Ketchikan, Alaska might be the official name of this remote island city accessible only by sea or plane, but it has attracted a whole collection of others. These include “the First City” (a reference to the community’s proximity to Canada), “the Eagle Capital of America,”’ and “the Salmon Capital of the World.” This latter is perhaps what Ketchikan is best known for – its incredible abundance of salmon. Salmon is where it all started and why the native Tlingit people raised seasonal fish camps around the town’s Ketchikan Creek for as long as history recalls. This same reason brought in the early pioneers too, who would eventually establish canning and salting industries here with logging and fishing providing the other main foundations for the local economy.
While other Alaskan destinations might offer greater glaciers or higher mountains, Ketchikan’s major drawcard is its abundance of native culture which effortlessly brings all visitors into easy proximity of this colorful and fascinating aspect. Of all the area’s attractions in this category, none is as prominent as its totem poles. Ketchikan is home to more standing totem poles than anywhere else in the world. As well as being dotted around town they are also found in magnificent collections in a handful of totem parks.
With a location which sits within the waterfall- and wildlife-rich Tongass National Forest, the vast Alaskan wilderness is always present, making Ketchikan the gateway to a wealth of incredible outdoor experiences. These range from bear watching to kayaking to secret beaches and ocean fishing to traversing rope walkways above the rainforest canopy. While Ketchikan has no shortage of breathtaking landscapes most would agree the brightest jewel in its crown of natural wonders is the dramatic sea-fjord sculpted Misty Fjords National Monument.
Ketchikan is also something of a destination for art lovers. A wealth of galleries, shops, and museums around town display works both ancient and modern. At times it appears that almost every one of Ketchikan’s 8,000 or so residents is something of an artist or crafts-person and the pool of talent is mind-blowing. Native arts are also very much alive here – you can take home your very own traditional woven basket, hand-crafted jewelry piece carved mask or painting as a souvenir or watch a master carver at work on a totem pole.
Whether you are looking to feast on some of the best seafood offered anywhere in the world, explore the native culture and pioneering history or head out into the great outdoors, Ketchikan has it all. The town has an unmistakable charm, and most of its significant highlights are all found within an easy walking distance of each other, making it a visitor’s delight. However, despite its compact size, there is so much to see and do here you will have to plan your day carefully to fit in as much as possible. The following information shows you how.
A Morning in Ketchikan
The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. To make the most of a new and exciting destination it always helps if that city offers something by way of an introduction to its history, heritage, ecology, and culture. Ketchikan, it so happens, has the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center to do just that. Should you decide to kick off your day’s adventure here, you will be able to gain precious insight into every aspect of the Ketchikan story in one place, and most fascinatingly and dramatically you could wish for. Once you have introduced yourself to the city in such a fashion the rest of your day’s explorations will have greater meaning and impact.
Serving as a quick appetizer for what awaits you here are the three authentic totems that stand sentinel in the center’s welcoming reception area. From here you will pass into a range of immersive and interactive exhibits and displays along with a plethora of native stories. Together these paint a color-filled picture of how the land, the commerce, and the people who have called this area home are all intrinsically intertwined.
You can take a stroll through a temperate rainforest, discover the area’s founding industries such as logging and fishing and how they have shaped this community or peer through a telescope to track down mountain goats living out their lives at the peak of Deer Mountain more than a mile away.
For those interested in native traditions, a highlight is the recreation of a First Nations’ fish camp as it would have been, complete with a full-size canoe, woven baskets, carved boxes, and traditional clothing.
Along with the exploration of the area’s inhabitants at work, you will also learn about Alaskan’s at play through the arts and recreational use of the beautiful surrounding natural habitat of rainforest, mountains, alpine meadows, and coast with activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, and fishing.
The center is also home to a movie theater which screens short Ketchikan-focused productions such as The Meaning of Wild,”A Fish Story, and Our Native Legacy. Besides its entertainment aspect, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center is also an excellent resource for tourist information and tips along with maps that will help you navigate and uncover the wealth of gems – both visible and less so – which Ketchikan has to offer.
