PHOTO: Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska. (photo via Flickr/Bernard Spragg)
What Ketchikan lacks in size, it more than makes up for in the splendor of its natural surroundings and the richness of its culture.
Known as Alaska’s last frontier, this small town is set at the southernmost entrance of Alaska’s Inside Passage, a spot which has also earned it the moniker of “The Salmon Capital of the World.”
A popular stop on cruise itineraries (check out what Travel Planners International offers with its Alaska Tracy Arm Fjord Cruise aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Solstice) this town offers up more than enough to fill a day in port.
Art and Culture. Fans of Native American art will want to take time to visit some of Ketchikan’s numerous galleries, which feature traditional and contemporary art from local artisans who specialize in everything from pottery and sculpture to painting and jewelry. Not surprisingly, Native art is plentiful as Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian artists take advantage of the red cedar logs and bark from the nearby Tongas Rainforest to carve totems and masks. Art collectors will also want to seek out hand-woven cedar and seagrass baskets and carvings made from whale bone and walrus ivory. Visitors can also pick up scrimshaw and baleen art at various galleries throughout town.
Shopping. In addition to offering an unparalleled opportunity to bring home Native American art, Ketchikan is a perfect spot to hunt for antique maps and charts, fine jewelry (remember the Alaskan Gold Rush?) and locally canned and smoked salmon. Want to be sure you are bringing home authentic Alaskan gifts or treasures? Look for the “Made in Alaska” symbol, which indicates the item was made by a local craftsperson or manufacturer. Additionally, the “Silver Hand” emblem means the item was made by an Alaska Native. Luckily, Ketchikan’s quaint downtown area is easily navigated in a few hours, leaving plenty of time to stop by a local café for lunch or a restorative snack and beverage.
Tours and Sightseeing. Nature lovers will be spoilt for choice what with Ketchikan’s location in the Tongass National Forest and just a stone’s throw (actually, a 30-minute flight) from the Misty Fjords National Monument, a 3-million-acre park filled with waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes. Whether you choose to view the splendid scenery from the air, by boat, by van or on foot, Ketchikan is a feast for the eyes.
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Attractions: Whether you take a guided walking tour of town or head out on your own, you cannot (and shouldn’t) miss the town’s stunning collection of totem poles, each representing characters in a story or historical event. Ketchikan, is known for its collection of these stunning art pieces, but nearby Saxman Totem Village boasts of having the largest collection of standing totems, and for anyone interested in learning more about this traditional art form it is well worth a visit. Visitors may also want to stop by the SE Alaska Discovery Center, where they can peruse exhibits that tell the tale of Ketchikan’s origins, as well as world’s largest temperate rainforest.