With 1,961 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:
Neighborhood Profile - Spenard
Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood always been different: defined by the only meandering road in a grid of cardinal direction streets, home to a dancehall in the woods during Prohibition, and a town unto itself until Anchorage swallowed it up in the 1970s. Spenard’s distinct character continues to evolve, with recent literary, community and culinary developments.
Writer’s Block Bookstore opened, creating a hub for Alaska’s literary community, with sales, author talks and workshops. The neighborhood celebrated another literary milestone, the second edition of the Spenardian, its resident, hyper-local magazine. The Church of Love turned a disused 1950s-era church into a space for artists, concerts, community gatherings, and classes on permaculture, sewing and more. The owners of longtime Spenard favorite Bear Tooth Theatrepub (and it’s more famous sister, Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria) recently announced plans to develop a food hall nearby in the coming years.
The way locals live
Accustomed to thinking of city and outdoors being two separate things? Then it may take some time to truly understand Anchorage. In a city still crossed by salmon streams and greenbelts and home to wildlife like beluga whales, eagles, and moose, attempting to characterize something as purely “urban” or “wild” can seem silly.
The natural and the built environment aren’t opposites. In Anchorage, they are two elements that coexist in daily life. Anchorage lives under midnight sun and auroras. Shares backyards with moose. Fishes in urban salmon streams at lunch. Bike or even cross-country ski into the office, or hit the trails just a few minutes after work. Cheers runners and reindeer on our main street. Anchorage spends the weekends beyond the reach of email, whether in the backcountry or the brewery. Our city’s outdoor adventures may be beyond belief, but they aren’t beyond our boundaries.
60 Glaciers, Many Ways
Tell someone while in Anchorage you want to visit “the glacier” and you may get a little smile. There are 60 glaciers within a day’s travel from Anchorage, and just about as many ways to enjoy them. Land atop one on a flightseeing tour, sail fjords and inlets loaded with them. The list goes on: kayak, paddle board, hike, ice climb, or take a dogsled trip across one in the middle of summer. Not all glacier experience require exertion; you’ll find views of seven from Girdwood aerial tram and the mountaintop Seven Glaciers restaurant, and even find glacier ice floating in a glacier margarita while aboard day cruise boats.
Anchorage Food Scene
Eating local in Anchorage was born of necessity; in Alaska’s early days, what grew locally was fresher than what reached the state by plane or boat. The world is smaller and better connected now, yet Alaskans relish their close connection to what’s on the plate. Most of Alaska’s farms are just up the road in the Matanuska Valley. Fresh fish and seafood take pride of place. And foraged treats such as spruce tips, chaga, berries, sea asparagus, and fiddleheads make the menu in Anchorage as well.
Anchorage restaurants defy easy description. You’ll find white linen table cloths, but also sidewalk carts serving reindeer sausage. Anchorage’s people come from all over the globe, so you’ll also find vindaloo, tibsi fitfi, schwarma, bibimbap, and musubi – if you know where to look. No matter what is on the menu, expect the meal to include fresh ingredients, prepared simply and honestly.
Beer and Spirits
Anchorage has more than 15 breweries, with no indication of slowing down. Thirsty locals are travelers mean plenty of demand. Ask brewers what makes Anchorage such a great place to make beer and you’ll likely get similar answers: Anchorage’s water is drawn from a nearby glacier, making it one of the purest starting ingredients. Though the same pure ingredient starts the process, what pours in a pint is as varied as the personalities driving each brewery.
Recent changes to state law have also allowed distilleries to open on-site tasting rooms. Anchorage’s distilleries make gin, vodka, and whiskeys using the very same glacier water, as well as local barley and other ingredients.
If summer in Alaska shines, winter sparkles. Come between late August and early April for aurora viewing in Anchorage. By late November, groomed and lighted trails are ready for Nordic skiers and fat tire bikes across the city, and skate ponds are local gathering places. The Chugach Mountains and Chugach State Park open up a host of possibilities for snowshoeing, snowmobile tours, heli-skiing, even ice climbing.
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.