By Mara Papatheodorou, your Tastes & Traditions Expert
Alaska, land of glaciers, salmon, bears, moose, eagles, old gold mines and forest filled vistas, is a stunning destination to enjoy. And the natural beauty on every level in Juneau, Alaska’s state capital, is a sight to behold and a port full of fun and adventure. You can whale watch, dog sled, go salmon or halibut fishing, bike, hike or take a helicopter ride to see the sights by air. Of the 38 glaciers to visit, the city’s most popular and accessible icy attraction is the mighty and magnificent Mendenhall Glacier. Or for glaciers galore, head to Glacier Bay National Park, A World Heritage Site, which has amazing grounds that are ideal for hiking, biking and bald eagle viewing.
For indoor activities, the Alaska State Museum features excellent exhibits of the Native Indian and Eskimo cultures as well as historical highlights about the mining and fishing industries. For a closer look at gold, the hands on Last Chance Mining Museum does a great job of showing how the Alaska –Juneau Gold Mining Company did its thing at the height of Alaskan mining from 1912 to 1944. A seafood meal of any kind, from salmon to halibut or crab, must be accompanied by an Alaskan micro-brewed beer and any dessert made from the wild berries of the region. I promise it will be a sweet finish to a memorable day.
SAIL: Juneau, Alaska. Before sailing away, bring the flavors and flair of Alaska and its capital home. On the food front, it is all about the savory and the sweet. Smoked and cured fish, mainly smoked salmon, is sold vacuum packed as is salmon jerky so it can be taken home. Berries thrive in this climate and wild berry jams are an Alaskan pantry staple. Indulge in a jar of wild blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry or even salmonberry (!), a hybrid of the raspberry. Emblematic wood-carvings of bears, moose, eagles and totem polls are nice gifts and the most unique kitchen tool of all is the wood-handled ulu, the Eskimo bladed cutting tool traditionally used for fish and beef but great for vegetables too.
SIP: Micro Brewery Beer. With over 20 micro breweries in the state, Alaska has a lot to offer beer enthusiasts. And Alaskan Brewing Company, based right in Juneau is considered top of the line. They also have great tastings and tours. Sip their traditional Alaskan Amber Ale or for a fruity drier beer go for the Alaskan Summer Ale and if its heartier flavor you’re after or try the Alaskan Smoked Porter.
SAVOR: Salmon. Grilled, baked, smoked or jerky dried no matter how it is prepared, the salmon you savor in Juneau may be the best ever. It gives new meaning to the term “fresh catch.” But don’t despair if salmon isn’t to your liking; instead try the halibut or crab since they are also Alaskan seafood treasures.