Decades ago, the most sophisticated city in Alaska was merely a heap of tents. But ever since it was discovered in 1914, Anchorage has bloomed, turning into the Last Frontier’s epicenter of commerce and finance. And, though the cosmopolitan hub has all the modern-day amenities, the city will always be known for the nearby vast wilderness and snow-capped peaks. Whether you’re into wildlife watching, hiking or fishing, outdoor junkies will surely discover a plethora of exciting outdoorsy things to do in Anchorage, Alaska. To make things even better, there are fascinating attractions in Anchorage, including a beguiling zoo, nightlife venues, shops and museums.
Visiting Alaska’s metropolis soon, but don’t have a clue on what to do in Anchorage? From state parks to extraordinary museums, we have a roundup of some of the best things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
1. Pay a visit to the Anchorage Museum
Want to start your Anchorage getaway on a high note? Then, make sure to put this cultural jewel to your list of things to do in Anchorage, Alaska! Not only is it a world-class facility, but it also gives you a thorough introduction to Alaska. Known as the state’s largest museum, this treasure trove houses exhibits detailing everything from Alaskan art, history and native cultures to local wildlife. As you wander around the museum, you’ll bump into displays highlighting the important aspects of Alaska’s present and past.
The flagship exhibit of the museum, though, is the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, home to over 600 Alaskan native objects, like household implements, masks, tools and art.
2. See Alaska Zoo
There’s no wildlife sanctuary in North America quite like Alaska Zoo. After all, it’s the only North American zoo that specializes in Arctic and northern creatures, such as Tibetan yaks, Amur tigers and snow leopards. From Dall sheep and caribou to moose and wolverines, the native species in Alaska are also abundant inside the zoo. And, if you’re traveling with the kids, you should include this zoo to your list of things to do in Anchorage. Trust me, your kids will enjoy gazing at the zoo’s undisputed star attractions – the polar bears.
3. Explore Chugach State Park
Up for some fun and outdoorsy things to do in Anchorage, Alaska? Why not include a visit to Chugach to your Anchorage travel itinerary? Sprawling and perfectly untouched, the state park boasts over a hundred thousand acres of wildlife habitat, rock-climbing spots, ski areas and hiking trails. Of course, the park has a natural backdrop to die for. And, the best part is, the state park is just a 20-minute drive away from the downtown area, meaning it’s one of the can’t-miss things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
4. Check out Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
No list of the best things to do in Anchorage is complete without the inclusion of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts. A staple in Anchorage’s art scene for years, it’s the best place to go in the city when you want to see a concert, musical or show. Located conveniently in the downtown area, the center lures everyone with its fabulous Broadway shows, such as Peter Pan.
5. Whale watching
Apparently, anglers aren’t the Anchorage residents who follow the fish. As you explore the coast and waters near Anchorage, you’ll see Beluga whales chasing salmons. Make your way to Turnagain Arm to catch white whales as large as a car. If you’re looking for bigger whale species, take a trip to Whittier or Seward for a whole day of whale watching.
6. Be mesmerized by the Northern Lights
Want to see something spectacular and memorable in Alaska? From September to April, the Northern Lights dazzle and paint the skies of Anchorage with shifting, greenish and luminescent splashes. Girdwood, the Knik River Area and Eklutna Tailrace are the best spots for viewing this natural phenomenon. If you have yet to see the Northern Lights, you won’t regret putting it on your bucket list of things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
7. Spend a day at Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge
One of the must-try and best things to do in Anchorage for animal lovers is to visit the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. Home to a wealth of local wildlife, the refuge serves as a critical feeding and resting area for Sandhill cranes and migrating snow geese. Of course, there are plenty of other fascinating animals that can be found at the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.
8. Go on a flightseeing adventure
Looking for a unique and thrilling way to do some sightseeing in Anchorage? With flightseeing, you’ll soar over the glaciers, spot some wildlife and explore mountains like a bird. It definitely is worth a spot on your bucket list of things to do in Anchorage! And, there’s no shortage of options for flightseeing in Anchorage either. Remember, it is home to the world’s busiest floatplane base. Not to mention, the city has more planes and pilots per capita than any city or place in the United States.
9. Ride the Alyeska Tramway
Flying is not the only way enjoy an aerial view in Anchorage. With the Alyeska Tramway, you get to swoop over treetops and glide 2,000 feet up to Mount Alyeska. And, you’ll see a load of landmarks and attractions in Anchorage along the way, including the sparkling Turnagain Arm, kettle ponds and seven named glaciers.
10. Experience the Anchorage Market and Festival
The hippy summer weekend market of Anchorage is a wondrous hodgepodge of everything Alaska. Luring tourists and locals together to talk, mingle, and best of all, eat. And, you’d rarely find such a smorgasbord of options for local food in a single spot anywhere else. Here, you’ll please your palate with regional dishes like chowder and smoked salmon. Like most weekend markets, it also features foreign culinary classics and staples.
As an added bonus, shopaholics will love the craft stalls offering Anchorage-related souvenirs, Native American trinkets and Russian dolls. In my book, it’s indeed one of the best things to do in Anchorage in summer.
11. Explore the Alaska Botanical Garden
Need a little break from all the exciting and fun things to do in Anchorage, Alaska? You might want to spend a few hours exploring the Alaska Botanical Garden. Spanning around a hundred acres, the garden displays over 1,100 perennials and 150 native plant species. There’s a wildflower trail, herb garden and a couple of perennial gardens. Moreover, it is home to the Anchorage Heritage Garden, filled with beautiful native plans that were grown perfectly from local seeds.
12. Swing by the Oscar Anderson House Museum
Are you a history buff who’s on the lookout for some cool things to do in Anchorage? You might want to learn more about the city’s history at the Oscar Anderson House Museum. Built in the 1915, the city’s first permanent home offers an intriguing glimpse into the past of Anchorage. There are guided tours that give insight into how Oscar Anderson and his family lived in the city. As far as I’m concerned, the guided tours are so informative and enthralling that you’ll feel like you have stepped back in time. Additionally, there are original artifacts that give the museum an old world feel.
13. Hit Alaska Native Heritage Center
With a visit this heritage center, you’ll have a chance to explore the unique cultures of Alaska’s 11 indigenous groups. Visitors can enjoy games, cultural dances and artist demonstrations, with savvy guides answering questions and providing details. In addition, the heritage center looks at the modern times as well as some of the changes and challenges that the communities face.
14. Hike or bike Kincaid Park
Kincaid Park is, no doubt, one of the top attractions and things to do in Anchorage for outdoor connoisseurs. With about 1,400 acres of land, the park offers a world of fun and adventure to runners, hikers, bikers and even disc golfers. Besides the rolling hills and lovely fir groves that give way to the coastal Alaskan wilderness, you’ll also find one of the city’s hidden treasures – the Kincaid Dine. Rising as high as the steepest trees, the giant sand dune offers serene views of the Church Mountains and Kenai Peninsula. And, did I mention that the park has some stunning sunset views?
15. Experience the Alaska Railroad
Interested in uncovering the history of the city’s transportation? You might want to include the Alaska Railroad to your personal list of things to do in Anchorage. As you pass glaciers, forests, the sea and mountains, the Alaska Railroad will provide a guided tour, quenching your interests. That way, you can dive into the transportation history of Anchorage in a fun and scenic way.
Mostly, the best tours feature major landmarks and attractions in Anchorage, including the Spencer and Denali glaciers, the Arctic tundra and Prince William Sound.
16. See the exhibits at Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
They don’t call this treasure trove as one of the top attractions and things to do in Anchorage, Alaska for nothing. With a visit to this museum, you’ll see photographs, restored vintage photographs and other memorabilia, honoring Alaska aviation’s pioneers. What’s more, this museum is nestled on Lake Hood’s shores – near the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and world’s busiest seaplane base.
17. Follow the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
Searching for more family-friendly things to do in Anchorage, Alaska? Grab you cam, pack your bags and follow the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Named after Alaska’s former governor, this 11-mile paved trail is perfect for strolling, cross-country skiing, rollerblading, and biking. Plus, the trail may include stops to Kincaid Park and the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.
When visiting it in summer, always keep an eye on Cook Inlet for a chance to see beluga whales. In winter, try to look out for Kincaid Park’s friendly moose. No matter what season you visit it, hitting the coastal trail should be a shoo-in to your list of things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
18. Get an up close look of Alaska’s glaciers
The landscape surrounding the city is studded with these gorgeous jewels. If you want to see a bunch of them at once, take a day cruise from the nearby Whittier or Seward. Alternatively, you may go on a mind-blowing sightseeing flight escapade. Either way, exploring these glaciers is, by far, one of the top and coolest things to do in Anchorage, Alaska.
19. Dog sledding
Alaska’s sport may be a winter experience in other places, but mushers welcome everyone to their kennels throughout the year. Take a cart ride, learn more about sled dog racing, and meet a collection of cute and charming puppies. In summer, many mushers camp out on top of the glaciers.
20. Sample the brews at Midnight Sun Brewing Company
Midnight Sun Brewing Company – the city’s oldest brewery – brews hearty barrel-aged stouts for every beer lover. In addition to the excellent brews, the company has a delectable menu that includes Taco Tuesdays and creative brushetta.
21. Unwind at Westchester Lagoon
Escape your hustle bustle urban grind by visiting Westchester Lagoon. Nestled 15 minutes away from the city’s downtown area, the lagoon is the perfect place to relax, after days of non-stop sightseeing Anchorage, Alaska. Amazingly, the lagoon offers a handful of fun family-friendly activities, such has kayaking, paddleboarding, jogging, running and hiking. And, it’s equipped with a mishmash of facilities as well, such as slides, outdoor exercise station and a whole lot more.
For animal lovers, you’ll be in an absolute treat at this lagoon. Geese, shorebirds, minks, muskrats, otters, red foxes, moose and an assortment of birds deem it as their home.
22. Hop aboard the Glacier Discovery Train
Dreaming to see and experience something surreal and wonderful in Anchorage? Then, experience the picture-perfect Alaska countryside in a fabulous way, soaking up breathtaking views by taking the Glacier Discovery Train ride. From Anchorage, the train travels south to Grandview along Turnagain Arm. Along the way, you’ll see the awe-inspiring glaciers and backdrop of the Chugach Mountains, Spencer Lake and Whittier.
Ready to see and experience these remarkable things to do in Anchorage, Alaska? Don’t forget to book your accommodations in Anchorage with Trekeffect! Great deals aside, we also donate 10 percent of our profits to UNICEF!
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