9 Amazing Reasons to Visit Alaska in Spring

Visit Alaska in Spring and drive – It’s a grand adventure

No one ever suggests visiting Alaska in the spring. I searched and searched for information to no avail. Is summer the only time to go? Sure it’s dark and cold in winter, but what about spring!?!

My son went to Alaska last summer to work at a fishery as a seafood processor. He stayed for the winter and was planning to return to the lower 48 in the spring, so I felt compelled to visit before he left. But what do we do in the spring in Alaska? Is everything fun closed? I found out one of Alaska’s biggest secrets. March is a great time to visit Alaska!

1 – DRIVING

Big city driving tends to stress me out and that is something you do not need to worry about in Alaska. I arrived in Anchorage and found the streets to be well labeled and easy to follow using directions on my maps app. Turo is a newer car rental company similar to Airbnb. You rent someone’s car at a predetermined rate. Some insurance companies will not cover Turo in different states, but Geico does cover car insurance in Alaska so I tried it out. The Ford Explorer I rented from Jonathan was clean and in good condition. He left it for me in the airport parking lot and that is where I returned it. No shuttle busses or cries of “sorry we ran out of cars” for me. I appreciated the convenience.

OUR PLAN

The roads in Alaska were pleasantly wide and relatively empty during my visit.

Day 1 – Anchorage – Lakefront hotel (Convenient, good breakfast and just OK)

Day 2, 3- Girdwood -Alyeska ski resort (Awesome! ski rentals in hotel and walk to ski lift)

Day 4 – Soldotna – Airbnb (Awesome! – love the view)

Day 5, 6, 7 – Palmer – Airbnb (Awesome! – love the view too)

Day 8 -Anchorage – Hotel Sheraton 4 Points (cheap and sketchy – not recommended)

We took the thirty minute drive south on the Seward highway from Anchorage to Girdwood and Alyeska ski town. Although known as one of most dangerous highways in America, we had good weather and no rock slides the days we were there. It’s hard not to be distracted with all the amazing views. We spent three days in Alyeska, two skiing and one on a fun snowmobile tour.

Next we drove south to Soldotna for one night after skiing to visit a friend who hosts a fabulous Airbnb. The next day we drove to Seward to the Sea Life Center on the Kenai peninsula, then up past Anchorage to Palmer.

We took a day trip for dog sledding and lunch in Talkeetna for views of Denali. Another day drove up the Hatcher pass to ski at the new Skeetawk ski area. Meant to get to hike Matanuska Glacier, never made it. Did see the Northern Lights from the Airbnb in Palmer though!

Who doesn’t love traffic free roads? Just beware of falling rocks, avalanches and potholes.

2 – WHERE TO STAY

Spring is considered off- season so rates can be better this time of year. I stayed in three hotels and two Airbnbs during my visit and I would highly recommend the Airbnb experience in Alaska. Traveling with my son it was nice to have a place with a kitchen and two separate bedrooms. The people renting out space in their homes are genuinely kind and thoughtful. They are willing to help you plan an unforgettable trip with recommendations for dining out and places to visit. I tend to look for places that also have a view and my search did not disappoint on this trip.

The hotels in Anchorage were a bit on the run down side. I would recommend staying in the best hotel which may be the Cook hotel. Parts of Anchorage are indeed a bit sketchy and since the vacationers are limited in March, some areas are down right deserted except for homeless people who will approach and ask for money. The Lakefront Hotel near the airport was acceptable and had a good breakfast. Do not book the Four Points Sheraton in downtown Anchorage, enough said.

View from Airbnb in Palmer

3 – NORTHERN LIGHTS

This is a great time to see them in Alaska. After spending a week in Iceland with my sister on a tour specifically designed to see the Aurora Borealis, we were disappointed that we never saw them. In the summer the sky in Alaska is too light, and earlier in the winter it is super cold! Tours are available if you want to pay to sit in a van out on a field for many hours waiting. We used the app on our iphone to help know the best time to look outside. Just fair warning: In real life they are not as crystal clear as some photos you may have seen. Still awesome to witness.

Someone else’s photo – but what we saw one night

4 -WHERE TO EAT

Most restaurants are open year round and we did not have to wait to get service. We had good luck with Brewery type places. In Anchorage, we tried the pizza at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria and it was very good.

Reindeer sausage pizza

At the Alyeska resort, there is a high-end restaurant called Seven Glaciers you can take the gondola up to but it is only open for dinner a few nights each week. It wasn’t open the night we stayed there but we did dine at Sakura Asian Bistro which was a great sushi place where everyone sits together at a huge table. Something different.

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Is College for Everyone? Congratulations Graduates!

Graduation for the solo parent – as a widow I could not attend both graduations but am proud and hopeful for our futures.

I was truly more emotional when they went away to college than when they graduated!  I’m such a proud mama this past weekend as both my boys received degrees, one Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and one as Juris Doctor degree, or JD law degree.

