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Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Posted by ReganJonesRD
July 20, 2015
Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Traveling to {nearly} the top of the world can be a top of the list vacation, but it requires a little Alaska travel-savvy know-how. I navigate what to eat, see and do in Alaska with kids (without going on cruise) in this 3-part series. 

~by Regan Jones, RD

Okay, so all good things must come to an end — including vacations and wrap-up posts about vacations. So let’s do this. 

(If you haven’t read my first two recap posts, start HERE and then HERE). 

Day 5 - visit Homer, Alaska 

As I’ve said over and over, there was a lot of driving on this trip. It’s Alaska. Big. Freakin’. State… and I wanted to cover as much ground as possible. Our last few days were no different, starting with our trip to Homer. 

Homer is at the southernmost tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

(credit: kenaipeninsulabba.com)

 

(Seldovia is actually further south, but you can’t get there by road.) We skipped Homer last time in favor of a trip up to Fairbanks so that we could drive back down the Richardson Highway and see the pipeline (another fascinating part of Alaska that far too many of us gas-guzzlers in the lower 48 really understand. But that’s a post for a different blog and a different day.) 

As with the trips I detailed in my last 2 posts, the drive is part of the experience. Driving down to Homer offers a near continuous and approaching view of two of Alaska's (many) volcanoes - Mt Redoubt and Mt Iliamna. 

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Once you arrive in Homer, you find that it is situated on a “spit” — a small peninsula like landmass that’s barely wide enough for a road and some retail. We didn’t do much pedestrian “touristing”. Instead, we mostly spent our time eating at a locally bakery recommended to us in my Fodor’s travel guide. 

Sidenote about Fodor’s — For someone who makes her living online, I surprisingly didn't rely on many website recommendations. On both trips to Alaska I’ve followed Fodor's Kindle guide. And I have to say… it was spot-on. If you find yourself contemplating a journey up to Alaska (or anywhere for that matter), I would recommend getting one of their guides. I’m usually a “wing it” kind of traveler. But in places like Alaska where familiar retail can be sparse, dining isn’t fancy and even the best of accommodations can look a little questionable, it’s really nice to go into a town knowing where the best stops are. 

Eating in Homer — We ate lunch at Two Sisters Bakery.

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

It’s a quaint little bakery situated in what looks to be an old seaside house (well, technically I guess it’s a block away from the sea and the sea is really Cook Inlet, but you get the point.) Unlike The Moose Is Loose (see Recap Part 2), the staff was super friendly and helpful.

While Two Sisters was equally as busy as the Moose, in contrast, they had a friendly staff to help you through the process (Two Sister #FTW). In fact, the gal who waited on us, told me to go ahead, find a seat, eat and I could pay later (Two Sisters is set up where typically you get your food and pay before eating). But because I had children and was trying to figure out where to sit, what they wanted, and all the kerfuffling that goes on with eating with kids, she knew I’d be better off just coming back when the line wasn’t so long. 

Note to restaurants — Offer that kind of service to your patrons and they will love you forever. In fact, I’m declaring here on the Healthy Aperture Blog: If you ever go to Homer, Alaska I won’t be your friend if you don’t eat at Two Sisters. 

  • Pros: Great food. Eclectic menu, especially for a bakery. We tried their Ham/Cheese Pastry (very similar to a stuffed croissant), Veggie Pesto Pastry and a Turkey Panini, which had a yummy sweet potato and red cabbage filling on it. So interesting. I also had a bowl of their Thai Rockfish Soup, which was unbelievably good. (Think of a hearty Spanish fish stew, only this was Thai flavored and made with coconut milk) And for dessert, chocolate chip brownies and Gluten Free Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble. All of that topped off by a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade… we were happy and stuffed after leaving. 
  • Cons: It’s a small place, so if you had a big group, it might be tough. But they have seating outside and the beach is just a few yards away. Don’t let the worry of cramped quarters prevent you from going. 

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook SalmonFinal Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

After we wrapped up lunch, we headed out to the beach for more driftwood play and walking. 

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Sidenote — Is Alaska for you and your children? 

Multiple days of walking on various Alaskan coastlines and watching kids play sword fights on driftwood, or hanging out by a lake and feeding ducks may sound like a boring vacation. If it does, then our approach to Alaska may not be for you. But I take my kids almost every year to the circus that is the Orlando-based theme park world. And while I can appreciate the Disney approach to vacationing, I always find those trips to be stressful. Having time away from wifi, cell phone coverage 24/7 and flashing screens and crowds really felt good. This trip felt good not just to me, but my boys as well.

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

These little guys got along better than they do at home, played more with less and in general, were just more enjoyable to be around. Something to consider, you know? 

Anyway, we just kicked it around Homer for a little while, visited their Coastal Visitor Center (this is an “okay” stop, but not super exciting for kids) and then headed back to the cabin in Soldotna. 

