This 23-room hotel has a historic pedigree, but offers an experience akin to staying at Grandma's: you're surrounded by antiques but still get to reach into the fridge.

Built in 1916 as an office building, the Van Gilder Hotel (named for the Idahoan who financed it) became a hotel in 1921. Over the decades the hotel continued under several names and uses, and even played host to a legendary, ongoing pinochle game. It joined the National Register of Historical Places in 1980.

Open year round, the hotel offers a charming look back at Alaska's early days—with some nice modern touches. The lobby, lit by antique Victorian fixtures, has as its front desk an old oak saloon-style bar with a brass foot rail. You can pick out a tune on the lobby piano, or check your email using the free WiFi. During the summer, the hotel serves a continental breakfast, and offers coffee and tea daily year round. Otherwise there's a fully equipped community kitchen you can use—complete with pots and pans and a fridge where you can store a few items.

Check out the photos and mementos around the hotel and you'll learn about the famous, or just quirky guests who helped build the town: early Seward settler Eva Lowell and her pet porcupine, the railroad workers who lived along the Bay during World War I, or President Harding, who came here in 1923 to drive the final gold spike in the railroad that linked Seward and Fairbanks. There's even a resident ghost: Fannie, a woman who was murdered in room 202 in 1947, and who has inspired a novel. She supposedly still shows up from time to time, too—there have been two sightings in the past year.

The 23 rooms—including five suites and three shared-bath European Pension rooms—have brass beds, antique dressers, bedside tables and pedestal sinks; one room even has a claw foot tub.

Anytime of year, you have great access to downtown Seward: You're within easy walking distance to restaurants and shopping, and just two blocks away from the Alaska SeaLife Center and the Seward Museum. Friendly staff will also take the initiative to help you with tips on your days' activities in Seward and your next stops in Alaska.