Unfortunately, as a solo parent, I was only able to attend one graduation.  As a widow, I never chose to be a solo parent and that emotion has been creeping up into my psyche for the past month or so.  I have been able to shut out those feelings most of the time, but on packing my bags to travel to Mississippi I will admit the waterworks finally flowed.

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Iceland: What to See in Reykjavik for 2 Days

Traveling to Iceland with sister for fun adventures and travel therapy. What to do in Reykjavik for 2 days

With a week off in February and a dream of seeing the Northern Lights I joined my sister on an adventure to Iceland.

We met Saturday afternoon at JFK airport in New York and had a bite to eat in the newly renovated terminal 4. Our flight left on time at 9:00 pm and we hoped to catch some shut eye on the 5 hour flight. Our pilot was great and got us to Iceland in only 4 hours. With the time change it was now morning and we had one hour before our bus reservation to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal hot spring landmark.

The short drive to the site resembled photos of the moon. As the sun rose on dark lava rocks sprinkled with snow on a treeless landscape we knew we were no longer in the States.

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Solo Travel: 10 Ways to Alleviate Anxiety

Travel as a solo female can be challenging and so fun. Widows face new adjustments to traveling alone. Be safe and prepared with this checklist.

As a solo, female traveler I love the idea of the adventure that I can plan out on my terms.  When I became an unexpected, relatively young, widow I was sad that my husband would not be here to join me, but I felt determined that I was going to travel anyway.  My first big solo trip was to Thailand so I could escape being home for the one year anniversary of his death as well as our wedding anniversary.  I have since embarked on a few travel adventures but I always get a bit anxious before I travel.

That time I planned a family trip for 4 to California but when I printed out the boarding passes 24 hours in advance, there was only a ticket for me.  Somehow I had not reserved tickets for my husband and 2 sons.  Panic set in. It was 6:00 pm on a Friday evening and I made some frantic phone calls to the corporate office.  Apparently, when I had changed the dates a few months earlier, they had cancelled the other 3 tickets.

Fortunately, they were able to fit the rest of my family on the plane with me, but this was the beginning of my travel anticipation anxiety syndrome.

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Is Vegas the City for…Kids?

The pool area erupted with squeals and cries and kids running past my lounge chair. I’m a nice lady and like kids and all but what is going on? This is Las Vegas, not Disneyworld, right?

My visit to Las Vegas was amazing. So much fun and such a diversity of entertainment.

Initially I went to Las Vegas, this time, for the SDE (staff development for educators) conference. I was honestly excited to attend several workshops on play in early education and early literacy. The conference was impressive. I had lunch and dinner with teachers from across the country.  We laughed over shared stories and challenges that face us no matter where we live.

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How to Transition to Summer Vacation

So I have a list at home of all the things I want to get done this week. I’m serious. First week off from work as a teacher; I finally have time to focus on cleaning those neglected spots in the house, filing away papers, making a few phone calls and selling/donating stuff we don’t need anymore.  This summer I am going to get organized! Finding Joy in the act of getting rid of clutter.

I wanted to write a blog about transitioning from work to summer vacation, especially for teachers and moms.

When my kids were little, that first week off was always so stressful. How do you transition from working full time away from home, to literally working even more full time at home, with no preps or lunch breaks, and with your own wonderful cherubs?

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A Day in New York City – Summer Series

Summer in New York City living after the loss of a spouse. Broadway show, Brooklyn Bridge and the River Cafe

The jet skiers soared high over the waves barely missing the stern of the speedy ferry arriving at the dock. Warm summer evenings in DUMBO, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, can be quite entertaining as well as breathtaking and scenic.

I have decided that this summer I would like to visit Manhattan at least 5 times. A matinee and dinner is the way to go for a date in New York City.

After the death of my husband I find that forcing myself to go out and embrace new experiences helps me to keep moving forward. Days hit me where I realize I am a widow and can barely do what is required in my daily life. I am getting used to having those days, but I won’t live like that every day. Moving forward has always been my motto and I need to keep going there.

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17 Fun Facts about Montauk and why you should visit.

Montauk, New York. 17 Fun facts to learn about this ocean side resort town and why it is perfect for day trips or weekend getaways

Late one June we checked into the Ronjo motel and heard the glass shattering at the least expensive motel in town.  We drove the Toyota Corolla the 40 miles for our night away in Montauk, at THE END of Long Island, New York.  My parents willingly watched our charming 2 year old son so we could have a romantic night together. After closing the door to our first room alone, in a long time, we heard the screaming followed by glass breaking.  We looked out the sliding door to a crazy pre-college scene.  Prom had been the night before in a nearby town. Many teens had been in the pool area when one boy crashed into a door. He was taken to the hospital and the door soon repaired.  We all settled into our rooms and continued our experience.  Montauk is always an experience to be remembered.

