Anchorage which is Alaska’s largest city is well-known for its glaciers and wildlife trails. Anchorage is a city for an active body, mind, and soul. It combines the best of the modern and natural rugged environments. The urbanists can watch moose in the mountains during the morning hours and still enjoy five-star dinner at night in downtown restaurants.
- It is not uncommon to spot a roaming pack of wolves in the park or find a bear sauntering on the house lawn in the evenings.
- North America’s highest peak is here, and vast stretches of natural parks seem to end nowhere.
Visitors encounter more wild in Alaska than anywhere else in the world. If you are a serious nature person, Anchorage is the place for you.
Here we have listed 20 things you can do in Anchorage according to their excitement quotient, which flaunts its wilderness as much as its urban climate.
The ultimate show stopper – Northern Lights
Anchorage is one of the best cities from where you can chase aurora borealis (Northern Lights). You can take the help of experienced guides to choose the best viewing spots. The light play occurs when ionized gas particles come in contact with the earth’s Magnetic field. The best times of the year to view the differently hued fast-moving lights are from August through April.
The 5 best spots from where you can view the brilliant play of lights in the skies are the Glen Alps, Point Woronzof, the Knik River valley, and the Eklutna Tailrace, Girdwood, a ski-town, and the Eagle River Nature Center. However, it is also true that the day’s weather and artificial manmade lights greatly influences the ability to view the lights in the sky. You have not seen Anchorage till you have experienced the dancing aurora borealis.
Dog sledding for an adrenaline pump
There is no other activity more typical than dog sledding that is quintessentially Alaskan. Dog sledding is Alaska’s state sport. The best dog sledding experience is in winter, on a glacier. It starts with assembling at Willow’s Iditarod Sled Trail only to be greeted by friendly huskies that draw a sled along a snow trail. The riders can drive the dogs by standing on the sled or let the handlers do their job while they sit and enjoy the ride. For having ‘doggone’ fun times, do not miss out on the sledding in Anchorage at any cost. Sunglasses are essential to conquer the sun’s glare on the ice. During the summer months, you can ride on the sled that the dogs use for training on the ground.
Whistling Whales – where do you find them in Anchorage
Whales migrate to cooler waters during the spring and summer and there are plenty of spots in the Alaskan seas where one can hope to sight the whistling whales. The times between April and October are when you can sight them in Anchorage.
You can opt for the sea tours on kayaks or whale-watching excursions. The commonly sighted whales include humpbacks, orcas and grays. The tours last anywhere between four to nine hours and some of them manage to squeeze in breakfast and lunch.
The tour companies visit the waters in Chiswell Islands, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Resurrection Bay for whale sightings. Ensure that your whale manners are in place when sighting these mammoths.
Relive the Alaskan Klondike gold rush
Visitors can pan for gold at the Indian Valley mines or Crow Creek as the glacial streams carry flecks of the yellow metal. All that one needs to pan for gold are the water, the earth, and lots of optimism! At the Indian Valley mines, visitors are given hands-on lessons to use the sluice-box to recover gold from the sands. You can visit the museum that houses the tools used during the gold rush and you can also take home souvenirs from the gift shop there.
Crow Creek mine, which is a family operated enterprise since 1969, still retains the vestiges of what used to be the most prolific gold mining site during the rush. It holds intact many stories from the gold rush times in its old buildings. The best time to visit these mines is during summer.
How to say it with a beer in Anchorage
Anchorage is home to the nation’s best craft beers and many tours showcase the beer, brewers and breweries in the city’s neighborhoods. Glacier Brewhouse serves homemade beers with seafood and meat delicacies. The brewing machinery is on full display and can be viewed through a glass wall. Broken Tooth Brewery makes around 20 varieties of beers for all its flagship sister concerns and is known to serve delicious pizzas along with the brew.
For the ales and lagers, Cynosure is the brewpub to be in. King St. Brewing Co. is the hottest brewery in Anchorage that has served good traditional European beer for about a decade now. Tourists can also visit Anchorage’s smallest brewery – Resolution Brewing Company – on the eastern side of the city for Belgian style ales and enjoy the typical local brewery feel.
