As Alaska's biggest city, Anchorage is a veritable cornucopia of adventure. Whether you prefer indulging in fine dining while overlooking Cook Inlet or getting dirty while exploring the Chugach Mountains, you'll find your nirvana here.
Put on your best flannels and get ready for one big, wild ride as we share 16 of the best ways to enjoy Alaska's only metropolis.
Take a midnight stroll on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail
There's only one place to be on Alaska's long summer nights – the iconic Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Named for a former governor, this 11-mile paved trail follows the shore and provides unparalleled views of downtown Anchorage, the Chugach Mountains, Mt McKinley and Fire Island.
You're likely to run into moose, sandhill cranes, bears and a bunch of locals along the way; just be respectful of the environment and don't approach the wildlife or the mudflats, as both can be very dangerous. Traverse the somewhat hilly trail on foot or via e-bike, which can be affordably rented at Pablo's Bicycle Rentals.
Enjoy a beer flight at 49th State Brewing
Anchorage is quickly becoming a hotbed for craft brewing, but the best of the best remains 49th State Brewing. Located downtown, this three-story pub serves up stunning views of Cook Inlet alongside plates of red king crab, Alaskan king salmon and giant German pretzels, plus some of the best beer you'll ever taste. Choose from more than 25 craft beers on tap (try the award-winning Smōk), or order a flight to sample a series of six seasonal brews. Make reservations in advance, as this hotspot is generally very crowded.
Go urban fishing at Ship Creek
If ever there were a perfect example of Anchorage's dual personality – equal parts urban and untamed – it's Ship Creek. The world's only metropolitan king-salmon fishery, Ship Creek is located in the heart of downtown Anchorage.
Fishers from around the world congregate on the river's muddy shores during the second week of June for the Slam'n Salm'n Derby, bagging salmon weighing as much as 40lbs in hopes of taking home the grand prize. Before you cast your line, stop by the Bait Shack to purchase a fishing license, rent gear and get tips from the locals.
Hike the Chugach Mountains
The Chugach Mountains are calling, and we recommend you heed their call – visible from anywhere in Anchorage, they're full of marked trails waiting to be explored. Most visitors opt to scale the well-trafficked Flattop Mountain Trail. This 3-mile roundtrip route begins with rolling hills and ends with a steep traverse up a craggy rock face. When you get to the summit, make sure to take a selfie with the flagpole.
If you're looking for more of a challenge, check out the Rabbit Lake trail, a 4.4-mile trek alongside rushing rivers that ends in a valley in the shadow of two 5000ft peaks. At the base of the peaks is Rabbit Lake, the perfect place to cool off and rest before heading back.
Though both trails are well maintained, you still need to be on the lookout for danger. Bears, moose and Alaska's unofficial state bird, the mosquito, occupy the landscape. Be sure to bring plenty of deep-woods DEET, a bear bell and extra snacks in case of emergency.
Sail the seas and see 26 glaciers with Phillips Cruises & Tours
Hop on Phillips Cruises' exclusive coach in Anchorage, and arrive in Whittier for the water tour of your life. Onboard the 26 Glacier Cruise, you'll cover more than 140 miles of Prince William Sound, including College and Harriman Fjords. Keep an eye out for otters, seals, whales and puffins; lucky seafarers may even be treated to the unforgettable sight of calving glaciers.
Bears, eagles, musk ox and lynx on parade
Located about 40 minutes south of Anchorage, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a guaranteed way to (safely) encounter Alaska's wildlife – more safari than zoo, it's home to bears, eagles, lynx, musk ox, foxes and caribou living in their natural habitat. Special tours of the facility are available, but most choose to meander around the 1.5-mile loop on their own.
Learn to cook gourmet seafood with Twisted Spruce Kitchen
One of Anchorage's best-kept secrets is cooking classes with Twisted Spruce Kitchen. An expert in Alaskan seafood and produce, chef Natalie Janicka takes participants to the farmers market to shop for ingredients before returning to her state-of-the-art kitchen to cook. You'll get hands-on instruction, recipes and the opportunity to dine overlooking the Cook Inlet. Classes are available year-round, but in our opinion, summer offers the best experience.
Celebrate the longest and shortest days of the year
Alaska is a land of extremes: in the winter, some towns don't see the sun for three months, and in the summer, they don't see the night for three months. To mark these momentous bi-yearly shifts, downtown Anchorage hosts block parties for both winter (December 21) and summer solstice (June 21), with food, live music, beer gardens, free entertainment and local art vendors.
