Misty Ketchikan, the rainiest town in Southeast Alaska, is known as the "Salmon Capital of the World." The town offers the perfect blend of activities: kayak in Misty Fjords or hike up Deer Mountain in the morning, then poke in and out of fantastic galleries and shops in the afternoon.
You're bound to visit Creek Street, a row of wooden buildings perched over the water on pilings. Brightly painted boutiques once catered to gentlemen seeking the company of "sporting women." The museum at Dolly's House gives you a glimpse into the bawdy ways of frontier life, though Ketchikan's red light district wasn't shut down until 1953.
Legends of a different sort are recorded on totem poles. Boasting the world's largest collection of Northwest totems, Ketchikan offers plenty of places to see these fascinating works of art.
Ships dock in the center of town at one of four berths, so there is a lack of the traditional cruise terminal facilities you might see at many larger ports. On crowded days, ships might be required to anchor and tender passengers into Ketchikan. Small ships sometimes dock a mile south of town.
Everything -- information kiosks, cafes, shops, museums, tour operators and restaurants -- is a short walk from the cruise ships. The visitors/tour center is located at Berth II (131 Front Street). A tunnel divides "Old Town" Ketchikan (where the majority of the attractions are) to "New Town," where several additional restaurants and bars can be found.
No-see-ums. As the name suggests, you won't see these tiny bugs that reside in wet, wooded areas, but you will notice their bites later (and they aren't pleasant). Use bug spray if you plan to hike or explore in the woods.
On Foot: Shoppers and gallery-hoppers will be able to easily navigate Creek Street on foot. This popular tourist area is only about a block from the cruise ship dock. To go a little further afield, say to Totem Bight State Park (10 miles away), you will probably take a taxi, motorcoach tour through the cruise line or public bus.
By Car: You might not have enough time in port to make renting a car worthwhile, but visitors who want their own wheels can head for Alaska Car Rental (2828 Tongass Avenue), located about a mile and a half from the dock. Ketchikan is home to three taxi companies with taxi stands near the cruise ship docks, and taxis are readily available throughout the downtown area.
By Bus: A free shuttle bus operates a loop around downtown, and connections can be made at various stops to the public bus system, which extends to other outposts and the airport. The silver bus line runs once an hour with pickup locations right in front of the cruise ships at Front Street and Dock Street. Bus fares are $1; allow ample time when using public transportation.
The U.S. dollar is the currency, but some shops will also accept Canadian dollars. Numerous banks with ATMs are located close to the cruise ship dock, including Wells Fargo (409 Dock Street) and First Bank (311 Dock Street).
English is spoken in Ketchikan.
Alaska is known for its cold-water seafood such as halibut, salmon, scallops and king crab as well as large game including moose and elk. Wild berries are used in jams and pastries, and reindeer sausage is found in breakfast items and has a peppery flavor. Local beer often accompanies a meal, and traditional American fare is also widely available.
Alava's Fish-n-Chowder: We heard from multiple people that some of the best fish and chips of their life came from this red shack. They also serve a popular clam chowder. (420 Water Street; 907-617-5328)
New York Hotel and Cafe: This historic inn serves plenty of seafood and some of the best coffee in town. (207 Stedman Street; 907-225-0256)
Annabelle's Keg and Chowder House: This place celebrates seafood amid a 1920s atmosphere, with two sections: a formal linen-tablecloth dining room and a boisterous, atmospheric pub. (Gilmore Hotel, 326 Front Street; 907-225-6009)
The Waterfront Restaurant: Here, you'll find Chinese and Filipino cuisine, as well as traditional American fare. Patrons can watch seaplanes taking off and landing while they dine. (1245 Tongass Avenue; 907-225-5400)
Asylum Bar: A locals' dive bar that will welcome you with enthusiasm, Asylum pours a crazy amount of beers on tap -- 22, including plenty of local brews -- and all for $3.50 drafts. Nosh on an incredible burger menu courtesy of Burger Queen, a shack with a window attached to the bar. (522 Water Street; 907-220-0809)
A hand-carved mini-totem pole makes an excellent gift. In the heart of downtown, the Arctic Spirit Gallery (310 Mission Street; 907-228-2277) and Scanlon Gallery (318 Mission Street; 907-247-4730) feature interesting native Indian arts, from ivory carvings to cedar bark baskets and masks.