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The Best Things To Do in Talkeetna

There are lots of fun things to do in Talkeetna all year round, here’s what I got up to during my time in Talkeetna in winter and summer…

It’s the place to go flightseeing over Denali from, it has great restaurants, attractive historic buildings, and a whole bunch of characters that live there. There are many reasons to visit the quirky frontier town of Talkeetna, Alaska, but the reason I originally wanted to visit wasn’t any of the above.

I wanted to visit Talkeetna, Alaska because they have a cat for a mayor. The current cat Mayor of Talkeetna is called Aurora, but when I first visited in 2015 it was Mayor Stubbs.

Aurora the Mayor at Nagley's Store

Apparently, when Sarah Palin was the mayor of the neighboring town of Wasilla, her and Stubbs used to rub shoulders at mayoral events. Wonder which one of them was the better mayor (my money is on Stubbs).

I loved the sound of this quirky little Alaskan town and I knew that I just had to go there.

Visit Nagley's Store to look for Mayor Denali, it's one of the best things to do in TalkeetnaThe Roadhouse in Talkeetna Alaska

Talkeetna, Alaska is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was originally inhabited by the Athabascan Indians before gold prospectors and railroad men started settling the area from the late 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century.

Talkeetna was established as a town in 1919 once it was linked by railway to Anchorage. These days it is popular with climbers that are aiming to summit Denali, and during late spring/early summer, they pretty much take over the town.

I ended up spending two nights in Talkeetna on my first summer visit and I loved my time there. I returned again in March 2024 for four nights as part of my Alaska Winter Itinerary and came away loving it even more.

Talkeetna, Alaska is the perfect little town to just wander around, but there are also so many fun outdoor activities. You will never get bored.

Dogsledding is one of the top Takeetna winter things to do

The Best Things To Do in Talkeetna

Sample the Local Cuisine

One great rainy day activity is sampling local cuisine and all of my meals while I was in Talkeetna Alaska were well above average.

In summer, the Spinach Bread Airstream food truck parked in a permanent spot on the main street serves up massive hunks of grilled spinach and cheese bread and although it looked delicious, I went for their meal of the day which was a black bean dish with fluffy rice, fresh coriander, homemade salsa and crushed peanuts – so good.

Eat at Talkeetna Spinach Bread food truck for one of the best things to do in TalkeetnaTalkeetna Alaska moose

My favorite meal in Talkeetna, Alaska was at the iconic Talkeetna Roadhouse where I breakfasted at a long communal table. It is kitschy as hell with walls covered in flags, photos, and signs but that’s why I loved it.

It was at the Talkeetna Roadhouse that I had one of the most unusual and delicious breakfasts ever – the super decadent Nick’s Way which consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash brown potatoes, a buttery soft homemade biscuit, and reindeer sausage gravy – simply incredible and I didn’t need to eat again until dinner.

If you only have time for one meal in Talkeetna – make it at the Talkeetna Roadhouse! Unfortunately, the Talkeetna Roadhouse is closed for the foreseeable future.

Talkeetna Roadhouse breakfast

I love cozy Conscious Coffee for its hot drinks, bagels, and crepes served amongst hundreds of books that are available for loan or sale, and Denali Brewpub which has an excellent menu of pub classics and daily specials, along with locally brewed beer.

Conscious Coffee in Talkeetna

Wander the Historic Downtown

There are a couple of historic cabins dotted in the back streets of Talkeetna that are set up to show what they would have looked like when the original owners who built them in the late 19th century/early 20th century lived there. One of them still has its original Sitka strawberry patch. I picked a few and they were delicious.

Historic cabin in Talkeetna Alaska

I visited most of the town’s points of interest that were inside to escape the cold and rain. I enjoyed browsing the many tasteful gift shops scattered throughout town.

Don’t miss Aurora Dora – Dora has some incredible Aurora prints that she took herself for sale here, Blue Moose for great Alaska gifts, Silverbear Sundries for natural products like lotions and soap, and Dancing Leaf Gallery which houses work by local artists.

Downtown Talkeetna in Winter

Go Rafting or Tubing in Summer

I didn’t get a chance to go rafting or tubing but they are both popular excursions to do from Talkeetna and look really fun. You can even do an overnight rafting trip for a real adventure.

Rafting is one of the best things to do in Talkeetna

Discover Talkeetna’s History at the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum

My favorite attraction was the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum which is spread out over three historic buildings behind the main street of town.

Talkeetna Alaska Historical Society MuseumVisiting Nagley's Store is one of the best things to do in Talkeetna

It was a higgledy-piggle of exhibitions crammed into every nook and cranny, lots of old photos and all kinds of randomness: exactly the way I like my local museums to be.

I learned about the homesteading act that brought a lot of people who wanted a better life up to Alaska from the Lower 48 and about the history of Talkeetna as a town.

One of the buildings housed an exhibit about Denali and I somehow perfectly timed my visit with a detailed talk by a ranger about summiting the mountain. The exhibit also touched on the many people who have died trying to summit.

After learning more about climbing Denali and the danger in attempting it, I visited the Ranger Station to watch the film that all mountaineers have to watch before attempting a climb. The film went through the climb step by step which was very interesting. 

Nagley's Store in Talkeetna

Visit the Talkeetna Cemetery

There is a quiet little cemetery tucked away near the airfield that has a memorial to all of the people who have died trying to summit Denali. There are a lot of names on there. When the weather is bad on Denali it can be more dangerous than Everest.

Memorial wall to Denali climbers in Talkeetna Alaska

Meet the Mayor

I popped into Nagley’s Store and the adjoining West Rib Pub and Grill to look for Stubbs numerous times but unfortunately, I never did get to see him. I hope you have better luck seeing Mayor Aurora if you visit.

Update: I met her a couple of times on my recent winter visit to Talkeetna! She likes sleeping on the fur-lined sled above the stairs in Nagley’s Store so look for her there or ask at the store.

Go Flightseeing Over Denali

I saved the best for last. I did a flightseeing tour from Talkeetna that circled Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, and then landed on a glacier! Needless to say, it was a big highlight of my time in Talkeetna. You can read more about it here.

Landed on a glacier - part of a Denali Flightseeing Tour with Talkeetna Air Taxi

You can do flightseeing tours in Talkeetna in both summer and winter and it is so worth it!

Look Out For Denali

If you want to see Denali but don’t have the time or cash to splurge on a flightseeing tour, don’t worry because you can see it right from town, just head to the river trail at the end of the main street. The mountain is only fully uncovered around 30% of the time so if there is cloud cover on your first attempt, keep trying.

Denali view

Another great spot to see Denali is on the Alaska Railroad train if you are catching it from Fairbanks – you’ll see it just before pulling into Talkeetna, and at the overlook on the Talkeetna Spur Road, just south of the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge turn-off.

Denali from train

Hit the Hiking Trails Near Town

There are lots of hiking trails that you can reach either by walking from town or by a short drive. The Talkeetna River trail, the Railroad Bridge trail, and the trail system at Talkeeta Lakes are all easy options close to town.

Railway bridge in Talkeetna

Go on a Snowshoeing Guided Tour in Winter

While you could hire snowshoes from the Talkeetna Gear Shop and go snowshoeing yourself, I wanted to do a guided snowshoeing tour as it was my first time and I wasn’t sure where to go.

Snowshoeing in Talkeetna in Winter

We booked the three-hour snowshoeing tour with Alaska Nature Guides and it was both beautiful and informative. Our Naturalist guide, Bernard, took us on some of the Talkeetna River and Railroad Bridge trails and we even did some off-trail snowshoeing in thick snow which was fun but strenuous.

Bernard is super knowledgeable and I learned a lot about the flora and fauna of Alaska. We also stopped on the river for a hot drink and a delicious cookie.

Talkeetna snowshoeing

Do a Snowmobiling and Dog Sledding Tour in Talkeetna in Winter

Another fun winter tour that we did was our combined snowmobiling and dog sledding tour with Alaska Wild Guides.

I have wanted to try driving a snowmobile and this tour was the perfect place to try for the first time. We had a great guide, Steven, who taught me how to drive it, Toby hopped on the back and we set off.

Snowmobiling during Talkeetna in winter

I quickly got the hang of it and followed Steven through forest paths and wide open marshland for the next hour and it was so fun! We even saw a couple of moose.

Next up we arrived at Battle Dawgs kennels and had hot drinks overlooking Denali in a cozy 40′ yurt while Chantel the dog trainer got the dogs ready. We then took a fun spin through the forest on the dog sled, taking turns as a passenger in the front and standing at the back.