Be a part of one Anchorage's longest-running traditions
Fur Rendezvous has been an Anchorage tradition since 1935, and it's become bigger and better with each passing year. Held in mid-February, this 12-day festival – affectionately dubbed Fur Rondy, or Rondy for short – features dog-sled races, ice carving and sports, as well as more eccentric activities such as running with reindeer, racing outhouses and sliding down a ski slope on a mattress. It's worth braving the cold of an Alaskan winter to experience the kookiness at least once.
Ski Alyeska's 1610 acres
Only 20 minutes south of Anchorage and averaging 669 inches of snow annually, Alyeska offers some of Alaska's best skiing. Experts will love double-black-diamond trails like Alyeska Chute and Max's Traverse, while beginners will want to stick to the Lower Bowl, which is jam-packed with gentle descents. But skiing isn't the only thing this mountain offers – it's also home to the AAA Four Diamond Award–winning Seven Glaciers Restaurant (be sure to get a glass of wine) and a world-class luxury hotel, complete with a spa.
Eat your way through Anchorage's best restaurants
It's no secret that Alaska is famous for its seafood, but Anchorage is also home to a pizzeria slinging some of the most innovative pies around. From the Call of the Wild – loaded with reindeer sausage, steak, bacon, two kinds of mushrooms, and garlic cream sauce – to the Home Wrecker, with spicy chili, tater tots, cheddar cheese and fresh jalapeños, Moose's Tooth is the one restaurant you have to try. (Be prepared to wait; it often takes more than two hours to get in.)
After you've had the best pizza in town, hit the fine-dining trifecta: Crow's Nest, Double Musky Inn and Glacier Brewhouse. We recommend the king crab legs at the Crow's Nest, the pepper steak at the Double Musky, and the Alaska snow-crab-stuffed roasted cod at Glacier Brewhouse.
Take in a show at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts
The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts is the beating heart of Anchorage's arts scene. Working in conjunction with the Anchorage Concert Association, the PAC, as it's known, hosts internationally recognized musical acts such as Stomp, the Piano Guys and International Guitar Night. It also supports numerous plays, ballets and comedy acts each year, including the raunchy Puddles Pity Party, a local favorite.
Learn about Alaska Native Culture
Anchorage is located on the homelands of the Dena'ina Athabascan people, but there are 11 distinct cultures in Alaska. Learn about them all at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, where you can see Alaska Native dance and storytelling demonstrations, tour six life-size Native dwellings and purchase authentic Alaska Native art. The center is open to the public during the summer season, but private tours can be scheduled from October to mid-May.
Engage with the Alaskan arts scene at the Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum has undergone significant renovations over the last few years, and it's transformed into the cultural center of Anchorage. The best time to visit is the first Friday of the month, when local artists take over for pop-up performances, talkback discussions and art demonstrations, but if you can't fit a Friday into your schedule, there's still plenty to see.
Discover the story of the state at the permanent Alaska exhibition, or fall in love with the Art of the North. Embrace your inner child by making gigantic bubbles, stop-animation films and Lego sculptures in the museum's Discovery Center, and don't forget to take an out-of-this-world journey in the large planetarium.
Take a carriage ride through Bootlegger's Cove
Percheron draft horses power an antique falling-front Brougham carriage from 1893 that seats up to 12. A favorite among Alaskan couples, the Horse-Drawn Carriage Company's tour through Bootlegger's Cove offers views of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Range. Upon request, your driver will gleefully recount scandalous stories about past residents, while current residents warmly wave – or even give away bouquets of fresh-cut flowers from their gardens – as you pass by.
Party at an Anchorage dive bar
Unlike metropolitan cities in the Lower 48, Anchorage isn't known for its sceney nightlife – in fact, people here prefer a casual evening at one of the city's many dive bars to hitting the dance floor at a fancy club. But that doesn't mean you can't find fun after dark.
One of Anchorage's most notorious spots, Chilkoot Charlie's – aka Koot's – has three stages for live music and 10 bars catering to every vibe. (There's even a tilted bar covered in women's underwear; visitors are encouraged to pin theirs on the wall.) If you have the chance, catch a Jephries show for a truly authentic Alaskan experience – just be ready to join the inevitable mosh pit.
The Gaslight and Van's Dive Bar are also worth checking out – both are frequented by locals most days of the week, and there’s never a cover charge.
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