The Houston Lodge, fireworks and ice cream

A week or so ago I wrote about the trials and tribulations of the small hamlet of Houston, Alaska.

[Read: Houston, we have a problem…]

But there truly is a hidden gem in this little speck on the Parks Highway. It’s the Houston Lodge.

This is not your typical roadhouse fare so common in Alaska and even though it shares a parking lot with Miller’s Market it doesn’t seem to cater to the tour bus crowd.

At Millers Market in the summertime I have seen three tour buses packed full of visitors stopping by the little joint to grab a “world famous” ice cream cone and a post card on the trek to Denali National Park some 180 miles to the north.

But let’s get back to the Houston Lodge… The food is exceptional and not too pricey by Alaska standards. A 16 ounce prime rib with a potato, soup or salad and carrots that are to die for (they cook them in brown sugar I think) is 28 bucks. Tonight I had a fried clam basket ($18 bucks with tip).

The wait staff are great. They are very at-tentative! As soon as I took my last swig of coke, they are ready to refill.

There is a full bar, a dance floor, pool table and a couple flat screens with the game or news on. They also have a new age juke box that takes credit cards. I’m only 40 but I remember paying only a quarter for tunes!

The music on shuffle was a little to be desired. Tonight there is a mixture of Tracy Champan, Black Crowes, RED, Cyndi Lauper, and Neil Diamond.

What I love is the view. The lodge backs up to a small lake and very close to the Little Su River to the south.

This place is always busy and in the winter usually packed with snow-machiners and winter enthusiasts. I have never had to wait for a table though and everyone I have met here has been very friendly.

Across the street is the cop shop/fire house that is the subject of my previous article and beside that is a large gravel pit.

What’s cool about a gravel pit?

In late August as the summer sun sets near 10 pm they have a fireworks show that brings people here from all over the Mat-Su Valley.

You see, fireworks are illegal in the Valley but allowed in Houston. If you have ever been up this way, as soon as you enter Houston you will see four huge fireworks stands. They are open year round and usually buzzing with business.

I’m told that they guys that own the fireworks stands put on this show in August as a friendly competition against each other. Boy, is it a show!

Last year, my wife Michele and son, Kyle watched the show from the back of our Toyota Tundra. It was a fitting end to summer and a great evening to share with them before they headed back to Colorado.

So, no matter what happens at city hall in this little village of less than 2000 people–it’s sense of community pride and spirit is alive and well.

So when you take that once-in-a-lifetime trip to Alaska do yourself a favor and skip the tour bus and the hordes of people and rent a car at the airport. Plan your own adventure on the way to Denali.

Hint: If you look to your left at about Mile 60 on the Parks (just a mile from the Houston Lodge) you may just see a couple Bald Eagles roosting in the trees. I have seen them here many times.

Stop at the Houston Lodge. You will be glad you did.