Anchorage may be Alaska’s largest city, but that doesn’t mean the frontier is far off. Anchorage is a modern city surrounded by spectacular wilderness and filled with outdoor adventures and urban amenities. The city stretches west from the Chugach Mountains, reaching the waters of Cook Inlet. It is home to comfortable hotels, but also as many as 1,500 moose. There are world class dining options, but also hundreds of miles of paved or unpaved trails, perfect for hiking, biking and – in winter – skiing. The city sits next to one of the largest state-owned parks in the nation, Chugach State Park, with 500,000 acres of wilderness, wildlife and high adventure.
Summer days stretch long; Anchorage has more than 20 hours of sunlight daily at the height of summer. Downtown is buzzing, with massive flowers blooming in the heart of the city, monster salmon surging up nearby streams and live music filling the air. Itineraries read like a wish list for those with a love of the natural world. Moose browse through city parks and greenbelts, eagles soar over neighborhoods, beluga whales cruise coastal waters in search of a salmon meal.
There are hundreds of thousands of glaciers in Alaska, and some of the most easily accessible glaciers are near the city. The m/v Ptarmigan cruises to the face of Portage Glacier on an ice-choked lake. With the dock just 50 miles south of downtown Anchorage and regular departures on the one-hour roundtrip voyage, there’s a reason Portage Glacier is the most visited attraction in all of Alaska. There are more frozen wonders to explore; travelers can watch tidewater glaciers calve into Prince William Sound on a day cruise, kayak iceberg-dotted lakes or get a dose of winter fun midsummer with a dog sledding trip atop a glacier or an ice climbing excursion up the frozen face.
Mountain peaks in six ranges are visible from Anchorage on clear days, including Mount McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America. Visitors who want a closer look at McKinley’s majestic peak can book flightseeing trips departing from Anchorage. Lake Hood is the world’s busiest floatplane base. Just a ten minute trip from downtown Anchorage, the lake serves as a direct link to even more towering mountains, massive glaciers, remote lakes and outdoor opportunities from wildlife viewing to fishing.
While many of the most breathtaking Alaska sights are in the wilderness, the city itself boasts treasures not found anywhere else. Explore the heritage of Alaska Native cultures at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Through stories, authentic song and dance and artist demonstrations, visitors are immersed in the traditions and lifestyles of Alaska Native peoples through the centuries and into modern day. The center showcases traditional Native life, with exhibits that feature tools, watercraft, clothing, pieces of art and drums. For even more on Alaska, the Anchorage Museum is home to a treasure trove of Alaska art, history and science. The museum expanded in 2009, with a stunning wing designed by London-based architect David Chipperfield. The new space is home to an unprecedented loan of 600 Alaska Native artifacts at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, as well as a planetarium and the interactive science exhibits of the Imaginarium.
Anchorage is home to world-class restaurants, cozy coffee shops and a wide variety of cuisines and cooking styles. Locally caught fish are often center stage, with wild Alaska salmon and fresh halibut taking pride of place. Bering Sea crab, huge Kodiak scallops, prawns and clams are all drawn from Alaska waters. In the summer, fresh produce is available at the Anchorage Market and Festival, held weekends in downtown Anchorage. But whether it is fine wine, Thai, Mexican, fresh baked goods or local microbrews, the city caters to the whims of every taste.