Anchorage Travel Guide + 20 Things to do in Anchorage
Updated April 2020, Anchorage Travel Guide + 20 Things to do in Anchorage was originally written in January 2020
I grew up just north of Anchorage and much of my family lived there growing up, hell, I was even born there. It’s safe to say that I know the city pretty well, and well enough to say that Anchorage will likely not be the highlight of your visit to Alaska.
I get several emails every month from travelers planning their dream trip to Alaska asking what the heck should I do in Anchorage? Well guys, I finally got around to it: my very own complication of the best things to do in Anchorage (plus, I figured maybe I should stop telling soon-to-be visitors that maybe they should just skip it). In all actuality Anchorage isn’t that bad, there are quite a few things to do and see in around the city, but I also can see how it’s not the most exciting place for travelers visiting Alaska.
Anchorage is a truly unique city. Despite it not being the most exciting place for tourists, it’s a pretty cool city to live in (or in my case, just outside of). In how many major cities can you hike off into nature and up a mountain? Or spot wildlife bigger than vermins? Not many!
So before I get carried away, here are the 20 best things to do and other handy tools to plan the perfect visit in this Anchorage Travel Guide.
Start planning your Alaskan adventure: The Ultimate Alaska Travel Guide
Things To Know Before You Visit Anchorage
You will likely begin and/or end your Alaska trip in Anchorage, so here are a few quick pointers and things to be aware of:
- I recommend waiting to visit Anchorage until the end of your trip. Being that Anchorage is not a highlight for most visitors I’d recommend saving it for the end to spend whatever time you have leftover in Alaska here. I don’t want you to be disappointed by cutting another destination short or cutting something completely off your list in lieu of Anchorage.
- Crime rates, drug abuse, and homelessness are incredibly high in Anchorage (as well as much of Alaska). Now, I’m not trying to scare you away, but I’m also telling you the cut and dry truth: Anchorage isn’t exactly the safest city. So be aware of your surroundings and take caution, especially late at night.
- Accommodation and car rental fees skyrocket in the summer months of June, July, and August. The spring and fall shoulder months of April, May, and September can be great alternatives.
- Despite being the largest and most populous city in Alaska, Anchorage is not the capital- the capital is actually in Juneau.
Things To Do In Anchorage
CULTURE, HISTORY & MUSEUMS
Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is a great place to start for those interested in learning about the Alaska native cultures, and their languages, handicrafts, songs, dances and more. Admission is 24.95 for adults 16 years old and up, $16.95 for kids ages 7-16, and free for children 6 years and under. The Alaska Native Heritage Center is open May-September.
Want a guided tour? Check out this 4 hour guided tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Anchorage Museum is a great place to head for those who have just arrived in Alaska. The museum’s permanent exhibitions include the Alaskan history & culture exhibit and Alaskan art exhibit. The Imaginarium Science Discovery Center is located in the Anchorage Museum and is perfect for kids. There are also rotating exhibitions that can be found on display at the Anchorage Museum. Admission is $17 for adults, $15 for students, $10 for kids age 6-12, and children 5 and under are free.
Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
Airplanes are a big part of Alaska’s more modern history given the remoteness of many areas of the state. The Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum shows off the aircraft that have helped move Alaskans and supplies around from village to village in more recent years. Admission is $17 for adults, $10 for kids 3-10 years old, and children under 3 are free.
Oscar Anderson House Museum
Oscar Anderson helped in the development of the city of Anchorage when the city first began to flourish in the early 2oth century. His house, built in 1915 still stands in Elderberry Park in downtown Anchorage and now serves as a museum with the house having been restored to its 1915 appearance. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids 3-12 years old.
Eklutna Village Historical Park
Eklutna is a small village about 30 minutes drive from Anchorage, on the northern fringes of the municipality. Eklutna Village Historical Park shows off the mixture of Dena’ina Athabascan beliefs and Russian Orthodoxy. Eklutna Village Historical Park is open May-September. Admission for adults is $5, kids 12-18 are $2.50, and children 11 years and younger are free.
EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS
At the convergence of the Chester Creek Trail and the Coastal Trail, Westchester Lagoon is one of the city’s most popular parks. The lagoon is great for spotting birdlife, and kayaking. In the winter get out your ice skates and glide across the ice.
Historic Downtown Anchorage
Okay, maybe downtown Anchorage isn’t the great outdoors, but it’s kinda outdoors nonetheless. Downtown Anchorage is compact and easily walkable, especially in comparison to the rest of the city which isn’t exactly pedestrian-friendly. In Downtown Anchorage, you’ll find countless restaurants, bars, cafes, shopping, and historic sites.
