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HAL's new Denali Square a hub for dining, music, relaxation, views

HAL president Orlando Ashford officially opens Denali Square (Photo: Holland America Line)
Travelers on Holland America Line’s Alaska Land+Sea Journeys now have new dining, entertainment and amenities at the Denali Square complex located in the heart of the company’s McKinley Chalet Resort at the gates of Denali National Park.

A grand opening on Friday showed off the facilities that include an amphitheater, fire pits, a saloon, shops and a grand restaurant with mountain views.

'For nearly 70 years Holland America Line has been at the forefront of Alaska exploration, and the opening of Denali Square is another exciting moment in our company’s history because it elevates the way our guests will experience Denali and Alaska,' Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford said. He said the complex showcases local cuisine, art, entertainment and more, and will be the centerpiece of  Land+Sea Journeys.

Denali Square is at the heart of the 60-acre McKinley Chalet Resort, which provides accommodations for HAL's Land+Sea Journeys that combine an Alaska cruise with an overland tour to Denali National Park and beyond. Denali Square is centrally located between the main part of the property, containing the reception hall, dining facilities and guest rooms, and the riverfront guest rooms that provide views of the Nenana River.

It serves as a new gathering area to relax, shop, dine, hear music and be entertained. The largest building in the complex is Karstens, the grand 7,000- square-foot, two-story restaurant showcasing mountain views. A deck provides fire pits and outdoor seating.

At the center of Denali Square is an amphitheater with a covered performance stage and bench seating for local shows, ranger talks and demonstrations. Drinks and live music area available at Gold Nugget Saloon, home to the Music of Denali Dinner Theater.

Denali Square also offers fire pits to gather around on cool Alaska evenings and make s’mores, outdoor seating for scenery viewing, shops selling local goods and an artist-in-residence cabin where Alaska native and local artists display and discuss their works. Walking paths show off the property’s mountainous landscapes and beautiful setting nestled across the Nenana River from Denali National Park.

Marking Friday's grand opening, HAL presented the Denali Borough School District $20,000 to be spent on modernizing interactive classroom technology. Orlando Ashford unveiled the geomarker that was installed to commemorate the opening. Special guests included Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Don Striker, superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve; Denali Borough School District superintendent Dan Polta; and Ken Karstens, grandson of Harry Karstens, first superintendent of Denali National Park and namesake of the new Denali Square restaurant, Karstens Public House. Carnival Corp. & plc Arnold Donald, Holland America Group ceo Stein Kruse and Holland America Group evp Charlie Ball also attended.

A highlight of the ceremony was a performance by the local Tri-Valley High School choir from Healy, Alaska. Husky dogs from the National Parks Service at Denali National Park were also at the event.

Over the past three years HAL has been improving the 60-acre McKinley Chalet Resort, and last year an enhanced property layout and freshly remodeled guest rooms were unveiled. HAL’s Land+Sea Journeys feature up to three nights at Denali, with an included Tundra Wilderness Tour deep into the Park for all travelers staying multiple nights.

Alaska-based companies heading the McKinley Chalet Resort’s enhancement project include general contractor Dawson Construction and Stantec, which is providing engineering services. Additional firms involved are lead and landscape architect The Portico Group, restaurant architect Heliotrope Architects, structural engineering company Michael Leonard Associates and project manager Costigan Integrated, all of Seattle.