Planning Your Time
Anchorage is an outstanding base for travelers to Alaska’s heartland, with Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, and a multitude of other attractions within a day’s drive. The state’s largest airport provides flights to all regions of the globe, and the Alaska Railroad has daily trains north to Denali and Fairbanks or south to Seward and Whittier.
The city has long served as a hub for travelers, but it also offers many attractions not available elsewhere, and one could easily spend two or three days just exploring local museums, hiking trails, shops, and restaurants.
The city’s highlights include its outstanding Anchorage Museum (the state’s largest), the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Alaska Heritage Museum, and an abundance of good restaurants, hip coffeehouses, hopping bars, H2Oasis Indoor Water Park for the kids, and two minor-league baseball teams—all that you might expect from the state’s largest city.
And don’t forget the always-packed Farmers Market every summer weekend, with locally made crafts, tasty finger food, live music, and even a bit of fresh produce from the farmers. But with the natural beauty of Mt. McKinley and the Alaska Range visible beyond the city skyline on clear days, it’s hard to forget that you’re in Alaska.
And there are also attractions you would only find in an Alaskan city: a wonderful coastal trail that starts right downtown, great day-hiking in nearby Chugach State Park, fascinating Turnagain Arm with its enormous tides and beluga whales, and places to outfit yourself for any adventure in the Alaskan outdoors.
Anchorage is within easy striking distance of some of the most exciting and extensive summer recreation including hiking, climbing, fishing, kayaking, river rafting, flightseeing, and wilderness areas. Budget travelers will enjoy reasonable food prices, inexpensive flights to the Lower 48, several hostels, and a good bus system.
Nearby to the south, the town of Girdwood is home to Alyeska Resort—Alaska’s only significant ski area—and funky Crow Creek Mine where you still might find a gold nugget in your pan. A bit farther south is the much-photographed Portage Glacier, accessed by a tour boat from the Forest Service visitors center.
North of Anchorage the Glenn Highway passes a tiny Tanaina Native Alaskan village where Eklutna Historical Park houses a picturesque graveyard filled with spirit houses before emerging in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (Mat-Su, for short), where the pastures and farms of the past are giving way to homes and strip malls for folks fleeing Anchorage housing prices and crowding.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition