Our day in Sitka got off to an early start.
We boarded a former school bus that had been repurposed for tour groups. Green buses were all over the city. I think the locals must feel invaded during cruise season, seeing all of those darn green buses everywhere!
Our first stop was the Sitka National Historical Park, where we learned about Totem Poles. The Totem Poles on display are over a hundred years old and were donated by local Tlingit and Haida tribes for the 1904 Louisiana Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. The Totem Poles toured around the United States, and were brought back to Sitka in 1906, when the current park was created.
Since we were on a tour, we only had twenty-minutes to race around the exhibits. Sitka National Historical Park has beautiful trails with the Totem Poles and a small museum. If I had been on my own, I think it would have taken over an hour to truly enjoy the experience. I'd love to go back.
Next Stop, was the Alaska Raptor Center, which was really my primary reason for booking this excursion. The Alaska Raptor Center is an amazing facility that rehabilitates injured birds with the goal of returning them to the wild. We were given a tour of the facility, which has an enormous indoor flight area and we got an up-close look at a Bald Eagle named Sitka. The Alaska Raptor Center is a non-profit doing good works, so if you visit, make sure to bring a little extra cash to throw into the donation bucket. This is a must-see for animal lovers of all ages!
We were give a little time to explore the center on our own and we found a pretty trail behind the main building.
and then, we saw this, quickly ending our walk in the woods.
The last part of our excursion was the Naa Kahidi Dance Show located at a community center in town. This thirty-minute performance by members of the Tlingit tribe ( kids and adults), was a sharing of their culture, including song, dance, and folk tales. The little kids performing were adorable and so excited to share their culture. I have to admit that I have never heard of the Tlingit tribe prior to this vacation, but came away feeling informed. On our ship, we were given daily Tlingit words and facts sheets, left on our bed during turn-down.
Our excursion ended after the dance performance and we had a few hours to explore the town. Sitka is quaint and filled with unique (not just tourist-trap) shops. I was thrilled to find Old Harbor Books, an independent bookstore with an excellent selection. I bought The Alaskan Laundry by Sitka local, Brendan Jones. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but perhaps I will take it on my 2017 return trip to Alaska!
Here are some other shots from around the town. You will notice Russian stores; Sitka has a sizable Russian population.
Alaska is full of fish n' chips food trucks. For lunch we ate at Ashmo's. The Mac and Cheese was fabulous.
On the way back to our ship, we saw these two dog, each in a truck parked on opposite sides of the street. They were just watching each other.