Morning Coffee in Ketchikan
Being small-sized and isolated you could be forgiven for thinking that Ketchikan might not have much to offer in the way of quality coffee but you couldn’t be more wrong. There is a choice of places to head for a refreshment pause after your early morning explorations even if you are a discerning coffee drinker.
The Green Coffee Bean Company has something of a reputation for great coffee not just by Ketchikan standards but, according to some, also when measured on an international scale. Here you can find a selection of green and roasted beans sourced from around the globe but with a “fair trade” ethic in mind. Despite the quality and reputation, the Green Coffee Bean Company keeps its prices at some of the lowest to be found in town. With a choice of indoor or outdoor seating, coffee connoisseurs can also enjoy a selection of fresh baked goods to accompany their drink with cookies, scones, and cinnamon rolls just a handful of the cafe’s choices.
Another gourmet coffee option is the New York Cafe. Located inside a hotel of the same name (which is itself part of a collection of eight creek-side historic properties known as the Inn at Creek Street), this vibrant and atmospheric spot is beloved by locals as well as visitors. The New York Cafe has had plenty of time to perfect its art – it is one of Alaska’s oldest restaurants, dating from the 1920s. The cafe offers a selection of baked goods as coffee accompaniment, and if you like what you see, the restaurant also has a full lunch and dinner menu of seafood-focused American and Mediterranean cuisine along with live music; perhaps something to consider for later in the day or evening.
Photo: New York Cafe, Ketchikan, AK Instagram
Creek Street and Shopping or a Ketchikan Walk
Perhaps representing Ketchikan at its most picturesque and quaint and undeniably infused with history, the stilted boardwalk which snakes its way along Ketchikan Creek is known as Creek Street. Today its lovely old wooden buildings have become a series of atmospheric restaurants, spaces to display native artwork, and shops filled with interesting wares, gifts, and crafts.
However, the street’s former story is one of disrepute and iniquity. Creek Street sprang into being around the turn of the 20th century when the town’s authorities decided they wanted to distance the brothel establishments from the community’s center. All those businesses that catered to certain after-dark needs of the loggers, gold miners, and fishermen when they hit town relocated to the other side of the creek and enjoyed something of a roaring trade until they were finally made illegal in the 1950s.
Dolly Arthur was the town’s best-known madam and if you have ever wondered what a 1920s bordello looked like you can visit her former house, now Dolly’s House Museum, to see for yourself. Here you can gaze upon photos of Dolly and learn about life for the small-town ladies of the night, such as only being able to shop at specified times so the town’s decent womenfolk wouldn’t have to cross paths with them.
For anyone on the hunt for curious, unusual souvenirs, and gifts or just something remarkable to serve as a focal point in their home, Creek Street has plenty of possibilities. One-off stores offer everything from ages-old shipping charts to locally canned salmon and from unique jewelry pieces to carved masks; treasures both antique and modern are really not hard to unearth here. It is also easy to spot whether something is authentically Alaskan. The “Made in Alaska” symbol which depicts an intertwined bear and cub and the “Silver Hand” symbol both ensure your chosen souvenir was handcrafted or manufactured by a local individual or business with 100% Alaskan origin.
Native art is a big thing in Ketchikan, and with the town boasting around 350 artists, there are ample opportunities for taking home your very own painting, photograph, exclusive print or sculpture after browsing the galleries and shops. One of the Creek Street possibilities for native art is the Soho Coho Gallery, housed inside a former bordello house which features artwork by several Ketchikan artists. Handicrafts are also plentiful and include such treasures as bark baskets, semi-precious stone carvings, wooden masks, and glassware. Check out Alaska Eagle Arts for a collection of blankets, glass, jewelry, and home-wares or the native Tlingit-inspired sculptures and artwork of Norman G. Jackson of the Tongass Tlingit people found at Ketchikan’s Carver at the Creek.
Another Ketchikan specialty is jewelry and if you are looking for something distinctly different or truly unique you couldn’t have come to a better place. Much of the selection is of the exceptional jewelry variety featuring gold, diamonds, and other precious gems. However, no matter whether the materials used are natural treasures or otherwise, the common focus is on supplying the handmade and incorporating exquisite design, both traditional and contemporary. While some of the beautiful stores found on Creek Street are themed, others are home to an eclectic variety of wares although all of them tend to fall within the beautiful or intriguing category. Head to the Fish Creek Company to browse through an impressive collection of wares which includes fossil jewelry, totem poles, artworks, salmon-leather goods, and Ulu knives.
