Experience the World in One of America’s Most Diverse Cities - Anchorage, Alaska
As we drive into Anchorage on the Glenn Highway, I point to the right, at a neighborhood called Mountain View, and tell my out-of-State guests that over there is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the United States. They nod with surprised looks on their faces, after-all, Anchorage is a relatively small city with a population around 290,000. Not to mention that it’s much farther north from the rest of the United States. Nonetheless, compared to cities similar in size, Anchorage is the most diverse of its peers with a Diversity Index of 66.69% in 2020. Why do people come here from all over the world? Mostly, because Alaska is known for its access to wide open spaces, beautiful scenery, and job opportunities, many of which are more lucrative than in other parts of the U.S. Housing is also less expensive, and more plentiful than in larger, more populated cities like New York. Another factor may be that Anchorage is in a strategic location on the shortest air route between North American and Asia.
Dancers at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Photo by Ashley Heimbigner
Most people know that Anchorage has a population of Alaska Natives, and can guess that there are also Russians living here, due to Alaska’s close proximity to the country, and the fact that Alaska belonged to Russia until 1867. Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska, but only from Little Diomede Island, and on a very clear day. But you can tell there are many more nationalities present in Anchorage, just by the number and variety of ethnic restaurants in this town. You can have a French pastry for breakfast, eat a Peruvian lunch, and enjoy an Ethiopian dinner, just to name a few. If I try to name every nationality in Anchorage, the list would be too long. I once heard an administrator at West High School – my alma mater, say that there are about 110 languages spoken in the school’s hallways! The top five languages include Spanish, Hmong, Samoan, Filipino, and Korean.
Me krob at Ginger, a stylish restaurant & lounge specializing in Pacific Rim cuisine. Photo by Jody O.
So, how can you experience the world in one of America’s most diverse cities? You can start by learning about Alaska Native culture at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, followed by a visit to the Little Lithuanian Museum & Library, and the Alaska Jewish Museum. When you get hungry, head over to Yak & Yeti Himalayan Restaurant for excellent curry, or stop by the Alaska Sausage & Seafood Company, where you’ll find many different types of snacks from Germany, in addition to reindeer sausage and smoked salmon and halibut. Later in the day, take a trip to England by visiting the Hotel Captain Cook, where you can learn about the voyages of Captain James Cook through stained glass, paintings, woodwork, and sculptures displayed throughout the hotel. If you happen to be in Anchorage in December, walk down the hill from the Hotel Captain Cook, toward the water, where you’ll find Elderberry Park. Look to the right, and you’ll see a little yellow house. That’s the Oscar Anderson House Museum, one of the oldest houses in Anchorage, built by Oscar Anderson who had Swedish heritage. Every year, the museum hosts a Swedish Christmas at the historic house. To finish off your day of globetrotting in Anchorage, head over to Cynosure Brewing for a Belgian ale.
Oscar Anderson House by Roy Neese
When you get home, you can tell your friends about all the interesting things you learned about other cultures during your trip to Anchorage, Alaska. I promise you’ll get some surprised looks.