Genuine Alaskan Nightlife

This spring, my boyfriend Ian and I explored our neighbours, to the east, to see what their biggest city, Anchorage, had to offer two shoestring partiers from Whitehorse.

“No backwards hats. No jerseys. No gang paraphernalia. No do-rags. No gang colours,” said a rather intimidating sign on the door.

We quickly found that clubbing is entirely different in Alaska, compared with our little Yukon establishments, innocent of (most) gang activities.

In Anchorage midtown, there are quite a few saloon-styled clubs and roadhouses and an incredibly sketchy trailer park with a genuine “Hells Angels Clubhouse”.

Undaunted, our copy of The Rough Guide to Alaska told us there was only one place to visit for a genuine Alaskan night out – Chilkoot Charlies (“Koots”) – not fancy, but genuine.

We walked to Koots and were greeted with suspicion over our Yukon driver’s license. “Can I see a driver’s licence?” the doorman asked after I handed him my Yukon driver’s license.

Then the bar manager stopped by, “Those Yukon? Yeah, I’ve seen ’em. First time in my life, last week, but they’re real. Let ’em in.”

Grudgingly, we were let in to pay the $7 cover.

Chilkoot Charlies was an amazing conglomeration of 11 different bars, rooms and small, hidden niches. The main bar branched off to a stage where a cover band was rocking out to Buckcherry’s Crazy Bitch. Everyone danced or sat on the half-kegs.

A smoother, funkier crowd gathered at the next bar over, where Jay-Z and hip hop blasted from the speakers. A billiards room and smokers’ lounge finished up the left wing of Koots.

To the right of the main entrance, a Tiki bar encouraged people to and embarrass themselves via karaoke. Ian, bold with $3-draft-beer courage, sang Helena by My Chemical Romance, with off-key gusto.

Downwind of the karaoke, a smaller sawdust-floored bar, The Birdhouse, featured underwear festooning every available surface and a downward-tilted bar, all the better to slide drinks down.

Snuggled up next to the Tiki bar, a Russian revolution-themed bar with a statue of a woman riding a horse crashing through the top of a faux stonewall, greeted us.

More hip hop, a small platform and a large dance floor made this bar the trendiest section of Koots.

We were out of Anchorage by 7 a.m. the next morning, bumping our way down Beaver Creek to Burwash – a whirlwind trip. And the verdict? Visit Anchorage, even just for the madness of Koots!

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