Visiting Anchorage - What to See and Do
(Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport ANC, USA)
is the civilized gateway to the wild world of Alaska
. America's largest state is also its most remote and undeveloped. It is a land where wildlife outnumbers humans by a significant number, and towns are few and far between. Most visitors to this amazing region arrive in this city before heading off into the wilderness for an adventure of a lifetime.
It is worth saying that you don't need to leave Anchorage to experience the wonders of Alaska and its hardy pioneering residents. The state's top cultural attractions are here to give you a background on Native American culture and frontier settlers. The downtown has a decent slew of restaurants and lively bars, where the seafood is as fresh as humanly possible and the beer always ice cold.
Anchorage manages to incorporate nature into its urban landscape like few other cities. Its public park system is more like a national park in the Lower 48 states, with each wild oasis connected by a scenic bike path that runs along the waterfront. Spend a day whale watching in the bay or hiking in the striking Chugach National Forest, located just minutes outside of the city. You can certainly venture farther afield, but the beauty of the city is that you don't have to.
Ten things you must do in Anchorage
- The best Native American attraction in the state is found at the city's prized Alaska Native Heritage Center. There is a lot going on here, from the theater showing films to the exhibits relating native culture. Workshops allow visitors to watch natives creating their crafts, while the main building is where 30-minute performances show off traditional dance, music and storytelling.
- The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center is a real beauty, laying out the wild story of this state in a series of modern exhibits. Over 600 pieces of rare traditional Alaskan native artwork serve as the principal highlight. There is also the Imaginarium science museum and the Alaska Gallery, which explains the rich geology, nature and wildlife of America's biggest and most exotic state.
- If you don't have time to make it to one of Alaska's big national parks, then the slick little zoo at Anchorage is a respectable substitution. What it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. Set among natural woods, all of Alaska's indigenous creatures are here in their native environment. The two-hour tour guided by a zoo naturalist is well worth the added expense.
- Whether you are a beginner skier or deep powder expert, Anchorage has two great ski hills to choose from. The Hilltop Ski Area is right in the middle of town at Bicentennial Park, with one single easy slope to practice your turns. Experts make a point of skiing at Mount Alyeska just outside of town, one of the most extreme ski resorts on the planet.
- Anchorage has an award-winning urban bike path that is ideal for city hiking or biking. There are actually several trails linked together via the many greenbelts that keep this city looking natural. Two of the best are the 10-mile / 16-km Tony Knowles Coastal Trail for sea views and the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail for a sweet 4-mile / 6.5-km run through the forest to Goose Lake.
- You don't even have to leave Anchorage to escape into the wilderness. There are an embarrassing number of quality attractions to choose from, but Kincaid Park is one of the real gems. This is a summer-only park, but its 607 hectares / 1,500 acres have 40 miles / 64 km of trails just perfect for everything from hiking to mountain biking. Expect to see lots of wildlife here, including moose, bears and more.
- The Bear Tooth Theater Pub exemplifies the frontier spirit that pervades in Alaska. Set right in downtown, this movie theater offers the wonderful bonus of enjoying a pint of craft beer and a meal while watching a second-run Hollywood flick. It is like sitting in your living room surrounded by a few hundred other folks. Movies nearly always sell out since it is such a popular fun venue.
- Anchorage sits right on the sea, so it is very tempting to get out on the water for a day and experience the other incredible aspect of life in Alaska. The village of Whittier is next door, offering the best place to rent sea kayaking gear, or arrange a boat cruise or fishing excursion. The marine environment around the city is simply magnificent, teeming with life and surrounded by towering snow-clad peaks.
- The Chugach State Park and the Chugach National Forest are the two closest wilderness areas to Anchorage that are truly wild. If the city's many superb urban parks aren't rugged enough for you, then you can escape into the serious wilds of Alaska in less than an hour from downtown. Hiking, mountain biking, camping and winter snowshoeing is what you do in the Chugach area.
- One of the few historic attractions to be found around Anchorage is the Eklutna Historical Park, a native village that will definitely blow your mind. The fascinating native cemetery is still used today, with graves decorated by ornate spirit houses akin to colorful dolls houses. There are also two very old Russian Orthodox churches in the village, harking back to the era before America bought Alaska from Russia.