Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with a friend for the first time to Alaska. We flew Friday afternoon into ANC – Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage which is roughly 4 hours away from San Francisco if taking a direct flight. We flew on Alaska and thanks to my American Airlines Gold Status, we were able to select exit row seating free of charge.
We booked round trip tickets on Alaska Airlines as they were the main airline to have direct flights to Anchorage. Since this was memorial weekend, ticket prices were a bit higher than expected. Luckily, my American Airlines Gold Status gave us early boarding and access to exit row seating free of charge(these seats have an absurd amount of legroom for economy). I also took advantage of the free checked bags.
There are plenty of hotels to be found in Anchorage. We stayed at the Hyatt Place Anchorage where rates were going for $300 plus on the days we were staying. Rather than pay over $1,000 for this property, I decided to redeem 12,000 points per night for this category 3 Hyatt. Overall I was able to redeem 36,000 World of Hyatt Points and got over $1,000 of value giving me about 2.9 cents per point. The property was situated in Midtown Anchorage, but honestly everything was close by and downtown was only several miles away.
Food in Alaska was extremely delicious. From tasty smoked salmon dip, to Alaskan Salmon cake, to ultra umami sushi had a blast. I will try to post more in depth reviews of some of the food places I tried but here is a quick rundown.
When we arrived Friday afternoon, I was starving. My friend and I checked into to our Hotel (Hyatt Place Midtown) and decided to try out Glacier Brewhouse for an early dinner. This was one of the most popular spots in the Anchorage downtown area so if planning to go with a bigger group, be sure to make a reservation in advanced. Downtown Anchorage is a nice spot with plenty of parking.
Glacier Brewhouse serves a variety of American dishes. My friend and I ordered the smoked salmon dip which came with nicely grilled slices of bread. The smoke salmon dip which was really a lot of smoke salmon mixed with yogurt dip was extremely delicious and one of my favorite bites from this trip. My friend had the herb crusted Halibut, while I had the firewood grilled salmon. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and my salmon had a nice smoky flavor.
Snow City Cafe
Snow City Cafe is a very popular breakfast spot also located in downtown Anchorage. The cafe opens at 7am and when we got there at 7:30am wait times were roughly an hour. We ended up enjoying this spot so much we came back a second time.
On our first visit, my buddy ordered the “Heart Attack”, which was a fully loaded hash-brown topped with egg and cheese. I had the Alaskan Smoked Salmon Cake Eggs Benedicts which was just off the charts. I never knew what authentic smoked salmon tasted like til now. On the second visit, my friend and I both had the Alaskan Smoked Salmon Cake Eggs Benedicts. The dish was so good that if you’re coming to Anchorage I would definitely 10/10 recommend this place!
We couldn’t visit Alaska and not try out a sushi spot where there’s fresh salmon everywhere we go. For one of our dinners, we ended up trying out a cute sushi spot called Sushi-Ya. The restaurant was located just a few blocks from our hotel. Here we ordered a sushi boat that came with a 10 piece nigiri combo, 9 pieces of ultra delicious sashimi, and 3 rolls. The total cam out to $80 flat and there’s not tax in Anchorage on food. The Salmon and Salmon belly were amazing, but my friend also thoroughly enjoyed the white Tuna and Toro as well. This was a nice change of scenery from the typical American foods we had.
49th State Brewing CO. Anchorage
With a similar set up to Buffalo Wild Wings, 49th State Brewing CO. was a spot we visited for a late dinner around 10:30pm one night. The place is a seat yourself bar style restaurant. The staff was super friendly and I ended up having a heart bowl of Alaskan Chowder which included Salmon, Crab, Clams, and more. My friend had the Halibut Cheeks fish and chips which he said was also very delicious. Ironically, my favorite part of the meal was the blueberry root beer that was made in house. Who knew blueberry root beer could be so delicious.
Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse
Another bar style restaurant that served seafood. My friend had the fish and chips, while I went with steamed clams. Both were pretty solid, but our starter of Smoke Salmon spread was a big disappointment. The spread was served on slices or cold bread and the spread felt like nothing more than flavored cream cheese with occasional bits of salmon. The experience was alright but all of our food came out at once and it took roughly 20 minutes for it to get to our table. For cold bread and some cream cheese mix, it was a rather long wait for the starters. This spot might be a one and done for me.
If you like adventure and the outdoors, then Alaska is a perfect place for you. During my visit to Anchorage, my friend and I walked around a few rivers, lagoons, and lakes while also hiking up Flat Top Mountain. While the top of the mountain is pretty flat(hence the name LOL) the trek up was a grind. As the ice was melting at a fast rate, we ran into areas drenched with fresh water. On the other hand, the hike was totally worth it and I got to see amazing views of the Anchorage area once we got to the top.
Another fun activity is to take a day cruise from Seward and sight see. On the one day, my friend and I drove about 2 hours to Seward and took a cruise where we ended up seeing humpback whales, several groups of orca whales, and even one of the coolest glaciers. The experience was amazing and the 6 hour cruise went by in a flash. If you plan on doing a day cruise, remember to bring a thick jacket as it can get pretty chilly out in the sea.
My Overall Take
Traveling to Alaska for the first time, I really didn’t know what to expect. I imagined a lot of ice and cold weather, but it was in the low 70s during our entire trip. In addition, while flights were completely full, I didn’t feel like there was overwhelming number of tourist in the area. There was never a remote hint of traffic and the people were extremely friendly. The seafood was also delicious and it was a great outdoor adventure. During the time I went, the days were extra long with sunset after 11pm and sunrise at 4am. Even after the sun had fully set, it never got really dark and looked more like dusk/dawn.
This trip was definitely one for the books and I really loved Alaska. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back and hopefully bring Jen with me sometime next Summer. Will you be planning a trip to Alaska or have you been to Alaska? Let me know in the comment section about your experience!