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TRAVEL JOURNAL INDEX > Julie McCoy To the Lido Deck!

Ketchikan, AK  10/31/06 (Day 189)
Julie McCoy To the Lido Deck!

You would be forgiven for thinking that Ketchikan was built entirely to accommodate cruise ship passengers. It wasn’t—the town was established in 1883 as a fishing village and grew progressively larger and more prosperous as mining and lumber took off in the area as well. With all three industries now either failed or failing, getting the blue-haired ladies and wide-eyed families to spend some money when they step ashore is a big part of what keeps Ketchikan afloat.

There’s still some salmon fishing in the area and the town puts on a lumberjack “revue” for tourists which features some of the world’s best professional log rollers, pole climbers and saw operators who use the showcase competition as part of their off-season training. But it’s the souvenir-shopping tourist who makes up most of Ketchikan’s economy these days and once the summer cruise ship season is over (as it thankfully is when we arrive), the streets are empty and many business simply close up their precious gem, T-shirt or smoked fish shops.

Luckily, Burger Queen is a local institution so it’s a year-round establishment. We order delicious halibut and chips (yes, we now “burger” is right in the name, but its halibut season) and chuckle at the Burger Queen slogan: “Burger Bitch just didn’t sound right.” True, so true. Then we check into The New York Hotel and Cafe, not because we’re homesick for Manhattan but because it is, by far, the most interesting and hospitable hotel in town.

The inn was built in 1924 and boomed for a while, but was abandoned after World War II and stood empty for years until it was lovingly restored, practically piece by piece, between 1986 and 1992 by Fred Ochsner. Today the hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, offers a handful of rooms dressed in antiques—many of them restored pieces (claw foot tubs, wrought iron lights, diminutive desks) from the original hotel.  

First we are shown a charming room on the second floor of the main hotel building with a view over Thomas Basin, home to Ketchikan's dwindling fishing and sailing fleets. Then we walk around the corner, down Creek Street (Ketchikan’s infamous and historic red light district) to The Inn at Creek Street, an annex to the main hotel which consists of a series of renovated accommodations above shops and restaurants that are built on stilts over Ketchikan Creek.

With its own private entrance, mini fridge, microwave, DVD player, jetted tub and view of the sea lions who play in Ketchikan Creek during high tide, this second floor room  feels like being in an apartment (the kind of place we haven’t inhabited for a very long time), so we settle in.
By the way, does Misty Fjords—the name of a more than two million acre National Monument filled with ice, rock, rainforest and lava flows near Ketchikan—sound like a porn name to anyone else?

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