Dogsledding in Talkeetna in Winter

Then it was time for more snowmobiling to finish off the tour. This was my favorite winter tour I did in Alaska and I highly recommend it!

Dog sledding dogs

See The Aurora

While Fairbanks is better known as an Aurora hot spot, we actually saw more impressive Aurora in Talkeetna and I recommend visiting both places for the best chance to see them.

Talkeetna has little light pollution so when they do come out here, you have a better chance to see a stronger, brighter display than Fairbanks as this is a city with a lot more light pollution.

Aurora hunting is one of the best things to do in Talkeetna

I took this on my phone with a 3-second exposure. I haven’t enhanced the color at all and I could see the green and the movement of the Aurora with my naked eye! Just incredible.

We were staying a 15-minute walk outside of town at Susitna River Lodging and after the Aurora tracker said they were going to be out, we walked the couple of minutes out to the road to clear the trees and were treated to a brilliant display with bright green, dancing curtains of lights.

Alaska Winter Train

Attend a Community Event

One of Talkeetna’s biggest strengths is its incredible community who fiercely love this little town and look out for each other. We found the people of Talkeetna the friendliest in Alaska.

To get a taste of this wonderful community, I recommend attending a community event while you’re there like markets, festivals, and performances. We happened to be there during the big event of winter, the Oosik Classic Ski Race in March and the town was pumping. 

We went to see Roland Roberts Band at the Sheldon Community Arts Hangar and I loved the cozy venue, the band, and the people watching. Check out future shows at The Hangar here.

Live Music in Talkeetna

I really fell for Talkeetna and there were so many reasons why I ended up loving that small frontier town, but I think my favorite thing about Talkeetna is the friendly and interesting community.

It truly is a special place and I have a feeling that Talkeetna hasn’t seen the last of me.

Have you been to Talkeetna Alaska? Would you go?

How To Plan Your Own Talkeetna Trip

Where to Stay in Talkeetna

I stayed at the Talkeetna International Hostel when I visited Talkeetna in the summer but it is no longer open, unfortunately. On my recent visit, I stayed in one of the suites at Susitna River Lodging and I loved my stay here. It’s a 15-minute walk from town, right on the river, the suites are very spacious but cozy, and they are excellent value for money – especially for Alaska. They also have cozy cabins.

Susitna River Lodging

Other great cabin and lodge options include Denali Fireside Cabin & Suites which offers studios, suites, and cottages, and the iconic Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which is located on the edge of town but has a restaurant on-site and a free shuttle to town.

For vacation rentals, there are so many cool places to stay, and this is generally the most affordable option if you are traveling with friends or family. Here are the best vacation rentals in Talkeetna:

Susitna River Lodging room

Getting to Talkeetna

If you are coming from Seward, Anchorage, or Denali National Park, and you don’t have a vehicle, you can catch the Park Connection Bus.

Alaska/Yukon Trails also travels between Anchorage in the South to Fairbanks in the North, and you can stop in Talkeetna if you are coming from either direction.

Another option is to take the train on the Alaska Railroad from Denali, Fairbanks, or Anchorage to Talkeetna. This is the only option, other than renting a car, to get to Talkeetna independently in winter. Check the winter train schedule because trains don’t run every day.

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14 Comments on Fun Things To Do in Talkeetna in Winter and Summer

  1. Supposedly…..the once wildly popular tv show “Northern Exposure” was based on the town on Talkeetna. It fits. There is so much warmth and quirkiness in that wonderful place. I love Talkeetna.

  2. We went to Alaska in 2005. Was the most wonderful trip I planned the trip a year in advance. Talkeetna was great saw Mayor Stubbs. Would love to go back but might be sad if it has changed a lot.

    • Hi Laurie, that’s so cool that you saw Mayor Stubbs! I don’t imagine he would still be around now as it was five years since I was there. I would love to return too. Where did you go?

  3. That sounds like such a wonderful little place.
    I’ve wanted to go to Alaska for ages now. I should really have gone there when I was in North America this summer :/ Maybe next year! 🙂

  4. Sounds wonderful! I’ve never understood the concept of ‘biscuits and gravy’ though – it always looks to me like someone threw up on the plate (apologies for that mental image!). I suppose it must taste better than it looks.

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