Larry Olmsted

Correspondent

  • Vermont, USA

Larry Olmsted is an at-large Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Vermont but regularly treks around the world as an award-winning journalist who has covered travel for more than 15 years. He writes the “Great American Bites” column for USAToday.com, previously wrote the “Life on Vacation” column for USA Today, and is the longtime contributing travel editor to Cigar Aficionado magazine. He has contributed to numerous travel guides, including the Michelin Green Guide, and writes regularly for both US Airways’ and American Airlines’ magazines. He also writes “The Great Life” column for Forbes.com.

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  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best bars in Anchorage?

    Craft brewing is the rage in Anchorage, so many of the most popular bars make their own beers, including Midnight Sun Brewing Company, Glacier Brew Pub, and Snow Goose Restaurant & Sleeping Lady Brewery. Then there are several other beer-centric places that don’t brew but have a wide range of Alaskan and other specialty beers, including Firetap Alehouse and Humpy’s Great Alaskan Brewhouse, perhaps the most popular bar in downtown, with the state’s largest selection of drafts, including dozens of local specialty and limited release options. For a more upscale and romantic cocktail experience, the top choice in the city is the famous Crow’s Nest atop the Hotel Captain Cook, the highest watering hole in Anchorage, with tremendous views in every direction. For an Alaskan frontier feel, try F Street Station downtown, all dark wood, a bar festooned with hundreds of stickers placed by patrons over the years, and the infamous block o’ cheese on the corner of the bar, to try at your own risk.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best restaurants in Anchorage?

    Seafood rules in Anchorage — Alaska is the only state with sustainability of fishing grounds written into its Constitution, and everything is wild caught, as fish farming is outlawed. There are several excellent seafood eateries downtown, but Sack’s Café & Restaurant is the most consistent and creative, serving ultra-fresh oysters, shrimp, snow and king crab, cod, halibut, rockfish and the major types of salmon: chum, sockeye/red, silver/coho, pink, and king in a bewildering array of interesting styles that change nightly. Simon & Seafort’s Saloon & Grill is another top choice that marries a lot of fresh seafood with Anchorage’s best steaks. Ginger puts a modern Pacific Rim flavor spin on its fresh seafood, while Orso takes on the bounty of fresh seafood with a Mediterranean flair. For breakfast (all day long) it is impossible to beat the wonderful Snow City Cafe, with all the standards plus Alaskan twists like King crab benedict and reindeer sausage. Craft beer is huge in Alaska, and for casual but tasty meals, try the Midnight Sun Brewing Company or Glacier Brew Pub.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Anchorage?

    The most popular shopping items in Anchorage are Alaskan ulu knives, great for anyone who cooks to chop and dice herbs or garlic, jewelry made from local gold and shed caribou horns, and smoked meats and fish, especially salmon, reindeer and caribou. Downtown is teeming with souvenir shops, but most of them are cheesy, so head to one of the more authentic native craft centers, like the gift shop at the Anchorage Museum or the Alaska Native Arts Foundation Gallery. Wherever you shop, especially along the main downtown commercial drags of Fourth and Sixth avenues, look for the silver hand logo, a government program that guarantees these crafts were made locally by native Alaskans. The best place for smoked and canned specialty meats and fish — great gifts — is Indian Valley Meats on the Seward Highway about 20 minutes south of the city. Perhaps Alaska’s rarest specialty is Quiviut, wool form the underbelly of the Arctic Musk Oxen, softer and warmer (and more expensive!) than cashmere, and the only place to shop for it is at Oomingmak Musk Ox Producer Coop. Hundreds of Native Alaskans across the huge state knit at home and ship their wares to this cooperative, in the middle of downtown since 1969. If you miss out on shopping time, Sourdough Mercantile in Concourse C of the airport represents over a hundred local artisans and craftspeople.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best attractions in Anchorage?

    For culture, the Anchorage Museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center are hard to beat. The former is the state’s largest museum with permanent displays of Alaskan art, history, science and Native culture, plus a planetarium. The latter has full-sized replica villages representing each of the state’s various indigenous people, along with craft making exhibitions, dances and many other live cultural displays. The best way to get your bearings upon arriving in Anchorage is with the daily free 45-minute walking tour of the city led by a National Park Service Ranger — something few cities offer — which departs for the Alaska Public Lands Information Center downtown. After all, Alaska has more National Park and Forest than any other state, by a huge margin. There are also hour-long narrated trolley tours of the city.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best things to do in Anchorage?

