Girdwood is usually referred to as Alaska’s only resort town, home to Mt. Alyeska and Alyeska Resort. And yes, you’ll find challenging ski slopes with incredible views and fine dining. But Girdwood offers so much more, and locals know that beyond the resort lies a fun, funky little community in the woods. Residents include gold miners, artists, environmentalists, politicians, ski bums, and Olympic athletes. You’re bound to meet someone interesting.
Girdwood is only a 45-minute drive south of Anchorage. The drive itself is one of the most scenic in the entire country. The Seward Highway is curvy two-lane highway with sheer cliffs (often dotted with Dall sheep) on one side and Turnagain Arm (often dotted with beluga whales or locals riding the bore tide) on the other. Since Girdwood is so close to Anchorage, it’s a favorite getaway for Anchorage residents. Many of them have weekend cabins to enjoy the slopes in winter and the trails in summer. They also know that Girdwood has some of the best local festivals and concerts in this part of the state.
So where will you meet locals in Girdwood? Everywhere. But here are some ideas to give you a start:
- Ride a chairlift: In winter, you can always find an open seat on Chair 6. Strike up a conversation and ride up with one of the local powder enthusiasts. The best part? These lifts don’t shut down in the summer. When the weather turns warm and the snow melts, the lifts run for downhill mountain biking.
- Take a hike: World-class hiking trails are abundant in the Girdwood Valley. Check out part of the Historic Iditarod Trail, off Crow Creek Road, or pull yourself across the hand tram at the end of the Winner Creek Trail.
- Rent a fat bike: Local sport shop Powder Hound rents fat bikes year-round. Talk to Eric about setting you up and going out for weekly local rides.
- Attend a festival: From the Girdwood Forest Fair (where you can purchase artwork and crafts from local artisans) to the Slush Cup (where costumed skiers shoot down the mountain and across a puddle of slush) to the Blueberry Festival, you’re bound to find a festival you like!
- Ride the shuttle: Glacier Valley Transit operates a 40-minute loop around town. Just $1.50 gets you a ride and gives you a good idea of your whereabouts.
- Go to church: Girdwood offers non-denominational services, as well as Catholic and LDS. Our Lady of the Snows is on Alyeska Resort property, and the Girdwood Chapel is on the corner of Timberline Dr and Alyeska Hwy.
- Play a round of disc golf: Girdwood hosts 27 holes. 18 are near the ball field in the woods and 9 more are by the tram and Chair 7. Ask a local to show you the course.
- Shop at GCVA: The Girdwood Center for Visual Arts is located next to the Bake Shop. The co-op requires all artists featured in the gallery to work the desk, so you’ll always meet a local.
- Get a growler at La Bodega: La Bodega is the bottle shop for wine, beer, and spirits. Local brews and imports are available. If you’re not sure what a growler is, it’s a 64-oz. glass jug that allows you to take beer on tap to go!
- Visit the Ski Museum: Hike up the North Face Trail (about 1.25 hours) or just take the Ariel Tram. On top, the historic Round House has been converted to a Ski Museum, highlighting the history of Girdwood and the making of Alaska's premier ski resort.
- Shop at the "Merc": The Crow Creek Mercantile is referred by locals as "the merc" and is about the only place to stock up on supplies. Around the corner is Thriftwood, where you’ll find everything from used ski boots to natural groceries (and Frisbees for disc golf).
- Session the skate park: Most Alaskans agree this is one of the top skate and scooter parks in the state.
- Play a local in tennis: New courts in 2016 have Girdwood locals playing tennis any chance they get. Join a pickup game, located right next to the skate park in the center of town.
- Stay longer: There are 50+ nightly rentals and bed and breakfasts within the many wooded neighborhoods.
Restaurants, Bars, & Coffeehouses
- Local music: The Sitz and Chair 5 have live music on a regular basis. Smaller venues include the SilverTip Grill and Jack Sprat.
- Java Haus in the Daylodge: Meet Crow Creek locals that live off the grid and frequent this cafe. Open in the winter only.
- The Grind: Coffee shop located downtown with an eclectic array of gag gifts.
- Have a beer in the Jack Sprat Beer Garden: What’s better than enjoying a beer outside under the midnight sun? Locals also love the weekend brunch and nightly dinner specials.