Finally, although at 55 feet tall it would be hard to miss, be sure to check out the Chief Johnson Totem Pole which guards the beginning of Creek Street. The totem here is actually a replica of one – now at the Totem Heritage Center – which stood in town from 1901.
When cruising with Windstar Cruises, we offer Joe Williams City Walk & Narration Ketchikan Tour. You will gain a unique understanding of Ketchikan and its Tlingit culture on this guided walking tour of Alaska’s “First City.” Your guide will be of Tlingit descent and will share personal knowledge of the many changes Ketchikan has experienced over the years. The significance of totem poles within the Native culture will be explained as you encounter them on your journey. You will walk up infamous Creek Street, the former red light district, and learn of its important economic roll in Ketchikan’s early history. See the historic “Married Man’s Trail” and hear how it received its name. Discover the amazing journey salmon must endure as they head to their spawning ground when you visit a salmon ladder. Trees, shrubbery, and flowers are plentiful along the route, and your guide will share their importance to the Tlingit’s food gathering practices. Your guide will return you to the downtown shopping area near the cruise ship pier after this easy walk of approximately nine blocks. Questions are encouraged, as your hosts want you to leave Ketchikan with a better understanding of the community and its Native culture.
Lunch in Ketchikan
With fresh local catches arriving daily and delivered to the restaurants straight from the nets, lines or pots of fishing boats, it will come as a little surprise to learn that seafood is a big thing in Ketchikan. Whether it is a simple affair of fish and chips, a comforting chowder or a gourmet crafted dish, Ketchikan has it covered. Fresh-as-it-comes halibut, shrimp, crab, clams, and oysters all feature heavily on menus in the town and then, of course, there is the salmon. There are few residents in the “Salmon Capital of the World” who couldn’t tell you multiple ways of preparing Alaskan king salmon and the restaurants here have gotten exceptionally creative for those who want to sample this local delicacy.
One choice for the seafood passionate is the long-established Annabelle’s Famous Keg and Chowder House on Front Street where the concept of comfort is extended to both the simple and hearty fare and the seafarer’s inn-type surroundings. The restaurant is housed within the characterful Gilmore Hotel which, dating from the 1920s, is the town’s oldest.
Photo: Chelsea Kyle, Instagram
The menu at this Alaskan seafood heaven is extensive, to say the least with a range of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, salads, a collection of ”comfort foods,” and of course the famous chowders. There is no arguing that the choices are definitely seafood-focused, but there are options for non-fish eaters too. If you want to keep your entire lunch experience locally sourced choose a beer from the full bar which includes a selection of Juneau’s Alaskan Brewing Company choices.
Which restaurant qualifies as being the best in town for seafood will, of course, depend on who you ask. However, a good percentage of the locals give the Main Street’s Alaska Fish House this Number 1 title. Without pretense and with no attempt to provide fancy surroundings, this worker’s favored rustic restaurant puts all its effort into the food, with a menu that offers full feasts or lighter lunch options. Enjoy a complimentary helping of smoked salmon cornbread as you deliberate over the list and choose from indoor or outdoor seating, both of which offer harbor views.
For those who prefer a lighter soup, sandwich or salad lunch and have an interest in art make your way to the Point Art Cafe which can arrange free shuttle transport if you don’t fancy the 2-mile walk. Located inside the gallery of the town’s most-noted artist – Terry Pyles – this comfortable space surrounds you with color and original art pieces while also giving you a prime vantage point from which to watch seaplanes take to the air. If you happen to arrive for lunch on a Wednesday or Friday, you will also be regaled by the Point Band who play a wonderfully eclectic mix of jazz to Grateful Dead covers and produce their music on instruments which include guitar, flute, banjo, and zither.
