It is no secret that Alaska is by and large a conservative, Republican state, and it’s no secret either that “wild”, “rugged” and “remote” has often been equated with “intolerant” and “unfriendly” as far as gay and lesbian issues are concerned. Hardly surprising then that Alaska is not always seen as the most enticing, “come-hither” destination for a gay and lesbian vacationers.
The truth, however, is that Alaska is fast becoming a popular destination for the gay community. Enjoying everything from luxury cruises to adventure tours, gays and lesbians are discovering that while the Alaskans may be the most rugged of Americans - they are also the friendliest.
Local gays and lesbians live perhaps less ostentatiously than they might in New York or San Francisco, not because of prejudice or intolerance, but because, for the main part, Alaska is in fact a pretty easy going state where locals live their own lives and let their neighbours get on with the theirs.
Despite bad publicity for the state in the form of Governor Sarah Palin and her anti-gay stance on a number of issues, there is a counter side to the real Alaska. Everyone knows about Governor Sarah Palin’s objections to gay marriage, but how many know that Alaska is home to the highest number of gay and lesbian parents raising 4 % of America’s adopted children.
Fairbanks, in Interior Alaska, though inherently conservative, is considered to be gay friendly in a low key sort of way. The local Palace Theatre, Saloon, Bar and Revue, at 3175 College Road, for example, is “gay” after 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Regular participants of The Golden Days Parade in July, celebrating the gold rush origins of Fairbanks, are members of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) who promote the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, their families, and friends.
The gay scene in Anchorage, as you might expect, is not huge either, but certainly more substantial than elsewhere in the state.
Mad Myrna's at 530 East 5th Avenue, for example, features Karaoke, drag shows and line dancing. Other bars include O'Brady's Burgers & Brew, 6901 East Tudor Road, and the Raven at 708 East 4th Ave that attracts a diverse and very friendly crowd.
The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Anchorage is a safe place for GLBTAs to meet, hang out, hold or attend group meetings, or use the resource library and computers.
Highlight of the Alaska gay calendar is Anchorage PrideFest - a 9 day celebration of Alaska’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in late June, complete with the Celebrating Diversity Parade through the heart of downtown Anchorage followed by the festival with live entertainment, vendors, food, and fun on the Delaney Park Strip.
Girdwood nearby, while hosting no gay scene of its own, is home to the gay-friendly, internationally renowned, Alyeska Resort.
In the state capital, Juneau, The Imperial Bar, downtown offers SEAGLA Social Fridays (6-8 p.m.) for GLBT people and our friends over 21.
Gay cruises to Alaska continue to be popular for gay travelers with the annual Alaska cruise aboard Holland America’s ms Zaandam in late September. The round trip from Seattle, Washington includes a day at sea and stops in Juneau, Glacier Bay, Sitka and Ketchikan as well as a visit to Victoria, British Columbia on the last evening. Entertainment features gay and lesbian shows, films, and gay themed activities.
For the more adventurous, the unique travel company Out in Alaska offers exciting adventure tours that take advantage of Alaska’s spectacular wild places, exploring the wilderness and highlighting outdoor activities with local gay guides.