How to Meet Locals in Denali
This town is so geared toward tourism that it’s tough to connect with locals. But since you’re probably making a stop here anyway, don’t let a lodge or bus tour be your only defining experience—there are ways to meet Alaskans, who can tie your experiences together and give you a richer memory of your time here.
The town is full of some of Alaska’s most skilled and passionate outdoor guides. Ask locals if they have a favorite adventure or experience they would be willing to share.
Restaurants & Bars
- The 229 Parks Restaurant & Tavern is just a few minutes from the National Park entrance, but lets visitors and locals alike savor culinary options other than the Denali stables of pizza, burgers, or sub sandwiches. Owner and executive chef Laura Cole has a dynamic vision for this rural restaurant, a 70’s-era throwback with an Alaskan log cabin twist, featuring lightly stained wood paneling and mismatched plates. There’s no dress code here, and the only expectation is that you come hungry and leave a believer in local service and hospitality. It’s a cozy place that fills up quick and offers fresh salads, every Alaskan seafood favorite from halibut to clams, and outrageous desserts from scratch.
- The Salmon Bake is located right along the rows of shops and tour company storefronts at mile 238 of the George Parks Highway. This place has a cabin-like feel and is a town staple for fantastic halibut tacos as well as to-go food for your day out hiking through Denali National Park. Come back in the evening for local karaoke, open mic, and trivia nights. Their weekly “Denali Idol” karaoke contest is a local favorite.
- McKinley Creekside Café, about 7 miles outside the hub of Denali, is a great place to get away from the chaos of Glitter Gulch and meet the locals that run the McKinley Creekside Cabins. Everything is made from scratch—try the freshly made coffee, ask about the soup of the day, and take a stab at the giant plate-sized cinnamon rolls. This is a real hidden gem where locals go to hang out.