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Ketchikan Travel Guide, Alaska

Not so long ago, Ketchikan was a rowdy town of fishermen, loggers, and miners, an exotic intersection of cultures built on the profits of logging. But today, after a decade Ketchikan has received a new face being transformed into a tourist center. It has softening its rough edges and got prepared to welcome the cruise ships sailing into port every summer, then as more and bigger ships were coming in, the dock had to be extended. The city started to sell its charm to visitors and fancy new shops have been built along the pier, the old buildings have been renovated and their names were changed to remind of better days.

Now the place looks quite different with cruise ships towering above the town and bringing thousands of visitors that fill the streets for a few hours. On their short visits the passengers explore as much as they can in that short time then, when the evening comes, they leave the streets empty as they found them just to board on the cruise ships that take them to the next port. When the tourists leave you can see a glimpse of the old and misty Ketchikan and if you have more time to spend it is well worth exploring beyond the main tourist areas and emerging in the history and atmosphere of the place.

The city’s downtown area is easy to explore as most of the attractions are within easy reach. You can start with Creek Street, the town's historic district with a colorful past- it was known as the red-light district. Prostitution was semi-legal in Alaska until 1952 and made Creek Street historic. The town's most famous madam, Dolly Arthur who started a business on this street was, as most women were, transformed from an outcast into an icon. Now you can visit her house known as Dolly's House, an amusing yet sad house that became a commercial museum not long after her death.

The historic district was transformed into a tourist mall with some interesting shops. On a sunny day it is very relaxing to walk the old boardwalk, while eating a fresh halibut sandwich and watching salmon swim, on their way to spawn, under houses perched beside a narrow boardwalk, then you can continue your walk into the forest above, and over the "Married Men's Trail", then hop up the Creek Street Funicular that takes you 211 feet from the boardwalk up to the West Coast Cape Fox Lodge on top of the hill, then enjoy the walk down through the woods. This untamed and beautiful landscape all around you makes you fell like it is worth spending more than just a few hours in the city.

Ketchikan is known for its totem poles and at Saxman Totem Park and the Totem Bight State Historical Park host some of the finest examples of Tlingit and Haida carvings in Alaska.

City Park is also one of the best places in Ketchikan with ornamental pools and stream, footbridges, a fountain, and large trees.

Ketchikan events will keep you happy in different months of the year. If you come in August you can take part in Blueberry Arts Festival that celebrate the local blueberries and includes four-poster bed races and pie-eating contests. If you come in May you can’t miss the town’s annual King Salmon Derby.

But the Misty Fjords National Monument boasts all year round outdoor experiences: from hiking and flight-seeing to kayaking. Its size is twice the Yosemite’s size, with cliffs that rise 3,150 feet straight up from calm water. It is not a cheap place to visit and you can do it only by tour boat, floatplane, or sea kayak.

Whether you ride a tour bus through town, go into the woods, drive from the streets into the harbor, hike a boardwalk path through the rainforest, visit the museums, or take a tour to one of the totem pole parks the city welcomes you to experience a wonderful holiday.
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