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There’s no excuse like being on vacation to indulge in decadent dishes that you’d feel guilty about tucking into at home, right? Plus, eating local is part of the cultural experience of any destination. Here, five bizarre and over-the-top regional eats — and where to try them if you so dare:
Whether arriving by cruise ship or airplane, few Alaskan visitors stray from the ports around Juneau, the city of Anchorage, or the beautiful Denali National Park. But we have lots of love for the state’s more rugged pocket of Fairbanks, another 100-plus miles beyond Denali. From surprisingly diverse cuisine to truly remote respite, here’s why we think the region inhabited by just 32,000 is worth the distance:
Roughly one million people visit Alaska’s ports as a part of the cruising season each year. That’s a lot of people between May and September. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can avoid getting lost in the mass influx. Here’s how:
It’s no wonder zipline tours are more popular than ever here in the States. The sensation you get from ziplining feels like flying, and it’s a manageable way for all types of travelers (at all fitness levels) to join in an adventure activity. Some tours include guided hikes through lush landscapes before an effortless ride, while others shuttle you straight to the top. Ziplines can range from leisurely to speedy, catering to those who want to soak in the scenery, or get a rush of adrenaline.
Considering that there are currently more than 700 ziplines in the country, we’re not going to rank them all. But here’s a list of some classic rides – plus a few quirky ones to try:
What is it about state fairs that fill us with glee? Is it the chance to see our favorite local bands? Mental images of deep fried butter? The smells of food, cattle, and sweat simultaneously wafting through the air?
Whatever it is, hundreds of thousands of people travel to state fairs every year in the hopes of indulging in a few highly calorific snacks and celebrating Americana. While these fairs typically happen in the late summer through the fall, we thought we’d get a head start with 10 quirky attractions that help make this country a little weird, and a lot of fun.
There’s seafood, and then there’s seafood in Alaska. A trip is not complete without some salmon or king crab. Whether you’re embarking on a cruise or are seeing the state on your own, these locals-approved establishments deserve a spot on any Southeast Alaska food tour. They may not have all the bells and whistles of your favorite special occasion seafood restaurant back home, but that’s because they deliver on what’s important: fresh catch and satisfying flavor.
Before defined ports and shipyards, mariners guided their ships to, well, any visible land. Eventually, to help these men see at night, cities built fires on hilltops to guide the ships and to alert sailors to dangers at sea. Centuries passed, and we slowly perfected the lighthouse.
Though lighthouses now are no longer lit by candlelight, and lighthouse-keeping has become an antiquated profession, there’s still something about these marvelous towers that bring a sense of adventure and nostalgia. So in the spirit of exploration, we’ve rounded up 13 still-standing structures that once guided sailors home, and remain amazingly scenic today. See them here.
Foraging is a culinary trend that isn’t going away, and it’s only getting bigger in travel. Many credit the movement to chef René Redzepi of Noma, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Copenhagen that frequently tops “Best in the World” restaurant lists. And it makes sense, especially at a time when travelers are seeking local and immersive experiences, the appeal of foraging for your own food is clear. It’s a fresh way to connect with a destination; it’s wonderfully tactile; and it’s a reminder of the wonders that nature has to offer.
These days, foraging in travel goes beyond reserving tables at a restaurant with an adventurous chef. More and more foraging tours and excursions have popped up in many locales. Here, we’ve rounded up some ideas and destinations to get you started. Just keep in mind that there are dangers in gathering your own food – including risk of illness if you eat the wrong thing – and the issue of sustainability in the harvesting process. That’s why we suggest that you always connect with a local expert or company that specializes in foraging; you’ll also want to know the local regulations and best practices. Read more
Believe it or not, there are many ways to see Alaska without taking a cruise, lovely and hassle-free though they may be. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to cruising, want to see the land up-close, or simply want more control during your trip, here are three excellent, affordable ways to travel through the “Last Frontier.”
The Iditarod is known as the “Last Great Race,” an incredible feat of endurance that covers 1,000 miles of rough terrain through blizzards and whiteouts – and features the most adorable athletes of any sport. Seeing this incredible race in person can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. If you’re thinking about heading north to the Alaskan wilderness for this once-in-a-lifetime event, here are some planning tips and tricks… Read more
Cruise port excursions have come a long way since the olden days of basic motor coach tours to local sites. Today, they’re exciting and adventurous, and designed to immerse cruise guests into local culture.
The newest excursions focus on “wow factor,” and are aimed at luring first-time cruisers while also holding the interest of repeat travelers who’ve done it all. Moreover, all cruise lines are now courting younger travelers who seek more dynamic vacations than their parents and grandparents did. Also, the demand for cultural experiences has increased, and cruise lines are obliging.
Adventure traveler or not, few things inspire wanderlusters everywhere to brave the elements like the jewel-hued Northern Lights. If you’ve dreamed of chasing this legendary phenomenon, now’s the time: The aurora is reaching solar peaks this winter and next, meaning visibility will be the greatest in this time for a good decade. And as with all epic travel experiences, you’ll probably want to capture your sightings on film (or an SD card). Here’s how. Read more
Virgin America now flies to Anchorage, Alaska? In honor of the airline’s new route, a special Alaska sale offers some of the lowest one-way fares ever. These flights from popular cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington D.C., among others start as low as $149 and are available on select dates, June 7, 2013-July 10, 2014, with a 3-day advance ticket purchase. If you can book an ultra-last-minute getaway (with just one-day notice!) you can fly from Anchorage to San Francisco for $199 each way. Read more
There are some amazing cruise deals available online this week – perfect for an easy, affordable, last-minute getaway for two. I’m a fan of cruising for a few reasons: You unpack once, get to see an average of four to six different cities or islands in a week, and enjoy all the advantages of a resort (spa, great restaurants, pool, Jacuzzi) along the way. Here are two great sales you should check out if a cruise is on your travel horizon. Each offers a different kind of romance – either classic and cultured or adventurous and off-the-beaten-path.
Looking for a late-season ski fix? While most nationwide ski resorts spent this season pleading for the powdery white stuff (largely to no avail), Alaska’s Alyeska Resort, just 40 miles south of the Anchorage airport, has been inundated with more than 800 inches of fresh snowfall in the past six months. With enough cover to keep its trails open through Memorial Day, visitors in April and May can schuss the trails of the Chugach Mountain Range under the sun this spring, while overlooking scenic sea (at Turnagain Arm) and hanging-glacier panoramas. Plus, tack on extra snow play with resort activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing; or, sign up for off-site adventures like ice climbing, dog-sled riding, or snowmobiling. The ski-in, ski-out property offers 304 sleek guestrooms, a saltwater pool and whirlpool touting mountain views, an on-site spa, and the mountaintop Seven Glaciers restaurant.
Alyeska is upping the value on its standard one-night “Ski & Stay” package just for ShermansTravel readers. Stay in April or May and get a complimentary room upgrade, plus a $50 resort credit for each night booked. Package rates start at $199/night and include a daily lift ticket bundled in with the rate (up to a $60 value).
Weekends stays in April require a two-night minimum; note that April 20–22 is blacked out (during the resort’s Spring Carnival event). Plus, keep in mind that while the snowfall has been exceptional this season, some of the best of it will be gone as May marches on.
Visit www.alyeskaresort.com for more info. To book, call 800-880-3880 and mention code “ShermansSki.”
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