An Afternoon in Ketchikan
Totem poles – storytelling, spiritual, and monumental posts carved with symbolic figures – are an intrinsic part of the Ketchikan culture. These wonderful works of art are practically unavoidable in the town, gracing as they do, many public places. However, Ketchikan is not simply a place to see totems it is THE place. The town as a whole is home to the largest collection on Earth, made up of modern-day carvings and replicas but also some of the oldest surviving totems found anywhere in the world. While some of the more precious examples are hidden away in carefully controlled conditions to ensure their preservation or in the houses of private collectors, there is an abundance which can be enjoyed by everyone.
Any stroll through town will reward you with totem encounters, but if you want to see them in greater numbers, Ketchikan has a handful of totem parks or sites you can visit. Once you have finished with the totem poles, you can decide which of the town’s major natural or outdoors options you want to concentrate on to round out your afternoon.
The Totem Heritage Center
Located as it is close to Creek Street, the Totem Heritage Center on Deermont Street, Ketchikan is the most easily accessible of the town’s totem parks. Each of the 30 or so totem poles housed here – all of which tell their own unique story relating to the specific Tlingit and Haida villages from which they came – are original and unrestored. Most of the beautifully carved examples are old – dating from the 1800s – and together makeup one of the world’s largest original collections of its kind.
The carving of totems by native Alaskan people reached its peak between the mid 18th century to the latter years of the 19th century. This was the age when the riches of the fur trade created wealth and the iron tools which arrived with traders meant carving techniques could evolve too. However, diseases such as smallpox and tuberculosis also arrived with the outside world, and many native settlements eventually became abandoned as villagers moved elsewhere to form other communities. Their painstakingly carved totems were also abandoned to the elements, many falling over the years while the hardiest remained as lone sentinels in the uninhabited places.
In the 1970s, in a drive to preserve this precious 19th-century heritage, any totem left standing in any Tlingit or Haida village was brought to Ketchikan to join those recovered in earlier decades and the Totem Heritage Center became their final resting place. Each of the unrestored poles is distinctly different, some clearly showing their years of having been exposed to the often harsh Alaskan elements; something which decidedly adds to the overall air of history and story-telling presented by this wonderful collection of carved art pieces. Photos are taken from each totem’s original site also enrich their viewing. Besides the poles, the museum also houses a fine collection of native peoples’ artifacts including cedar bark baskets, masks, intricately beaded wares, clothing, and other hand-crafted items both decorative and practical. The collection of totems together with original items relevant to the time period gives an especially poignant context to the museum as a whole.
When cruising with Windstar Cruises, we offer Rainforest, Bird Sanctuary & Totems in Ketchikan. This eco-exploration will include a guided nature walk, bald eagles, a Native Totem Carver and a historic sawmill at an exclusive reserve located in the forested mountains at rustic Herring Cove. A pristine natural environment, it is home to bald eagles, black bears, seals and a variety of birds and other species attracted by the major salmon runs in the abundant marine estuary. A professional naturalist will guide you along an improved trail through the heart of the dense forest, among tall stands of hemlock, spruce, and cedar, stopping at strategically located viewing areas. At a protected, open estuary, you’ll follow Eagle Creek along an elevated wooden boardwalk overlooking grassy wetlands. Major runs of salmon return to spawn here. Listen to the symphony of bird activity in this spectacular setting. Seasonal ecosystem changes result in varying levels of wildlife activity. After a half-mile trail walk, you will have a chance to see the historic Herring Bay Lumber Company sawmill, visit birds of prey up close at the Alaska Raptor Center, and visit with a Native Master Carver crafting a totem pole before seeing his collection of previous works. Enjoy a complimentary snack and beverage while shopping for unique gifts at the General Store. Transportation to and from the sanctuary will be by motor coach.
Ketchikan’s Other Totem Pole Parks
Saxman Totem Park – Located around 3 miles south of town and reachable by free shuttle bus, the open-air Saxman Totem Park is home to 25 totems. The artworks here are all replicas rather than originals but the added bonus is the location within a living Alaskan Tlingit settlement site complete with a wooden community house and the opportunity to see a master craftsman at work on totem carving.
