With 2,000 square miles of land, hundreds of miles of trails, Alaska wildlife roaming the city and Alaska’s most accessible glaciers nearby, Anchorage has almost as many story ideas as it does moose. Here are just a few ideas:
What’s your passion? Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing or trail running? It’s all available in Anchorage. With over 300 miles of paved and backcountry trails, the city is ripe for exploration by foot, bike, skate or ski. Kayaking, whitewater rafting, kite boarding – even surfing on some of the planet’s most extreme tides– can all be enjoyed in the waters of the municipality. Running events take place throughout the year, and two summer Marathons draw visitors from around the globe: the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon and Half Marathon and the Anchorage RunFest.
Five national parks are easily within a day’s travel of Anchorage. Denali, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias national parks are all connected by road or rail – or in the case of parks without any such connections, by small aircraft. North America’s tallest mountains, iconic bear-viewing spots, whale watching and countless glacier views are an integral part of Alaska’s national parks, and of a visit to Anchorage. Park access takes on special significance this year as 2016 is the National Parks Service centennial. In fact, Denali National Park was the first park established by the service.
No need to go far to find fifty-pound king salmon. Downtown Anchorage’s Ship Creek is a productive salmon fishery steps away for the streets of downtown. It’s not unusual to see businessmen and women don waders and head to Ship Creek before work or at lunch to hook a fresh king for dinner. Alaska’s lakes are stocked with trout and land-locked salmon for fishing year-round. Fly out for a day or two of remote lodge fishing, or within a couple hours be on the ocean to fish for halibut or cod.
Start out at street level with a reindeer sausage from one of the city’s hotdog carts, or go white linen with some of the finest chefs in the Northwest. Anchorage restaurants have everything from humble home-style recipes to James Beard nominated chefs, dishes from around the globe to veggies and seafood found right here in Alaska. Meet the chefs, growers and fishermen and get a better sense of the foods grown in Alaska. Appearances can be deceiving; some of the city’s best eats and lauded restaurants are tucked into line malls. Find meals worth savoring in inconspicuous places. New in 2015, the seasonal Downtown Anchorage Culinary Walking Tour provides an opportunity to sample great food and meet the people behind the scenes of Anchorage eateries.
Considered as Alaska’s largest village, Anchorage is home to roughly 16 percent of the Alaska Native population. There are numerous opportunities to explore the rich heritage of Alaska’s first people year-round, from potlatches and gatherings to museums and cultural centers. Meet the artists at art fairs, shops and cultural centers. Experience the burgeoning Alaska Native performing arts with theatre productions and music by artists blending their traditions with topics and sounds of today.
Brews and Spirits
Alaska has 27 breweries spread across the state, putting it in the top tier nationally for breweries per capita. Many of these brews are available only in a few local joints or can’t be found outside their hometown. Thankfully, Southcentral has eight of those breweries and plenty of great places to sit and sip Alaska pints like Gold Rush Golden Ale, Midnight Sun Kolsch and BrewHouse Blonde.
Coffee culture is big in Anchorage as well; the city has nearly three coffee shops per 10,000 people. From local roasters to drive-through coffee huts, there’s no shortage of places to find a cup of joe.
Looking for something a little stronger? Glacier Melt Vodka, Arctic Ice Moonshine, or Aurora Borealis Gin are among the products found at the Anchorage Distillery, which opened in spring 2015. All of its spirits are made from grains grown in Northern Alaska and distilled Alaska glacier water. Stop by for a taste or tour.
Anchorage’s first inhabitants, the Dena’ina Athabascans, called winter "the time we gather together." Anchorage still comes together in winter for great winter activities and exciting events. Groomed and lighted ski trails are spread across the city, and city skate ponds are worthy of Rockwell. The Chugach Mountains and Chugach State Park open up a host of possibilities for snowshoeing, heli-skiing, even ice climbing.
You’ll find a whole winter’s worth of performing arts, from the best of Broadway to locally produced shows performed by Alaskans. Late February and early March heat up with three great events. Join the locals for snowshoe softball, Running of the Reindeer, outhouse races, and dozens of other wild activities during Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. Meet legendary dog mushers and wish them luck on the trail ahead with the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race® in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday in March. Or slap down skis and hit the trails with the Tour of Anchorage, one of the oldest community Nordic ski race series the following day.
Anchorage is the perfect place to gather with the family for the holiday season. Like shopping? Craft fairs and holiday bazaars are found October through mid-December. Artisans across the state gather in Anchorage. One of the finest is the Anchorage Museum’s craft fair and book fair, which takes place during Thanksgiving Weekend. In addition to artists, Alaska authors and illustrators gather to sign and sell their books. It is a great time to chat with artists and authors. Enjoy the holiday tree lighting in Town Square, complete with a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus and reindeer. Carolers fill the air with music. Sports enthusiasts gather at the Sullivan Arena the entire week of Thanksgiving to enjoy some of the finest women’s and men’s pre-season basketball. Many of the top U.S. collegiate teams have played in the Great Alaska Shootout. And unlike in summer when the dark of night is nearly nonexistent, colorful fireworks displays light up winter skies with color in early evening on New Year’s Eve.
The arts are important to Alaskans. It’s been said that there was a symphony in Anchorage before there were paved roads. Theater, art, music, design – it’s all on fire in Anchorage, with several artists making it to the big leagues. Local musicians fill summer afternoons and evenings in downtown Anchorage parks and festivals. Local and visiting productions fill stages in theatres and other venues. How has Alaska shaped their journey? Come find out firsthand.