Planning your summer staycation? Lodging and tour deals abound for Alaskans
I was on the phone earlier with Ryan Aguire of McKinley Creekside Cabins, near the entrance to Denali National Park and Preserve, at Mile 224 on the George Parks Highway. Like many hotels and attractions around the state, McKinley Creekside Cabins is offering both an early-season special (50% off stays of two nights or more through June 30) and an Alaska resident special (30% off for July, August and September). McKinley Creekside Cabins offers a variety of accommodations, from a traditional double room to a house that sleeps 10 people. Rates start at $149 per night in June. Aguire is the food and beverage manager, and he encourages folks to stop in on the weekend for brunch. “We do a great Eggs Benedict,” he said. “But our signature dish is our Mooster Burger. And this year is shaping up to be a cheeseburger summer.”
Although Denali National Park is open, plans still are being finalized for bus access and tours. Many other Alaska landmarks are opening late. For example, the Alaska Railroad won’t start passenger service until July 1.
If you would rather fly into the park and land on a glacier, Talkeetna Air Taxi is offering a 20% discount for Alaska residents. The “Southside Explorer” air tour offers travelers a bird’s-eye view of the Great One. Cost is $320 per person ($256 with the discount).
Rather than staying at a hotel during their Alaska vacation, some folks want to camp or rent a camper or RV. Britta Perry and her partners operate Get Lost Travel Vans. The vans are all converted Dodge Caravans, so it’s easier to find a parking place compared with the larger-profile “land yacht” RVs. But the setup features a rooftop full-size bed, a kitchen that’s accessible from the pop-up back of the van, as well as another bed behind the front seat. Early-summer rates through June 30 start at $209 per day, but there’s an Alaska resident special of $49 off per day. There’s a two-night minimum.
Are your camping days over? Stay at one of Aspen Hotels’ six properties around the state: Sitka, Haines, Juneau, Kenai, Soldotna or here in Anchorage. Aspen is offering a $99 Alaska resident rate. It pays to check for other specials, though. Sometimes the price at a particular hotel can dip below that.
Do you know where the Knik River is between Chugiak and Palmer? You drive right over it on the Glenn Highway bridge as it empties into Cook Inlet. Turn up the valley and take Knik River Road until it ends. There, you’ll find the Knik River Lodge, with a bunch of neat cabins in a row looking out over the valley. The manager, Lars Larson, is offering a $99 per night rate between now and June 15 ($129 per night between June 15 and 30). There’s a restaurant in the main building where you can watch helicopters land and take off for the nearby Knik Glacier. Alpha Air is offering a 30% discount on the “Grand Knik Tour,” which includes a glacier landing. That works out to $399 per person.
Nancy Deel of the Alaska Sealife Center sent out a notice that the center has reopened, just in time for summer. Don’t miss the chance to see the birds, sea mammals, fish and all the ocean critters!
To see these critters in their natural habitat, take a wildlife and glacier cruise. Major Marine Tours is offering a 30% discount to Alaska residents through June 30. Choose from three available cruises, including the popular National Park Cruise for $118 per person. Add an overnight at the Harbor 360 Hotel for $59 per person, double occupancy. Of course, in addition to seeing puffins, otters, the occasional whale and porpoises, you’ll sail pretty close to huge glaciers.
Sail with Kenai Fjords Tours and take along two kids (age 2-11) for free on the National Park Cruise. The sailings start on June 11, but you have to book it in May to get the kids-sail-free offer.
There are plenty of ways to get out on the water in Seward. About 9 miles from the harbor is Orca Island. Owners Dennis and Susan Swiderski constructed eight yurts that sit on the rocks overlooking Resurrection Bay. The interiors are comfy and there are great views from several decks scattered around the little island. Boardwalks connect the yurts, and there’s a bridge to another island. The rates start at $345 per person, per night (two night minimum). That includes your water taxi from the harbor, use of kayaks, skiffs, wet suits, fishing gear and other extras. Each yurt has a full kitchen, so guests bring their own food.
Orca Island offers a 10% discount for Alaska residents. But there’s also a “private island” option where you can reserve all eight yurts for $500 per night. This is an early-season special, but it’s perfect for a big group or family that wants an exclusive getaway.
For guided kayak adventures, check out Liquid Adventures in Seward. The company offers a kayak trip to Northwestern Glacier or Holgate Arm for $419 per person. Local Alaska residents pay $299 for trips in May. The trip includes a private water taxi out to the glacier, for a more exclusive experience.
This is going to be a great summer for Alaskans who get out and explore the state. These are just a few of the available specials — be sure to ask if your tour company or hotel has a special for Alaska residents.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage- based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram. com/about.