Asia from the 1960s to the 1980s because US, Asian, and Western European aircraft could not fly over Soviet airspace, and because they did not have the range that modern-day aircraft have. Today, many cargo carriers continue to use Anchorage for cargo heading to and from the Far East. It is anticipated that this business will grow as trade with China, Russia and other Far East countries expands.
Two things to know about the airport: (1) there is a really good visitors' information center located near the baggage claim area, and (2) the new rental car building is connected by a tunnel to the main terminal but it is a long walk, especially if you are carrying luggage.
From its humble beginnings in Seward in 1903, the Alaska Railroad (AKRR) has an interesting history. Anchorage is a large city today mainly because the railroad located its connection to a port at Ship Creek in 1915. Although it still hauls freight, AKRR's specialty is now scenic journeys from Anchorage to Denali, Fairbanks and Seward. The current Anchorage depot was built in 1942. It is not too far from Elderberry Park (~9 blocks). I had seen a couple of trains go by when I was at the park and decided to walk over to the depot. The depot was empty when I was there; it must only get busy when a train arrives.
Another park, Quyana Park, is across the street from the depot. I wondered why it was built in such a steep place. It turns out that it is actually the location of a buttress that was built after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake to stabilize the 4th Avenue slide area. The antique train engine that is on display there was used during Panama Canal construction. The totem poles by the display disguise vents associated with the buttress.
Upon arrival by Alaska Airline flight I picked up a reserved unlimited miles rental car at the airport. Economy small cars are not normally provided by rental agencies here (probably due to road and weather conditions) so you will get an intermediate size car or larger. I used Alamo, with a discount from my Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association membership which included 20% off the bill and one free day. So, rental averaged about $53/day for a Pontiac G6 four door. Expect a customer facility charge, a concession recoup fee, vehicle rental tax of 8% and state vehicle rental tax of 10%. I replenished the fuel used to a full tank before turning in the car. Fuel was about 12 cents more per gallon than southern California's fuel prices, using Shell credit card comparison.WARNING: Be sure to do a walk-around before leaving the rental car garage to confirm and agree on any existing damage, dings or windshield chips on the car you are renting. Most agencies have a form marked for this purpose.
I found it refreshing to see most of the commercial Yellow Taxicabs in Anchorage were all-wheel drive Subaru Outbacks. Strange to see a yellow colored one with taxicab light on top as I also drive a Subaru Outback and am very pleased with its all-weather performance. In winter snow and ice conditions prevalent in Alaska, an all-wheel drive vehicle should be dependable in getting through the conditions. I inquired of friends the cab fare from the airport to the Hotel Captain Cook downtown where they were staying-it was $20 for that ride.
Many of the private trucks I saw (common in Alaska) were four wheel drive or all-wheel drive models. Welcome traffic features were the courtesy and care uniformly shown by Alaskan drivers compared with the California drivers I am used to, and the timed traffic lights downtown making through travel on one-way streets expedient and easy. Never heard a horn honk all week in Anchorage!
The Denali Star Train was our ticket out of Anchorage. It leaves for Denali at 8:00 am so that's why we had to spend the night in Anchorage. The train station is close to downtown, so pretty convenient. The Denali Star ended up being a great way to get up to the National Park. I'm so glad we didn't drive. We probably would have hit a moose or something. The ride on the Denali Star is very scenic and incredibly relaxing.
Unless you stay in SouthEast Alaska, all roads and airplanes come through Anchorage. They really are the transportation hub for Alaska. Anchorage is served by several major airlines, including Alaska Airlines, NorthWest, United, American, and even SouthWest.
Air service from Anchorage to the "bush" ( and it ain't the bush if you can drive there) is through a variety of regional carriers such as PenAir, Frontier and ERA. Alaska goes to several of the larger bush communities such as Nome, Barrow, Kotzebue, Bethel, Dutch Harbor, etc.
TO ANCHROAGS YOU LL COME BY AIRPLANE , WE FLY WITH CONDOR , IT TAKES 10,5 HOURS TO COME TO THE GATE OF ALASKA WITH THE STOPP OVER - WHITEHORSE THAT MAKES 11,5 HOURS , FROM THE AIRPORT U CAN BOOK AIRTAXIS TO DENALI AND OTHER SMALL DESTINATIONS OF ALASKA