March 2017

Iditarod, AK

Time from Seattle: 3hrs by plane
Duration of trip: two nights

 

A good friend of mine works for Alaska Airlines and when she asked, "Hey, would you want to come to Alaska this weekend with me for Iditarod? It's a free ticket!" You drop everything and say yes. How could I pass that up? So we hopped on a plane Friday night and found ourselves in -4 degree weather. I'd never been in anything below 20.

 

Packing List: LAYERS ON LAYERS

  • leggings

  • fleece leggings to layer over regular leggings

  • tank top

  • thermal top

  • fleece

  • down jacket/ski jacket

  • blanket scarf

  • beanie

  • 1 pair of jeans

  • 1 Sweater

  • some type of snow boot (either Uggs with traction or Sorel boots)

  • DSLR 18-135mm lens

  • hand warmers/toe warmers

  • chapstick

 

 

Stay:

at the Sheraton for 88 dollars a night! Solid deal right downtown just a block from the Iditarod track.

 

Eat:

  • At Snow City Cafe (award winning breakfast and lunch restaurant) or

  • The Red Chair Cafe (closest to the Sheraton)

  • 49th State Brewing Company is perfect for an afternoon brew and some quality food. The second floor dining area is worth the wait! Less crowded and a fantastic view of the Knik Arm (inlet). If you're there in the summer, check out the rooftop area! Rumor is you can see both the inlet and the mountains from up there!

 

Pro Tip: Make a reservation if you're grabbing breakfast somewhere before Iditarod. Most places were booked up but we arrived early enough at The Red Chair to grab a table before the rush came in. I had their lemon poppy seed pancakes and bacon. My friend had salmon-bacon eggs benedict. (Plan to spend an hour here).

 

Iditarod hacks:

  • Stand on the "burm" (piled up snow) right outside of The Red Chair restaurant for the best view. You'll see the starting line down one side and the track as it exits town down the other. (Turns are also difficult for mushers so you'll sometimes catch a little action).

  • Definitely recommend checking out more of the track after you've seen a couple mushers from the burm. 67 mushers is a lot to watch in one spot in the freezing weather (they leave in 2-minute intervals).

  • We decided to head up towards the starting line to get a few different views of the race. The announcer describes each contestant's backgrounds and aspirations before the countdown.

  • Stop by the arts and crafts show for a free Iditarod wooden nickel! The back of every nickel features a different notable Iditarod contestant (picture below).

  • Keep walking past the starting line to see the mushers preparing their dogs and suiting up for the race.

 

 

More Activities:

  • Fur Rondy! This may just be the most Alaska thing you will ever experience. Fur Rondezvous has been celebrating Alaska's pioneering spirit since 1935. You'll find so many weird but fun activities between February 23 and March 5. My favorite (the one that happens on the afternoon of Iditarod) is the Running of the Reindeer (Yup, just like Running of the Bulls but Alaska style). Pay $30, dress up in your craziest gear (One guy was literally in a thong in -5 degrees. They made him do a snow angel. Don't be that guy), and race the reindeer down W 4th Ave. You don't want to miss it!

  • Walk down to the waterfront park and out on the marsh! (Photo below)

  • Check out the ice sculptures and stop by the carnival for games, treats, and a fur auction!

Nightlife:

  • Start at Flattop's Pizza and Pool. Two pool tables, a wall of windows and bar seats, and a chill atmosphere to get the night started.

  • Then head across the street to Williwaw for live music and dancing. There's also a rooftop bar!

  • My favorite spot of the night: Blue's Central. No reservations and a secret entrance can make it a little challenging to get in but here's what to do:

    • Find the phone booth on the far north corner of Williwaw's. If the blue light is on, Blue's Central is open.

    • Pick up the phone and tell them how many are in your party. Rumor is they have a camera so smile!

    • The space holds only about 50 people. If there's room, they'll call you back with a password and send you upstairs.

    • Once upstairs, approach the door with the sliding speakeasy grill and say the password. And that's it!

    • You'll find yourself back in time in a vintage-styled speakeasy with no windows, and sliding walls of liquor. Really feeling bold? Try their absinthe cocktails!

  • Head over to Pioneer Bar for a DJ, dancing, and the younger Anchorage crowd.

  • Want a free midnight snack? End the night at F Street Station where you'll find a huge block of Tillamook cheese. It says "display only," but the locals know its up for grabs. So it's kind gross... but hey, it's a bucket list item right?

If there was one thing that stuck with me from this short trip, it's that everyone is so incredibly nice. So meet some people and ask them about their day. You won't regret it.

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