Portage Glacier and Whittier Harbor, Alaska

There are several ways to get to the Portage area — by train, by tourist bus or shuttle, by boat, or by car. We took a rental car to spend the day on this quick day trip out of Anchorage. Travel just 60 miles down the Seward Highway for this adventure.

First stop was Bird Point with an easy on/off from the highway, a parking lot and even restrooms for travelers or those spending a few hours hiking and exploring. I was able to get a new lifer with my Merlin audio app, a yellow rumped warbler. Check out the beluga whale statue as you depart and head back to the highway.

Our second stop was the new Begich, Boggs Visitor Center in Girdwood. This was my first experience with a glacier. Lots of opportunities to walk and photograph. The exhibits and film have a $5 admission fee unless you have a National parks annual or senior pass.

Until 2000, Whittier was only accessible by train or boat. Now, cars can share the train tunnel but on a very specific schedule. Going into Whittier is on the bottom of the hour and leaving is at the top of the hour. Cars are $13 and trucks towing and rvs are more expensive. You will wait in line at a “staging area” until the light changes. This is the longest shared train/auto tunnel in the country at 2 1/2 miles.

Whittier is considered the gateway to Prince William Sound and in addition to many personal yachts and boats, you may also see a cruise ship in port.

This is a very small community which you could walk in a few minutes but features six eating establishments and numerous gift shops. We ate at Swiftwater Cafe, specializing in homemade clam chowder and fresh caught seafood. My halibut sandwich was about $20. They also have an extensive beer menu.

If you want to stay over, Whittier has an inn, also with a fine dining restaurant. We caught the 2:00 tunnel release back after a full day of exploring.

Downtown Anchorage Souvenir Shopping

Once in a Blue Moose Gift Shop

There is definitely no lack of shopping opportunities if you find yourself in downtown Anchorage, Alaska and want to take some reminders home or bring gifts to friends and family. I was there on a holiday weekend and don’t have a car so these are my personal experiences. First, I Ubered from the Air Force base housing where I was staying and had the driver drop me off at the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor’s Center (546 W 4th Ave). This little log cabin is the original visitor’s center, which eventually outgrew it’s space. The woman inside guided me to the much larger building just behind which houses all the brochures, travel magazines, and friendly staff to help tourists and visitors.

Log Cabin Visitor’s Center

From the log cabin, there are numerous souvenir shops within walking distance. The first one I stopped at was directly across the street and called Once in a Blue Moose Gift Shop. This shop was quite large and I did find several items I would have bought if I wasn’t traveling by plane. However, as in all the shops I stopped in that day, there were items that were obviously mass produced and not made in Alaska. You will find the pricier local handmade items behind glass cabinets and on the walls. And throughout the store were the more inexpensive items for tourists on a budget.

Just down the street and on the same block is Grizzly Gifts. You can’t miss this store with the large grizzly display just outside on the corner and even more inside. This store had the same types of items as in most of the stores I stopped in — the t-shirts, smoked salmon, keychains, and the like.

Inside Grizzly’s Gift Shop

Down the street and around the corner (600 W 4th Ave), I found the Polar Bear Gifts Outlet Store featuring a number of clothing items with 50% off stickers. I purchased a stylish lightweight winter jacket for $20, an item I had been needing since I lost weight last winter. I also purchased two t-shirts for $6.99 each.

Sara’s Gift Cache, 408 W 4th Ave, is a smaller store with more local items and none of the mass produced gift items. I enjoyed looking around but just purchased two postcards while there. The owner there is glad to help and answer any questions for visitors.

Downtown also features the 5th Ave. mall, a 4 story shopping experience with department stores as well as smaller souvenir shops. I had been there two days previously and had purchased the always popular Alaska Wild Berries variety box of chocolates. On Memorial Weekend on Sunday before noon, I found many of the smaller shops and art galleries weren’t open and those may have to wait for another visit.

Mushing District