Unique things to do in Ketchikan, Al
Unique Things to Do in Ketchikan
Like the rest of Alaska, there are many unique things to do in Ketchikan. Ketchikan is located on the mainland, facing the inside passageway south of Misty Fjords. The native population is just a little over 8,000 people year-round, but it has a large cruise ship terminal area and can handle several large cruise ships at a time, making the town streets come alive with tourists.
Tourism is one of the leading industries in Alaska and Ketchikan, which is located on Revillagigedo Island. We all wished we had more than one day in this beautiful town, as there were so many fun and unique things to do in Ketchikan.
Our Excursion Choices:
Gary and I were excited about this stop as we arranged a ziplining and sky bridge excursion through Viator. Bob and Mary were heading to a Native American cultural show called The Ultimate Saxman Experience, where Bob got a little carried away with himself.
Our Seabourn Odyssey was anchored in the harbor as the larger ships had taken the dock space. Shortly after arrival, Gary and I headed to the port, where we would meet our Tour Van, which would carry us to the Rainforest Canopy Ropes and Zipline Adventure Park.
Visiting the Pier:
While waiting for our tour van, we had a few minutes to look around the downtown port area of Ketchikan, which had a very Alaskan frontier vibe. We took pictures of the area and each other, clowning around. A huge Holland America cruise ship was docked at the pier next to us and seemed to dwarf everything else in the area,
Our Van arrived within about ten minutes, and Gary and I loaded up with about ten other people into the van. Some were from our cruise, and a family with moms and their college-age kids came from the Carnival Princess.
Ziplining in the Tongass National Forest:
We arrived at the adventure park after about a 15-minute ride up into the hills and forested area. The ziplining and adventure park was built into the lush, dense forest of the Tongass National Forest with its tall redwoods and other native trees. After signing our waivers and getting our equipment squared away, we headed to the training zipline, where we were given instructions on what to do before, during, and after each zip line segment, along with a safety talk. We each practice our skills and the short training zipline.
Our guides for the day were a college couple working at the adventure park for the summer to explore and experience Alaska. One was an environmental science student, and the other was majoring in botany. They were very good at their jobs, providing a great experience while teaching us about the native flora, fauna, and the general area of Ketchikan.
After our first full zipline segment, we arrived at an aerial obstacle walkway course that had us maneuvering over various ropes, slotted bridges, and other configurations to get to our next zipline platform around a giant redwood tree. From there, we had a blast soaring through the air, through the beautiful forest, with the sun filtering through the branches. It was the perfect temperature of about 70 degrees as we maneuvered through about ten individual zip line segments.
The last zip line was fun. We zipped down from the trees to a platform built above a dock over the water. As we each took turns heading to our final stop, we looked around at the fantastic shoreline and nearby islands. Looking down at the crystal-clear water, we saw fish swimming beneath the dock and were told to watch for whales as they often feed in the bay right in front of us.
Age is Not a Factor:
It was so much fun to hear Gary and the others hollering through the trees when they headed down each zip line. Half of our group was over 60, with the other half under thirty, but we all had an equally terrific time as we made new friends while swinging in the trees. It was a fun activity for all and did not require any special skills, but it did require all of us to be in reasonably healthy condition as we did climb up and down some stairs and walk through the woods a bit.
At the zipline’s end, we headed to the souvenir shop, where we bought shirts and hats and were given some water. The Van was waiting to take us back to town, where we would meet up with Bob and Mary.
The Saxman Cultural Experience
The Saxman Cultural Center is an incorporated village of one square mile with a population of about 400 Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribal residents today. On the site is the tribe’s cultural center, school, church, and Totem Park, where you will find over 25 beautiful Totem poles crafted by the local Native American Indians. Each pole is prepared for specific purposes and tells a particular story. There is a carving shed where you’ll often find master carvers at work on their current project. Today, they are frequently commissioned by different organizations to carve Totem poles, which are displayed worldwide. A Totem pole carved by a master carver often sells for over $100,000.
Bob and Mary Visit Saxman
Bob and Mary’s excursion took them to this unique village to be immersed in the cultural lives of these wonderfully talented Native American Indians. After arriving at the site, they were first guided to the crafts shed, where they were told about many of their culture’s icons and symbols, often carved into poles and displayed throughout their villages. They were each given a wooden icon and encouraged to paint them with the paints provided. Think oversized Christmas ornaments. After they completed their icons, they were taken to the Totem Park, where they learned more about the symbols and purposes of their amazing Totem Poles and the story each pole tells.
Masters in Action:
Afterward, they visited the actual carving shed and watched two totem masters work on two totem poles that large organizations had commissioned. Bob and Mary were amazed by the detailed work put into each totem as various icons were carved into the massive log.
Cooking Class up Next:
The group was then invited into the cultural center, where one of the native women was teaching the group how to make Salmon Chowder, which was delicious.
This is where the story turns a little scary. After the soup-making demonstration, several local tribesmen, women, and children appear in native dress and robes to demonstrate one of their native ritual dances. The colorful costumes were beautiful. They asked for volunteers from the audience to join them on the stage to learn and participate in their dance.
This is the scary part. Bob, who usually wouldn’t be caught dead doing any dance, got up with two other people and joined them on stage, where they were given native blankets and robes to wear and taught a little of their dance. Mary quickly fished out her camera and captured this on video, which has been the delight and torment of our family who has seen it.
Think of the dance scene in “The Proposal,” in which Betty White talks Sandra Bullock into performing a native dance while chanting around a fire in the woods. Here is Bob’s version – sorry if you need therapy after watching this.
Not much could top this dance, so after the cultural dancing was over, guests were directed to the gift shop where many beautifully made Tlingit and other Native American crafts were sold.
There are many fun and unique things to do in Ketchikan, Alaska. You will most likely be arriving aboard a cruise ship, so you’ll only have limited time to spend in this delightful town. Before signing up for the cruise ship excursions, you may want to check in with Viator. A few additional options are offered, and the prices are typically much lower.
Be sure to take in Historic Creek Street in Ketchikan:
After we returned from our excursions, we met up with each other to have lunch along the cruise ship pier area. After sharing our experiences and laughing at Bob’s dance scene video, Bob headed back to the ship, but Mary, Gary, and I wanted to explore a little more. I was also looking for a gift for my Grandson, Austin.
We headed towards the shopping area and followed signs to Creek Street, another one of the unique things to do in Ketchikan. We headed towards the hillside and followed the Totem signs to the entrance of Creek Street. Back in the day, Creek Street was the red-light district in town. Today, you’ll find Dolly’s House Museum, classic Totem poles, locally owned shops, art galleries, and restaurants along the famous Creek Street boardwalk that traverses the banks of the famed Ketchikan Creek. In early summer, thousands of salmon swim up this stream.
Creek Street would have been a better option for us to go to for lunch after our excursions, and we are sorry we didn’t spend more time here.
Unique Things to do in Ketchikan, AK – Excursion Choices:
There were many great, fun choices for excursions in Ketcikan almost too many to choose from since we were there for only one day. Excursion choices included:
Here is just a sampling of unique things to do in Ketchikan, Ak
Fun Facts about Ketchikan, Alaska
Ketchikan, Alaska is a fascinating place with plenty of fun facts to discover. Here are 15 interesting tidbits about this charming city:
1. Ketchikan is known as the “Salmon Capital of the World” due to its abundant salmon population and thriving fishing industry.
2. The city is located in the southeastern part of Alaska, on Revillagigedo Island.
3. Ketchikan is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, with lush forests, mountains, and the Tongass National Forest.
4. It is home to the world’s largest collection of totem poles, with over 80 totems scattered throughout the city.
5. Ketchikan receives an average annual rainfall of 162 inches, making it one of the rainiest cities in the United States.
6. The city is a popular cruise ship destination, attracting thousands of visitors each year.
7. Ketchikan is the starting point of the famous Inside Passage, a scenic route for cruise ships that stretches from Alaska to British Columbia.
8. The city has a rich Native American heritage, with the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes having a significant presence in the area.
9. Ketchikan is home to the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, a museum that showcases the region’s natural and cultural history.
10. The city is famous for its colorful buildings along Creek Street, a historic district that was once a red-light district during the Gold Rush era.
11. Ketchikan is a gateway to Misty Fjords National Monument, a stunning wilderness area known for its towering cliffs, waterfalls, and fjords.
12. The city hosts the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, where visitors can watch thrilling lumberjack competitions and learn about the region’s logging history.
13. Ketchikan is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for fishing, kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
14. The city is home to the Totem Heritage Center, a museum that preserves and displays historic totem poles and Native American artifacts.
15. Ketchikan has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries, studios, and theaters showcasing the work of local artists and performers.
These fun facts about Ketchikan, Alaska should give you a glimpse into the unique and captivating aspects of this remarkable city.