Bethel might be small (by the last count, it had just over 6000 people), but it's big on attractions. There are no big resorts, no huge waterparks, and no major theme parks, but what it lacks in tourist traps, it makes up for in scenery. If you like fishing, hiking, bird spotting, and anything else to do with nature, you're going to love it. If you're planning a visit, here's our guide to the 10 best things to do in Bethel, Alaska.
10. Enjoy a movie night at Suurvik Cinema
If you want to catch up on the latest blockbusters, head for Suurvik Cinema. With just two screens and a total of 163 seats, it's not exactly big, but it is cozy. It's also the only cinema for miles around, so if you were holding out for something bigger, you're out of luck. Despite the size, it's perfect for a movie night, with comfy seats, the latest releases, and all the popcorn, candy, and soda you can eat.
9. Tuck into some great food at Tundra Restaurant
Bethel isn't exactly huge, and, as you'd expect, restaurants are pretty thin on the ground. Fortunately, the few it has are good enough that you won't miss out. Tundra Restaurant is one of the best. Cozy and welcoming, it offers excellent service and an impeccable menu that's guaranteed to please even the pickiest eater. The Mongolian beef is the best for miles around. The Kung pow chicken and sweet and sour shrimp won't disappoint either. There's also a good selection of American classics if you're hankering after some burger and fries.
8. Take a fishing trip on the Kisaralik River
If you're a keen fisher, don't miss the chance to take a fishing trip on the Kuskokwim River, a stunningly beautiful body of water that flows through the valleys and foothills of the Kilbuck Mountains. You could go it alone if you prefer, but if you'd like some company, you'll find plenty of local adventure tour companies offering personalized expeditions. The river is teeming with chinook, salmon, chum salmon, char, rainbow trout, and graylings, so you can be sure of a good catch by the end of the day.
7. Shop for handicrafts at Saturday Market
If you were hoping to pick up a few locally made handicrafts as mementos of your visit to Bethel, be sure to stop by Saturday Market. The small but quirky shopping area is packed with cute, artistic finds, including plenty of toys and games for the kids, and a lovely assortment of creative handmade crafts for everyone else.
6. Relax at Pinky's Park
If you're craving a day (or maybe just a few hours) of quiet relaxation, Pinky's Park is the place to head. The main event is the two-mile boardwalk that juts out over the tundra. The views are amazing, so be sure to take a stroll along its length Other attractions include a baseball field, basketball court, and playground. If all of that sounds like too much hard work, simply do what hundreds of Bethel residents do and plonk yourself down in the grass to enjoy a few hours in the fresh air. Otherwise, you could make use of the numerous biking and walking trails that crisscross the park. It's particularly popular at sunset, when scores of locals descend on it to enjoy a couple of hours of socializing while they enjoy the magnificent sunset.
5. Catch the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race
Recommended by The Crazy Tourist as one of the best attractions in Bethel, the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race is a must-do if you're visiting during January. The race starts at Bethel and continues to Aniak, at which point the dogs turn around and hightail it back to Bethel as fast as they can. Despite covering an impressive 300 miles, the entire race takes less than 19 hours from start to finish. The activities that surround it stretch over the entire week though, so you can be guaranteed plenty of fun in the lead-up.
4. Check out the exhibits at Yupiit Piciryarait Museum
According to avcp.org, the Yupiit Piciryarait Museum is "dedicated to helping maintain, restore, revitalize, and promote the Yup’ik culture and way of life through education." What they forgot to mention is that it's a whole heap of fun too. With over 5000 exhibits that vary from clothing and household items to hunting and gathering equipment, there's enough to keep you intrigued for days on end. Fortunately, entrance is free, so if you don't manage to fit everything in on your first visit, you can always come back again.
3. Enjoy the festivities at the Cama-i Dance Festival
The Cama-i Dance Festival is a three-day celebration of song and dance that takes place on the last weekend of March. It attracts armies of dancers from all over the world, and is an absolute must-do for cultural vultures. Along with the dancing, there are art and craft demonstrations and a wide array of other activities to get involved in.
2. Enjoy a glacier viewing experience
As Trip101 says, glacier viewing is a must when you are in Alaska. You'll find no shortage of tour companies offering viewing experiences, with some even offering the chance to take a floatplane ride over the pristine glaciers. If you don't have a head for heights, take a cruise around them instead. Either way, the views are spellbinding, so be sure to take plenty of photos while you get the chance.
1. Discover the natural beauty of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge
Thought your local state park was hard to beat? Just wait till you see what Bethel residents get to enjoy. Spanning over 20 million acres, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge is the second largest national wildlife refuge in Alaska, and quite possibly one of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the US. The two rivers that flow across it attract thousands of waterbirds, but they're not the only ones to call the park home. The water bodies are teeming with walruses, porpoises, and beluga and mine whales, while the interior is packed with muskrat, brown bear, musk oxen, moose, black bear, wolf, coyote, porcupine, beaver, and even polar bear. The park is open all year-round, but some areas have seasonal restrictions in place, while others require a permit.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn