Anchorage City Scene
Urban and wild aren’t opposites; they are Anchorage’s two defining elements. There’s no need to choose one or the other since they are both part of life here. Anchorage lives under midnight sun and auroras. Shares the backyard with moose. Fishes in urban salmon streams at lunch. Cheers runners and reindeer on the main street. The city’s adventures may be beyond belief, but they aren’t beyond the boundaries.
Metro + Moose
Anchorage might appear at first glance to be a typical American city, but closer exploration shows some surprising facets of urban life in Alaska. The city’s 300,000 human residents share their space with an estimated 1,500 moose, not to mention bald eagles, bears, beavers, Dall sheep, and the occasional lynx. King and silver salmon fill Ship Creek all summer long, drawing anglers to one of the world’s only urban salmon fisheries. Just a block away, the Alaska Railroad’s largest passenger depot is at the center of train travel, as it has been for more than a century. For access to spots beyond the reach of road or rail, with many sightseeing tours by plane or helicopter take off from the city. A bustling seaplane base at Lake Hood has planes casting off from docks near hotels and homes. There are around 600 takeoffs and landings on the big days, and many sightseeing tours by plane or helicopter.
The aerial view says a great deal about Anchorage. Flying over the city, green is the prevailing color. Broad natural spaces like Far North Bicentennial Park, Kincaid Park are set aside. Paths following Chester and Campbell creeks knit the city together in a network of paved trails.
Farther east, the Chugach Mountains rise quickly. Filled with trails, glaciers, rivers, and wildlife, the Chugach are where locals go to unwind and enjoy the outdoors. One of the largest state parks in the nation is 20 minutes or less from most offices and neighborhoods.
To the west, the city is on the edge of Cook Inlet, so a trip along the Coastal Trail lends good views of the Alaska Range and Denali, and a drive down Turnagain Arm means an occasional beluga whale cameo.
Arts and Culture, Alaska Style
Anchorage is best known for trails, wildlife, and glaciers, and it is the state’s cultural soul as well. The city is home to more artists and musicians than any other place in Alaska. Public art fills the city, from life-sized murals of bowhead whales and other Alaska marine life to a bronze work harkening back to Dena’ina Athabascan fish camps on the Knik Arm shore. Anchorage is also home to the state’s largest museum, as well as a whole palette of galleries, showrooms, and artist workspaces. Shops and restaurants often serve double duty as gallery space; many host a different artist each month for First Friday events.
The cultural offerings are on stage as well. Both the symphony and the opera company in Anchorage predate statehood. Traveling acts entertain crowds at the Center for the Performing Arts or Anchorage’s arenas.
The cultural appeals of Anchorage go far beyond the expected. Anchorage is a prime place to explore Alaska Native cultures. There are many distinct cultures, each with traditions reaching back thousands of years, and continued, contemporary presence in Anchorage today. For starters, the Alaska Native Heritage Center is an excellent primer. Events like the traditional sports at NYO Games and the arts market and sessions of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention provide visitors other entry points into these cultures.
It takes good food to fuel all the activity in Anchorage. Thankfully, there is plenty on the menu. Alaska is famous for seafood. Anchorage serves it all fresh – salmon, crab, halibut, rockfish, cod, clams, scallops, and oysters. The state’s agricultural heartland, the Matanuska Valley, is less than an hour away, bringing plenty of greens, root veggies, berries, and rhubarb to the table. Fresh ingredients go into a cuisine scene that covers familiar comfort food, with an appetite big enough to make room for Thai, Himalayan, Polynesian, German, and all points in between. Hundreds of restaurants are on the menu, with a dozen breweries and a handful of distilleries filling glasses in Anchorage.