If you are an ale or a barley wine aficionado, the best time to visit Anchorage would be undoubtedly January when the Great Alaska Beer & Wine Festival is held every year.
Friday night barhopping
Darwin’s Theory in the midst of the Anchorage downtown is the number one seller for the cinnamon schnapps variety and Red Hot is a favorite with the locals and a must-try. The 49th Brewing Co., a relatively new bar, offers great rooftop seating from where you can view the Cook Inlet and the imposing Alaska Range.
Koot’s in Spenard Road is a huge place with 3 dance floors and 3 stages and is a place where you can let your hair down. Reilly’s Irish Pub is a casual place known for its Irish Ales and warm coffee.
The Midnight Sun Brewery in South Anchorage even allows you to carry away some souvenirs from their gift shop in addition to serving the best beers and fresh food. Anchorage has its edition of Hard Rock Café that dishes out live music and good food amidst rock n’ roll memorabilia.
Angling in the waters of Anchorage
Sandwiched between the mountains and saltwater, Anchorage offers exhilarating fishing options. Just a short drive to the south along the Seward highway throws up a multitude of angling options making way for a perfect family trip.
If you are looking for Anchorage’s most popular fishing hole, head straight to Ship Creek. You can fish for salmon and even land prizes if you care to take part in some locally organized contests like the Slam’n Salm’n Derby held during the summer every year.
There are close to 30 fishable lakes within the city’s limits that present great angling opportunities for those yearning for still-water action. It is common for tourists to fly out to fish in the remote streams on Lake Creek or Cook Inlet. The best time to fish in Anchorage would be in the months of June, July, and August.
The heart is where the food is
If you are craving salmon or pizza or something wilder, you can find it all in the urban restaurants at Anchorage. Savory bites, fresh seafood and time-tested sweet desserts for the asking fill Anchorage’s dining out options.
Whether you choose to enjoy signature seafood fare at Simon & Seafort’s Saloon and Grill or freshly prepared pizzas at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub along with moderately priced movies (screened as second-runs), these places are worth a try.
Ginger offers an extensive range of alcoholic beverages with lip-smacking seafood or vegan food for those that want it. ORSO’s farm-to-table menu with the choicest beers from Glacier Brewhouse is a definite draw. Other famous spots include Jens’ restaurant, Jimmy’s Sushi, and Marx Brothers Café, among others.
Day-time Anchorage cruises bare it all
There is one sure-fire way to get up close with the 60 mighty glaciers that are located within 50 miles distance of Anchorage and witness quintessential coastal scenery – opt for the day-time cruises. The tourists set to visit Portage Glacier are accommodated into vessels typically smaller than regular cruise ships and have the unique privilege of enjoying exclusive views and experiences. These trips may offer the rare chance to watch calving glaciers rumbling into the waters and witness the otters, seals, puffins, humpbacks, porpoises and orcas in action.
As the Kenai Fjords cruise weaves its way through the fjords and the inlets a variety of other animals show up: mountain goats, bears and bald eagles. A day cruise from Anchorage offers an undiluted call-of-the-wild experience for any visitor. The best times for these cruises would be between March and October.
Winter ski fun at Anchorage
There is a lot of entertainment that awaits travelers who choose to visit anchorage in the latter half of the year. The winter months in Anchorage are between November and March. You can hit the ski slopes at the Alyeska Ski Resort, Chugach State Park, or Ski Land where you can see the dancing lights of aurora borealis in the cold of the night. You can opt to ride the snow-machines for mild-to-wild snowmobiling experiences.
Helicopter tours help you spot the hidden sites of Anchorage from high in the sky and you can stand on the Knik Glacier. It feels like out of a fairy tale. Flightseeing tours are preferred in the winter months between November and March. These air trips last from 30 minutes to about 3 or 4 hours.
When Anchorage roads beckon
Driving around in Anchorage can perhaps provide the best holiday experience for the visitors. Getting in behind the wheel and soaking in the sights is as fruitful as letting others do the job while you enjoy the scenery.
The Turnagain Arm drive trip: through the Seward highway packs a punch with scenes along the Cook Inlet coast and the gorgeous mountains. The photo stops can help you take pictures of eagles, Beluga whales and the Dall sheep. You can choose to visit the Crow Creek and Indian Valley, the erstwhile gold mines.
