Alaska’s spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife is the state’s primary draw, but Anchorage shouldn’t be overlooked in the excitement. With a population of over 300,000, Anchorage has all of the comforts and conveniences of any large city, plus many uniquely Alaskan experiences. Many rail, and air tours begin in Anchorage, providing access to the Kenai Peninsula, Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks and the Denali / Mt. McKinley area. The city itself is loaded with shopping, nightlife and unique attractions. The city is bounded by the sea on the west and the mountains on the east, providing a scenic backdrop.
The ideal introduction to Alaska’s largest city is the 1-hour narrated Anchorage Trolley Tour. Originating at the Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor and Information Center in the heart of the city, the red trolley explores cultural and historic sites throughout Anchorage. The trolley passes through Earthquake Park, the site of greatest damage in the devastating 1964 Anchorage earthquake. The tour passes through the Lake Hood Seaplane Base… the world’s largest seaplane base. Trolley passengers see the Captain Cook Monument in Resolution Park. The knowledgeable Alaskan tour guides are always on the lookout for the famous urban moose of Anchorage. On a clear day, riders may catch a glimpse of Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range, 100 miles to the north. Visitors may use what they learn on the informative tour to decide what to do next.
Alaska Botanical Garden showcases hundreds of species of Alaskan flora on its 110 acres of spruce and birch forest. The facility features a 1-mile trail lined with several gardens each with its own theme… as well as a creek where salmon spawn each summer. The 25-acre Alaska Zoo showcases arctic, subarctic and Alaska native animals such as polar bears, black bears, Siberian tigers, seals, snow leopards and Tibetan yaks.
The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center is a large, modern museum showcasing the art, history and cultures of Alaska. The galleries feature objects and exhibits throughout Alaska’s history from the prehistoric times through European exploration, Russian settlement, the gold rush era, World War 2, statehood, the 1964 earthquake through today. With full-scale dioramas and hundreds of artifacts, Alaska’s native cultures are thoroughly represented. The Anchorage Museum has outstanding multi-media interfaces with its exhibits, making the information easy to absorb. During our visit, a temporary exhibit chronicled baseball in Alaska and the role the game played in the state’s history. Kids and adults enjoy the museum’s spacious Imaginarium Discovery Center, featuring over 80 programs and exhibits designed to showcase science through fun, hands-on activities. Located in downtown Anchorage, the museum is an easy walk from the downtown hotels and attractions.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is located on 26 wooded acres on the city’s north side. The center presents information on the five regional native groups inhabiting Alaska, as well as their lifestyles past and present. The main building hosts presentations, games, dance and musical performances as well as a theater and native arts and crafts. Surrounding a small lake, the outdoor exhibits are divided by dwellings and exhibits from each of the five cultures. Popular exhibits at the Alaska Native Heritage Center include a whale skeleton, sled dog kennel, and beautiful 30-foot totem pole.
The Anchorage Downtown Saturday Market is held every summer Saturday AND Sunday in a 7-acre downtown Anchorage parking lot. Over 300 vendors sell a wide variety of Alaskan-made goods and food from all over the world. The vendors sell uniquely Alaskan items including clothing, handmade jewelry, furs, art and the occasional oddball item. Food choices include BBQ, Russian, seafood, Thai, African and Pakistani, as well as conventional fare like burgers and funnel cakes. There is free live entertainment as well. The Saturday Market is a fun place to shop for souvenirs and gifts and try some new food.
The Historic Anchorage Hotel is among the most affordable downtown Anchorage hotels. About a century old, the quaint 28-room boutique hotel is in outstanding condition, and is the only Anchorage hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Anchorage Hotel offers the best of the city’s past and present. Historic Anchorage Hotel’s location is the ideal base for exploring the city. A small, but bustling park is situated just across the street. The hotel shares a corner with the newly-opened Hard Rock Café. The Anchorage Log Cabin Visitor Center and many other attractions, shops and restaurants are on the same block. The service is friendly and professional, and they offer a deluxe continental breakfast in their historic gathering room. The hotel has had some famous guests, including John Denver, Roy Rogers and Alaskan artist Sydney Laurence. Believed by some to be haunted, Historic Anchorage Hotel is also very popular with those who seek out the paranormal experience. The friendly and cozy Historic Anchorage Hotel is the ideal base for your Anchorage experience.
Enjoy Alaska’s spectacular scenery, but don’t forget to take in some of the great experiences that Anchorage has to offer.