The largest city in the vast state of Alaska, Anchorage combines urban comforts with outdoor adventures. There are few places where you can be on top of a windy peak in the afternoon and sitting down for a 5-star wild salmon dinner in the evening. Follow this two-day itinerary to sample the best of what this northern frontier city has to offer.
Start your day of adventure at Snow City Cafe. You’ll find hearty breakfasts with an Alaska twist; try one of the specialty eggs benedict made with king crab or smoked salmon.
Properly fueled for your day, head around the corner to Downtown Bicycle Rental, where you’ll grab your ride for the next few hours. From here, you can cruise right down to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This paved bike path follows the Cook Inlet coastline for 11 miles, all the way out to 1400-acre Kincaid Park. On a clear day you can see towering mountains across the inlet. Moose regularly munch leaves along the trail so this is a good opportunity to snap a photo of one. And on your return, look for views of Denali behind the cityscape.
Read more: Adventures in Anchorage: exploring Alaska's city in the wilderness
Legs spent and appetite fully reinstated, tuck into Crush Bistro for a fancy sandwich and a wine flight. Wander from here to the world-class Anchorage Museum. You could spend the better part of a day exploring the rotating exhibitions and planetarium shows, but the real gem is the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. Hundreds of Native Alaskan artifacts are on display, and you can listen to recordings of storytellers and learn about the oral history of Alaska’s indigenous people. It’s an evolving exhibit allowing for research by Alaska Native elders and scholars.
Walk down to Ship Creek to witness locals fishing for salmon. The scene is a surreal one: massive wild salmon being pulled from a creek that is mere blocks from the city’s office buildings. Note too that the valley you’re standing in was once level ground that sunk dramatically during the 1964 earthquake.
It’s time to enjoy some salmon yourself. The sun sets late in the Alaska summer, and the best place to catch it is from the deck at 49th State Brewing Company. With 360-degree views of Cook Inlet, the Chugach Mountains, Denali, and Anchorage’s city skyline, you’ll be elbowing locals for a table. Order some local seafood, sample one of the dozen or more homebrewed beers and relax into Alaska’s magical golden hour(s), where the sunset can last several hours.
If, like the midnight sun, you’re not ready for the night to end, explore the city’s nightlife. One good option is Williwaw, which features a rooftop bar, secret speakeasy, and weekend musical acts. Mad Myrna’s is also a constant on Anchorage’s nightlife scene, with drag shows and a slick cabaret.
Get an early start today as you’ll be climbing Anchorage’s most famous peak, Flattop Mountain. The peak is easily identifiable from downtown with its namesake leveled summit.
But first, grab a pastry and a snack for your hike at Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop. This artisan bakery has three locations, so you’re not short on options. Freshly baked bread, incredible desserts, and sandwiches on the go are all on the menu.
You have two options for approaching the summit of Flattop Mountain: the frontside or the backside. The frontside is the original trail at 1.5 miles one-way, and starts from Glen Alps trailhead. This approach is quite steep, with some scrambling at the top; if you’re afraid of heights, it’s better to take the backside trail. This recently-updated trail takes a more gentle approach from Canyon Rd. Your legs will still feel the elevation gain, but the 1.9-mile trail (one way) is a manageable grade. Enjoy your picnic lunch with panoramic views and savor the satisfaction of knowing you’ve summited a peak in Alaska.
If you don’t have a car, Flattop Mountain Shuttle will take you from downtown to the frontside and back.
Nibble the pastries you’ve tucked away and head down the mountain to the Alaska Native Heritage Center. This is the place to visit if you can’t reach the Alaska Bush yourself but want an in-depth look at Alaska Native culture. The center covers 26 acres, and you’ll discover not only information about modern life in rural Alaska, but a glimpse of how Alaska’s indigenous people survived and thrived for millennia before European cultures descended. There are regularly scheduled performances, workshops and classes.
After you’ve experienced some of Alaska’s amazing cultures, branch out of the downtown area. Midtown has a great selection of restaurants and shops; be sure you don’t miss Dos Manos for your souvenir and gift needs. Much of the art and jewelry is locally produced.
Walk around the corner from Dos Manos for a Tex-Mex twist on Alaska seafood standards. The Bear Tooth Theatrepub & Grill is a longstanding local favorite, with the best margaritas in the state. Enjoy rotating seasonal specials, Alaskan cod tacos, or grilled salmon in a traditional Latin American sauce. Afterward, you can see a first-run movie at the attached theatre pub, or walk down to Westchester Lagoon for a sunny late evening stroll amongst the geese and kayakers, and up the Chester Creek Trail.
Produced by Lonely Planet for Visit Anchorage. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.