Totem Bight Park – Located in a beautiful setting 10 miles north of Ketchikan, Totem Bight’s 14 ocean-facing poles are also replicas of totems recovered from abandoned Haida and Tlingit sites in the 1930s. Authentic replication was achieved by using traditional stone carving tools and through the use of specially made paints which gave a closer color-match with the moss, fish egg, and shell dyes which would have been used on the originals. Like all totems, each one here tells a story, and a series of interpretive signs at the site explains these to visitors. The park – free to enter – also features a beautiful Tlingit community house replica, also faithfully carved by hand, which you can enter.
Take Your Pick – Bald Eagles, Outdoor Adventure or Exploring Ketchikan’s Natural Splendors
Ketchikan’s temperate rainforest location and coastal setting make it impossible to ignore the abundance of natural beauty which hems in the town from every side. You will want to spend at least part of your time here getting out in this natural element and experiencing the wealth of flora and fauna that call these lands home. Quite how you do that is up to you, with options for land, sea or air all thrown into the wonderful mix.
While the national bird of the USA might have suffered numbers decline to the point of becoming endangered in other states, Alaska has a bald eagle population, so numerous they are a common sight. The southeast of the state and Ketchikan are particular hotspots. So much so that, along with many other names, Ketchikan is sometimes referred to as the ”eagle capital of America.” This mighty species of sea eagle with its 7 plus – foot wing span is a Ketchikan resident year round, and in summer they can be viewed swooping from on high to catch salmon.
There are plenty of spots around the area where you can get a glimpse of eagle nests, some of them even in town if you want to track them down yourself. Otherwise, there are several tours offered which will take you to less accessible sites and often include other Ketchikan highlights too. One such option, for example, includes eagle nesting sites along with a totem pole park and Guard Island Lighthouse.
If you would like to get a closer look at these magnificent birds heads to the which is part of the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. Besides bald eagles, this center is also home to other raptors and all part of a non-profit organization which comes to the aid of injured bald eagles and other bird species and operates an extensive rehabilitation and research program. In addition to protection of raptors, their mission is also to offer education on Alaskan bird species and conservation. Part of your visit will involve hearing the individual success stories of recovery after a bird has been rescued.
Ketchikan is surrounded by rainforest and mountains inhabited by bears, deer, mountain goats, wolves, and birdlife and lapped by coastal waters which are home to marine mammals such as whales and sea-lions. This makes it both a nature lover’s paradise and a giant playground for the outdoor-passionate. Quite how extreme you want to go is up to you, but there are options for everyone – from getting among the glory of it all on a gentle walk to ziplining above the forest canopy for those who are looking for an adrenalin fix.
If you want to get out on the water, there are a variety of ways to do it. A collection of companies offer options for single person kayaking, multi-person canoeing, inflatable boat tours, and even such things as a hovercraft or amphibious “duck” experience. Most options include elements of wildlife viewing (for many this is the principal focus) as you explore either coastline and remote beaches or glittering lakes. Spectacular scenery tends to come as a standard inclusion no matter what choice you make while warm-weather or protective needs are typically covered within the price. When cruising with Windstar Cruises, we offer Signature Expeditions program. Helmed by a team of on board expedition experts who sail with the cruise the entire time, they’ll provide more insight, understanding, and commentary to show you an Alaska you’ve never seen before. Consisting of naturalists, glaciologists, historians and more, this team of experts will also lead guided tours, sometimes directly from the ship to some of the most remote areas of the Alaskan frontier. Windstar Cruises’ Signature Expedition Program offers curated zodiac and kayak tours launched directly from the cruise ship. We also offer hiking tours, where you will explore Alaska’s wilderness with the ship’s expedition guide. Learn about flora and fauna and watch for wildlife.
For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there are choices which include off-road or all-terrain vehicles and self-drive electric buggies. Getting deep into the forest is typically the aim here as well as some element of learning about the area’s history, culture, and wildlife so there may be specific stop-offs along the way such as Saxman Totem Park. If both water and land appeal to you, there are options for such things as combined jeep and canoe safaris.
Of course, if you prefer to do away with any kind of transport and just use your own power the possibilities for trails and hikes are almost endless whether you prefer to be your own guide or use the services of a local expert.
