Sunday, October 5, 2014

Guinea Pig Tourists

My parents were the first guests to visit  in Alaska and as such served as the guinea pigs for all things touristy.  The first full day they were in town we decided to explore some local attractions; some were repeatable and some experiences only need to be had once. We were at a slight disadvantage with the timing as most seasonal attractions had already shut down for the season.

We started out the day at the Alaska Zoo.  It was a chilly morning so we had the zoo to ourselves.

It was the smallest zoo I've visited which explained why the zoo maps were one-sided laminated sheets  to be returned at the conclusion of the visit.  The exhibits and the number of animals represented was extremely disappointing compared to other small zoos we've visited.  However, we did enjoy the seal and polar bear exhibits and even got to see a trainer working with the seals.

The zoo boasted an interesting memorial to the elephant who lived at the zoo for nearly 30 years before dying of an infection in 1997.

After the zoo, we went to the Anchorage Museum downtown.  They were working on an installation so the only open exhibits were the children's area and native tribes of Alaska.The main collection was compiled by the Smithsonian Institute and although well done didn't take much time to explore.  The children's area was neat but we felt pretty out of place.

We grabbed lunch after leaving the museum and then headed to Alaska Wild Berry Chocolate Factory.  It was the highlight of the day. The huge store has windows into the kitchens where you can watch candy and jam being made. The large chocolate fountain in the middle of the shop is pretty awesome too.

We tried samples of several of the homemade candies including scrumptious Key Lime Fudge and even tried chocolate covered bacon. Despite my bacon obsession - it wasn't my favorite. 

Next we went to the Ulu Factory.  The Ulu Knife has a curved shape and is made from a steel base and wooden handle. It was used by the native tribes of Alaska to skin game but now is more widely used in homes for a variety of cooking tasks. You utilize the knife in a rocking motion to easily chop vegetables.

Here's a video I found on YouTube. I recommend only watching the first minute.

The factory mostly just assembles the knives as they have found it is more cost efficient to have the parts manufactured by outside suppliers.

Getting ready for the Iditarod outside the Ulu Factory
We rounded out the day with a movie at the best theater in town.  You preselect seats before arriving which takes away the worry of where to sit.  We really love it though because the seats are huge (they call them King size) recliners.

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