Day 6 and 7 - Anchorage 

We spent our last two days going up to Anchorage doing very typical kid-tourist destinations. I would recommend both if you’re in Anchorage and traveling with kids. 

Anchorage Museum - don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t all just artifacts and low talkers. The downstairs is mostly a children’s imaginarium and my boys LOVED it. While not a full scale children’s science center, there was a sizable selection of really fun “experiments” (like a Tsunami model/simulator and a full-body bubble encasement. There was also a build-your-own Lego car section, which scored top marks with my oldest son. 

 Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Alaska Zoo - we had hoped to visit the wildlife center in Girdwood (Girdwood is south of Anchorage and would’ve been a shorter drive from Soldotna, but the weather wasn’t cooperating to go there). We opted to drive all the way into Anchorage for the zoo and weren’t disappointed. It’s not a big and flashy zoo. It’s pretty humble, but I actually commented while there that the animals looked healthier than many of the zoos I’m used to seeing down south (I suspect it has to do with sub-arcitic animals not being forced to live in a tropical type climate like they are down here.) 

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Where to Eat in/around Anchorage — Anchorage isn’t short on restaurant recommendations, relatively speaking (and compared to the rest of the state). But we ate at Muse at the Museum and it was great. I had the salmon sandwich that was of course, super fresh tasting. It was topped with a fennel slaw that was surprisingly tasty (I’m not always a fennel fan but this was really good.) They had homemade shoestring fries, also yummy. Dad opted for a pot pie and salad, both of which he said were wonderful. Similar to what we’d experienced at Chinook’s the kids items were adult size and very well prepared. 

  • Pros: Good food. Convenient to the Museum. 
  • Cons: Doesn’t have that “Alaska” feel, but after a week of traveling around the state, I certainly didn’t feel cheated by the experience. 

With now 3 full posts worth of recaps under my belt, I guess it's time to wrap up this play-by-play. What I've detailed certainly is not everything we saw or ate, but it does cover most of the highlights. And if you’re reading this post contemplating making this trip with your family, I hope it adds some perspective about not only what makes an Alaskan vacation different, but also makes it special. 

Here are a few closing thoughts to keep in mind if you do decide to make the journey north: 

  • Before you go, get out a globe (not a map) and actually look at where Alaska is. If you think it’s just a little north of Seattle, you’re in for a surprise. While there are some very low island areas somewhat near Washington (the sites the cruising crowd typically sees), the mass of Alaska is darn near to the North Pole. I kid you not. Get your mind right before you go. It helps put the journey into perspective. 

 

  • Get excited about moose and dall sheep. It’s like a past-time in Alaska to spot them...and spot them you will. They’re both unique beasts, and spotting a Moose out in the flats by the river (or in the neighborhood you’re staying in like we did) or a dall sheep on the side of a cliff is memorable. 

 

  • If you’ve never been on a glacier cruise, plan on it. But do dress warmly and be prepared for a long outing with your kids. We didn’t do one on this trip, but did before. It was wonderful, but after 2 hours or so, kids begin to tire of looking at glaciers. Keep that in mind. 

 

  • Consider a camper. What you may not realize about Alaska is that camping is sort of the norm. I’d say more people are doing the camper/RV thing than staying in lodges, etc. This isn’t Lake Tahoe or Vail. It’s Alaska. Adjust your lodging expectations accordingly. The state and people are set up to accomodate RV-goers. 

 

  • Plan to disconnect. As much as you may think you can sneak in a little work here and there, you’ll be amazed at the lack of cell phone coverage and wifi. Just plan to take this time off the grid. If you’re lucky, nothing will happen like your website crashing or anything. (True story...I wasn’t so lucky.) 

 

Thanks for reading and revisting this unique vacation. I'll leave you with a "recipe revisit" that's as unique & surprising as Alaska itself. It's my Simple Microwave Salmon Recipe -- and I promise, if you use quality fresh salmon and follow these simple directions, you'll question why you ever cooked fish any other way. Enjoy!

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

Final Recap of My Travel to Alaska (Part 3) + The Easiest Way To Cook Salmon

ReganJonesRD

ReganJonesRD
Regan Jones is the Founding Editor and Sponsorship Director of HealthyAperture and is the author of the QUICK FIX KITCHEN Feature - a collection of recipes that focuses on shortcut cooking without shortcut taste. Her recipes largely focus on baked goods and desserts ranging from gluten free to sugar free to slightly indulgent eats for the entire family, but also include easy everyday recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Jones is a registered dietitian and owner the web's most prominent portfolio of dietitian-owned websites, including HealthyAperture.com, TheRecipeReDux.com, BlogBrulee.com and RDs4Disclosure.org.
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