Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alaska Travel News: Sept 09

Alaska's produce more than just for show

Alaska's state fairs are a chance to showcase the state's pride and joy: giant world-record-breaking produce such as a 105.6-pound cabbage, a 64.8-pound cantaloupe, a 18.9-pound carrot and a 39.2-pound turnip. In the past few years however, the swelling ranks of local farmer's markets are proving Alaska's produce is more than just for show. According to the Alaska Division of Agriculture, the number of farmers' markets in Alaska has flourished from 16 to 27 in the last two summers. Anchorage has seven markets of its own, a significant increase from just two a few years ago. The largest, the Anchorage Downtown Market and Festival, attracts tens of thousands of travelers and locals each weekend. It offers free and lively entertainment, great food, Alaska souvenirs and of course, fresh produce. The oldest market in the state is the Tanana Valley Farmers Market in Fairbanks, which opened in the 1970s. Sitka and Juneau recently saw markets open in the past few years, as did smaller towns such as Haines, Willow and Dillingham. For more information, visit www.alaskagrown.org.

New fast ferry service in Kachemak Bay

Visitors to Alaska's Kenai Peninsula can expect a quicker commute across Kachemak Bay between Homer and Seldovia next summer with the addition of an 83-foot fast ferry run by the Seldovia Village Tribe. The two-deck, 150-passenger catamaran, the Kachemak Voyager, is scheduled to make two daily runs between Homer and Seldovia from May to September 2010. Seldovia is one of the oldest settlements along Cook Inlet, once an important shipping and supply center for the region. Today, the town is home to roughly 300 residents and is a charming and picturesque destination known for its scenic hiking trails, beachcombing, fishing and berry picking. Culture and history are evident in Seldovia, illustrated by interpretive signs placed about town. The Alaska Tribal Cache features an interesting collection of Alaska Native and Russian artifacts and an ancient Russian Orthodox Church overlooks town. Currently, access to the town is available through the Alaska ferry system, water taxi, charter or boat tours or scheduled air service from Homer. For more information on visiting Homer and Seldovia, visit www.homeralaska.org or www.seldovia.com.

Ride with Alaska's most experienced designated driver

Take a scenic journey aboard the Alaska Railroad for Oktoberfest Alaska style. The annual Great Alaska Beer Train takes travelers on a 4.5-hour roundtrip journey along scenic Turnagain Arm between Anchorage and Portage. Onboard, passengers of legal age can enjoy some of Alaska's finest microbrews and food by Anchorage's own Glacier BrewHouse. The 2009 Great Alaska Beer Train occurs Oct. 3. Tickets include roundtrip rail, appetizers and six, half pints of BrewHouse Beer. The beer train is just one of the special event trains the Alaska Railroad offers. The Blues Train invites travelers to take in the sweet sounds of the blues along the ride to Seward each fall, a holiday and Easter train offer festive family fun for the holidays and new in 2009, a Halloween Train invites guests on a mysterious and "spooktacular" ride to Spencer Glacier and on to Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. Tickets on the Halloween Train include the scenic rail tour with appetizers along the way and an overnight at Alyeska Resort including dinner and a live band. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.alaskarailroad.com.

Jumpstart 2010 travel deals with Cruise West

Alaska was a destination of great deals in 2009. Huge discounts on tour packages, free hotel nights, free transportation options, two-for-one rates on activities and special 50th anniversary specials are just some of the ways travelers saved big on an Alaska vacation this year. Those who may have missed out can get a jumpstart on savings for 2010 with Cruise West. Travelers can save $500 by booking and paying in full by Nov. 20, 2009 on the seven-night Alaska's Inside Passage and 10-night Gold Rush Inside Passage cruises. Or they can save up to $300 by booking and paying in full by Nov. 20, 2009 on the four-night Glacier Bay Highlights and Glaciers of Prince William Sound cruises. Cruise West delivers an intimate Alaska experience with four itineraries ranging from four-night getaways in Glacier Bay or Prince William Sound to a revised classic seven-night Inside Passage trip, a 10-night Gold Rush Inside Passage cruise and more. Using small ships carrying just 78 to 138 guests, the vessels take travelers to areas of Alaska that larger ships can't — up narrow channels and into secluded waterways, allowing for more specialized viewing of wildlife. For more information, visit www.cruisewest.com/alaska-cruises.

Kenai hosts statehood art exhibit

The Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center is currently hosting its annual contemporary art invitational. This year's theme, "Reflections on Alaska Statehood: the 49th at 50" features a range of subjects that the 54 participating artists used to address Alaska's 50 years as a state. The theme brought a diversity of artwork, including paintings, photographs, two- and three-dimensional work, landscape pieces and political pieces. The exhibit will remain on display through Dec. 31 at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in Kenai. For more information, visit www.visitkenai.com.

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