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You guys, seriously, Anchorage is kind of amazing, and different. The largest city in the great state of Alaska (a whopping 300,000ish people), Anchorage has proven itself to be the perfect hybrid of backwoods outpost and urban sophistication. It has its quirkiness, creature comforts, and some bizarre foodie choices (“Reindeer tacos anyone?”), but all around it's an incredible adventure—with a lively gay scene. If you’re there for a week here’s our picks of the top things to do.
Rust’s Flying Service, Glacier Tour
Although flight seeing isn’t something locals do, they really should start cuz, like, holy effing glacier tour Batman! It’s a simple one-hour excursion that feels like a year. Jam-packed with fly-overs of the Knik Glacier, the pilot would be like, “Oh I see some Dall sheep” and ZOOOOM, you’d suddenly be buzzing by them. With epic views in the intimacy of a Cessna, you’ll be so captivated that you'll forget you're motion sickness.
Dog Sledding With an Iditarod Champion
One word: Puppies. Would you like to hold one? Or maybe five? Apparently these young malamutes need socialization, thus part of dogsled training with the Seavey family is literally hanging out and playing with puppies. Even if you are one of Alaska’s Iditarod champions you are not too cool to open your home (or in this case, yurt) to people who want to take a ride. “I love talking about dog sledding,” Dallas will tell you, “I could talk about it all day." A smidge north of Anchorage in the itty bitty town of Willow, mushing is one awesome day trip.
There is nothing better than stepping in to a gay bar at the end of the world, where everybody knows your name. And ohhhh the Queens. Their Saturday night drag show felt like a flashback to the 90s complete with a Drag King and a hoard of straight people who showed up and actually looked uncomfortable. But the real edginess about the joint is how friendly people are. They’ll kill you with kindness, if the spam nachos (yes, that’s a thing) don’t get you first. Delish.
Why does Alaska not have a gay ski week? Just South of Anchorage by 45 minutes the adorable town of Girdwood houses, some of the best slopes in the world. The skiing is incredible, the views are spectacular, and Alyeska Resort is schmancy yet inexpensive. Not only is there fresh powder on the Upper Bowl every morning (granted the sun doesn’t come up till 10:30am) but lift tickets are only $60 midweek! Say what? That’s nothing compared to, say, Aspen/Vail where lift tickets practically cost the same as the flight to get there. Skiing is way more fun when it’s cheap. (Photo via Instagram)
The Anchorage International Film Festival
This quirky little film festival is of international proportions. Featuring films from all over the world, The AIFF also features a healthy proportion of local talent. Who knew Alaska had decent rappers? A great way to see the city, AIFF is also a remarkably good way get to know the social climate through the expression of its constituents. Oh, and the best part? Grand prizewinners get a Usik (pronounced “Oosick.”) What is THAT you ask? Why it’s a walrus penis bone of course! (Photo via Instagram)
The Anchorage Museum
Oh hello Poshness. The Anchorage Museum’s $106 million expansion in 2010 has put it on the map, both architecturally and intellectually. For natural history nerds, the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, an arrangement with The Smithsonian Institution, The Anchorage Museum has borrowed back hundreds of artifacts to their place of origin. “Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First People’s of Alaska” exhibit is possibly the best display/design of Alaskan native and indigenous peoples in the world. The Museum also takes on some pretty groovy traveling exhibits.
In Alaska, wearing fur is not totally gauche. In fact, good ol' fashioned fur trading is a major part of the state’s history and current income. A lot of the furriers can be found in downtown. A surprisingly fun past time? When you’re in between movies at the Film Festival, or walking back to your hotel from the Anchorage Museum, or feeling all glam-tragic from Mad Myrna's, it’s hella fun to duck in to play dress-up and take selfies.
Photos courtesy of the author.