Main Streets 2017 – Alaska
Many cities and towns across Alaska are isolated by geography and weather, accessible only by boat, plane, or in some cases, primarily by dogsled. But in Seward, Fourth Avenue is not only the heart of this thriving community — it’s also a key point of access to the rest of Alaska.
Fourth Avenue becomes the Seward Highway as it leads from this port city’s downtown north toward Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad also makes Seward its southern terminus. The Seward Airport provides services for general aviation and serves as Mile 0 on the famous Iditarod Trail, blazed in the opening years of the 20th century to carry people and goods from Seward’s port to interior Alaska.
Ironically, today it’s only the water route that Seward is lacking, as its ferry service via the Alaska Marine Highway was discontinued about a dozen years ago. But this city was built on the fisheries that flourish, together with local tourism, on Fourth Avenue and its neighboring streets. One event that symbolizes the close ties between fishing and tourism is the annual Seward Harbor Opening Weekend in May, when businesses offer open houses, the blessing of the fleet is conducted and celebrated, and the Seward Mermaid Festival is staged.
Seward overflows with people every Fourth of July, when its population balloons from 2,500 to an estimated 30,000 as a series of events, including the Mount Marathon Race, celebrates Independence Day. Mount Marathon provides part of the dramatic backdrop to downtown, and the race is all about community.
For those who are less inclined to racing up the side of a mountain, walking downtown Seward can be just as rewarding. A stroll from the Port of Seward, with its iconic Coal Loading Facility and fisheries, into downtown takes you past the Small Boat Harbor, where the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center offers information about boat tours, hiking, kayaking and fishing in this spectacular setting.
At the other end of town is the Alaska SeaLife Center, an aquarium that also does marine research and wildlife response. The attractions in between those include the Chugach Museum and Institute of History and Art, the Resurrection Bay Historical Society and the Qutekcak Native Heritage Center.
Beckoning throughout town are the shops, restaurants and lodging that serve both year-round residents and the thousands of visitors who arrive in this special corner of the world by boat and train and car. And, yes, even occasionally by dogsled.
Primary photo courtesy of Alamy
Seward Harbor photo taken by Aaron Hockley
Alaska SeaLife Center photo taken by the US State Department