Most of the sights of Kenai are in one small area, which you can tour on foot in 90 minutes. Start at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center (11471 Kenai Spur Rd., 907/283-1991, www.visitkenai.com, Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m. late May–early Sept., Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. early Sept.–late May), where you’ll find a complete and well-organized selection of brochures and flyers about the area. Its museum collection ($3 in the summer, free in winter and for kids) is impressive, with gorgeous cultural artifacts from Native Alaskan peoples, a permanent exhibit of local historical lore and natural history, and temporary exhibits. Various interpretive programs are taught daily in the summer.
Next, walk down toward the bluff on Overland Avenue to the replica of Fort Kenay, built in 1967 for the Alaska Centennial. It isn’t open to the public. Next door is Holy Assumption of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, built in 1895 and the second-oldest Russian Orthodox Church in the state (the oldest is on Kodiak). It’s a working church with regular services; tours are available on request, or peek through the windows at the painted altar and brass chandelier.
The Chapel of Saint Nicholas (1906) nearby, built over the grave of Kenai’s first priest, also reflects the traditional Russian Orthodox architectural style. Walk east on Mission Road for two viewpoints over the bluff; from the first, look out over the riverside canneries, with the Kenai Mountains behind and the Aleutian and Alaska Ranges strung out across the inlet. The second has an interpretive sign about beluga whales.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition