Anchorage, for most visitors to Alaska is simply a launching point for adventures to Denali National Park or the Kenai Peninsula but I believe that Anchorage has a lot to offer visitors. Visitors can enjoy great museums, biking, back-country hiking and of course, the best shopping and dining in Alaska.
A great way to start your visit in Anchorage is with a morning city tour. This two hour tour gives you a great orientation to the city and also gives you the historical highlights of Anchorage. When I travel to a new city, I like to go on a guided, local tour because it helps me orient to my new surroundings and I learn a little about the local history, visitor attractions, and geography.
I highly recommend visits to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The Anchorage Museum is a world class facility that celebrates the history and art of Alaska and its people. The museum also offers a variety of seasonal exhibits. This summer enjoy “Arctic Flight: A Century of Alaska Aviation”. The museum is located in downtown Anchorage. The museum is also home to the Imaginarium Discovery Center, a hands-on science center, and The Thomas Planetarium, both of which are great experiences for visitors of all ages.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers a unique look into the Alaska Native way of living. Visit replicas of five different Native villages to learn about the cultural history and customs of each native group. You have the opportunity to witness native dancing and see demonstrations of the Native Olympic Games events. The Center is located about 10 minutes driving from downtown.
Hiking and Biking
Anchorage offers over 100 miles of paved bike paths. The most popular biking path for visitors is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This trail starts in downtown Anchorage and travels the coastline of Anchorage 11 miles to Kincaid Park. This trail is used extensively by both walkers and bikers and you can often see Alaska Moose along the trail. There are bike rentals located at 5th avenue and L Street near the start of the trail.
If you are looking for more of a hike, rather than a walk, I recommend a trip to Flat Top or other hiking trails in Chugach State Park. Flat Top is Anchorage’s most popular hike and can sometimes be pretty crowded but the views are awesome. Alaska Tour & Travel now offers an Anchorage guided hike into Anchorage’s back-country, with pick up and return to downtown hotels. This is a great option for visitors who do not want to rent a car but want to escape the “big city feel” of Anchorage.
Another great Anchorage destination is the Alaska Zoo. This zoo is home to many native species and even includes some species one wouldn’t expect to see in Alaska! Visit the polar bears, grizzly bears, moose, wolves, fox, tiger, camel and much more. During the summer season, the Alaska Zoo offers a shuttle from downtown.
Shopping and Dining
Downtown features the 5th Avenue Mall which houses J.C. Penney and Nordstrom with many stores in between. The streets of downtown are lined with souvenir shops, native Alaskan craft shops and art galleries. For the non-shoppers in the traveling party, I recommend they stop in for a pint at Humpy’s or the Glacier BrewHouse for an Alaskan brewed beer while their companions shop nearby.
Downtown Anchorage also offers a great variety of dining. Simon & Seafort’s is known for their hot crab appetizer and seafood entrees’. Glacier BrewHouse offers a varied menu including wood-fired pizzas, pastas, ribs and seafood plus a great selection of house-brewed beers. If you are looking for a fabulous steak, try Club Paris, one of downtown Anchorage’s oldest restaurants – their steaks are outstanding. Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse is more of a bar atmosphere but they make great fish tacos too!
If you are planning a trip to Alaska, be sure to spend a day or two in Anchorage!