Saxman Village is one of the main attractions people head to when spending time in the small city of Ketchikan in Alaska. An example of a traditional Native American village, it’s a fascinating place that makes for a great day trip out, especially for those who are traveling as a family.
Saxman Native Village is a living, breathing township—home to Tlingit families—but it’s also well-prepared for the onslaught of visitors it experiences daily, and as such there’s a lot to see and do here. Examples of attractions at the Saxman Native Village include traditional dance performances put on by the town’s resident group, and the Saxman Totem Park, which is believed to be one of the world’s largest collections of Native American totem polls.
Indeed, the production of totems at Saxman Village is still common, with workshops dedicated to their production. Consequently, one of the top attractions here is watching the totems being carved out of wood, before they are painted in their customary designs. It’s an educational experience, not least because the craftsmen are also budding guides; they talk you through their actions and explain how they differ from the ways in which their ancestors would set about crafting the totems.
One of the great things about the Saxman Native Village is its hands-on nature: There’s more than the occasional opportunity to try traditional arts and crafts here, which means you may well go home with a small piece of personal memorabilia, in the shape of a painting, a carving, or even a totem (albeit a small one).
Saxman Native Village is on the Ketchikan tour circuit, with a handful of companies offering pre-arranged daylong tours. A popular tour combines a visit to the Saxman Village with a demonstration of lumberjacking at the Great American Lumberjack Show. Here you’ll be talked through a variety of lumberjack activities and have the history of the industry explained to you, before seeing the area’s top lumberjacks go head-to-head in a number of woodcutting competitions. The finale in particular always goes down well with the audience, proving a powerful and exhilarating show that mixes humor and insight with competitive pyrotechnics.
Having exhausted the delights of the Saxman Village, many people head to iconic Creek Street, which is a collection of shops and museums that overlook much of the town. This is prime dining territory, with many of Ketchikan’s best food—and best views—found on the strip. Inevitably, the meal of the day in these Ketchikan restaurants tends to be seafood; Ketchikan is often referred to as the Salmon Capital of the World, though its waters also boast an array of halibut and trout, should salmon not quite be to your taste.
If visitors haven’t arrived in Ketchikan specifically for the fishing, then they’ve probably come aboard a cruise, as a few select cruises stop off here. Companies such as Holland America arrange a selection of shore excursions for those who wish to disembark and experience the small-town delights of Ketchikan.