Anchored down in Anchorage . . . What to do?
March 12, 2010 7:04 AM   Subscribe

Anchorage, next week. What's going on? What should I check out? Where can I take some lively kids? Take a family to dinner? Hide with my laptop?

I need to spend most or all of next week in Anchorage, Alaska. I've never been anywhere in town but the airport hotel (I've spent a lot of time on the North Slope, however). I'll be busy with a complicated and somewhat stressful multi-family medical situation (not to put too fine a point on it), but in between things I'd like to take in some of the city. I'll have a car, at most a 3 or 4 hour window, so long drives out of town, alas, are out. But I'm interested in the city's culture, especially its Native culture and working-class communities. Offbeat is fine -- a lively blue collar bar with music would be awesome. Or a crazy artisan's shop. High school sports events. Native art galleries. Like that. Little unsung gems off the tourist beat.

That's for me. But . . .

Here's another twist: there may be (day)times when I will have little kids with me (babysitting), in the age range of 3-9 or so, and in search of something to do with them that isn't a movie and that will be light and cheerful fun -- a kids' museum, even a kid-friendly mall, something indoors, safe, and non-constraining for kids who might need some cheering up. Something outdoors (but not too rugged, since toddlers could be involved) would probably work too.

Places to take large families to dinner that are inexpensive, casual, and not Denny's would be awesome too.

Non-chain places to take one or two adults for coffee and quiet talk, or where I could sit and work on the laptop (ie, some sort of wireless access, paid is fine, Starbucks is the provider of last resort) would round out the list. I'm staying near the airport (nasty, I know, driving is no issue). But a near-ish place with wireless to work away from my hotel room would rock.

Thanks so much!
posted by fourcheesemac to Travel & Transportation around Anchorage, AK (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just got back from there! There is a Star Wars exhibit at the Anchorage Museum that is supposed to be kid-awesome. Go to all the varied visitor's centers to get an idea of what else might be terrific for kids. The centers themselves are pretty great and fun-filled.

I was mostly staying at the Captain Cook Hotel [open wifi and a lot of comfy places to sit] which I liked and didn't get out much. There's a teriyaki/sushi place across the street from it that is tasty, not too spendy and you could take kids easily. 4th Avenue is the really touristy part of downtown and the Snow City Cafe is a hipster but also family-friendly place to get a great meal. I also ate at the Spenard Roadhouse [in the Spenard neighborhood] which is a similar place with tasty food and also kid friendly [with beer!]. If you're in the downtown area there's a nice little coffee place called Kobuk. Looks fruity from the outside but has a nice place to sit and chill in the back, not a lot of seats but decent wifi and tasty donuts.

The public library is sort of far from everything [though bussable and driveable] and has a really nice kids area, good wifi, a small coffee shop and is right across the street pretty much from a big movie theater and more mall-type areas so might be worth checking out. I also went to the Ulu factory which is no big deal and mostly a knife store, but it's down near the water and there is some neat stuff to check out there.

Can't speak too much to the music aspect, but the downtown area seemed to have a lot of places playing interesting live music when I was down there, but that was Iditarod time, so ymmv.
posted by jessamyn at 9:15 AM on March 12, 2010

The Middle Way cafe is a great cafe with food and coffee/tea and wireless, not too far from the airport. There's Irish music and dancing on Tuesday nights that is very kid-friendly. More awesomeness can be found at the Moose's Tooth (also in mid-town, great for pizza and beer). It's usually very busy, especially at night, but it's worth the 15 min. wait and they're very efficient.
posted by stinker at 12:16 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: The Imaginarium is cool, but unfortunately closed for another month or two. BUT- my 6th grade students just all loved the Star Wars exhibit at the museum, so seconding that.

Downtown is not that far from the airport. I also like Side Street Espresso (downtown) or any number of the Kaladi Brothers (the closest one to the airport is probably the one next to the awesome Title Wave Used Books).

There's an indoor water park in south Anchorage called H2Oasis (warning: obnoxious auto-play music)- spendy, but kids love it. The West High municipal pool has a cool water slide, though, and is a lot cheaper.

Sledding is really fun and we have good snow right now. For a very toddler-friendly hill, you can go to Balto Seppala Park in Turnagain, for a more fun one try out the back of the Kincaid Park Chalet. If you don't have access to sleds, garbage bags or cardboard boxes work in a pinch.

I also love ice skating and see a lot of kids having a great time doing it. The City does a great job of maintaining a huge rink at of Westchester Lagoon (near downtown)- skates can be rented at Play it Again Sports on Spenard. I believe there's also one at Goose Lake.

Again, assuming the kids are at least a little hardy- the Coastal Trail is nice for a walk, and there are parks throughout. Lynn Ary in the Turnagain area is nice, and has some toddler equipment. Every school's playground equipment will be available (although not during school hours), too- there's Turnagain Elementary right on Northern Lights Blvd. near you, or Lake Hood Elementary just off Wisconsin. Most also have small sledding hills. If the kids haven't done it, it's also fun to take a walk around Lake Hood/Lake Spenard (as far as they can stand- the loop is long) and look at the planes.

The best displays of Native art in town, seriously, are probably the displays located throughout the Native Hospital, although it's awkward to look at them. There's also a lot in the gift store there. Most people who know seem to think it is the best, least ripoff-y place for Native artists to sell their stuff- people come in from tiny tiny villages and drop off their stuff to sell on consignment.

I'll try and thing of some other ideas/ next-week specific stuff after my lunch date- but feel free to MeMail me with any specific questions.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:21 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: The kids might like the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage. I know some people don't like zoos, but their focus is on orphaned, injured and endangered Northern animals and I think they do it pretty well.
posted by IanMorr at 12:40 PM on March 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Charmedimsure, I did in fact email you, thanks!

For what it's worth, the kids are Native, and I maybe should have mentioned that. They live with real endangered Northern animals most of the time (and hunt and eat the non-endangered ones). So Star Wars is probably just the thing, the zoo not so much. (Although the zoo for dinner sounds like a possible plan. They have any Caribou?).
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:18 PM on March 12, 2010

Best answer: Middle Way is great and, indeed, kid friendly (in the same complex w/ the bookstore I mentioned above). I also forgot the Beartooth in Spenard; the movies are $3 and available with beer if you get really tired of kids, but more importantly they have a cheap pub-style restaurant. Also, the Roadhouse (which Jessamyn mentioned) has a "Happy Hour" from 3-5 on weekdays with 1/2 price appetizers if you ever need just a cheap snack in the late afternoon.

Another good quiet place for adult talk is Sugarspoon (Spenard)- great desserts, decent coffee- fairly sure they have wireless, but you might call to check.

Places that often have live music and/or open mics: Blues Central (Spenard) , Humpy's (downtown, usually packed), Organic Oasis (Spenard), Tap Root (way on the south side of town), Chilkoot Charlie's (Spenard, super seedy and sketchy and a total hook-up scene, but some people like it, I guess?). I'd pick up an Anchorage Press (available at most coffee shops, artsy places etc.) and look at the list there. This is also not a bad place to look for Anchorage events.

Darwin's is my favorite dive bar downtown. Free popcorn! But very, very divey.

I am sure that there's local sports stuff going on at the high schools, but wouldn't know in advance of it being printed in the Anchorage Daily News. There's a daily list in the sports section, though. Looks like our local semi-pro hockey team is out of town while you'll be here, which is a shame, but you could hit the state basketball championship. It's the big-schools tournament, which is not quite as awesome as the small-schools one, but could still be fun.

One or two other things from the calendar in the newspaper:

On Tuesday 3/16 there's a filmmaker and musher- Rod Perry- lecturing about the history of the Iditarod at the main library at 7, for free. And an Irish music jam at McGinley's downtown.

3/17- Free film about the Matanuska Colony at the Anchorage Museum, 7 PM
And Irish music and probably general mayhem at McGinley's downtown- music starts at 5.
posted by charmedimsure at 4:39 PM on March 12, 2010

Response by poster: Just checking back in, after an evening at the State Basketball Championships -- awesome. Everyone from the North Slope was there, or so it seemed, cheering on their kids. Go Barrow Whalers! And the Lady Whalers won this morning too.

Turns out I was wrong about one thing. The kids totally dug the zoo. Go figure. That will teach me to stereotype. I mean, they live in intimate proximity with wild animals, but I think seeing them caged up was the novelty (plus they had a blast howling at the wolves, who howled back).

We hit Star Wars tomorrow. Thanks everyone for great suggestions. Anchorage is cool.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:09 AM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: For people who check into this thread in the future, looking for things to do with kids -- the otherwise generic Dimond Mall has an ice skating rink and a bowling alley, both inexpensive and fun and very kid friendly.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:16 AM on March 17, 2010

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