Welcome to October in Alaska. Even though most of the travelers have gone home, there still are some options to hop in the car (or ride the rails) to see some countryside before the snow flies.
Heading south along Turnagain Arm, the first stop is Alyeska Resort. Of course, the folks at Alyeska are keen on the snow flying sooner rather than later. But right now the tram is shut down. "You can still hike up the mountain," said Ben Napolitano, Alyeska's marketing manager. "Just remember, you have to hike down, too!"
The pool and the spa still are open, though, as well as a couple of restaurants. So the resort is a turn-key getaway. Rooms are going for $99 per night midweek, or $129 per night on the weekends.
If Alyeska's not far enough away from home, keep going to Seward. Although the last sightseeing cruise sails on Sunday, Oct. 15, Seward still is a fun destination. The Alaska SeaLife Center is open year-round. It's always fun to see the sea lions in the giant aquariums too.
Harbor360 Hotel, formerly the Holiday Inn Express, sits right on the water by "J" Dock. Rooms are available for as little as $79 per night between now and December.
If you still want to go kayaking (weather permitting), check in with Monica Cooper Chase at Adventure Sixty North. "Our favorite kayak trip this time of year is out to Bridal Veil Falls," said Chase. "But if the weather isn't cooperating we can set up a trip up to Exit Glacier or something else."
It's always fun to make the drive to Homer — even as the days get shorter. The top of the hill overlooking Homer is usually a photo stop for us — you get a nice view of the spit in the middle of the water and the mountains on the other side of Kachemak Bay.
Land's End Resort at the end of the Homer Spit has a "Getaway Package" for as little as $139, which includes overnight accommodations for two and dinner for two at the restaurant.
The Homer Spit is one of my favorite beach walks. I've seen eagles, seals, otters and even a whale or two while strolling on the beach.
You also can head north from Anchorage for some fun getaways.
All of the big hotels around Talkeetna are closed for the winter. But right downtown on Main Street, the Talkeetna Roadhouse stays open all year. Stop in any day of the week for a delicious breakfast. Or "non-breakfast," which is how innkeeper Trisha Costello categorizes all of the other menu offerings.
Each weekend during the winter, the Roadhouse offers pie-making classes. For the $75 fee, you get an apron, a pie, some recipe cards and a couple of extra goodies to remind you of the class. Of course, you also get to make your own pie.
If you want to stay the night, the cost for a room is about $80 for two people. There are several different room types, though. If you don't want to drive up to Talkeetna, you can take the Alaska Railroad. The railroad's winter schedule lines up nicely with the class schedule. You can travel north on Saturday, arriving in time for your class. Then, the next day, ride the train back in the afternoon. Breakfast is not included in the package price of $265 per person. But you don't want to miss it!
The train ride doesn't end in Talkeetna, of course. You can ride the rails all the way to Fairbanks on the Aurora Train each Saturday. And Fairbanks already is in the middle of its aurora-viewing season. There are daytrips (well, "night trips") to take you away from the city lights so you can see the aurora borealis. Two companies, 1st Alaska Outdoor School and Northern Alaska Tour Company offer a variety of trips around Fairbanks for aurora-watchers.
Another popular option in Fairbanks is to pick up a car and drive out to Chena Hot Springs Resort. In addition to the hot springs, the resort has a yurt set up on top of a hill for aurora viewing.
Starting Nov. 1, Borealis Basecamp will offer accommodations in private domes with clear roofs. That way, you'll be able to sleep under the moon, the stars or the northern lights. I haven't seen the domes yet, but the pictures are compelling. The domes are set up about 30 miles outside of Fairbanks.
The way the railroad's schedule is set up, it's difficult ride both ways. You'd end up spending the night in Fairbanks, then waking up early to take the southbound train back to Anchorage. And while I love the train, one 12-hour rail trip during a weekend is enough. Go ahead and fly back home on Ravn or Alaska Air!
So pick which direction you want to drive, and plan your next fall adventure right here in Alaska!
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.