Alaskans know this small town as one of the state’s most eccentric and eclectic—and it feels a few decades behind the times (in a good way). Art and mixed-media crafts hang on the walls of restaurants and hotels instead of blaring TVs. And in bars, music isn’t so loud that you can’t strike up a conversation with a new friend. Need a conversation starter? Ask a local about the popular vote to elect Stubbs the cat as town mayor.
- Check out the Free Box Community Store near the post office and Alaska Railroad Hurricane Turn train depot for donated clothes and other new-to-you treasures—all free for the taking.
- Take the Hurricane Turn Train between Talkeetna and Hurricane Gulch. It’s one of the last flag stop trains to provide a lifeline through rural parts of the state. Some 95% of the passengers are locals going out to a cabin, or a favorite fishing or hunting spot, or they’re planning to float the Susitna River back to town. This train is one of the most laid-back rides in Alaska. Ride in the baggage car next to piles of rafting and fishing gear with locals; ask them where they’re getting off, how much time they spend at their cabins, when they got their land, or how close their nearest neighbor is. People also bring their dogs and coolers full of food with some drinks to share.
- Wander Main Street—it’s a great location to meet locals, and it’s much less crowded after 5 p.m., when day visitors have departed on the train or bus. Stroll a few hundred yards past the end of Main Street and join a campfire at Talkeetna Riverfront Park.
- In the spring, climbers from all over world fill the town waiting to fly in to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) or finishing their trip, and they’re always willing to talk about their experience on the mountain. The right conversation starter is not, “Did you make the summit?” Consider instead asking, “Tell me about your climb” or “What route did you take?”
- Catch a concert, theater production, or Jeopardy trivia show put on by the Denali Arts Council at the Sheldon Community Arts Hanger, simply referred to as the “Hanger” by locals.
Restaurants, Bars & Coffeehouses
- The Fairview Inn, a real picture into the life in Talkeetna, feels like you ended up in a time warp. Locals are always hanging out here catching a break from leading a tour group or grabbing a midday meal. This place is the town melting pot, with visitors, locals, and seasonal workers. You can catch live music on the weekends.
- Don’t miss the Flying Squirrel Café, tucked back in the woods at Mile 11 on Talkeetna Spur Road. This is the kind of pace that locals and tourists love, both for relaxing near the real hearth oven and enjoying fresh baked bread, espresso, beer, or wood-fired pizza. Bonus points for the fact that they offer a 5% discount if you arrive via motorless transportation or have exercised outdoors for 30 minutes that day.
- The Talkeetna Roadhouse is the local gathering place right in the center of town. You can always find people reading on the old, sunken couches, serenading fellow Roadhousers on the piano, drinking coffee, grabbing a shower after a long climbing trip, or doing laundry.