For my trip to Alaska, I chose to stay in the downtown area. The only other reasonable alternative was a newer neighbourhood in Anchorage called Midtown. Midtown contains a lot of restaurants, malls, and office buildings but it felt like a suburb more than a place for a visitor to get the real feel of the city. After my first couple of hours walking around downtown, I knew I had made the right choice. There were plenty of great restaurants and all nearby to the wonderful Anchorage Museum, Ship Creek (with so many salmon), and the iconic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

I did, however, notice some quirks about downtown Anchorage starting on my first day. I made a stroll through the Fifth Avenue Mall. There was a Starbucks at the mall, which itself is a fairly normal thing to see in a mall, except there was a huge line of people waiting to get their coffee. It was about 4pm in the afternoon, which is a weird time to see people queued up for java. I went on with my day.

The next thing I noticed was when one of my friends got a bad case of heartburn after dinner one night. We were back at the hotel and we were trying to find some antacids for his condition. Our hotel was fairly crappy (that deserves its own post) so it didn’t have a lobby store so we had to go looking elsewhere. My friend and I then realized we hadn’t seen a corner store or a drug store anywhere in all of downtown Anchorage. Usually when you travel to the US, there’s a Walgreen’s or a CVS on every other block. We didn’t see any of these. There wasn’t a 7-11 or similar type store in all of our exploration of the downtown area. I then went on Google Maps and saw none of those type of stores were anywhere close to us. We’d have to travel outside of the downtown core to get to a drug store or convenience store.

I thought about it a bit and then I realized downtown Anchorage is devoid of large corporation type businesses. The Starbucks in the mall was the only Starbucks in all of downtown Anchorage. I didn’t see a McDonald’s or any other giant fast food place. In a way, that’s great because most of the businesses are then unique and run by actual people rather than a massive corporate entity. On the other hand, we couldn’t easily buy sundries of any kind at all while we there. I’ve been to many cities in North America and I’d be hard pressed to find a time where I couldn’t get a package of Tums if I needed one at 9pm on any given night but this was a problem in downtown Anchorage.

My friend got by without his antacid but it sure would have helped that night.

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