Many Alaskans depend on tourism to support their livelihoods and I would encourage any visitor to buy souvenirs and crafts that are Made in Alaska. You will find in many large trinket stores that souvenirs that look Alaskan are actually Made in China!! To ensure you are buying Alaskan made goods, look for these labels on items you find in stores...
A Silver Hand symbol signifies Authentic Native handicrafts from Alaska. This symbol is your guarantee that this is a genuine article, made in Alaska, handcrafted and finishing by an Alaskan Native Artist or Craftsman.
A Polar Bear & Cub symbol bearing the words "Made In Alaska" signifies this item is made in Alaska by craftsmen or women who live here.
You can see photos at this web site: http://www.alaskaguide.com/alaskan_gifts.htm
It's true that not all Alaskan made items will have these symbols but seeing these symbols is a Made in Alaska guarantee.
I know a lot of people are going to hate that I'm putting this into the tourist trap category but so be it. I was not impressed. Denali's frontcountry is crazy in the summer and while I do like that people really can't drive themselves into the park, the insanity of the bus system to the sled dogs was irritating. First, you'd think they would have a counting system down but no, we had to wait for the bus to fill up, to be over capacity, to get the extra people off and then drive about 1 mile an hour to the demonstration. No big deal, really...on the travel channel, the whole thing looks pretty cool and well worth this public transportation confusion.
But then you get there, you can visit with the dogs (if they want to visit with you) either in cages or outside of a fenced area until the presentation starts. Then you go over to the bleachers and listen to a man talk about the dogs and what they do for about 95% of the program. The last couple minutes are devoted to showing you how the sled and dog team operate. I've been to many national parks, I've been a national park ranger who's given programs...this guy did not have public speaking qualities. It wasn't just me who noticed this...it was hard to ignore that his speech was monotonous--yet, he still managed to end each sentence or thought in question form.
I'm not sure what we were expecting, it just seemed a bit more involved and interactive than what we got. Oh yeah, and halfway through the program, a man of high self importance got a phone call and rather than silencing his phone, he talked loudly about something work related. Everyone told him to be quiet but he didn't care...it was completely rude and disrespectful. Not the parks fault, but it did take away from the program and because it's the most popular of sled dog demonstrations, you have a higher chance of running into someone like this guy.
Unique Suggestions: Try to get to the first presentation...I think both the ranger and dogs will be in better form. By early afternoon on the day we went, the dogs wanted to rest and it just seemed like the ranger hit play on a prerecorded talk. Also, there were 3 whole buses of people attending this particular demonstration.
Fun Alternatives: If you're traveling individually...not with a tour group...try out some of the other locations for sled dogs--they're smaller, more personal and all over the state. You may even be able to take a ride. Both on the Denali Highway (at Crazy Dog Kennels) and in Seward (just as 2 examples), there are kennels that let you hold the puppies. Better yet, come in the winter and see the dogs in their element.*
It's a pity coz i cannot use my personal local knowledge here to describe this trap since I've never been in Talkeetna. What i do know is that reliable locals don't really recommend Talkeetna as a destination. Brochures go into raptures over this place however it's crowded and expensive like hell.
There are traps for tourists and for travelers equally. First of all the reason why thousands of visitors spend their spare time in Denali National Park...I guess this reason is the highest point of North America.
Can be seen on postcards, advetisements, web sites and actually everywhere...except in the park itself. In an avarage year the Mount McKinley peak can be seen just a few times. You have a high chance to miss this highlight...
On the other hand I didn't expect such a big mass while planning my trip to Denali. It was so crowded and busy even during weekdays.
If you want to visit popular spots like Wonder lake then previous reservation is essential (2-7 days in advance depending on the period)
Outside of every National Park in the US, there is a touristy area. A place for people stay at the entrance, get gas before going in, perhaps grab a meal and so on. Denali is no different. While it may look nicer than some gateway towns, the commercial area outside of Denali is really a contrast to the surrounding wilderness. Just beyond the "Denali National Park" sign heading north there are these little cabins that include a "Subway" sandwich shop, an ice cream joint, a salmon bake, rafting guides, etc. It looks like nothing else on this highway. It, like pretty much all touristy operations, only operates in the summer but this area gets so crowded that it warrants stoplights. Not even the real communities from Wasilla to Fairbanks have that. On one hand, it's nice to have services available that you don't have in most of Alaska. But on the other hand, it sorta takes away from the isolation that is supposed to be part of Denali.
Unique Suggestions: I have no idea what the prices are here but considering areas right outside of parks always jack up their prices and Alaska is already on the expensive side, I can only imagine. If you have to stop here, it's probably going to be crowded and expensive. Just don't expect to get a good deal on something.
Fun Alternatives: You can get gas just up the road in Healy. Lodging is available there, in Cantwell and farther south in Talkeetna where you can also arrange for flight tours of the Park. There are a few places to eat in these towns as well.
In preparing to drive around Alaska, we bought a copy of "The MilePost". a thick paperback mile-to-mile guide of everything along Alaska's main roads, reasoning that it had the potential to be very useful. While it did come in handy at times, "The MilePost" mostly provided us misinformation in terms of the quality of attractions, restaurants and hotels along our route. Soon we surmised that each entry at each milemarker should be read as an advertisement rather than an unbiased take on the establishment. "Great atmostphere" really meant "it's a dive". "Home cooking" really meant "substandard ingredients". Once we broke the code and started using our instincts again, we did okay. After all, Alaska isn't about roadside buisnesses, it's about roadside beauty!