The Kincaid Park drive: along the western side of the city helps you encounter the stars with the huge antlers, moose, which favor the dense woods. For those with a love for heights, Glen Alps trailhead drive is the one to choose. The steep climb to the foothills of the Chugach, aptly called Toilsome Drive, offers panoramic views of the whole city and the surrounding mountains.
Following the course of the Eagle River: on the northern side of Anchorage leads you close to the rising steep spires of the Chugach Mountains giving lending a personality of peace and quiet to the whole area. Driving around during winter has its thrills as well.
Where to look for the grizzlies
Guided tours help to get the best out of the bear-viewing trips in Anchorage. If you are not lucky enough to spot one in Anchorage itself, take a floatplane to reach the Katmai National Park or the Brooks Falls located in the south-west of Anchorage to see the grizzly bears in action. The best times would be from July through early September.
From June to September you can view the salmon-swatting bears entertain you with their fish-catching gimmicks. Lake Clark (Big River Lakes), on the other hand, is home to female bears and their cubs in idyllic settings. Another bear-viewing spot is Wolverine Creek that has recently become more popular.
Tee off on the greens
For visitors in Anchorage from May through September, the Midnight Sun phenomenon which ensures from 5 am up till midnight makes for a truly distinctive golfing experience in the city. The golfers are treated to a variety of panoramic views from the rolling lawns and encounter wildlife such as an occasional bear, the moose, foxes, and waterfowl. The golf courses abound in the possibilities of taking great pictures.
The golf courses are loaded with amenities such as free Wi-Fi, Putting greens, practice areas, cart facilities, availability of food and drink that can be purchased, wheelchair accessibility and fun packages for the family. The Fox Hollow Golf Course, Anchorage Golf Course, and the Moose Run Golf course are popular golf courses in Anchorage.
Local Anchorage parks and trails
If you are looking to answer the question ’how to live’, head to the many nature trails that lie in the vicinity of Anchorage for the answer. Hundreds of teeming tourists encounter a gratifying slip into natural history amidst the blueberries and the rivers.
Alaska’s most climbed mountain top Flattop Mountain beckons visitors with a 50-minute quick climb. Hilly trails are found in the 80-odd miles of the Kincaid Park in the town. The Chester Creek Trail offers tranquil peace for a precious half an hour. The Chugach Mountains in the east of Anchorage hold interesting hiking options – O’Malley Peak offers a fun scramble and Bird Ridge presents a steeper hike. For a walk garnished with moose, try the flat-terrain Coastal Trail of the Kincaid Park.
Flight-seeing Anchorage from the skies
Airplanes/helicopters fly over the Knik, Denali, and Colony Glaciers year-round, and some of the trips arrange for airdrop on a glacier. Visitors can view the walruses at Cape Seniavin on the ice or the grizzlies swatting at the fish at Brooks Falls. The world’s busiest seaplane airport at Lake Hood is ready and open to welcome any willing visitor. Some air services offer every passenger a window seat. Whereas some of the flight-trips take just 30 minutes to complete, some others take tourists around on trips spanning the entire day.
Cultural centers and museums
If you want to take a peek into the life of the indigenous people, do not miss the Native Heritage Center, Alaska. With recreated winter dwellings beckoning the tourists, the settings are intimate. Being an experience center, you can dance along with the performers or watch the carvers at close quarters. Anchorage Museum, Rasmuson Center, presents a slice of Alaskan history, science, art, and culture.
The Oscar Anderson House showcases the trappings of family living in the early 20th century. A short, quick visit to the midtown Alaska Jewish museum lends credence to the fact that Jews made more than enough contribution towards the development of the state of Alaska. Other museums worth visiting include the Loussac Public Library housed in a spectacular building, the Alaska Aviation Museum, and Alaska State Trooper Museum, among others. These institutions are open all through the year.
Tour the scenic Anchorage city
A historic 15-mile tour of the city, complete with Alaskan guides, will bridge the gaps in history and connect Anchorage’s past with the present. Replete with cultural and historical sites, the city tour takes visitors on a round trip of the city with mesmerizing views of the Lake Hood and its floatplanes and, not to forget, the urban moose. The best times for this would be in the spring and summer months, typically from April through September.
