Seward (Anchorage), AK
It is hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Seward exists. Surrounded on all sides by Kenai Fjords National Park, Chugach National Forest, and Resurrection Bay, Seward offers all the quaint realities of a small railroad town with the bonus of jaw-dropping scenery. This little town of fewer than 3,000 citizens was founded in 1903, when survey crews arrived at the ice-free port and began planning a railroad to the Interior. Since its inception, Seward has relied heavily on tourism and commercial fishing. It is also the launching point for excursions into Kenai Fjords National Park, where it is quite common to see marine life and calving glaciers.Dining Chinooks Bar On the waterfront in the small-boat harbor, this year-round restaurant offers a dazzling selection of fresh seafood dishes, beers on tap, a great wine selection, and a stunning view from the upstairs window seats. The award winning chef serves only Alaskan sustainable seafood. Be sure to try the smoked scallop mac and cheese. Railway Cantina This little hole-in-the-wall in the harbor area is a local favorite. A wide selection of burritos, quesadillas, and great halibut and rockfish tacos incorporates local seafood and is supplemented by an array of hot sauces, many contributed by customers who brought them from their travels. Shopping Ranting Raven The Ranting Raven is a combination gift shop, bakery, and lunch spot, adorned with raven murals on the side of the building. You can indulge in fresh-baked goods, espresso drinks, and daily lunch specials such as quiche, focaccia, and homemade soups while perusing the packed shelves of local artwork, native crafts, and jewelry. Resurrect Art Coffeehouse Resurrect Art Coffeehouse is a darling coffeehouse and gallery-gift shop. It is housed in a 1932 church, and the ambience and views from the old choir loft are reason enough to stop by. Local art is showcased, and it's a good place to find Alaskan gifts that aren't mass-produced. Sights Exit Glacier A short walk from the parking lot along a paved path will bring you face to face with Exit Glacier, just outside Seward. Look for the marked turnoff at Mile 3.7 as you enter town or ask locals for directions. There's a small walk-in campground here, a ranger station, and access to the glacier. Exit Glacier is the most accessible part of the Harding Icefield. This mass of ice caps the Kenai Mountains, covering more than 1,100 square mi, and it oozes more than 40 glaciers from its edges and down the mountainsides. Reach it from Mile 3.7. The hike to the ice field from the parking lot is a 9-mi round-trip that gains 3,000 feet in elevation, so it's not for the timid or out of shape. But if you're feeling up to the task, the hike and views are breathtaking. Local wildlife includes mountain goats and bears both black and brown, so keep a sharp eye out for them. Once you reach the ice, don't travel across it unless you have the gear and experience with glacier travel. Glacier ice is notoriously deceptive—the surface can look solid and unbroken, while underneath a thin crust of snow crevasses lie in wait for the unwary. Seward Museum The Seward Museum displays photographs of the quake's damage, model rooms and artifacts from the early pioneers, and historical and current information on the Seward area. Iditarod Trail The first mile of the historic original Iditarod Trail runs along the beach and makes for a nice, easy stroll. There is also a great walking tour designed by the city—maps are available at the visitor bureau, the converted railcar at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Jefferson Street, or the Seward Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center at Mile 2 on the Seward Highway. Alaska SeaLife Center Spend an afternoon at the Alaska SeaLife Center, with massive cold-water tanks and outdoor viewing decks as well as interactive displays of cold-water fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, including harbor seals and a 2,000-pound sea lion. A research center as well as visitor center, it also rehabilitates injured marine wildlife and provides educational experiences for the general public. Appropriately, the center was partially funded with reparations money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Films, hands-on activities, a gift shop, and behind-the-scenes tours ($12 and up) complete the offerings.