One easy and accessible walk which takes you through the Tongass National Forest is the Rainbird Trail. Just 2.6 miles in length, this trail is ideal for those who have limited time but still want to get a feel for the Ketchikan wilderness. Apart from the beginning ascent made by way of a metal staircase, the going is mostly level, and the whole walk offers both forest surroundings and open areas from which you can get spectacular views of the town, coast, and islands.
For a truly remote outdoor adventure consider a quick sea-plane ride to the sensational Misty Fjords National Monument. With no road access, the only way into this 2 million acre of nature at her finest is by boat or floatplane. Often dubbed “the Yosemite of the North,” Misty Fjords is a scenic wonderland made up of dramatic cliffs, soaring snow-dusted mountains, and saltwater fjords carved by ancient glaciers. The whole area is filled with Alaskan wildlife and dotted about with native rock art. You may book Misty Fjords, Windstar Signature Expedition – Misty Fjords Zodiac Tour when cruising with Windstar Cruises. Windstar Signature Expeditions are operated by Windstar Cruises directly from the ship. Windstar has partnered with Expert Expedition Voyage Consultants who will operate the Zodiac boats while also providing insight, education, and commentary on the stunning scenery of the Alaskan Wilderness. On your Zodiac expedition through Misty Fjords National Monument, you will see 3,000-foot glacier-sculpted cliffs with numerous waterfalls cascading down the cliffs, wildlife like bald eagles, and perhaps brown and/or black bears and mountain goats. Throughout the forest, you will find western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and western red cedar.
For an outdoor experience and easy access nature immersion that covers a vast variety of attractions in one place head to the Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary. The lovely 40 acres of rainforest here, carpeted with wild flowers and lichens and hung about with cascading mosses, has some easily accessible walking tracks and raised boardwalks along with bear, eagle, and salmon viewing stations. The sanctuary is bisected by Eagle Creek – one of the state’s principle salmon streams – and is the location for a large fish hatchery. Other highlights include the Alaska Raptor Center with its bald eagles and other birds of prey, bear-viewing tours, a historic logging mill complete with old machinery, and the opportunity to watch a native totem pole carver creating his latest masterpiece.
Pre-dinner Drinks and Dinner in Ketchikan
One great aspect of Ketchikan is that you are not going to have to go hunting for somewhere that offers authentic color and is frequented by locals. With everything clustered together, pretty much anywhere you head is going to offer the chance of rubbing shoulders with those who call Ketchikan home. Also, while remote Ketchikan is not going to offer you the same number of options as other port destinations in the world, you are almost certainly going to be surprised by what diversity and choices there are when it comes to drinking and dining venues.
When the logging trade was at its height, Ketchikan could boast more than 50 bars. Some of these are still serving customers today even though the loggers who drank there in decades past have dwindled somewhat in number. Typically referred to here as lounges, the town’s bars are often brought alive to the sound of live music performances which are casual in nature – often appearing to be simply a bunch of locals getting together for the evening – and highly varied with regard to musical genre
To throw in your lot with local loggers, fishermen, and floatplane pilots head to the Arctic Bar. Situated on the waterfront so you can watch the harbor activity on the lovely deck as you enjoy your sundowner drinks, the Arctic Bar claims the title as the town’s oldest bar, having first opened its doors in 1937. Locals love to regale their visitors with town tales of both the colorful legend and facts. In the latter category – although with enough drama to make you question its authenticity – is an incident in 1956 when a major flood swept this piling-perched bar out into the bay.
If pre-dinner drinks to you means cocktails, make your way to dockside Fat Stan’s Sports Bar and Pizzeria or the Sourdough Cocktail Bar which is just a stroll away up Front Street. A further 325 feet or so from here, on Water Street, can be found The Asylum – a definite pick for the beer passionate. With the largest selection of locally brewed beers in town, this bar along with its inside spaces has a choice of both outside patio and upper deck if you’d like a view to enjoy with your pint. They also incidentally serve specialty cocktails if you can’t quite decide which drink-type mood you are in
Another choice for those who want a view is the hill-perched Cape Fox Lodge where vistas of forest, mountains, and ocean are all part of the experience. If you want to save yourself the climb or add a little adventure to your journey take the steep funicular railway (otherwise known as the hill tram or cable car) which ascends 130 feet from Creek Street. Once at the top you will arrive at the rustic-modern Cape Fox Lodge Hotel whose lounge bar offers comfy seating, cozy honey-wood tones, and a river-rock fireplace.