    Cruise Prince William Sound is Anchorage’s top attraction: View whales, killer whales, sea otters, mountains and nature at its grandest. Options include sea kayak, sailing/catamaran or guided naturalist cruises with many choices, all easy to reach from downtown. With its huge float plan and ski plane center next to the city’s main airport, Anchorage is the hub for Alaska’s ultra-popular flightseeing day tours: Summer or winter you can view McKinley, North America’s tallest peak and surrounding Denali National park, land on glaciers or pristine lakes and basically take in the grandeur that is the Last Frontier from the very best vantage point, the air. Because Alaska is so outdoor oriented, hiking and biking (rentals available) are huge here and a number of easy to use, well marked and maintained trails leave right from downtown, the most popular if which is the 11-mile paved and boardwalk Tony Knowles Nature Trail, which runs from the heart of Anchorage out along the coast to Kincaid Park.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What’s new in Anchorage?

    Anchorage is even easier to get to than ever this summer, with lots of new airlift, more flights on Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United and entirely new first time routes from Icelandair and Virgin America, which will arrive nonstop from San Francisco. Jet Blue is adding Seattle nonstop, and both Alaska and Delta are adding additional flights from LA. The Millennium Hotel, famous as headquarters for the Iditarod dog-sled race, is undergoing a total renovation to be finished later this year. The hotel is equally popular in summer, sitting on the shore of Lake Hood, with a restaurant deck overlooking the floatplane departure dock popular for flightseeing trips to grizzly bear country and around Mt. McKinley. One entirely new tourism offering is Gold Mine Safari Tours, which drives visitors into the mining heart of nearby Girdwood aboard extreme six-wheeled Pinzgauer trucks, to explore two gold mines high in the Chugach Mountains. You’ll pan for gold along the Historic Iditarod Trail, visit a century old defunct mine and get exclusive access to an active modern gold mine. Today’s Alaskan gold rush is based on beer, with a staggering number of craft breweries, and now you can easily take this liquid gold home: the Silver Gulch brewery just opened a unique to-go growler bar — inside security in the Anchorage airport’s C concourse!
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best time to visit Salt Lake City?

    Since so many people visit for the world class skiing, Salt Lake is bustling from Christmas through the end of March, especially over the big family ski holidays: Christmas to New Years, Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Weekend, and spring break weeks in February. The Sundance Film Festival, one of the most important in the world, is held throughout Salt Lake and Park City in mid-January and usually sells out all the hotels – if you are not attending it is a good time to avoid. For great skiing with fewer crowds, early March and late January are opportune. In Salt Lake City itself, there is far less snow than in the surrounding mountains and it is actually usually sunny and fairly mild, even in winter moths. For other activities, including golf, hiking, biking and rafting, early June through late September are the best times to visit. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir does an annual 3-4 day Christmas concert in Mid-December that is very popular and a big draw. In late July each year is the 10-day Days of 47 event, which celebrates the arrival of pioneers in the Salt Lake valley and includes rodeos, parades and a marathon and is a fun time to be in town.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best outdoor activities in Salt Lake City?

    Skiing and snowboarding are what most people associate with Salt Lake, and it’s easy to see why: four world-class ski resorts sit within 30 minutes of downtown and five more within an hour. The snow here is better (drier) and there is more of it than almost anywhere in the nation, earning it the nickname, “The Greatest Snow on earth.” But here is much more to do in the mountains, canyons and forests surrounding the city. All year round, guided rafting trips are run on the popular Green and Yampa rivers. The 28-mile historic Union Pacific Rail Trail is a great place for leisurely biking, while avid mountain bikers can explore the trails of Little and Big Cottonwood canyons just outside the city. For hikers there are tons of choices, but one of the closest is the Desolation Trail to the Salt Lake overlook sits in Millcreek Canyon just outside the east edge of the city. There are several public golf courses - and great values - right in Salt Lake City and more in the immediate area, including Sandy, UT. Nearby Park City has its own slew of unique outdoor adventures, from winter bobsled rides and ski jumping at the Utah Olympic Park to new state of the art zip-lines at its ski resorts. Salt Lake is one of the most outdoor oriented cities in the world with no shortage of adventures.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best hotels in Salt Lake City?

