Nestled between ocean and mountains, Ketchikan offers some of the most beautiful scenery, colorful people and interesting history in the state. It also houses the world's largest collection of standing totem poles.
1.) Galleries on Creek Street
The heart of downtown is the once-infamous Creek Street, where the bars and bordellos of fishing and mining days have turned to galleries and restaurants. Resting on pilings above Ketchikan Creek, most buildings are the originals with walls that have stories to tell. Head to the Star Building on Creek Street alleged to be "the coolest building on the West Coast." Named for the large star inlaid on the hardwood dance floor, there is just as much life within these walls today as there was in mining days, although today it is less likely to make you blush. This is where you'll find the gallery run by my wife and I, the Soho Coho. We feature my complete line of works along with many local artists’ work including Evon Zerbetz, Chip Porter and Hall Anderson. For a different flavor of Alaska art, check next door at Marvin Oliver's gallery, Alaska Eagle Arts (5 Creek St. 907-225-8365).
3.) Lunch Options on Creek Street
Because Creek Street is a historic district full of interesting shops, galleries and museums, it may start to feel touristy, but fear not, when hunger strikes, the locals come here too. For lunch: the Good Fortune Restaurant (4 Creek St., 907-225-1818) is a tasty Chinese restaurant right next door to the Star Building. If it's seafood you're after, the best battered fish and chips in town can be enjoyed from the deck of the Eagles Club at Halibut Hole (7 Creek St., 907-225-6152). The halibut comes most highly recommended, but they also serve salmon, clams and shrimp in their delicious crispy batter, which comes with fries, coleslaw and hush puppies. They are open daily in the summer for lunch, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Or if you've ventured off of Creek Street, don't overlook the unassuming white burger stand with the blue trim. The Burger Queen (518 Water St., 907-225-6060), across the street from the Arctic Bar, has the best burgers in all of Alaska! Seating just about eight people, it's always packed.
4.) Totem Poles
Originally telling the stories of rich and powerful native families and the privileges they enjoyed, totem poles are one of the most recognizable and intriguing parts of native culture. No visit to Ketchikan would be complete without delving into the cultures of the area and admiring this unique art. The Totem Heritage Center, located along Ketchikan Creek (601 Deermont Street, 907-225-5900), boasts the largest number of original totem poles in the world! Gathered from uninhabited Tlingit and Haida villages near Ketchikan, the center houses an amazing collection of totem poles from the 19th century. After brushing up on totem pole history, head towards one of the two totem parks nearby to see their evolution and place in today's native culture. Ten miles north of town is the Totem Bight Historic Park (9883 North Tongass Highway, 907-247-8574). Or head 2.5 miles south of downtown and explore Saxman's totem park and tribal house (2706 South Tongass Highway, 907-225-5163). If you're visiting in the summer, there's a good chance you'll see the world famous Tlingit carver Nathan Jackson (provide link to his Notable profile) in action. And if you happen to be there in the winter, Saxman hosts a monthly talent show. Be sure to buy a ticket, because the show usually sells out. However, your ticket will be refunded if you bring a dessert to share.
5.) Dining Options
Relax and enjoy the harbor from a quiet private table at The Alaska Fishhouse (3 Salmon Landing, 907-255-4055). Visitors and residents alike will enjoy some of the earth's freshest wild salmon, halibut, spot prawns and Dungeness crabs. An elegant setting with equally elegant fare, everything on the menu is sure to be part of a memorable experience. For a dinner with a breathtaking view, join Chef Tim at Cape Fox Lodge. Take the tram near the museum up to the restaurant and try the steak or salmon (800 Venetia Way, 907-225-8001). Bar Harbor restaurant (2813 Tongass Avenue, 907-225-2813) is a great, and very cozy, place to have lunch or dinner. It's on the west side of town, but worth the trip!
6.) After Dinner Options
Live music fans won't want to miss a nightcap at the Potlatch Bar (126 Thomas Street, 907-225-4855) in Thomas Basin Boat Harbor. Here, you can't help but mingle with fisherman and Ketchikan locals. Or follow the painted bear tracks to the "home of the happy bears." The friendly staff of the Arctic Bar (509 Water Street, 907-225-4709) welcomes merry makers to enjoy a drink on the large deck overlooking the water, a summer favorite.
7.) Nature Escapes
When you're done shopping and hungry for nature, head as far north as the road will take you and find yourself at Settlers Cove State Park. Explore the Lunch Creek trail system that winds through the temperate rainforest, meanders past a breathtaking waterfall and is a prime place to spot Sitka black-tail deer. Or, stick to the coast and comb the beach for driftwood and scan the horizon for whales. It's an ideal launching point for fishing, kayaking and on sunny days in summer, swimming. Clear your head and tackle the lovely mountain on which Ketchikan is situated. Easy trail access to Deer Mountain is just behind City Park. A steep but not too strenuous hike, allow four or five hours to scale the peak at an easy pace and you'll rewarded with a spectacular view of the city and surrounding islands.