Anchorage is famous for its nature trails, wildlife, glaciers, and culture.
Apart from its natural resources, you can also experience the city`s seafood, breweries, and distillers.
This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on some of the things to do in Anchorage.
What to Expect?
Due to its diversity of attractions, Anchorage is perfectly suited for a family vacation. However, just like any other Alaskan city, the best time to visit is mid-summer.
I have been lucky enough to visit Anchorage several times and can consider my taste relatively good.
Therefore, believe me when I say that your travel itinerary should include the following:
- Hiking the numerous trails
- Learning about Indigenous culture
- Exploring the blue glaciers
- Visiting the different museums and animal sanctuaries
1. Visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Are you are wildlife lover? Then make sure to visit Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. The center operates as a rescue and rehabilitation center for wounded and deserted animals.
This sanctuary is very big, and it covers over 200 acres. This vast area allows the animals to enjoy space that mimics their natural habitats.
Some of the animals you should expect to see include:
- bald eagles
The park has installed a scenic 1.5-mile loop to allow guests to have an amazing view. I really enjoyed riding my bike around the loop while reading some of the interpretive signs about the different animals.
Since this is a non-profit organization, making a contribution or even buying items at the gift shop will go a long way to ensure more animals are rescued.
2. Tour Alaska Native Heritage Center
Whenever I tour a place with so much history, such as Alaska, I always make sure I spare enough time to learn about its cultural heritage. This is why I had to include the Alaska Native Heritage Center in my itinerary.
A tour of the center will give you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the indigenous Alaskan people. This will also help you get more insight into the different things and attractions that you will be visiting.
While at the center, you will be taken through Alaskan culture and history through several interactive activities like dance, films, and exhibits. There are 11 different groups of native Alaskans showcasing their culture at the center.
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You can also decide to take a walk along Lake Tiulana or replica traditional village sites. The setting will give you a feel of how native Alaskan people used to live and the effort that has gone to maintain some of their traditions to date.
Lastly, to have a more interactive experience, make sure to join in one of the many dances.
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3. Use The Alaska Railroad
Another awesome way to spend your day is by taking a train ride from Anchorage to other small cities like Seward and Denali. This trip offers the most memorable and scenic exploration of Alaska wilderness.
You can opt to take either Anchorage to Seward route or Anchorage to Denali route.
The Anchorage-Denali route will give you an experience you will not forget. Some of the scenic features in this route include:
- Kenai Mountains
- Spencer Glaciers
- Chugach National Forest
- Glacier Valley, famous for its hanging glaciers and lakes
- Dall sheep on the rocky cliff
The Anchorage-Denali route is also equally scenic and fascinating. The route will take you through;
- The Denali Mountains
- Matanuska Valley
- Knik River
- Matanuska River
- Talkeetna Mountains
- Hurricane Gulch trestle
Just as you approach Denali Park, make sure to take photos of the panoramic view of the Alaska Range as you pass the Broad Pass.
I can assure you that your eyes will remain glued to the window as you traverse through the majestic mountains, waterfalls, exotic wilderness, and glittering glaciers.
4. Go Hiking
If you feel that you have the adrenaline rush to explore and have a personal connection with nature, Anchorage has close to 300 miles of hiking trails.
Whether you are looking for a short or long day hike, Anchorage has got you covered.
The hiking trails will take you through fascinating landscapes, lush woodlands, and gorgeous viewpoints.
Popular hiking trails include:
- Byron Glacier Trail
- Thunderbird Falls
- Flattop Mountain
- O’Malley Peak
- Rendezvous Peak
- Bird Ridge
- Winner Creek
- Williwaw Lakes
- Crow Pass
However, the trail that I would recommend to anyone visiting Anchorage is the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which stretches 11 miles. I really enjoyed taking in the scenic views of the Chugach Mountains, Fire Island.
The trail also offers you the opportunity to see a host of wildlife, including moose and eagles. Be on the lookout; you could be lucky to spot a whale in the bay.
The well-maintained and paved trail begins at the city’s downtown area and extends to Kincaid Chalet. The path allows you to explore the hidden treasures of nature.
The route will enable you to experience everything from ocean views and wildlife to the perfect Denali Mountain and Knik Arm view.
However, if you want to enjoy Anchorage city from a different perspective, you can opt to take the following three off-road routes, including;
- Walk the Solar System
- Go Bird to Grid
- Bike the Moose
The hiking trails will relax and soak up limitless views of Anchorage wilderness and wildlife.
5. Take Advantage Of The Numerous Water Recreational Activities
While Anchorage might appear cold, there are plenty of water activities to do all year long. So get your waterproof gear, sturdy shoes, camera, and fishing license, and enjoy the city’s many water adventures.
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Some of the things you can do include taking part in guided kayak tours, rafting, and fishing. While at it, you will enjoy the amazing views of the Alaskan landscape and wildlife.
In fact, Anchorage has some excellent fishing spots where you are likely to catch trophy fish.
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Some of the popular fishing spots that I got a chance to try out were:
- Ship Creek
- Campbell Creek
- Bird Creek
Anglers can easily land salmon, Dolly Varden, Monster Halibut, rainbow trout, and trophy trout.
Another great way to spend your time is kayaking. In fact, tons of tourists use Anchorage as a starting point for kayaking treks meant to take them to other remote locations. Some of the spots offering the best kayaking experience include Cook Inlet and Lake Clark.
6. Enjoy a Glacier Cruise
Anchorage Cruises offer mind-blowing sights, excursions, and dining. Taking a small ship will take you through the narrow waters, enabling you to get up close and personal with the glacier.
Be sure to be amazed by the beautiful and twinkling waterfalls, scenic fjords, and coves.
The cruises will also allow you to get up close with Alaskan wildlife, including:
- Harbor seals
- Humpback whales
- Sea otters
Some of the popular cruise spots include Portage Lake and Prince William Sound. Personally, I opted for the Portage Glacier cruise.
I liked it because the package offered roundtrip transportation from Anchorage to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This cruise will last approximately 1 hour.
7. Hike the Glaciers
If you are up for an adventure and you are fit enough, then try out ice climbing? There are a lot of glaciers that are accessible for hiking.
However, I recommend you opt for Matanuska Glacier, as it is easily accessible from Anchorage. To have an amazing time, trek across the icefield and have an overnight camp.
Additionally, you can explore the ice caves and visit the summer sled dog training camp at the top of Matanuska Glacier.
Other than Matanuska Glacier, other glaciers within a 3-hour drive from Anchorage include Bryon, Portage, Raven, and, Exit and Harding ice field. All five glaciers’ difficulty ranges between easy and moderate. Therefore, even a novice hiker can attempt them.
8. Anchorage Nightlife and Cuisine
While Anchorage is not the kind of place you go to indulge in its entertainment scene specifically, I believe it is still a good idea to sample the town’s nightlife and cuisines.
Visit local bars or eateries and enjoy Alaskan cuisine prepared by local chefs.
Anchorage’s nightlife is vibrant, including live music and craft brews from local distillers.
Interact, mingle, laugh, and get cozy with locals as you unwind after a long but exciting day exploring Anchorage.
Anchorage is a hidden gem that has a lot to offer from its sceneries, wildlife, and culture.
However, to enjoy everything Anchorage offers, I recommend you stay there for at least 3 days. It is also advisable to check on the best times to visit and the charges of the places on your itinerary.
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