Courtesy Wrangell CVB
Wrangell is the kind of place where people leave their doors unlocked and their car keys in the ignition. Its 2,300 residents also pull together to welcome groups to their quiet town on the north end of Wrangell Island in the Alaskan Panhandle, the tail of complicated coastal islands and winding waterways that borders British Columbia, Canada.
Unlike some coastal Alaska towns, Wrangell is not a cruise ship stop. That has left its small-town feel unspoiled, according to Terri Henson, director of conventions for the city.
“We’re untouched in that commercial sense,” she said. “We’re small, we’re quaint, we’re quirky. We’re still real, small-town Alaska.”
Wrangell has ramped up its efforts to attract small meetings and retreats since it opened the James and Elsie Nolan Center five years ago. Already, the city hosts a number of state government meetings.
The Nolan Center encompasses a 4,000-square-foot meeting space, an 800-square-foot divisible classroom and a 24-person theater, as well as Wrangell’s museum and visitors center. The museum is often used for receptions, according to Henson.
The city recently made downtown more inviting and walkable by spending $3 million to redo roads, sidewalks and lighting.
Wrangell has a total of 75 guest rooms, including inns, lodges and bed-and-breakfasts, which keeps meetings small.
At the city’s largest hotel, the Stikine Inn, all 35 guest rooms have been remodeled over the past two years. A new patio was added last year, and owners have plans to redo the restaurant’s kitchen this year. A new chef has already revamped the menu, keeping some local favorites.
The Stikine Inn has no dedicated meeting space, but the hotel sometimes allows groups to meet in the bar area. The Alaskan Sourdough Lodge, a 16-room red cedar pole lodge, has a small meeting room.
Getting to Wrangell isn’t difficult given its remote location. Alaska Airlines offers direct flights to the Wrangell Airport from Seattle or through Juneau, Alaska. Ferry service is available from Bellingham, Wash., and Prince Rupert, British Columbia.
Wrangell’s biggest attraction is its spectacular setting. The city is surrounded by forested islands and protected bays. Visitors can see ancient tribal petroglyphs at Petroglyph Beach State Historic Park or watch brown and black bears feast on southeast Alaska’s largest pink salmon run at Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory.
“This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen,” said Henson, who sometimes looks out her office window and sees a pod of killer whales going by in the harbor. “The beauty here, and the quiet, makes it a perfect place for people to come and relax.”