A sleepy town with a population of 876, Talkeetna is famous as a pre-base camp of sorts for Denali climbing expeditions. Summer months are the busiest here; long lines of buses arrive with cruise ship passengers eager to explore the old buildings and rich wilderness that surrounds Talkeetna. Professional and amateur climbers meander the streets, lugging their gear, swilling microbrews and exchanging stories of the challenges and secrets of America’s tallest peak. By any definition, Talkeetna is a typical tourist town, and with it are a few gems that stand out. From one of the best burgers you have ever tried to an allegedly haunted bar and inn, Talkeetna offers a certain uniqueness that sets it apart from other towns in Alaska. Here are Talkeetna’s top-five must-see establishments.
Latitude 62 Lodge
An enormous and beautiful log cabin, the Latitude 62 Lodge beckons weary travelers with a full bar and exceptional food. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Lodge offers plenty of choices for even the fussiest of eaters. Headlining the menu is the world-famous Big 62 burger. The menu boasts: “Because the name Big Mac was taken! Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce… you know the rest.” They are not kidding; this burger lives up to its reputation. The burger itself is comprised of two gargantuan patties, with all the ingredients that make up that catchy tune we all know. However, this burger is massive, and the chef improved it by tossing the center bun. If you want to tackle this monstrosity, a healthy appetite is required.
Founded in 1921, Nagley’s General Store claim to fame is their numerous cat residents. Their most famous cat, Stubbs, was elected mayor of Talkeetna in 1997. He served with distinction until his death in 2017 at age 20. Stubbs was featured in a famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon, and the store offers a variety of shirts, hats and postcards with Mayor Stubbs’ prominent, soul-searching gaze. Be sure to go upstairs and check out the various pelts and traps adorning the walls. Aurora and Denali, the current feline occupants, may cross your path and grace you with their presence if you are lucky.
The Fairview Inn
Built in 1923, the Fairview Inn has quite the reputation as one of the most haunted inns in Alaska. President Warren G. Harding spent the night here with his mistress and suffered a fatal heart attack shortly thereafter. Coincidence, sure, but this has led to some saying the Inn is cursed. The Inn features a “dead wall,” where pictures of local residents are displayed upon their passing. Stop in for a beer and chat it up with the locals. You will undoubtedly hear tales of a ghost named Frank who is said to roam the creaky-floored guest rooms.
One of the oldest establishments still in operation in Talkeetna, the Roadhouse, built in 1917, continues to serve mass quantities of hearty breakfast to climbers and tourists alike. Diners gather around family-style tables and gorge on massive cinnamon rolls, hand-made bagels, sourdough pancakes that are bigger than the plates they come on and numerous other pastries. For those with a mountainous appetite, try the Roadhouse Standard, an epic conglomerate of scrambled eggs, home fries, extra thick peppered bacon, honey whole-wheat toast, juice and bottomless coffee. Eggs cannot be made to order here; there are so many hungry diners flowing in and out that the cooks simply cannot accommodate personal orders. The kitchen is open for all to see, and watching the massive amount of eggs, potatoes and bacon cooking side-by-side in perfect harmony is truly a mesmerizing experience. In the evening, when the town begins to wind down, head back over to the Roadhouse and enjoy a succulent piece of Granny’s Chocolate Potato Cake, homemade apple, rhubarb or blueberry pie, or try the local favorite: BluBarb pie, a fusion of blueberry and rhubarb filling. And yes, it is as good as it sounds.
Trapped in Talkeetna
The newest addition to this list, Trapped in Talkeetna is a live escape game that cannot be missed. You and your party are locked in a house and the only way to escape is to solve a series of clues and puzzles, which if done right, unlocks the door. Live escape rooms mimic many video game puzzles, making this unique attraction wildly popular. You are given one hour to solve, and teamwork and communication is a must. Beat the puzzle and you may leave. Fail the puzzle, and you may become a permanent resident of Talkeetna.
Peter Goering is an Air Force veteran of 24 years. Peter returned to school after he retired to pursue a degree in Public Communication. He plans on working for the Air Force as a civilian Public Affairs consultant and is planning to move to England at the end of this year.