I have visited Montauk, NY regularly for over 21 years since that night and I love it.  As much as the place wants to avoid the establishment, it is taking over, not always in a bad way.  The locals are adamant about keeping it the same and that is cool too.

The town has no traffic lights.

I was recently told, at Liar’s Saloon, that if you have left town for even 5 days, like to have a baby, you are no longer a local.  That is very important.

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Snow Days -then and now

Snow Days – This widow reflects on past and present snow days.

Who doesn’t love a snow day!  As a kid it was always the best.  In the neighborhood where I grew up there was a pond across the street that during the winter often froze solid.  We all had ice skates and would walk over and skate with our friends.  Building snowmen, making forts and having snowball fights were part of the day as well.

After we were cold and usually wet, we would invade someone’s house where the mom would make us grilled cheese and hot cocoa. We would line up our wet mittens and boots on the hearth by the fireplace or in some type of mudroom.

Fast forward to my years as a mom with small kids.  That was the best.  Bundling up those little bodies in snow clothes that you hoped still fit.  Finding the hats, gloves, scarves, snow pants and boots.  OK – so it wasn’t all that fun but once we got outside, my boys always had fun.  Since I am a teacher, I usually had the day off with them.

I would drive us to a nearby hill for sledding.  Then we would finish shoveling. Since I was home and my husband was at work, shoveling snow was generally left to me and as the boys got older I passed my skills onto them. After sledding and shoveling, there was always the snowman to make. Ever the crafty mom I was good at finding things in the house to create a friendly face. Once we had all claimed to have won the ongoing snow ball fight, we went inside.

puppy and boy in snow
Puppy’s first snow storm

snowman

I loved cooking on snow days.  Cupcakes, cakes, or banana bread followed by a nice pot of stew or chili.  I always made the dessert first! Just like sledding before shoveling.

A few years ago my boys no longer needed me to drive them to the sledding hill.  They drove my car and their friends to the bigger hills.  I stayed home. I took pictures of the snow.  One time the little girls in the neighborhood came over and helped me bake cupcakes.  They insisted we make different color icing to decorate them. We lined up about 15 red solo cups with different shades of icing.  The girls were awesome designers and then delivered the treats to all the neighbors on our block.  After that, we watched the movie Frozen.  How fun!

Last week we had 2 snow days.  I loved getting the phone call the night before that I could stay home and not have to drive on bad roads.  I slept in and enjoyed seeing the storm out my window while I drank my coffee and watched T.V.  I curled up with a book for a few hours and read.  I wrote a blog about a trip I took to  Croatia.  10 Fabulously Fun Things to do in Croatia  I found more old letters in a box to read and laughed at the old memories.

The 2 days led into the weekend.  The roads were dangerous and I was a little lazy.  In fact, the quiet time was almost too much. Being alone in my house with nothing to really think about gets me thinking about what I no longer have.  My kids are away at college and my husband is no longer here. I do believe that I am past the point of thinking that he is still coming home.  During the first year, I thought it was just a temporary thing. Acknowledging that he died was an important adjustment. I am not used to being so alone and I’m not sure how to adjust.  I guess it’s one of those “one day at a time” things.

Well, I finally baked some banana bread for the teenage boy next door who shoveled my driveway.  My neighbor invited me over to her house to watch a hockey game and eat chili. Sunday evening I attended an antigravity candlelit yoga class so I finally did get out of the house.  I still love snow days, they are just a bit different now.  Do you like snow days?

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The roads are dangerous!

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Lots of snow – friends to bake with later.

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Storm is over.

 


Montauk in Winter – Overnight retreat or spa day

Day trips or overnights to the off season beach town of Montauk New York is well worth the visit. Hotels are affordable, the food is good and the ocean soothes the soul. Hiking is free and the ocean air or day at Gurneys spa is guaranteed to help with the healing process.

The best part about visiting Montauk in the winter is the price tag.

Off season beach towns are the best!  Montauk is one of those fishing towns that welcomes tourists for the few summer months with hotels, restaurants, mini-golf and shops and then puts closed for season signs on the windows in the winter for many of the businesses.

The ocean changes it’s personality day by day, and season by season.  Water can be calm and soothing to the soul, it can reflect inner turmoil with waves of fury, or it can create waves that escalate into grand crescendos and softly release and melt back into sea with few ever having witnessed the moment. Watching the sea is one of my favorite things to do.  And in the winter, you can even afford an oceanfront room so you can watch from inside with a cup of coffee in your favorite pajamas and slippers!

Visiting Montauk with family in the summer is ideal.  If you need a girlfriend spa weekend getaway this is a perfect location for indulging in spa activities while even staying for an overnight.  If it is the romantic night away, Montauk is the place.  And even if you are alone, and need a day to reflect and rejuvenate your life, an overnight in Montauk can do the trick.

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