    The grand dame of Salt Lake City Hotels is the Forbes 4-Star Grand America, in the heart of downtown, with oversized luxury rooms, full spa, large fitness center and two restaurants. Several nights a week they host live music in their bar. The Hotel Monaco Salt Lake is another winner, with Kimpton’s trademark afternoon complimentary lobby happy hours, friendly service and well-appointed contemporary rooms. It is also home to Bambara, perhaps the best fine dining restaurant in the city. Otherwise, most downtown hotels are convention oriented, including the Marriott, Sheraton, and Hilton. But the epicenter of Utah’s luxury lodging is in nearby Park City, home to the Forbes 5-Star Stein Eriksen Lodge and the 4-Star Montage Deer Valley, St. Regis Deer Valley and Waldorf Astoria Park City.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best shopping in Salt Lake City?

    Without a doubt, the best shopping in Salt Lake can be found at the new $2 billion City Creek Center, which just opened last year in the heart of downtown. Each of its two long wings has a high, atrium-style retractable glass roof, and with so many sunny days, the mall is usually open, for a dog friendly, park-like experience, including a trout filled stream through its length. Anchor stores include Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, it’s home to the city’s Apple store, high-end offerings run the gamut from Tiffany & Co to Porsche Design to Tumi, and there is an emphasis on local, both in restaurants and shops like the country’s first Salomon concept store –the respected outdoor gear and clothing manufacturer has its North American headquarters in nearby Ogden, UT. The one other notable shopping experience here is the factory outlet store of the popular Sundance mail order catalog, which is located in the suburbs just outside the city center.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best attractions in Salt Lake City?

    Far and away the biggest attraction in Salt Lake – and all of Utah – is Temple Square, the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). The “square” is actually a 35-acre campus in the heart of downtown that includes the stunning granite temple itself, completed in 1893 after 40 years of labor (the interior is not open to the public). Here you will also find the home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who perform every Saturday and Sunday, the church museum, a genealogy center, scheduled garden tours, and much more. Close by are three new attractions that comprise much of the city’s recent $5 billion downtown reinvestment. City Creek Center is a unique indoor/outdoor shopping mall with retractable roofs that includes a trout filled creek running down its middle and is designed as a novel urban streetscape, open 24 hours even when the stores and restaurants are closed. The Natural History Museum of Utah covers everything from Utah’s geology to the Native American tribes that inhabited the region to local dinosaurs. The Leonardo is a world-class, highly interactive science and technology museum, and both opened to much fanfare just last year.
  • On April 30, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Should visitors rent a car in Salt Lake City?

    For shorter visits to the city proper, a rental car is definitely not needed, especially since the very recent 2013 opening of the new TRAX high speed rail connection (every 15 minutes) from the airport to downtown. Most of the city’s biggest attractions and top hotels are also in a concise area of downtown, public transportation is easy and effective, and taxis are relatively inexpensive. However, one of the biggest appeals of Salt Lake City is as an easy gateway to the surrounding mountains and outdoor pursuits, skiing, hiking, road and mountain biking in Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons, Park City and Ogden, and for exploring these, a rental car is almost mandatory.
  • On March 27, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where are the best places to eat in Telluride?

    For a special night out the top choices in Telluride are clear. The classic is Allred’s, perched at the top of the gondola and easily accessible from town or Mountain Village. People go for the great views and stay for the great food, and have been enjoying both for years. It’s Colorado Mountain fare, plenty of venison and elk, but with a decidedly Italian bent, and the signature dish, the mussels, isn’t even on the menu but if you ask for it they know you know. Another trip worth making is the snow coach excursion to Alpino Vino, the nation’s highest altitude wine bar, where you can enjoy a delicious 4-course meal in a quaint Alpine setting. In town, the top choice is 221 South Oak, whose chef/owner Elizabeth Gavin is a contestant on Season 10 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Her mixed Colorado sausage (pork, duck, elk and beef) platter is a must, but so is everything else, from the buttermilk fried quail to the handmade whole wheat pasta with chicken, tomatoes, edamame and prosciutto. The Chop Hose at the historic New Sheridan Hotel may look like just another kitschy Old West steakhouse but it is not, it serves the finest dry aged beef and fish flown in daily.