The expert florists at Alaska Wholesale Flower Market, whose collection of flowers comes from all over the world, teach visitors the tricks of the trade in a laid-back, personal setting. Every Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., owner and AFID member Robin Phillips hosts hands-on bouquet classes that demonstrate how to bind and blend different fauna into eye-catching arrangements using provided materials. After putting the finishing touches on their budding masterpieces, students can saunter home with personalized bouquets great for tossing over shoulders at weddings or diverting a stampede of wedding planners.
What began as a colony farm built by the U.S. Army in 1935 became, by the mid-1950s, the childhood home of Reindeer Farm's head honcho, Tom Williams. After studying the habits of Scandinavian and Siberian reindeer herders in high school, Tom began to understand why the antlered creatures were considered the "cattle of the North": The brisk Alaskan climate suited their dense coats and languid presence at pool parties. In 1987, after years of practicing law throughout Alaska, Tom ventured to Canada to meet his first herd of reindeer, which he kept corralled next to a tiny sign and donation jar on the modest farm. Since then, that initial herd has blossomed into 150 reindeer, who graze beside 35 elk, 13 horses, one bull moose, and one surprisingly well-adjusted bison. Now a petting zoo, the farm has grown alongside the herd, with guided tours, scavenger hunts, and horseback rides treating guests to an up-close and hands-on experience with the majestic animals. Located in the colony's original chicken coop, a gift shop provides guests with any number of collectibles to commemorate their visits.
The warmth of the staff at Mile 5.2 Greenhouse & Gift Shop rivals the warmth of its hand-tended conservatory. The affable plant buffs rely upon customer-focused service to combat impersonal "big-box stores," gladly guiding visitors through their greenhouse's lush pathways where flowers peek from hanging baskets and tropical plants share the roof with herbs. More than 125 types of perennials and fruit-bearing boughs boost their resilience as they endure the winter cold, training their blooms to return year after year so they can one day avenge their ancestors against the weed-whackers of clumsy gardeners.
In addition to its striking greenery, the Eagle River outpost stocks their gift shop with an array of gourmet foods, ranging from Lake Champlain chocolate bars and Oregon salt-water taffy to hearty soup and bread mixes. Additionally, home accessories such as wind chimes and scented candles can pair with potted petals to create colorful gift combinations.