Alaska, more than what we bill for

Graphic by Casey Kleeb
Graphic by Casey Kleeb

People don’t visit Alaska for the culture.

With mountains, wildlife, glaciers and cruises, we have such a breathtakingly beautiful state that people will travel from all over the world to see and be a part of.

But Alaska is more than glaciers and Denali, and it’s time we educate our out-of-state friends and family about the other things Alaska, specifically Anchorage, has to offer.

We have a unique art scene in Anchorage. There are a wide variety of musicians, painters, sculptors, actors and local comedians living amongst us. We have a chocolate lounge with super sweet furniture, free Wi-Fi and art hanging everywhere for goodness’ sake! Where else in the country can you find the glorious outdoors and an artsy chocolate lounge?

We’ve mastered the art of selling our wilderness to tourists — let’s sell them our culture too.

Here’s why: Not everyone who comes up here for adventure is actually an adventurer. Some of them are just humoring their relatives or don’t have a choice in the matter because they aren’t paying. I know that’s happened to me.

One summer, my dad hauled my brother and I on a two-week “out west” road trip. When we stopped in a town after exploring the Badlands, I was more interested in looking at the unique art and learning how the community functioned in the “off season” than I was in going back to the Badlands for more pictures and hiking.

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But over the course of two weeks, none of my whimsies were indulged. According to my dad, that’s not why we were there. We were there to have an adventure, not explore the towns.

OK, he had a fair point, but when a teen and a pre-teen get antsy in a truck after days of driving and stopping at places that one or both of them don’t care about, you owe it to them to spend a day doing what they like. Because if two of three people aren’t having fun, all three will be miserable.

If there are at least two people, there will be differing opinions of what you should do. Everyone on the trip should be able to get something out of it.

Since nearly every tourist has to fly in and out of Anchorage, we should play up our art galleries and cool bars more. I’m sure some tourists would love to soak up a play at Cyrano’s or Out North. If the tourists aren’t burdened by children, we should suggest places like Bernie’s or Taproot for a chill but fun place to hang out and unwind before or after an adventure. Do they like chocolate? I bet Modern Dwellers would love the extra business.

Any place we can imagine taking a trip to is more than what we think it is. I dream of Egypt for its pyramids, but they also have an amazing football team — real football, that thing we call soccer. If I had a traveling companion who happened to like sports, of course we should take in a game before or after we visited the Valley of the Kings.

Alaska is no different, so we shouldn’t let ourselves be pigeonholed. Our state is beautiful, but so are we, and we have just as much to offer to newcomers and tourists as the northern lights do. Let’s make people know it.