While it may come as no surprise that freshly-caught seafood and the area’s famous salmon are easily found on Ketchikan menu choices the rest of what is on offer in this remote town may be a little more unexpected. Included on the list of cuisine options are pizza, Mexican, sushi, falafel, and more with new ventures springing into life all the time.
Of course, seafood fans are going to think they have arrived in heaven with freshly caught halibut, crab, shrimp, oysters, and clams all featuring heavily across the board and salmon prepared in more ways than you could possibly imagine.
While many of the Ketchikan restaurant venues fall into the category of casual and charmingly rustic, there are still some options for those who are in search of a more elegant and sophisticated dining experience. One such choice in this category is the Bar Harbor Restaurant, located on the waterfront which is a favored haunt of locals when they have special occasions to celebrate or want to up the dining out experience. Principally a seafood restaurant, Bar Harbor boasts a French-trained chef and offers hearty home-style cooking but with a gourmet twist and the provision of wine pairings. There are those who will tell you this isn’t just Ketchikan’s top choice but among the best in Alaska.
If all the fresh Alaskan air and the day’s exploration have left you feeling a little lazy make life easy for yourself and smoothly transition from sundowner drinks to dinner in the same place. Fat Stan’s consistently receives rave reviews from pizza fans, even those who describe themselves as pizza snobs. Of course, this is Alaska, so expect some unusual inclusions such as reindeer salami along with the more conventional toppings.
The Heen Kahidi Restaurant at Cape Fox Lodge offers abundant seafood choices, including king crab and wild king salmon, along with an extensive seasonal menu which leans towards the gourmet side of dining. In the non-seafood category expect some homey classics, albeit with a fancy twist, along with some decidedly Alaskan inclusions such as bison burgers and reindeer sausages. The huge surrounding picture windows allow you to take full advantage of the restaurant’s elevated position, offering wonderful views of mountain, rainforest, town, and ocean.
An Evening in Ketchikan
For most, an evening in Ketchikan consists of picking a bar or lounge which fits your idea of atmospheric and spending a few hours in the company of locals. Live music provided by the townspeople can be found in several bars and restaurants dotted around, with dancing of both the impromptu and by-design type often also part of the entertainment.
Musical performances on perhaps a guitar, saxophone, banjo or all kinds of other instruments may just be a group of Ketchikan friends jamming together or a listed event while musical genres range from DJ sets to jazz sessions and everything in between. If you are in town on the weekend, one favorite venue for live music is the New York Café – a beer and wine bar which dates from the 1920s and is part of the historical collection of buildings known as the Inn at Creek Street.
Another venue is the old saloon-type Creek Street Cabaret located on Stedman Street. Principally a jazz and blues venue there is no knowing quite what you might get here on the night you happen to be in town, but possibilities include jazz jams and open mic along with swing dancing and square dancing events. Should you happen to be something of a musician yourself you can usually help yourself to one of the instruments and join in the jam – something not just tolerated but actively encouraged by the highly welcoming owners.
A relatively new nighttime entertainment option in Ketchikan is a ghost tour. While the inky shadows of night don’t lend their atmosphere in summer when it never really gets dark here, the town’s multiple stories of inexplicable comings and goings give the tour plentiful material to work with. The tour begins on historical Creek Street, which many locals will actively avoid at night, believing it haunted by at least one ghost. The history of this creek-side street is focused around its decades as a brothel location. Its heyday also happened to coincide with prohibition, so most of what went on here after dark were of a highly illegal variety. The story goes that more than one brothel visitor found an untimely end here and was then disposed of by way of the concealed trap doors through which the bootleg alcohol was received. Tales abound in the town of former brothels – now shops – where displayed goods are disturbed between locking up at night to reopening in the morning or other locations where staff working after hours hear running footsteps upstairs
Other buildings on the tour which come with stories of ghostly sightings include the old abandoned hospital and the Gilmore Hotel.
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