Bethel is a city in Alaska. It is the main hub for many of the surrounding native villages and the main port of the Kuskokwim River in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta. Bethel is one of the largest cities in Alaska. It's also home to the K-300 dogsled race and Cama-I, the largest Native arts festival in Alaska.
Because of its location and culture, there is much that a traveler would benefit from understanding before visiting Bethel. The town is far off the road system, 400 air miles west of Anchorage, and all fuel, grocery, household items, building materials, vehicles, etc., must be flown in or shipped in by barge. Consequently, prices are relatively high, even by Alaskan standards. It is good to remember, however, that as a hub community, Bethel prices are still less (sometimes by half) than prices even in nearby villages.
The Y-K Delta (as the greater area is called) is home to an active subsistence culture. Many residents, both Native and Non-Native, fish and hunt for food as well as for sport.
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The only practical way into Bethel from outside the immediate area is by air, and Bethel is served by a number of daily flights from Anchorage. Alaska Airlines has morning, afternoon, and evening flights, with Era Alaska adding additional flights in the morning and afternoon.
There are a number of transportation options in and around Bethel for visitors and residents, depending on one's level of ambition:
The state-owned Bethel Airport is the regional transportation center, and is served by seven passenger carriers, including Alaska Airlines, Grant Aviation, Hageland Aviation Services, Yute Air and Frontier Flying Service. It also receives service from five cargo operators: Everts Air Cargo, Northern Air Cargo, Alaska Central Express, Arctic Transportation Services, and Lynden Air Cargo, and numerous small air taxi services including Renfro's Alaskan Adventures. The airport ranks third in the state for total number of flights. It offers a 6,400 foot asphalt runway and 1,850 foot gravel crosswind runway, and is currently undergoing a $7 million renovation and expansion. Three float plane bases are nearby: Hangar Lake, H Marker Lake, and the Kuskokwim River. See the Go next section for more details.
Bethel has more cabs per capita than any other city in the United States. Due to the dependence of many residents and visitors on cabs, and the high cost of transportation, cab fee maximums are mandated by the City of Bethel, corresponding roughly to the distance of the trip. Rides within the central area of town are $5, to or from the Tundra Ridge subdivision are $7, to or from the Airport is $7, and trips to the Kasayuli Subdivision are $10.
Something important for visitors to Bethel to know is that cab rides in Bethel are often a "communal" experience. While riding in a cab from the airport into the main part of town, for example, the cab driver may get a call to pick up another fare in Blueberry Subdivision. While potentially uncomfortable for the shy traveler (or if the cab gets too crowded), this is actually a great way to meet people in Bethel.
These are numbers for the taxi services in Bethel
- Alaska Cab, ☎ .
- City Cab, ☎ .
- Kusko Cab, ☎ .
- Quyana Cab, ☎ .
- Taxi Cab, ☎ .
By Public Transit
A more recent addition to Bethel's transportation options is the city bus. At $2 a ride for adults, many Bethel residents are finding the bus to be a more economical transportation option than cabs when time is not an issue. Routes have been expanded recently to include most of the town. A route map and schedule can be found here.
Those visiting for an extended period of time or moving to Bethel may be considering renting or buying a car. As is true with most everything in Bethel, prices are substantially higher than one would expect, both to purchase (or ship in), own, and maintain a car in the rural setting, but many people feel it is worth it for convenience and independence.
Gas prices are high, but do not fluctuate daily as in other places. Cost is set by the retailers when new supplies are barged in through the brief summer months, meaning the price of gas will only change a couple times a year. Currently, gas stations and their respective prices are:
- Crowley Marine Services Inc, 380 Standard Oil Rd, ☎ . Gas (Regular) -$6.00 Diesel -$6.25.
- Nicholsons Auto Inc., 630 3rd Ave, ☎ .
- Northstar Gas, 1170 Bridge Way Bridge (Near Swanson's), ☎ .
- Quick Food Center, 1510 Chief Eddie Hoffman Hwy (Near Trailer Park Entrance), ☎ .
- Quick Stop, 658 Ptarmigan St, ☎ . Gas (Regular) -$6.20 Diesel-.
- Kuskokwim River. One of the largest rivers in Alaska it offers some great views and activities.
- Bethel Art Guild. This local attraction is a great showcase of local art. located near the local Moravian Church.
- BIA Buildings. A popular local attraction is a group of abandoned buildings. While it is illegal to go into them they are still an interesting sight to see.
- White Alice. Cold War era radio towers that were put up all around Alaska, Recently, the air force/national guard have been systematically taking them down all across the state. Up until recently Bethel had one of the few remaining White Alice's in the state, but alas it was doomed to be taken down. It is currently being disassembled.
- Bethel Dumpsters. A unique community activity a number of years ago the city decided to spice up the streets a bit by painting dumpsters in each neighborhood. They are definitely an interesting sight to see.
- Skate park. See the farthest west skate parks in the United States.
Salmon fishing and hunting for moose, caribou, ptarmigan, geese, ducks, rabbits, bears. Best hunting spots: Northeast of Bethel, Behind the Bethel Airport by about a mile.
- Kuskokwim 300. In the winter, you can go dog sledding & compete in Bethel's annual Kuskokwim 300 were you race to the village of Aniak & back to the city of Bethel with a dog team & a race sled. Also you can go to the town's basketball games during the high school basketball season.
- Pinky's Park. It used to be a small park for kids, you can still go to the place where it used to be, some remains are still there, it is unknown when it was taken down. It used to be a hangout spot for a lot of teenagers and then it became the cities most hazardous spot due to muffed up teenagers going there to do some bad stuff.
- BMX. There are really good bikers at the skate park. Some aren't so good and some are great.
There are many stores in Bethel. Like AC, Swanson's, Corina's, and Sammy's Market. They are expensive but its better than nothing. You could go look at the great artwork at the Cultural Center and maybe buy a piece of locally produced art for an awesome price. They have Saturday Markets every Saturday at the Cultural Center, their selling food, some artwork, and drinks like pop and coffee. You can go out to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking.
- Casa, 310 3rd Ave, ☎ . Open till 4AM.
- Arctic Sun Restaurant (often still called by old name-"Brothers Pizza"), 3551 State Highway (just past main airport bldg), ☎ . Best pizza in town but takes long to deliver
- V.I.P, 1220 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, ☎ . Best known for good sushi.
- Dimtri's, 281 4th Ave #A, ☎ . The only Greek restaurant in town decent gyros, superb "white" pizza
- Subway, 401 Ridge Crest, ☎ . Go there for sandwiches.
- Red Basket, 751 3rd Ave, ☎ . Large food variety.
- 123 Barbecue, 120 State Hwy, ☎ . Quick delivery, mediocre burgers.
- Panda 24, 431 Ridgecrest Dr, ☎ .
- Tundra, 473 Ridgecrest Dr, ☎ .
- Front street café, 920 Front St, ☎ .
- Shogun, 320 Tundra St, ☎ . open til 5AM. One of the better Restaurant in town.
- Corina's, 238 East Ave, ☎ .
- Family Restaurant, 431 Ridgecrest Dr, ☎ .
There are a number of perfectly comfortable Bed and Breakfast options in Bethel, with a couple of real standouts among them (check out the White House if the owner, Fran, isn't booked solid), and one centrally located, "regular" hotel.
- The Long House, 751 3rd Ave, ☎ , toll-free: . The closest thing to a "normal" hotel that a visitor unfamiliar to the bush will find in Bethel. A big plus is the fact that there is a restaurant in the building (Red Basket, formally Alba's Pizza). Can get a little loud on the weekends, especially around PFD time.
- Great Bear Bed & Breakfast, 206 Akiak Dr, ☎ .
- Allanivik, 1220 Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway, ☎ .
- Suite 881, 881 3rd Ave.
- Tundra Suites, 473 Ridgecrest Dr.
- Riverview Bed and Breakfast, 355 1st Ave, ☎ .
- Delta Cottages, 124 Gunderson Ct.
- Bentley's Bed and Breakfast, 624 1st St, ☎ .
- White House Bed and Breakfast, 971 7th Ave, ☎ .
- Lakeside Lodge, 198 H Marker Lake Rd, ☎ .