Eagle River Nature Center
This area once referred to as a miniature Yosemite (it’s a bit of a stretch), sits nestled in the Eagle River Valley, just a short drive north of Anchorage on the municipality’s northeast fringes. The Nature Center regularly hosts walks, presentations, and workshops and from the center, a number of trails lead off into the valley from short walks to multi-day backcountry treks. Note that there is a $5 per day parking fee.
Hike Into Chugach State Park
Chugach State Park is massive, to say the least, and the park’s western boundaries seem to hug Anchorage from the east. Many of Anchorage’s most popular hikes lead off into Chugach State Park including Flattop, Williwaw Lakes, McHugh Creek & Rabbit Lake, Eagle & Symphony Lakes, Eklutna Lake, and more.
Not a DIYer? No problem! Check out this Chugach State Park day hike
The Coastal Trail spans 11 miles from 2nd Avenue in downtown Anchorage, all the way to Kincaid Park. You can opt to take on the entire length of the trail on foot or on a bicycle, or you can easily choose to do a segment of it. From the Coastal Trail, you can expect great views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountains.
Wanna join a group cycling trip? Check out this Coastal Trail guided tour
Earthquake Park & Point Woronzof
Earthquake Park commemorates the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake that devastated Anchorage by telling the circumstances of the earthquake and the effects it had on the city. At a magnitude of 9.2, it shook the neighborhood that once sat in the location of this park right into the ocean. Just a little further west will bring you to Airport Park where you can snap the iconic view you always see in the brochures of Anchorage. Continuing west from Airport Park will take you to Point Woronzof where you’ll have views out toward Fire Island.
The Park Strip, also known as Delaney Park Strip, stretches 11 blocks across the city and is Anchorage’s oldest park. Originally the Park Strip was used as an airfield and golf course, but these days is home to several sports fields, memorials, and even a Rose Garden. Ironically I worked at a dental office with views onto the Park Strip for several years, and I don’t have a single photo to prove it…
Kincaid Park is a great place to get outdoors in Anchorage year round. The park is home to over 40 miles hiking/walking trails and 20 miles of bicycle trails. In the winter trails are groomed for cross-country skiing. There are also a few beaches on Cook Inlet you can access from the park where you’ll have excellent views of the inlet and across to Fire Island, and on a clear day, sights of Denali.
Far North Bicentennial Park
Far North Bicentennial Park is Anchorage’s largest Park, set in the Chugach foothills. The park boasts several hiking trails. The Campbell Creek Science Center is a great place to visit to learn about the nature and wildlife that can be found at the park.
Alaska Botanical Garden
The Alaska Botanical Garden showcases Alaskan plants and wildflowers and acts as a living museum. Admission to the Alaska Botanical Garden is $12 for adults and $8 for kids 7-17 years in the summertime. In winter admissions is by donation, except for during Winter Lights in December and January when admission is $7 for adults and $5 for kids.
This wetlands area on the southern edge of the city is one of the best places to go in Anchorage to view birdlife. Potter Marsh has boardwalks as well so you can get better views of the wildlife. Spotting moose out here isn’t too uncommon.
Wanna guarantee you’ll see Alaska’s Big 5? Head to the Alaska Zoo where you can view and learn more about many of Alaska’s wild critters.
Ship Creek Viewing Platform
Conveniently located in downtown Anchorage, this walkway was placed on top of a dam over Ship Creek where you can go to view salmon, best typically in May and June. From here you can also continue along the Ship Creek Trail.
THEATRES & ENTERTAINMENT
Alaska Center For The Performing Arts
The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts showcases all kinds of entertainment from traveling plays and musicians, to local performances, operas, the Anchorage Concert Association, the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, and more.
Cyrano’s Theatre Company
Head to Cyrano’s to watch plays and shows put on by local writers and performers.
Where To Stay In Anchorage
I’d definitely recommend staying in the downtown Anchorage area as many of the restaurants, nightlife, and even a few of the top things to do in Anchorage are located in the vicinity.
Looking for an awesome day or overnight trip from Anchorage? Take the whistle-stop train to Spencer Glacier
How To Get Around In Anchorage
Getting around in Anchorage is easiest if you just rent a car. The only public transport in the city is by bus, however, the schedule is quite limited. Distances between destinations in the city can be too great to walk, not to mention, Anchorage is a massive city in terms of size. You can check out bus routes and schedules here. Uber and Lyft to operate in Alaska, but prices are quite high, comparable to taxi fares, which can rack up fast.
Best Anchorage Restaurants
Moose’s Tooth is an Alaskan favorite, serving up artisan pizzas among other dishes in addition to their locally brewed beer.
The Crow’s Nest is one of Anchorage’s finest restaurants, located on the top floor of the Captain Cook Hotel in downtown Anchorage, with sweeping views over Cook Inlet from its west-facing windows.
South Restaurant & Coffeehouse
South is a newer restaurant on the Anchorage scene that serves up unique and modern twists on a few favorite dishes and an exciting gin cocktail menu. South serves up one of my favorite brunches in Anchorage with a decent menu of morning cocktails.
Snow City Cafe
Snow City Cafe is conveniently located in downtown and serves some of the best breakfast in the area.
Orso is another downtown favorite, though typically easier to get into than its neighbor, the Glacier Brewhouse. Orso has a well-rounded menu with plenty of local seafood and grilled meats on deck.
The Glacier Brewhouse often has long waits in the summer because it has largely turned into a tourist restaurant, but if you’re looking to try Alaskan seafood, this isn’t a bad place to start.
White Spot Cafe
White Spot Cafe is one of Anchorage’s long-time restaurants, dating all the way back to 1959. It recently changed hands in 2017, but remains an Anchorage landmark, most well known for its halibut sandwich and fries.
The brewery scene in Anchorage has taken off in popularity in the last few years. Below I’ll list a few, but if you’d like to hop on a brewery tour to learn about some of Anchorage’s best breweries and sample some locally made beers, click here.
Anchorage Brewery is located in an industrial area but is conveniently located just a short walk across the street to Fire Island Bakery.
Midnight Sun is known for its stouts and barley wines. Upstairs in the loft, they serve up great food, my favorite being the cheddar ale soup.
49th State Brewing Company
49th State started up in Healy, but a few years back opened a second brewery here in Anchorage. The rooftop patio offers great views over the port and the inlet to enjoy a beer and snacks or dinner from.
Matanuska Brewing has two Anchorage nad one Eagle River Brewpub serving up their beers in addition to others.
Double Shovel Cider Co.
Double Shovel is Alaska’s first micro-cidery. They do have a tasting room and in the summer have food trucks that cycle through in the parking lot serving up delicious meals and snacks.
Odd Man Rush Brewing
Odd Man Rush is a small brewery located in Eagle River, just north of Anchorage that opened in 2015.
Anchorage Bars & Nightlife
There are plenty of bars in Anchorage, but here I’m going to focus on favorites and iconic bars.
Bubbly Mermaid is probably my favorite bar in Anchorage. It’s not just any bar, it’s a champagne and oyster bar (two of my favorite things!).
Koot’s is an Alaskan icon that’s been around since the 70’s, meaning my grandparents have hung out there, my parents have gotten wild there, I’ve walked out on my face a time or two, and if I have kids they’ll likely end up there at some point, it is what it is. Koot’s basically several bars all fused together under one rood. I think the most fun is the replica of the Bird House that burned down many moons ago.
Mad Myrna’s is Anchorage’s gay bar and cabaret, and it’s always one of the most fun places (in my opinion). On Fridays, there’s usually a Drag Review.
F Street Station
F Street Station is another long time Alaskan bar that also serves up fresh Alaskan seafood as well as other pub food.
Crush Wine Bistro
Crush pairs wine with excellent small plates in downtown Anchorage.
Anchorage Festivals & Markets
The Fur Rendezvous, most commonly referred to as Fur Rondy, began over 80 years ago as a way to ring in the upcoming spring, and more importantly to trade pelts and goods of the miners and trappers who worked in Alaska. Now, Fur Rondy is the largest winter carnival in North America. Fur Rondy normally begins at the end of February and stretches on for 10 days into early March. The Iditarod sled dog race always begins at the end of the festival.
The Anchorage Market (though most of us who grew up here just call it the ‘Saturday Market’) is open from May to September on the weekends. You can find anything from fresh produce, delicious Alaskan food and treats, souvenirs, and more.
Spenard Farmer’s Market
The Spenard Market is held on Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm from May to September in the Chilkoot Charlie’s parking lot. It’s a community-based market where you can pick up fresh Alaskan produce.
On the first Friday of each month, several galleries, restaurants, and cafes around Anchorage participate in First Friday by featuring local artists’ works. First Friday takes place between 5 pm and 8 pm. Read up on First Friday events here.
Summer Solstice Festival
On summer solstice Anchorage gets about 22 hours of sunshine and like 3 hours of dusk thanks to being located at latitude 61ºN. Since we have such long and dark winters, summer solstice feels like Alaska’s time to party. Around summer solstice there are numerous events held in and around Anchorage to celebrate the longest day of the year, as well as many others held around the state of Alaska too. Click here to read about a few of Anchorage’s Summer Solstice events.
Have Any Questions About Visiting Anchorage Or About Any Of The Things To Do In Anchorage Mentioned Above?
Ask your Anchorage travel questions in the comments section below.