The cruise liners try to trap you into doing their recreational activities when on land ... they are very expensive and often you can do the same thing on your own for half the price without all the crowds of people that tag along. dont be fooled into thinking their tours are the only option, they are not ... its just another way they try to maximise themselves ... you are better off doing your own thing without all the people, you enjoy the experience much more.
At the Iditarod headquarters you can go on a short trip with some dogs. it costed 10$ in July 2005. For that 10 $ per person you are loaded in a cart on wheels, with 4 to 6 people and are driven around for exactly 1min and 15 seconds..........
The dogs seemed to like to draw the cart though.
Unique Suggestions: Go into the headquarters and see the film about the world famous dog sledge race. See some of the dogs that are outside and try to capture apicture of the blue dog eyes. There were some pups too when we were there.........cute.
Talkeetna is advertised as 'beautifull downtown Talkeetna'. But we could not find the beauty of downtown. It was filled with tourists, either on their way to Denali or returning from it. The town is supposed to be historical because of the railroad. But the few historic houses we saw were turned into commercial buildings.
We didn't think it was worth getting of the main road for.
Unique Suggestions: There is a museum in Talkeetna in a one-room schoolhouse built in 1936.
Fun Alternatives: Stay on the mainroad to Denali and spend some more time in nature.
Beware the opportunist thief. We lost all our camera equipment literally from under our noses. Taken off our lunch table whilst we were talking. Check that your not in a CCTV blind spot. We have no record of a once in a lifetime holiday as a result.
As anywhere when traveling, if you want buy some genuine local goods, use your caution. Wal-Marts, CatsCos etc. even sell Alaskan goods and crafts, but not all of them are Alaskan. Rather Chinese or other stuff and you won't bring any money to Alaska, only for Walley World then.
Of course it is not like Third World there, which would suffer without your valuable money, but to support Alaskan genuine art especially native one, I would ask you to pay attention what do you take outside with you. Alaskan Native Art itself is gorgoues and genuine, you won't find similar anywhere else. Even if it costs more than Alaska t-shirts, I see it more valuable for the future.
Unique Suggestions: There are lots and lots of fireweed things sold in Alaskan craft stores. Check out that they are made there. Then there are different kind of stones they calim to be Alaskan, but ask from your sale person where they really are from. There is lots of blackish stones in jewelries etc. and some of these are totally ripe-off's. You can buy gorgoeus Alaskan jewelries with almost same price, Native ones are usually a bit more expensive.
Fun Alternatives: Alaska is an unforgetable place and almost everybody want to have something to remember it. Naturally. But if you can,. please pay some attention that the things are really genuine Alaskan. I tell this because I wasn't that clever everytime and bought some 'Alaskan' stuff only to find out that they were definitely not made in AK.
Some good tips to buy Nativer Arts:
Get a receipt that includes all the vital information about the value of your purchase, including any oral representations. For example, if a salesperson tells you that the basket you're buying is made of baleen and ivory and was handmade by an Inupiaq artisan, insist that the information is on your receipt.
Price - The price of a genuine Alaskan Native art or craft item should reflect the quality of craftsmanship, the harmony of the design and the background of the artisan. Genuine pieces produced by skilled Alaskan Native artisans can be expensive.
Type of materials - Materials often used by Alaskan Native artisans include walrus ivory, soapstone, argillite, bone, alabaster, animal furs and skin, baleen and other marine mammal materials.
let's just say Santa's house has a parking lot...but, the Santa there has a real beard.
Unique Suggestions: feed the reindeer. I never saw real reindeer, (which I learned are domesticated caribou) until then, their antlers are amazing. oh and you can pay some money and have a christmas card sent from santa's address in the North Pole (Alaska) to someone you know.
Fun Alternatives: the alternative is to go to the real North Pole and look for Santa's real house.
Anchorage is a gateway, not a destination. Yet, it's home to more than half the state's residents (which are still mostly male). The saying for single women in Alaska is "where the odds are good, but the goods are odd." One has to wonder why so many people visit and live in this metropolis in the middle of the country's most awe-inspiring wilderness. Like RCCL says, you gotta GET OUT THERE to experience the true Alaska!
Unique Suggestions: If you do nothing else outside of Anchorage, at least drive south on the Seward Highway along Turnagain Arm. You'll see bird sanctuaries, rockclimbers, whale watching stations (and maybe a beluga!), and experience a taste of true Alaska's scenic beauty.
Fun Alternatives: You might as well go to Seattle, or Portland, or Denver, or any other city in America with mountains around it. Anchorage has a Wal-Mart with a McDonald's inside. 'Nuff said.
Thousands of people each day decide they must travel up to Palmer and see the Fair each fall. It's crowded. Expensive. Same old same old, but we've been doing it for years and years, so people just keep going. I sneak a peek every few years just to see if anything has changed. Well, it is bigger in the year 1999 than it was in 1969, that is for sure.
Unique Suggestions: Bring lots of money and car pool.
Fun Alternatives: Well... umm... there are 49 other states to choose from.
Most Alaska Cruises seem affordably priced. They can offer great scenery in a short time. Most cruises are run by one company and you stay with the group and do what they want you to do, when and where. They take advantage of all of your time and money for their benefit.
Unique Suggestions: Always take a good camera and ask if there are stops in ports where you can get off the ship and explore on your own.
Fun Alternatives: Take the Alaska State Ferry up the Inside Passage. There are stops in many ports and with proper planning you could spend a few days in each port that strikes your fancy!
Excellent amenities, with an excellent outlook. The higher the room the better the view, always ask...more
We stayed twice in the past month for a couple of days each trip and found the front desk staff...more
We stayed at Sophie Station as part of our package tour and one night before the tour. It was clean...more