Girdwood is a community in the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Anchorage town center along the Seward Highway. It is home to Alaska's largest ski area, the Alyeska Resort, which was home to the 2007 US Alpine Ski Championships.
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The main access to Girdwood is along the Seward Highway, it is a very scenic drive but can be slow during peak summer travel times.
Girdwood does have a small landing strip/airport in town but it is primarily used as a base of operations for local heli-skiing guide companies and given the length of the runway it is suitable for only small prop planes; thus ruling out air travel as a method for getting to town. This means almost everyone who comes to Girdwood including Alaskan locals come in by car or shuttle. For those originating farther a field the closest major airport is the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage. The airport is served by most major airlines and can be reached on non-stop flights from such major US cities as Denver, Seattle, and San Francisco. If not renting a car, prior to arrival one should arrange shuttle travel to Girdwood and have them meet you at the airport.
The Alyeska Resort Hotel provides a shuttle from the hotel to the Seward Highway. Given this situation, the tiny nature of the town and that a shuttle is an easy option from Anchorage there is no desperate need for a rental car.
- The Portage Glacier. This is listed as many as one of the most visited tourist sites in all of Alaska, and is unique among glaciers as much of its face is underwater.
- Turnagain Arm. This section of ocean water near Girdwood is home to the second largest tides in North America and one of the few bore tides in the world, an occurrence where due to the length of the arm and the height of the tides the come in as a wave.
- Alyeska Mountain. Specifically the view from the top of the tram and the soon to be open Round House Museum that will commemorate the history of skiing in the area.
Girdwood and its accompanying ski area Alyeska resort comprise a four-season full-service resort, with the following activities available:
- Skiing. Both at the Alyeska Resort [formerly dead link] with its challenging 1,000 acres of skiable terrain and 600 inches of a snow a year, and in number of ways in the back country areas surrounding Girdwood, the most popular of those being By helicopter or snowcat.
- Ice Skating. Ice skating can be had on the numerous marshes around portage, as well as portage lake. One can skate from near Ingram Creek all the way to girdwood with numerous short portages.
- Fishing. Both locally and far a field from Girdwood, guided trips are a widely available and a popular option
- Snow mobiling. This activity is available all year round. Turnagain Pass is a popular Winter spot. In the summer, snow machiners are lifted by helicopter on to glaciers in the surrounding Chugach Mountain Range.
- Biking. There is a paved six-mile (10-km) bike trail that goes all the way from Alyeska Resort to Bird Point. Eventually the trail will follow Turnagain Arm all the way to Anchorage. There dozens of Mountain Biking trails in the valley for the more adventurous.
- Cross Country Skiing and Snow Shoeing. Skiers and snowshoers have over 30 miles (48 km) of untracked trails to explore, through frozen musky and rainforest. Guided snowshoe expeditions are run every day in the Winter.
- Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center. An Alaskan wildlife rehabilitation center. You can see moose, deer, black and grizzly bears, owls, bison musk ox and a variety of game birds. They have an excellent Alaskan gift shop.
- Girdwood Forest Fair. In early July, the Forest Fair features Alaskan artists, hand-crafted items, exotic foods and entertainers from all over Alaska. Fun for the whole family is kicked off by the Forest Fair Parade.
There is not much really in the way of shopping in Girdwood, although the town does offer a few restaurants that sell local art work as well as the following:
- Great Alaskan Tourist Trap, ☏ .
- Girdwood Books & News, ☏ .
Girdwood is a surprisingly good place to eat with a lot of genuine, well done, and well priced food.
- Silvertip Grill, ☏ . A favorite among locals and one of the best food values in town.
- Jack Sprat, ☏ . Fat and lean world cuisine.
- The Bake Shop, ☏ . Restaurant and bakery offering omelets, gigantic sweet rolls and huge sourdough pancake stacks. For lunch, sandwiches, pizzas and bottomless bowls of homemade soup. Summer garden dining. Open 7 days a week.
- The Sitzmark. At Alyeska Resort on the Boardwalk by Chairs 1 and 3. The Sitzmark Bar and Grill features monster burgers and sandwiches and is open daily during the winter in conjunction with mountain operations.
- The Ice Cream Shop, ☏ . Enjoy your ice cream treat and espresso drink while viewing a collection of historical photos of Girdwood & an authentic Totem Pole.
- Double Musky Inn, ☏ . Cajun restaurant located off Crow Creek road. The walls and ceiling of the restaurant are covered in various signs, artwork, and knickknacks among other things.
- The Aurora. Aurora Bar and Lounge is on the third floor of the Alyeska Resort Hotel at the top of the Grand Staircase.
- Chair Five Restaurant. Located in town also doubles as the town's largest and most popular bar.
- Casa del Sol, 158 Holmgren Pl (Girdwood Town Square), ☏ . 11AM-10PM. Casa del Sol brings you homemade sauces, delicious food and friendly faces, sourced locally. The alcohol selection is comprised of some of the best beers and wines the Northwest has to offer. Dine-in, take-out, winter delivery. $5-20.
- 1 Alyeska Resort Hotel. The primary place to stay in Girdwood is the Alyeska Resort Hotel, remodeled in 2007. It features hundreds of rooms and six restaurants. Despite its mega resort billing though rates a very affordable especially when compared with major resorts in the lower 48.
- [dead link] Alyeska Accommodations, 203 Olympic Mt Loop, ☏ . Offers Girdwood's largest inventory of nightly vacation rentals. They have lodging options for every budget. Offering rooms, B&B, Romantic cabins with private hot tubs, Slope side condos and Luxury Mt.homes and Chalets for familily gatherings, weddings and meetings. Stop by their office in the heart of the Chugach Mts. for your key and helpful information.
- Carriage House B&B and Stables, ☏ . The B&B offers privacy and service with a separate entrance and accommodations, while your hosts, Jake and Rachel are there for your assistance. The rooms are furnished with your comfort in mind featuring "dream beds" with sateen sheets and down comforters, cable TV and private baths with all the amenities. The B&B has a separate entrance, private patio overlooking the gardens, a fully equipped guest kitchen and sitting area with visitor information and high speed internet access.
- Bud & Carol's B&B, ☏ . In the Girdwood valley, at the base of Mt. Alyeska Ski and Year Round Resort, 2 blocks to chair lifts, on ski shuttle route, walking/biking trail and entrance to cross country ski and dog sled trails.
- Alpina Inn Bed & Breakfast, ☏ . B&B with a private entrance to a 2-room suite. Sitting area, kitchen, bathroom with shower. Deck with sitting area that looks across the valley.
- Girdwood Good Night B&B, ☏ . Stowe Drive Luxurious comfort, privacy, and 750 sq ft of light-filled, modern living space await you! Enjoy mountain views, numerous amenities, and a full hot breakfast. Sleeps up to 4. Non-smoking.
- Hidden Creek Bed and Breakfast, ☏ . Nestled in the woods high atop Vail Drive, Hidden Creek Bed & Breakfast offers a place to surround yourself with nature, while soaking up the luxurious comforts of this beautiful craftsman home.
- Crow Creek B&B, ☏ . Offers a quaint suite on a home with awesome Glacier Views from your private outdoor hot tub. All with a queen bed, private bath, TV/Cable/DVD, wireless internet, kitchenette. Wild Alaskan smoked salmon with bagels and fresh fruits are served continental.
- Glacier View B&B, ☏ . Three room B&B that comes with home-made croissants, home-made jam, and other great things. Huge windows with views of the mountains.
- The Alyeska Hostel, ☏ .
- Portage Valley Cabins & RV, Mile 7.7 Portage Glacier Rd, ☏ . Camping spots and budget cabins.
Crime is not much of a concern in Girdwood and the surrounding area; however, as is the case in all of Alaska, mother nature is less amiable. Threats include: bears, floods, and weather. Snowstorms blow in quickly and can cause power outages that may last days depending on the remoteness of your location, as well as block off roads with several feet of snow that may fall in a single night. Bring extra food, just in case, and always carry chains in your car as the road restrictions can come up quickly.
Do not feed the bears. Do not leave food or food wrappers in your car.