Locals like to say that Anchorage is just 30 minutes from Alaska. The biggest city in the state, with a population just shy of 300,000, has some of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas right in its backyard. Come along as we take a virtual tour of Anchorage.
Fourth Avenue serves as Anchorage’s unofficial main street, complete with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, museums and a theater. Many businesses along the street participate in the city’s First Friday by staying open late and providing live entertainment.
Some 1,500 moose call the Anchorage area home, so it’s not uncommon to spot them, even in the heart of the city. To up your moose sighting chances, spend some time at Kincaid Park or Potter Marsh in the early morning hours.
Life in Alaska is all about the outdoors, and you don’t have to leave the city for some fresh air. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a popular recreational trail for jogging, biking and cross-country skiing, hugs the shores of Cook Inlet for 11 miles between downtown and Kincaid Park.
Kincaid Park ranks among the largest green spaces within the Anchorage city limits. This park on the western tip of the city, jutting into Cook Inlet, features almost 40 miles of trails, a fishing lake, 18-hole disc golf course and even a sandy beach (Kincaid Beach).
Westchester Lagoon, another favorite urban oasis, sits along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Come here for a sense of peace and quiet, whether you’re birdwatching, spotting salmon from the boardwalk or going for a jog.
Keep an eye out for the city’s most famous resident as you walk around town. Star the reindeer lives along 10th Avenue but likes to go on leashed walks around town. An antlered occupant named Star has lived in the city since 1960.
The Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s put Alaska on the map, bringing in tens of thousands of people hoping to find their fortune. Modern day visitors can learn about the city’s gold mining history – and try their luck at gold panning – at the two area mines, Crow Creek and Indian Valley (pictured).
Some of the world’s freshest seafood comes from the chilly waters of Alaska. No trip to Anchorage would be complete without sampling some seafood from the city’s restaurants. King crab and salmon appear frequently on menus, but you’ll also find rockfish, shellfish and halibut.
Hikers in Anchorage have more than 300 miles of trails to choose from in the area. Among the most popular is the easy Winner Creek Trail through the Chugach National Forest. The six-mile out-and-back trail winds through a forest of spruce and ferns.
Eklutna Lake, a long lake fed by the Eklutna Glacier, is one of the most popular spots near the city to get out on the water. Rent a kayak and go for a paddle, or hike the trail along the northeastern side of the lake.
Chugach State Park, among Alaska’s largest state parks, sits within 40 minutes of downtown Anchorage. The Eagle River Nature Center, located within the park, offers 10 miles of hiking trails, perfect for wildlife viewing.
Many a visitor to Alaska has a glacier on their must-see list. With more than 60 glaciers within a day’s journey, Anchorage is a great place to see one. Many of the state’s most accessible glaciers lie within the Portage Valley.
The Portage Glacier is the star of the Portage Valley, measuring 10 stories tall and miles in length. Visitors can get an up-close view of the glacier on a sightseeing cruise on Portage Lake or by hiking Portage Pass (the only easy way to see the glacier on foot).
A trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center brings visitors up close to some of Alaska’s most iconic wildlife. The nonprofit organization offers a home for injured and orphaned animals, including moose, brown and black bears, and wood bison.
Come to Anchorage in the winter, and you’ll have the chance to see the aurora borealis. Some hotels even have a northern lights wake-up call, where you’re notified if the lights are visible. Some of the best spots in town to see the lights include the Glen Alps trailhead, Point Woronzof and the Eagle River Nature Center.
On the first Saturday of March each year, the iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race kicks off on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. The early part of the race follows an 11-mile route through the city before heading out on the 1,000-mile journey to Nome.
Winter in Anchorage means Fur Rendezvous, Alaska’s oldest and largest winter festival. Fur Rondy, as it’s known by locals, features a lineup of quirky events, from outhouse races and snow sculpture competitions to sled dog races and an arts market.
Perhaps the most popular event during Fur Rondy is the Running of the Reindeer. During this event, racers dash through the streets of Anchorage in an attempt to outrun a herd of caribou. There are races for men, women, couples and tourists.
Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star ranks among the most scenic train rides in the United States. Visitors can board the train in Anchorage for a journey to Talkeetna, Denali National Park or as far as Fairbanks.