Fur Rondy in Anchorage

I first learned about Fur Rondy when I was in Denver one weekend talking to another patron at a bar while watching a football game.  The topic of Alaska had been brought up and they started rattling off interesting items to do in Anchorage.  This was the first I had ever heard of Fur Rondy but over the next ten minutes I quickly learned about the event and made a note to visit Anchorage during this time.

Fur Rondy in Anchorage 2017 Auction

Since 1935 the Fur Rendezvous winter festival (Fur Rondy) has taken place in Anchorage. Over the years the event has transformed itself from a weekend of winter events to 10 days of events. Some of the original events remain but other events like Ice Sculptures, Outhouse Races, Running of the Reindeer and a carnival have also been added to the event. The one thing which still remains is the original staple of Fur Rondy. Since 1935 trappers will head to Anchorage to sell their goods and the audience comes prepared for the outdoor auction in their favorite furs as well and of course looking for their next purchase.

Auction at Fur Rondy in Anchorage

Visiting Fur Rondy: Things to Know

Fur Rondy covers 10 days at the end of February and early March. For 2018 the event will take place February 23 – March 4.  There are larger events which take place on each weekend, however the ceremonial start of the Iditarod is the Saturday of the second weekend.  This is also when the Running of the Reindeer takes place.

I have found the most central location to stay during Fur Rondy is the Downtown Anchorage Hilton. There are other hotels in the area like the Captain Cook, Marriott and Sheraton just to name a few. However the Hilton is no more than a block to the start of the Iditarod as well as the auction location for Fur Rondy.

Flying into Anchorage is quite easy with most major airlines offering service, however as this is still winter there are still some limitations. Alaska Airlines will provide the highest number of flights especially with a connection through Seattle on the way to Anchorage.

If you are just visiting Anchorage for the weekend and Fur Rondy, there is really no need to rent a car. However if you plan to explore outside of Anchorage it would make sense to rent a car. As I have mentioned this is the winter still so roads heading outside of Anchorage may be limited, but if you decide to explore I recommend picking up a copy of Mileposts.  This is an extensive travel guide for the State of Alaska and will tell you more than you ever wanted about where you are driving.

Icy Strait Point and the ZipRider – Hoonah

Located just north of the village of Hoonah, Alaska is Icy Strait Point. Originally Icy Strait Point was a cannery and over the years was used for various canning and fishing operations. Around twenty years ago the native corporation for the area (Huna Totem Corporation) purchased the cannery and built it up as Icy Strait Point.  As the area was developed more and more cruise ships would stop during their Inside Passage cruises.

In addition to various adventure activities, the most popular attraction is the ZipRider. This ride is over one mile in length and reaches speeds up to 60mph as it drops from the mountain into Icy Strait Point. On the day I visited it was quite clear allow for great views as I descended into Icy Strait Point.

The day I visited there were limited activities available since this was a Neighbors Day.  After venturing down the ZipRider, I walked the mile into Hoonah taking in the views along the way.

Icy Strait Point in Hoonah

On the way back to Juneau the catamaran will make a side trip if they know from other vessels there are whales in the area. On the day I went this was indeed the case and we headed up Lynn Canal a little until we came across a pod of whales.

Whales outside of Juneau

For around twenty minutes we watched the whales from a distance and just took in their beauty before heading back to Juneau.

 

Visiting Icy Strait Point and Hoonah

The two primary ways to make your way to Icy Strait Point is either by an Inside Passage cruise or one of the Neighbors Days trips. These trips occur a few times each year from Juneau.  The Neighbors Day option is a little more limited to the what is open on the specific day you visit.  Also on these trips, here will be around 100 people versus over 1,000 with a cruise ship.

Alaska Marine Highways also provides service to Hoonah. However, Icy Strait Point is primarily focused for cruise ships thus it is not always possible to gain access without being on a ship.