Story and photo by Lisa Maloney

The small town of Talkeetna, Alaska is rightly famous – or perhaps more accurately, infamous – for three things in particular. The first is its honorary mayor: A cat named Denali, successor to the honorable Mayor Stubbs (also a cat). 

Talkeetna is also widely credited as the inspiration for Cicely, Alaska, a famously quirky, fictional town in the 1990s TV comedy-drama Northern Exposure. The real Talkeetna’s streets are a little narrower and a little less paved than the Washington town that stood in for Cicely. But the quirks? Those were very Talkeetna.

Last but absolutely not least, Talkeetna is famous for its relaxed, friendly vibe. Sometimes that vibe gets a little lost in the crowds of tourists that visit every day during the summer. But if you stop and chat with the locals, you’ll find that the people just don’t come any friendlier. 

The all-local gift shops and art galleries lining Main Street host an overflow of creativity and conversation, and if you’re able to stick around after the tourist buses have left for the night, the entire town goes back to its usual laid-back, fun-loving self – and you’re welcome to join in. 

You’ll find rafting guides, small plane pilots, artisans, and Alaskans from other communities all partying together to live music at the iconic Fairview Inn. My advice is to spend at least one night here and take the time to talk to the locals, because a town like Talkeetna draws a true human kaleidoscope of life experience and creativity.