Best Things to See and Do in Anchorage, Alaska
If you haven’t been to Anchorage for quite awhile, by all means, go! It’s one thing to visit Alaska on a cruise ship, but to get the true flavor of this city, you’ll want to stay overnight. The city offers Friday Art Walks, plenty of outdoor recreation activities, is home to the start of the Iditarod and it has some great restaurants.
I was delighted that Anchorage offered nature right outside my doorstep. Check out Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, amazing trails right in downtown with views of mountain ranges, and the waters of Cook Inlet, and along the trail Earthquake Park.
If you like beer, the local brewpubs are Glacier BrewHouse and FireTap Alehouse. Snow Goose Restaurant offers local favorites like the fresh catch of the day or a wood-fired pizza, and wash it all down with a local microbrew.
Head for the trails that wind through Anchorage Parks and greenbelts for a run, a bike ride, or a quick cross-country ski.
The Chugach National Forest, or Chugach State Park, the nations third largest state park, is within the Municipality of Anchorage boundaries so no excuses that nature is too far to reach.
When you come to Anchorage, get your picture taken in front of the Log Cabin Visitor Information Center on Fourth Avenue.
If you like seafood (and who doesn’t like fresh fish from Alaska?) order the Asiago Alaska Halibut from Simon and Seaforts.
Will you be visiting Anchorage on the weekend? I picked up some great buys at the Farmers’ Market. Alaska products and gifts found nowhere else: smoked salmon, handmade baskets, Ulu knife sets, Ivory, Jade and wood carvings, gold nugget jewelry, mukluks and moccasins, Qiviut woolens, the list goes on and on. First Friday Art Walk is a great way to see local art work on display and even have a nibble of food in the galleries.
If you don’t have a lot of money to blow on food, go to City Diner for a great meal at a price that can’t be beat. Snow City Cafe is a great place for breakfast. Order the crabby omelet or Kodiak Benedict. Yum!
For a huge splurge, I go to Sullivans Steakhouse.
Of course, Anchorage offers photo ops just outside your window. But head downtown to Ship Creek in Anchorage and try your luck at hooking a huge salmon literally steps from downtown. You can also board a boat just yards away from the deep blue Portage Glacier.
Walk to the top of Flattop Mountain, taking the tram or hiking to the top of Mt. Alyeska for a panoramic view of the Chugach Mountains and Turnagain Arm. Alyeska Resort, in Girdwood, is only 40 minutes outside of Anchorage and is worth an overnight if you have the time.
There are so many randoms thing to discover in Anchorage. One zany event is the Running of the Reindeer and Outhouse Races that speed down Fourth Avenue during Anchorage Fur Rendezvous.
No matter how much time you have to spend in Anchorage, try walking the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, kayaking at Eklutna Lake, hiking at the Eagle River Nature Center, skiing the Chugach Mountains, or fishing for halibut or salmon. The forested Campbell Creek Greenbelt is a great place for a walk or run.
In my opinion, Anchorage best museum is the Anchorage Museum. Take your kids to the children’s area (it’s modeled after San Francisco’s Exploratorium) Have lunch or dinner at the hip Cafe Muse.
For a night of dancing, go to Chilkoot Charlies or Rumrunners.
For late night dining, Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse is the spot. I watched a Reindeer hot dog eating contest here during Fur Rondy activities. It was wild!
To find out what’s going on a night or on weekends, check out the Play section in the Anchorage Daily News or, Anchorage’s alternative newspaper, the Anchorage Press.
Anchorage is within close proximity of wildlife. Watch out for moose wandering by the side of the roads. Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center South of Anchorage on the Seward Highway. Bears, eagle, moose and other Alaska animals share space on the centers grounds. When I was there, the AWCC was hosting a herd of Wood Bison to be released into the wild.
In the spring you should attend the Senior Native Youth Olympics. Alaska youth demonstrate their skills in traditional Native games that are based on life skills of past generations. The games test hunting and survival skills, and increase strength, endurance, agility and the balance of mind and body.
In the summer you should attend Solstice Weekend. Great events like the Mayor’s Marathon and Half Marathon, Pridefest, the Summer Solstice Festival and Hero Games and the Slam’n Salm’n Derby all loaded into a single weekend celebrating the longest day of the year.
In the fall you should visit two of the states best college sporting events. The University of Alaska Anchorage hosts the hottest college teams on ice during the Kendall Hockey Classic in early October, while the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout draws top-class college basketball teams to Alaska for a pre-season tournament during Thanksgiving weekend
Alaska in the winter? Go to the Tour of Anchorage Cross Country Ski Race, Anchorage Fur Rendezvous, and the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. I was fortunate to have covered the 2010 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Check out my YouTube video.
A little known place to visit in Anchorage is the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The center is a showcase of Alaska Native art, tools, and crafts, featuring great live tours and demonstrations of native life, dance, and crafts. It is hidden in the woods in Northeast Anchorage, but you’d be remiss to pass it up. Check out my post on the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
There are plenty of great breakfast joints in Anchorage. For a treat or espresso, go to the Middle Way Cafe or Kaladi Brothers Coffee.
If you are visiting Anchorage by car, head to Alyeska Resort; have lunch on top of Mount Alyeska at Seven Glaciers, a AAA Four Diamond award-winning restaurant.
The best way to see downtown Anchorage is to pick up a map from the Log Cabin Visitor Information Center on Fourth Avenue and take the Anchorage Downtown Walking Tour. Or, see downtown by Segway with SegTours of Anchorage.
Traveling with kids? They’ll like the Alaska Wild Berry Theater, reindeer petting area, H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark, and WildRide Sled Dog Rodeo.
What are your favorite things to see and do in Anchorage, Alaska?
Thanks to Jack Bonney and the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau for assistance with this post.
Photos by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown