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Seward, Alaska – Fourth Avenue

Main Streets 2017 – Alaska

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Seward Harbour Aaron Hockley
Alaska SeaLife Center US State Department
BA417D 1 1 Seward Harbour Aaron Hockley Alaska SeaLife Center US State Department

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

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4th Avenue in front of Log Cabin VIC Frank Flavin min

Anchorage, Alaska – Fourth Avenue

Main Streets 2016: Alaska

Stroll down Fourth Avenue and its surrounding streets and you’ll quickly understand why Anchorage, Alaska has been named an All-America City four times by the National Civic League. With its strong economic base, cultural and historical attractions, natural beauty and diverse recreational opportunities, Alaska’s urban center is a year-round civic and cultural destination.

At the heart of Fourth Avenue is Peratrovich Park, named after Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, a Tlingit couple who fought for equal rights for native Alaskans. It is one of 223 parks in the city and home to Visit Anchorage at Old City Hall, the Log Cabin Visitor Information Center, and Anchorage Trolley Tours. Just beyond Fourth Avenue is Elderberry Park, which provides access to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and a view of Cook Inlet. There’s plenty of history here, too. The Alaska Experience Theatre  showcases many educational films and documentaries on Alaska’s history, including the 1964 Earthquake Experience. The Alaska Veterans Museum is also located on Fourth Ave, with the Alaska Law Enforcement Museum and Anchorage Museum close by.

Living in Alaska means embracing, even celebrating, the cold and snow.  No event does that better than the Fur Rendezvous. The ‘Rondy’ is one of the nation’s premier winter festivals and includes the wildly popular Outhouse Races and Running of the Reindeer. The first Saturday in March draws thousands to Fourth Ave to watch the ceremonial start of the legendary Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

As the weather warms, Anchorage blooms into the “City of Flowers.” The city’s greenhouse grows over 76,000 plants and close to 1,400 hanging baskets, which residents and businesses help to support and maintain. In June, the Downtown Summer Solstice festival features the Hero Games — a friendly competition between Alaska’s first responders — along with a roller derby, a beard and mustache competition, and the multi-attraction Children’s Rainbow Factory. Fourth Avenue also hosts Music in the Park, art fairs and the Annual West End Block Party.

A coalition of community partners has set its sights on making Anchorage the nation’s number one place to live, work and play by 2025. Judging by the coalition’s award-winning #ILoveAnchorage campaign on Instagram, many residents think their city has achieved that goal already.

All photos courtesy of Visit Anchorage

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