The city tour highlights include the Alaska Railroad, the mysterious Earthquake Park which bears evidence of the 9.2 magnitude earthquake in 1964, Westchester Lagoon, and you can get acquainted with beautiful flowers like Irises, Lupines, Monkshood, and Fireweed that adorn Anchorage, among others. Looking over the waters at the western end of Park Strip in downtown Anchorage is where you can see homeowners that grow the best flowers. Places around the Alyeska Resort also have beautiful flowers.
Anchorage’s shop-till-you-drop venues
You can buy things made of fur, jade, wood and gold as souvenirs. The Hoarding Marmot in Spenard Road is a shop that sells gently used mountain gear and buys back from you as well. Dimond Center Mall offers a variety of shopping choices, dining outlets, movie theaters and even an ice-skating rink.
Ulu Factory’s famed SS curved knives, taking your pick of teas and spices from the Spice & Tea Exchange by smelling from their jars, Oomingmak Anchorage Cooperative from where you can buy articles made of Qivuit silk, gold and quartz jewelry and natural gold nuggets from 5th Avenue Jewelers and choosing from the furs of the mink, beaver and fox from David Green Master Furrier, offer exciting shopping choices. Be ready to pay for the luggage as you may end up with quite a bit to carry back home.
Plays and performances in Anchorage
It is common to retreat indoors when the weather turns inclement in Anchorage. Several entertainment options turn such times into fun escapades. The Escape Rooms allows groups to solve puzzles when locked indoors, The Alaska Center for Performing Arts doles out jazz symphonies and Shakespearean plays, in multiple venues throughout the year.
The Alaska Experience Theater located in Downtown Anchorage transports you virtually for up-close encounters with the wildest of the wild or transports you to mountain and glaciers’ tops at dizzying speeds. This will surely credit as time well spent. You can enjoy live theater in Cyrano’s Theatre Company that comes up with new fare every month.
Where do you find the flowers in Anchorage
Anchorage is endowed with a variety of flora in addition to the fauna you have heard so much about. The 110 acres of the Alaska Botanical Garden encloses a herb garden, a wildflowers trail (Lile’s Garden, Wildflower Walk), the Anchorage Heritage Garden, and beautiful flower patches in the perennials (Lower Perennial Garden) section. The botanical garden is set in pristine wooded spruce and birch forest. You can hope to spot a bear or a moose and the garden is open all year-round. It is open throughout the day starting at 9 am all 7 days of the week. During the winter it is closed on Sunday and Monday and opens at 10 am. During Spring times the Turnagain Arm trail and the Flattop Mountain trail come alive with wildflowers.
Anchorage, fondly known as the Gateway to Alaska, is the place the tourists end up in when visiting the state. There are many more fun things that you can do in Anchorage. It is not as remote as people think it to be and is likely to end up as one of the best vacation spots ever that anyone has visited.
Enjoy Bird Spotting:
Potter Marsh is a wonderful place to spot different varieties of birds. Located in the southern part of Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, it is a favorite spot for canvasback ducks, Canada geese, red-necked grebes, and many other exotic bird species. Depending on seasons, different types of birds visit Potter Marsh.
Do Not Forget Shopping
While on a trip to Anchorage, do not forget shopping. It is a great place to pick up souvenirs, warm clothes, fur coats and freshly packaged seafood are some of the things you can take home. A number of shops in Anchorage arrange for delivery to most parts of the world and therefore, there is hardly any trouble for you.
Try Local Delicacies
A trip to Anchorage will be incomplete if you do not taste any of its local delicacies. Try some reindeer dogs or hot dog buns with reindeer sausages. They are the ultimate street food of the region and are extremely delicious. Also, taste some local salmon and black cod delicacies. They are fresh and mouthwatering. Apart from these, any fresh jams or desserts made with local berries taste divine. The Eskimo ice cream is another local favorite you must try.
Hop Over To The Saturday Market
Anchorage’s Saturday Market is famous for its local produce. Locals as well as tourists throng this place to pick up different types of food ranging from smoked salmons to local delicacies and beautiful craft items. It also has many stalls selling native American trinkets, different types of souvenirs and Russian dollls.