Big Wild Wednesday!

Let’s just start things off talking about coffee. After all, it is nearly 4 p.m. and I have still not received the promised “get up and go” from my first four cups. Sheesh. I should have brewed up a pot of that new, signature coffee co-designed by the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau and Kaladi Brothers Coffee. Yep, Big Wild meets Catalyst for Community to create TA-DAH! The Big Wild Life Blend, available now at all Kaladi Brothers locations. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s ready for you to purchase in that absolutely gorgeous bag. My uncle is visiting from Coffee Mecca Seattle and he bought a pound or two, so it must be good, right? Kaladi Head Coffee Bean Counter Dale Tran says this new blend is going to be so hot you’ll need to triple-cup it.

Cousins try their hand at a WWI simulator at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Hopefully they'll do better with the Shuttle Sim

I feel better already, so let’s move on to some important travel news to tantalize your upcoming summer vacation plans….Remember when, a few weeks back, AKontheGO was all excited about the Seattle Museum of Flight’s possible acquisition of a retired space shuttle, and how sad we initially were when we learned the Museum would “only” be receiving a Shuttle Simulator? STOP! AK Uncle, a retired Boeing machinist and founding member of the Museum of Flight tells me otherwise. This “Sim”, he says, will be the coolest mechanized wonder the Museum has ever seen, IHHO. Where the Shuttle would have been a gorgeous monolith upon which to gaze and gape outside the facility, the Sim is an actual piece of equipment your family can enter, sit down, and pretend to take a spin. Now THAT’s out of this world. Check out the Museum’s website for the latest and greatest on the Sim, and don’t forget, the Seattle TourSaver offers 2 for 1 admission!

Make sure you plan to drive northeast to Eagle River Nature Center Saturday at 2 p.m. for our informative and interactive discussion about “Taking the Kids: Travel in Alaska and Beyond”. Wish we could talk about going to the moon, but the Lower 48 and 49th state should suffice. Bring your kids, your questions, and your ideas for making family travel fun and we might even reward you with a bag of that Kaladi Bros Big Wild Life coffee! AK Dad and Kid will be there, too, to offer their very subjective opinions about traveling with Moi, which ought to be interesting.

AK Uncle and I spent the day cruising Anchorage, and I noticed a fair amount of motor homes are starting to show up. With many seasonal attractions not yet open for summer 2011, I thought I’d whip up a short list of Things to Do in Greater Anchorage Before the Crowd Shows Up:

Beautiful reflection from the Chugach mountains at Potter Marsh

1. Potter Marsh/Alaska Coastal Wildlife Refuge: We took a delightful stroll along the boardwalk yesterday, taking note of a particularly large pair of sandhill cranes on the flats. Moose, foxes, and all sorts of birds can all be found at this awesome swath of swampy land south of Anchorage just past the Rabbit Creek exit. Take a hard left (carefully) at the directional sign and join the fun. Bring warm layers, a hat, and gloves as the breeze kicks up this time of year. Binoculars and a camera are encouraged.

2. Turnagain Arm/Girdwood: Yep, a drive down the Arm can be a lovely way to spend a day, taking note of the Dall Sheep congregating on the rocky cliffs near Beluga Point and Bird Creek. As the landscape becomes green and lush, almost before your eyes, you’ll be able to see the critters with a little more clarity. Stop now and again to read the interpretive signs along the pullouts. Girdwood and Alyeska Resort are still all fired up for skiing, and Alyeska sent me a press release saying that the upper areas of the ski hills will be open well into May. So grab those brave kids and let ’em take a few runs while you enjoy their new Family Special and the gorgeous view!

3. AK Uncle has not been heard from all day, mostly because he’s immersed in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum near the Ted Stevens International Airport. For those who have not been, or not been in a while, check out the newest planes, try your hand at their flight simulator, or (AK Kid’s fav) sit in the cockpit of a 727, bells, whistles, and foot pedals. Indoors and out, with three hangars of flying things and a rich history of Alaska’s dependence upon flight, this museum is the perfect spot to spend a few hours, or all day, if you’re like my motorhead family member. Open Wed-Sun through May 10, and daily after that, the museum is staffed by a cadre of volunteers who’d love to talk your ear off about planes. Good stuff.

Taking a breather along the trail at Eagle River Nature Center

4. Eagle River Nature Center: Good gracious, I talk about this place all the time because of its fabulous family-friendly events, but did you ever stop by to just walk the trails or smell the springtime scents of grasses and trees, or even check the leftover snow for signs of awakening critters? ERNC is a delightful spot any time of year, but my favorite is early spring, when animals (like those bears) are starting to emerge from dens and the merest glimmer of green is showing up along the trails. If the weather is nasty, hang out in the Center’s main building and, while toasting your toes in front of the wood stove, read up on the history of Eagle River Valley, the Center, and the people who keep it running. Don’t forget to renew or purchase an annual membership, either, for that’s what brings these great programs (ahem) right to you.

Let us know your favorite spots for taking early-season visitors! We’ll post it on our Facebook page .

One more thing: Here is our PODCAST from a great show yesterday, talking first with Kelly Hurd and Phillip Blanchett of the Native Youth Olympics, and Pam Mandel, sitting in Seattle with Scott McMurren chatting all about her recent trip to Antarctica. Now, that is C.O.O.L.

Have a great evening, AKontheGO’ers, we’re off to the Glacier Brewhouse to introduce AK Uncle to some fabulous brews and seafood. Cheers!

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