Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Fabulous Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Festival  2/24/17-3/5/17

Walking around Anchorage in February of each year, you’ll hear people saying Let’s Rondy!  What the heck is that all about?  Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and find out here. Turns out the Fur Rendezvous Festival is a significant part of the history and tradition of Anchorage!

Picture the mid-1930's.  Anchorage was a tiny town of 3,000 that stretched between the Park Strip and Ship Creek. Winters were tough, long, and hard. Spirits would dive after the holidays.  Cabin fever would hit.  People got moody, cranky if you will. 

Enter Vern Johnson, the father of Fur Rendezvous.  Vern was an outgoing Anchorage citizen, a likable man with a keen understanding of social conditions. To put the “win” back into winter and to help raise the spirits of his townspeople, he and his friends established a festival to coincide with the time that the miners and trappers came to town to sell their winter's bounty. It began as a three-day sports tournament on February 15, 16 and 17, 1935 and featured hockey, skiing, boxing, basketball and a children's sled dog race down Fourth Avenue. The people of Anchorage came outside to “Rondy.” 
Fur Rondy Photo Gallery

Today, Fur Rendezvous continues to be a party that Anchorage residents relish.  It has earned national and international notice, bringing visitors here from throughout the world. Let's Rondy!

There are many Fur Rondy events --some old, some new. The Blanket Toss*, an ancient Native Alaskan tradition, joined the Festival in 1950. Alaskan Native hunters and dancers were flown into Anchorage from Nome and Little Diomede to participate in the Blanket Toss and perform artistic, captivating tribal dances.  And of course, the Official Rondy Fur Auction has been a Festival event since the beginning- in fact, the Festival was named in large part because the fur trade was Alaska's third most valuable industry in those days.

The World Championship Sled Dog Race started in 1946 and has become a main event of the Festival bringing teams of sled dogs and mushers to Anchorage from across Alaska and the world. The World Championship Dog Weight Pull began in 1967 as a bet between two dog owners to see whose animal could pull the biggest load. Four decades later, dog owners are still competing against each other for the cash, notoriety and the highly coveted title for that event. Other traditional Fur Rondy events include the Grand Parade, the Rondy Carnival, the Alaskan Original Men's Snowshoe Softball; and the Grand Prix Auto Race, one of the oldest street races in North America.  The Frostbite Footrace, Miners and Trappers Charity Ball, the Outhouse Races and many other events are also not to be missed.  For a complete schedule of the events, see the Official Site!

“Let’s Rondy!”   See you there!  

(Official Fur Rondy Website information was used in the writing of this article.)

Written by Marilyn Morgan of 11th Avenue B&B and one of the Innkeepers of Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Winter Travel in Anchorage Alaska - Why?

Hoarfrost in Sun - MM Rydesky
Hoarfrost at Jarvi Homestay B&B in Anchorage AK

Why would anyone willingly travel to Alaska in January?  

If for no other reason, perhaps for the beauty of the out of doors. This is the time of snow fog and icy tree limbs, called hoarfrost. Add a little sun, and you have a magical fairy land.

Hoarfrost in Snow Fog - MM RydeskyAnchorage temperatures have ranged above zero and below 32 degrees for several weeks now. With these colder temperatures, little snow falls, but the air is crisp and the ice crystals form on the trees. If snow fog is in the air, the days have a blue cast, adding to the mystery of the area's appearance. Add a bit of midday sun, or the hues of Winter sunsets, and the scenery adopts an entirely different look.

Outdoor sports are not on hold, even with this weather pattern: bicyclists and walkers are out in number - bundled up in the kind of gear that ensures a pleasant outing. Indoors, there is plenty to do: spend the day at the Anchorage Museum, attend a play or musical performance at the PAC in the evenings, or share a cup of cocoa while wrapped up in a comforter near the fireplace at your Bed & Breakfast. Round out your stay with a day trip with Salmonberry Tours, visiting a glacier for walk, or view it from a cruise. They will take you ice fishing and dog sledding - or take an overnight trip to view the Aurora Borealis!

Hoarfrost on Trees in Anchorage - MM Rydesky
Trees in January
Traveling in late February? Plan to see the ice and snow sculptures featured around the city. If you visit in early March, you can catch the Iditarod dog sled race event and plenty of Fur-Rhondy happenings indoors and outside, too.

Try a Winter visit. Staying an Inspected & Approved Bed and Breakfast will make it all the cozier. If you would like some recommendations, call the AABBA Hotline at 907-272-5909 and speak with a volunteer who, as an Anchorage resident, knows what might best match your travel dreams. Hope to see you soon!

Submitted by Mary M Rydesky of Jarvi Homestay, one of the AABBA Inns Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Red Chair Visits Anchorage Alaska on Coast-to-Coast Journey

Move over Flat Stanley, the Red Chair is the newest travel icon
Jarvi Homestay Bed and Breakfast hosts The Red Chair
              Where travelers once held photos of Flat Stanley in unusual places, photographers now shoot photos of a humble red chair. Long considered simply a place to rest after a long day, the lowly wooden chair has been elevated to celebrity status, and is being welcomed at inns and B&Bs throughout America. 

It’s all part of a multi-year B&B awareness program that focuses on a traveling red porch chair to highlight the comfort, hospitality and friendliness of bed and breakfasts. Since its start in New England in 2012, B&Bs and inns have taken inspiring photos of the Red Chair from beaches to bandstands.
The Red Chair makes its way across the United States, bringing attention to B&Bs and beautiful travel destinations.  It traveled along the East Coast and Southern states in 2014, spent 2015 touring the West Coast, and so far in 2016 the chair has ventured into Alaska and Canada.  Participating B&Bs, including Anchorage’s Camai Bed and Breakfast and Jarvi Homestay Bed and Breakfast host the Red Chair, tell  its stay with blog posts and photos on www.RedChairTravels.com and other social channels.  Thanks to a partnership with BedandBreakfast.com, the Red Chair makes its way across the United States, bringing attention to B&Bs and beautiful travel destinations.  
From May 7 to May 21, the chair visits Anchorage, first to visit Jarvi Homestay Bed and Breakfast and then Camai Bed and Breakfast.  Look for innkeepers Mary Rydesky  and Caroline Valentine  shooting images of the Red Chair at scenic and unique venues throughout Anchorage. Both inns have attained the “Inspected & Approved” badge of quality from the Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association (AABBA) through peer review.
Loussac Library's water sculpture suits the
Red Chair for reading and multimedia
“We are honored to be selected, and to receive the chair as National Travel and Tourism Week is closing, as it continues the celebration of B&B participation in Alaska’s booming tourism industry”, said Rydesky. 
It all started in winter 2012 with a single image.  Innkeeper Beth Colt of Woods Hole Inn posted a picture on Facebook of her simple red chair perched on the ice behind her house and watched her page light up with “likes.”  The picture was shared on the Facebook page of a nature photographer from California, who was inspired by the image to visit the Woods Hole Inn and took an amazing second photo of the chair on a local beach.
During these years, the Red Chair developed a personality of its own being photographed by innkeepers in communities from one end of New England to the other.  Starting in Cape Cod, the Red Chair journeyed throughout the six New England states on a 9-month tour.
          “This chair is the little engine that could,” said Colt.  “I could never have imagined that it would travel so far, to every corner of America, all on the kindness and hospitality of innkeepers. It’s a barn-raising of sorts; the sharing of a piece of Americana.”
Stories from the Red Chair’s travels have been chronicled on blogs at each stop throughout its journey. Look for tales of the Red Chair’s travels to Camai Bed and Breakfast and Jarvi Homestay Bed and Breakfast on the AABBA Blog (http://blog.anchorage-bnb.com) as well as on the websites and social media for Jarvi Homestay and Camai Bed and Breakfast.
For a compilation of these blogs, visit http://www.redchairtravels.com/blog.html . For a complete view of Red Chair photos, visit http://www.redchairtravels.com and get ready to be inspired. To learn more about Jarvi Homestay, visit www.jarvihomestay.com and Camai Bed and Breakfast at www.camaibnb.com. 
About the Hosting Bed and Breakfasts
Craig and Caroline Valentine have been operating Camai Bed and Breakfast since May 1981 and welcome visitors from the world over. Caroline is a retired public school mathematics teacher. She is now a math adjunct at University of Alaska Anchorage. Craig is a retired civil engineer. Both are active in Anchorage as volunteers, including the Anchorage Alaska Bed and Breakfast Association (AABBA).

             Mary M Rydesky opened Jarvi Homestay in 2007 to host health care practitioners traveling to and from the rural communities of Alaska.  Today, travelers seeking a ‘healthy way to stay’ are her guests. She teaches business management for Wayland Baptist University and the University of Anchorage, encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in every student. She currently serves as President of the Anchorage Alaska Bed and Breakfast Association (AABBA).

Innkeepers Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Like Dogs? Love the Iditarod!

Dog Sledding - Wikipedia

Several years ago, we published the story behind the Iditarod.  It is worth reading again, and understanding what gave rise to this amazing dog sledding event. In 2016, Anchorage is bringing in snow by train to cover the streets where the ceremonial opening takes place, and people are joking about outfitting the sleds with hover boards to keep them in action.  But all kidding aside, this event is a big deal.

Take the kids and friends downtown to cheer on the dogs this Saturday morning.  Between now and then, there is still time to register for Running of the Reindeer, and to get a little culture. And, visit the Carnival by night to see  Anchorage in a whole new way.

There is plenty to do indoors and out, and restaurants for every taste. See our AABBA Associate/Travel Partners for excellent suggestions. If you would like a printable guide, here is the 2016 Fur Rhondy version!

And if you still need a place to stay, consider calling the B&B Hotline at 907-272-5909 or visiting the AABBA website where you will find roughly 30 local B&Bs along with a calendar  indicating who has room. Then you can check pictures, description,  and reviews to see if one matches your needs. What's different about these B&Bs? They are 'inspected & approved', meaning they meet requirements beyond getting a business license and permit.  You will find high calibre hospitality, cleanliness, and professionalism with these innkeepers! Visitors often pick these places for the safety, the privacy and quietude, and the locations.  You will find AABBA inns from Chugiak to Indian and can get some rest and relaxation away from the crowds.

And these B&Bs are truly Alaskan, run by Anchorage residents.

Pack your skates and end your Saturday with the Family Skate at Westcheser Lagoon. It is free! There is still more to see and do on Sunday, so you might want to stay to Monday and catch all the fun. 

 Mary M Rydesky runs Jarvi Homestay and is one of the Innkeepers of  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Alaska Travel - 3 Tips to Making It Real!

As a traveler coming to Alaska, you know that choosing a place to stay can make or break the enjoyment your trip provides: a safe, quiet, and welcoming accommodation offering a good night’s sleep is key! As a B&B host for nearly ten years and traveler myself, I have that desire wherever I travel, and recently, I found two articles featuring guidelines for picking where to stay.

Telegraph Traveler’s destination expert, Tim Jepson, suggests in his Alaska Travel Guide that confining yourself to the waters by cruising prevents you from experiencing many of Alaska’s wonders. He offers tips for high season, shoulder season, and winter travel from North America and Europe, providing recommendations related to daylight, snow, and temperatures. Most importantly, he suggests booking well in advance for accommodations and vehicle rental. His mention of downloading the GPS-driven Alaska App, which is free from iTunes, will guide you to travel information you can carry with you.

Downtown Anchorage
Courtesy VisitAnchorage 
The Anchorage area bed & breakfasts have a professional association (AABBA) that offers peer review of the inns, resulting in a group of about 30 that are inspected & approved through the process of checking business practices, cleanliness and hygiene, safety, and amenities. Speaking on the topic of what’s different about staying at B&Bs in Alaska, the Association offers tips such as looking for inns with room-darkening window coverings for the summer’s lengthy daylight hours and making your reservations well in advance. B&Bs here are, by local regulation, located within the structure of the inn keeper’s home but are separate from the owner’s living space. Everyone is unique and private.

Three Tips for Travelers

Experience ‘real’ Alaska – to get the flavor of Anchorage, stay at a local bed and Breakfast (B&B). You can stay in one that bears the ‘inspected and approved’ award by checking the AABBA online or by calling the Hotline at 907-272-5909. You open the opportunity to stay in areas where moose roam, where hillside views over Turnagain Arm waters can’t be beat, and where chatting with the B&B host will help you decide which tour or feature you might select for the day.

Customize your selection of activities - Talk with your B&B host both before and during your stay. Ask about various trails, sights, cruises, restaurants – because we live here, we have enjoyed them ourselves, and we know the people who run the shops and services. They are our Associate/Travel Partners. With the frame of reference of long term experience and working relationships, we can help you customize your own selection of where to go and what to do. Want the off-the-beaten-path choices? Prefer the well-traveled selections? Let us know.

Set up your reservations and transportation in advance – In the high season, the cost of accommodations and vehicle rentals is astounding. B&Bs offer a good value with breakfast included.  And some B&Bs offer special services or amenities that you might seek, such as hot tub, freezer space for your fish, or the ‘going green’ commitment to the environment. Ask your B&B host about this.

Anchorage is best seen when you have private transportation. Having a rental car is by far the best way to see it, from Flattop Mountain to downtown museums, from whale watching to boarding the train for a day on the rails. Stay at an inspected & approved B&B to learn about Alaska by meeting its residents.  Check the AABBA website for photos and more information on B&Bs and the companies and restaurants known as Associate/Travel Partners. We work together to build great memories of your Alaska travels!

--written by Mary M Rydesky, host of Jarvi Homestay Bed & Breakfast and president of AABBA. Mary samples the day cruises, train rides, glacier tours, walking & hiking trails - oh, and the restaurants, too! Just ask what Anchorage can offer you! Follow her Anchorage travel suggestions on Facebook.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 2016: A Good Time to Visit Alaska?

Lucas loves the snow-no white toys though!
Sure it is! Plan now for the Iditarod - we are counting the days and hoping for snow. The history of the Iditarod is told well in a book, The Cruelest Miles, or you can get a quick report when you visit the event site.  Here's the thing: planning ahead is imperative if you want a place to get some sleep.   Anchorage fills up, and posts along the trail through Alaska do too.  Try the 'inspected and approved' B&Bs of Alaska for clean, safe, pleasant places where you will be well taken care off.  Want to know what more there is to do at this time of year? Check Winter Events for ideas!

There are great places to eat in Anchorage - every visitor must go to Mooses Tooth for amazing pizza and the micro-brewery favorites. They have a sister restaurant with a different menu, called Bear Tooth. Restaurants are not all downtown: try Torchon for some amazing entrees!  And Southside Bistro in south Anchorage (that will mean all of about six miles driving) is top shelf (and near several B&Bs that are inspected & approved.)

Anchorage has a trademark: the drive through coffee kiosks.  Try them all - drive up, get a fresh pull at what ever strength you like - you may never go into a nation-wide-label coffee shop again.  Just try to count all the coffee kiosks you see in a square mile. 

You won't lack for things to do, and you will want a nice place for the night.  Some B&Bs feature fireplaces and hot tubs along with hospitality, privacy, and peacefulness.  With the 'inspected & approved' label you get assurance of professional business practices, licensing, permitting, and insurance that might otherwise be hit or miss.  And you will get innkeepers who know the city and the state so when you want a recommendation, you have your own expert.

Want to make a choice based on particular amenities? Or by geographic areas so that you are staying near your old roommate, cousin, or friends?

When you are ready to tour the state, we can guide you to good B&Bs outside of Anchorage - just ask!

Mary M Rydesky, AABBA President, is one of the Innkeepers with  Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association. She operates Jarvi Homestay.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sixth Annual Awards Presented to AABBA Associate/Travel Partners

Sixth Annual AABBA Awards
Another Alaskan summer has passed, and earlier this week the Anchorage Alaska Bed and Breakfast Association (AABBA) celebrated by honoring and showing gratitude to all of our Associate / Travel Partners at the 6th annual Associate Travel Partner (ATP) Appreciation and Awards Ceremony!  

The purpose of this event is to thank each and every ATP for the great service and Alaskan experiences they provide to our guests. 

Each year the event is accompanied with a spread of homemade foods, good conversation, stories and camaraderie.  We always learn something new about the goods, services, and travel opportunities available to our guests.  This year, we learned that Once in a Blue Moose has been a family owned Alaskan business since 1969, with now three generations of Alaskans bringing unique gifts and souvenirs to Alaska's Visitors.  And Ascending Path has extended its tour repertoire to appeal to families and elders, with new adventures to come in 2016! What great stories and plans!  

Patrick receives award for
Kenai Fjords Tours
from VP Mary M Rydesky
AABBA’s Associate / Travel Partners offer a variety of services and goods that provide and create a quality, enjoyable, memorable experience for leisure visitors and business travelers.   It is always so difficult to choose the annual winners from among 50+ Associate / Travel Partners representing restaurants, museums, cultural centers, theaters, land, sea and air tours, marketing, lodging, and other types of support services. 

Awards were presented in the following categories for the 2015 season:

Best Alaska Experience - Alaska Native Heritage Center
Best Dining Experience  Glacier Brewhouse, Haute Quarter Grill, and Orso Restaurant
Innovative Approach to Making Guests Feel Special -  Kenai Fjord Tours, Orso Restaurant
Best Business to Business Service in Support of Tourism The Alaska App, Sam Wasson Photography
Rookie of the Year, New Member - South Restaurant & Coffeehouse
Advocacy for Bed & Breakfasts in Tourism - Visit Anchorage!

If you happen to visit any of these businesses, join us in thanking them for their service and dedication by congratulating them on their 2015 recognition.  We would also love to hear any feedback you might have on some of your own Alaskan experiences and memories made possible by one of our Associate / Travel Partners! 

--Innkeeper Krista Walker, Alaska House of Jade, is a member of the
 Anchorage Alaska Bed & Breakfast Association