Alaska is a big state, but Anchorage is the perfect place to explore all of Alaska’s natural wonder, wildlife and native cultures. Here are the top 10 stops for a few days in Anchorage:
1. Flightseeing – Aviation is huge for Anchorage; in addition to having Alaska’s largest international airport, it’s also home to the busiest seaplane base in the entire world, Lake Hood. In a state as large as Alaska, floatplanes are often the best way to reach attractions. Charter carriers take off from Lake Hood for day trips to bear viewing locations in Lake Clark or Katmai national parks, or touch down at glacial lakes and remote fishing spots off the road system. Other trips to circle Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest mountain and tour Denali National Park’s other peaks from the air.
2. Watch Glaciers Calve and Whales Breach – Glaciers are among Alaska’s most popular attractions and many are accessible as a day trip. Portage Glacier, is among the most accessible. Just 40 minutes south of Anchorage, catch a ride on the Ptarmigan, the only boat cruising Portage Lake to the face of the glacier. Even more of these icy wonders can be best viewed from the deck of a day cruise boat out of the nearby towns of Seward or Whittier. Whales, sea lions, otters, puffins and other marine wildlife are a perk on these trips.
3. Coastal Trail Bike – Anchorage’s paved trails stretch more than 200 kilometres through the city’s parks and greenbelts. The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail links downtown Anchorage to Kincaid Park some 18 kilometres away. Rent a bicycle for a few hours or an entire day; it’s an inexpensive way to explore the city trails.
4. Guaranteed Wildlife Viewing – Spend time in Alaska and with a sharp eye, you are bound to see animals in the wild. But for a comprehensive, up-close look at Alaska wildlife head to either the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage or the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in nearby Portage. It’s the best vantage point from which to see moose, bear, lynx, eagles, musk ox and many other Alaskan species.
5. Explore Alaska’s History and Cultures – Visit two great cultural centres for one price with the Alaska Culture Pass. The pass provides admission to the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The Anchorage Museum (Alaska’s largest) is the perfect place to get an introduction for your trip. With art, science, history and cultural exhibits, the museum chronicles the events and people that have shaped the state. Don’t miss the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, a collection of 600 Alaska Native artifacts from across the state. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great way to learn more about Alaska’s native people. The centre features life-sized replicas of traditional Alaska Native dwellings and daily dance, song, sport and storytelling demonstrations. A free shuttle departs regularly to both the museum and Alaska Native Heritage Center from the downtown visitor centre at Fourth Avenue and F Street.
6. Alaska Railroad – Hop aboard the Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward. The train passes through untouched forest, crosses wild rivers and steams past glaciers nestled in the mountains above. Or catch the train north from Anchorage instead, and visit the picturesque Alaska town of Talkeetna for a day of flightseeing or jet boating near Denali.
7. Anchorage Market & Festival – Held every Saturday and Sunday from May to mid-September, the Anchorage Market is the perfect place to find Alaskan products and art. Browse the stalls for an Alaskan treasure, or sample salmon quesadillas, reindeer sausage and other Alaskan cuisine. Admission is free.
8. Fishing – Cast for king or silver salmon without leaving the city! With all five species of salmon and countless rivers and streams in and around the city, Anchorage is a prime place for fishing. Head to Seward or Homer on the Kenai Peninsula for a charter fishing trip targeting halibut, rockfish and ling cod. The average sport-caught halibut weighs 14 kilograms, but the record is more than 204 kilograms.
9. Hiking – There are hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails in nearby Chugach State Park, from easy hikes of a few kilometres to all day and overnight treks through mountain passes. Flattop Mountain is arguably the most popular hike in the park. Enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the city below, either from the scenic overlook near the trailhead, or from the top of Flattop after an hour-long hike.
10. Dog sledding – Even after the winter and snow have melted away, you can still try Alaska’s state sport: dog mushing. Tour the kennel of an Iditarod veteran, or helicopter up to a glacier for warm weather sledding with a dog team.