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Among its coastal counterparts, Ketchikan, Alaska, is a superb standalone representation of an Alaska that clients won’t find anywhere else.
“Our culture is life in a true rainforest community,” said Patti Mackey, president and CEO of the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau. “Even in the city, visitors are surrounded by rainforest. And in the city center, you are still in the rainforest, because the residents here live a rainforest lifestyle that permeates every aspect of their lives.”
Most visitors to Ketchikan come from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Mackey says, as the destination is only a two-hour flight from Seattle via Alaska Airlines.
“The life, the culture and the ambiance here is far different than elsewhere, from the clothing we wear to having more totem poles — 80-plus — than any other place in the world,” she said.
Here, clients shouldn’t expect to stay dry, according to Anita Maxwell, director of Ketchikan Museums.
“Rain in Ketchikan is celebrated rather than reviled,” she said. “Our history is based on adapting to the rain, which accumulates to 12 feet per year.”
Ketchikan’s Tongass Historical Museum recently celebrated the grand opening of its permanent exhibit, “Ketchikan Is …” — which celebrates all of Ketchikan, including its rainfall. It’s one of the best Alaska exhibits I’ve seen, and it’s on par with anything the state museum offers. There’s Alaska native lore; a life-size replica of “Old Groaner,” a 10-foot bear that haunted prospecting camps in the 1930s; and rainforest facts and trivia that kept me mesmerized with friendly, informative displays and turn-of-the-century photos.
Although Ketchikan serves as a stopover on many Alaska cruises, clients can benefit by venturing away from Front Street. Driving up the mountainside on 3rd Avenue to the Ketchikan Public Library is worth the price of a rental car. Coffee aficionados can visit The Green Coffee Bean Company for owner Steven Krontz’s $1 coffee, a brew that is on par with big-name national coffeehouses. The roasting house — surrounded by huge rainforest timber — offers savory, rich blends with quirky Alaska roast names.
And at New York Cafe, the spectacular Arugula and Eggs plate is a must-have breakfast that had me adding it to my personal menu.
As far as excursions go, the Bering Sea Crab Fisherman’s Tour is perhaps one of the top attractions in Ketchikan for superb photographs of flying bald eagles. Guests delight in the crew’s tales of life on the high seas and closely examine crabs and other marine life that the staff pulls up from the ocean bottom each day.
A mark of a popular tour is its longevity, and I was pleased to see Fred Drake, who runs Snorkel Alaska, still offering what I feel is one of the best day tours in Ketchikan. On his free-swim snorkeling excursion, guests can take in the outstanding aqua life beneath the surface of the calm marine waters.
Accommodations include My Place, the city’s newest extended-stay property. On the bed-and-breakfast scene, Ravens View vacation rentals is about 16 miles north of town, and The Inn at Creek Street offers a variety of historical properties with quaint names. Ketchikan remote wilderness lodges and camps are also plentiful. Popular properties include Clover Pass Resort, Cedars Lodge and Silverking Lodge.
It is easy to see why Ketchikan’s rainy days are indeed cause for celebration, and why savvy clients opt for an extended stay to see a rainforest culture at its best. (Just remind them to pack their rain gear.)
The DetailsVisit Ketchikanwww.visit-ketchikan.com